So much for that improved Eastern Conference…Aside from the Cleveland Cavaliers (18-5), our reigning champions, and the Toronto Raptors (17-7) (whom the Cavs have already beaten three times this year) the East is another logjam of mediocrity. Third place (Hornets/Knicks) through 10th place (Bucks) are all separated by one game in the loss column. One bad week and someone could drop four spots but it’s still early and no reason to panic or be overly optimistic either.
If you had to ask me right now to fill out the Eastern Conference from top to bottom, I’m going to leave out the Milwaukee Bucks and Indiana Pacers. I think the Hawks jump back into the playoffs and there will be some shuffling of slots but I would venture to say it’s safe to assume the Hornets, Celtics, Bulls, Pistons and Knicks will be in the post season. The Washington Wizards and Orlando Magic have been very disappointing, many of the ESPN analysts picked the Wiz to finish first in the Southeast division. Yeah not so much.
Do I believe anyone team can knock off the Cavaliers? Absolutely not. It may very well be a Cavaliers vs. Raptors Eastern Conference Finals and we’re going to get more of the same. Toronto pushed them to six games last year but this Cleveland team has a different mentality and a sweep is entirely feasible. Expect LeBron James domination, strong support from Kyrie and K.Love and Drake looking like an idiot on the sideline.
BEST UNDER 23
Who is the best young singular talent in the NBA right now? Are you going with Karl Anthony Towns? Kristaps Porzingis? Giannis Antetokounmpo? Oh hey what about that Anthony Davis guy who’s only 23 years old. Here’s my ranking of the best players under the age of 23:
- Anthony Davis, 23
- Karl Anthony Towns, 21
- Kristaps Porzingis, 21
- Giannis Antetokounmpo, 22
- Andrew Wiggins, 21
- Joel Embiid, 22 (if all goes right)
- Andre Drummond, 23
- Jabari Parker, 21
- Ben Simmons, 20 (to be determined)
- Myles Turner, 20
- Jamal Murray, 19
- Devin Booker, 20
- D’Angelo Russell, 20
- Zach Lavine, 21
- Nikola Jokic, 21
- Bradley Beal, 23
- Brandon Ingram, 19
- Otto Porter Jr, 23
- Jaylen Brown, 20
- Steven Adams, 23
Snubs: Emmanuel Mudiay (20), Kris Dunn (22), Justise Winslow (20), Jahlil Okafor (20), Julius Randle (22), Marcus Smart (22), Gary Harris (22), Nerlens Noel (22), TJ Warren (23) and Dennis Schroder (23)
♦ New York Knicks are 4th in the East with a -2.3 point differential. They’re the kings of beating up on the bad (10-2 vs. teams below .500) and losing to the good (4-9 vs. teams above .500)
♦ No team has done more with less than the Memphis Grizzlies; The Grizzlies are 6-0 in 3 point games and they’re doing it without Mike Conley, Chandler Parsons and a slew of other rotation players. Coach Fiz my Coach of the Year nominee thus far.
♦ This past weekend I picked up my elusive unicorn, the Air Jordan XI Space Jams. I missed on them in 1996 and again in 2009 but I was not to be denied in 2016. They rank up there with any other Jordan shoes: Concord XI, Cement III or Original I’s.