We are almost a full week into the 2014-15 NBA season, and if you are like me, you are having a blast reading into things that should't be read into after just a few games. The Miami Heat are 3-0? It's just as I said Erik Spoelstra is a genius and Miami will still be one of the better teams in the East. The Knicks are 2-1? Wow, that's a small sample size and I don't think we can take anything from it. My point? Confirmation bias abounds. The things we want to be trends are trends and the things that don't fit with the reality we want are just temporary blips. We won't know for awhile.
Will that stop me from getting the Eastern Conference power rankings off the ground? Absolutely not. This is going to be a weekly feature on Mondays. I won't do it every time, and in fact it should switch up among the staff. I've tried to do this before, but this time I mean for it to really work out. The idea is simple, and is largely a rip-off of Jonah Keri's Major League Baseball power rankings over at Grantland. Instead of trying to come up with two sentences for each team, we will try and take a little bit closer look at two or three teams. So let's get to it. I based the rankings off what I thought of each team heading into the season, and what I have observed or read over the first six days.
You will have to forgive me, because I found myself interested in talking a bit about a couple teams I think have looked the absolute worst, and the Miami Heat.
1. The Miami Heat (3-0)
This year is really going to be a referendum on Erik Spoelstra. I don't think that's really fair, by the way. Did he have great players when he coached two championship teams? Sure, but he's proven he can take a team all the way. He's a good coach. Regardless of whether or not LeBron James owed Miami anything in terms of how he left the team or what position he put them in, the Heat did have their flexibility hampered by their pursuit of bringing James back. It was inevitable.
And they aren't a perfectly constructed team. They will need more shooting, and they will need health from Dwyane Wade. They need Chris Bosh to shoulder the load. So far, Bosh has been fantastic. He's rebounding, scoring, distributing. Miami's offense has been on fire early, and he's been at the head of it.
Chris Bosh has gone at least 20-8-4 in his first three games of the season. He reached that line 6 times in his first four Heat years.— Couper Moorhead (@CoupNBA) November 3, 2014
So that's pretty awesome. Bosh took a backseat to LeBron the last few years. Right now he's enjoying being the man again. I hope he can keep it up. How fun would a Heat-Cavs second round or Conference Finals matchup be?
2. Toronto Raptors (2-1)
3. Cleveland Cavaliers (1-1)
4. Chicago Bulls (2-1)
5. Washington Wizards (2-1)
6. Atlanta Hawks (1-1)
7. New York Knicks (2-1)
8. Brooklyn Nets (1-1)
9. Charlotte Bobcats (1-2)
10. Boston Celtics (1-1)
11. Milwaukee Bucks (1-2)
12. Indiana Pacers (1-2)
13. Orlando Magic (0-3)
14. Detroit Pistons (0-3)
Oh, boy. I wrote optimistically about this team just a week ago. Their defense hasn't been the issue thus far that it was last season, but the offense has been putrid. Josh Smith has been horrendous, and while it's only been three games it's not like he was particularly good last year. I'll throw his three game shot chart in here just for the fun of it.
The real issue is that if the team is bad enough, and Stan Van Gundy may have decided already that it is, the team could really roll out the tank. I don't know that there is a team that really wants Smith, but he could certainly get value for Greg Monroe. Brandon Jennings is already losing crunchtime minutes to D.J. Augustin. I don't know that Augustin is better than Jennings, but he does shoot and that's Detroit's biggest need. More eyes are Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and he isn't delivering just yet (26/13/67 shooting through three games). Andre Drummond has 16 personal fouls in that same sample. This hasn't totally been a problem for him in the past, but focus issues have. I have no idea if there's something to be made of it or not.
I know there is good cause to believe in Andre Drummond, but I have a weird feeling that the Pistons will move Monroe or let him walk, and keep Smith and Drummond, while Monroe finds a way to be the best player of the three in two years. Maybe that's crazy. I don't know.
15. Philadelphia 76ers (0-3)
Michael Carter Williams and Joel Embiid are hurt. Their minutes leaders through three games are Tony Wroten, Hollis Thompson, Nerlens Noel and something called Chris Johnson. Sam Vecenie of CBS Sports, and formerly of Fear the Sword, went on this fun little rant today:
FWIW, this is the first time that I haven’t outwardly and completely dismissed a "College team vs. NBA team" argument.— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) November 3, 2014
The 76ers’ wing depth is an abomination. Outside of Noel, so is their frontcourt. It’s BAD.— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) November 3, 2014
I would pick the 76ers right now! I promise. I just think Kentucky’s depth and length are crazy and the 76ers are that bad.— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) November 3, 2014
Yeah, I normally find the debates to be absurd on its face. But if they the Sixers and Wildcats played five times, I dunno. The Sixers are probably going to win once. I think. And this isn't meant to be a criticism of tanking or anything like that. I'm the guy in my fantasy football leagues that gets mad when other owners try and veto trades. Look, we are all adults and want to try and construct winners as best we can. Unless one team is legitimately trying to help another, live and let live.
The 76ers have a plan. I like Noel. I like Embiid. I like Dario Saric. But man, they have a long ways to go.