Quick Hits: Are These Teams For Real?

As we stand on December 2nd, there are a bunch of teams in spots in the standings that we didn’t expect.

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The Clippers are leading the West, the Rockets are bad, and the Warriors aren’t beating everyone by 30. Things are real weird, especially out West, and naturally, things could look a whole lot different in a month or so. There have been some surprising starts, and I’m here to tell you who out of these teams will stay put and which ones will be on the move in the standings.

Detroit Pistons (13-7 4th in the East): Stay Put

After going out and acquiring Blake Griffin at the deadline last year, there were questions pertaining to if he and Andre Drummond could coexist down low. They’ve answered that question as they’re both averaging career highs in points (24.9 for Blake and 18.6 for Drummond). Blake’s made it a focus of his to play on the outside, while Drummond patrols the paint. Blake is also averaging 9.5 rebounds while Drummond is averaging a league leading mark of 16.4 boards per night. These two have led the charge in placing Detroit 6th in rebounds per game at 47.7. They’ve also led the Pistons to the 12th best offense (111.5 ppg) and the 10th best defense (109.2 oppg) so far. They’re solid on both ends and in a relatively wide open conference I see them hanging around the 4-6 range in terms of seeding.

Denver Nuggets (15-7 2nd in the West): Decline a little bit

Mike Malone has found something with this team and they’ve been impressive to start. A balanced scoring attack, featuring 4 players at 16 or 17 points, gives this team the ability to hurt you in a number of ways.

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They’ve put together the 8th best offense in terms of rating (111.3) and the 3rd best in terms of defensive rating (103.8). These combine to give them a net rating of +7.6 which is 3rd in the league. Nikola Jokic has started to be more aggressive, which has made this team play some great basketball. They’re due to get Isaiah Thomas back at some point this season and he’ll strengthen a relatively thin bench. While I love what they’re doing I see them as more of a 4-6 seed rather than a 2 seed.

Los Angeles Clippers (15-6 1st in the West): Decline

This was honestly more of a layup because I think this team is just incredibly hot right now. While I do think they have a ton of talent, I just don’t think they can sustain this rabid pace. Check out my analysis on them here a week or so ago. Montrez Harrell is a 6th man of the year candidate and a possible candidate for Most Improved Player. His development along with a healthy Danilo Gallinari/Pat Beverley have vaulted this team to the top. While they’re on the right track,  I see them as more of a 6-8 seed rather than a 1-3 seed in a packed Western Conference.

Houston Rockets (11-11 T-8th in West): Improve

The Rockets have been a tough team to gauge this season. They seem to just sleep-walk through games and things that were their strengths a year ago when they won 67 games are now a part of their demise. They’re 21st in the NBA in 3-point percentage (34.5%) which is down from last years mark of 36.2%. While it isn’t much, it is a difference as they were a better shooting team last year. What’s more alarming is they’re down in points per game as they sit at 110 per night compared to last year’s mark of 112.4. I just don’t see them being this bad all season. James Harden, Chris Paul, and Clint Capela are all top tier players in this league and I think they’ll vault up to the 3-5 seed range.

Boston Celtics (13-10 5th in East) : Improve

Here at VFTW, we are a Celtics site but this prediction isn’t biased, it’s based on their play lately. After Hayward’s 30/9/8 outburst on Saturday night, it’s clear how good this team can be. They stumbled out of the gate but they’re really starting to put it together. Uncle Drew has been everything they asked for and more posting 22.2/6.4/4.8 on 48/38/82 shooting. They’ve put together a 3 game winning streak and they look primed to build upon that and I see them making up some ground on the teams in front of them. Expect the Green in the 1 or 2 slot come April when they get firing on all cylinders.

-Chuck

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