By Bryan Jeon
(Original post on 12/5)
Almost one-fourth of the NBA season in, we put the spotlight on where the glory-filled Boston Celtics, Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers and up-and-coming Orlando Magic currently stand in the Eastern Conference.
Boston Celtics (14-2, 1st seed)
Through 16 games last year: 5-11 en route to a 24-58 record. Worst in the Eastern Conference and second-worst in the NBA.
Experts had the C’s as a top-tier team, if not the team to beat. I believe ESPN had the Chicago Bulls as the team representing the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals. At 4-11, the Bulls sit 14th out of 15 teams, scoring an NBA-worst 89.1 points per game.
The explosive trio of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen have catapulted Boston as the best team in the NBA right now. Fans are giddy and reminiscent of the great dynasty in the 1960s, greedily calling for a 3-sport sweep (with the Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots). Garnett, the leader of the team and centerpiece of the trio, is the frontrunner as the NBA MVP and deservingly considerable. He is currently averaging 19.4 PPG on .532 FG% (career high) and .821 FT%, 11.6 RPG (4th in the NBA), 3.9 APG, 1.7 SPG (T-career high) and 1.6 BPG. It also helps to have sidekicks in Pierce and Allen.
The talks of whether or not the Celtics can break the Chicago Bulls’ 72-10 record will be an exciting thing to follow this NBA season but let’s not forget about San Antonio, who has kept pace as well at 15-3. The Spurs have been largely overshadowed by the green frenzy, but both teams are neck and neck in terms of numbers and are the only undefeated teams at home.
Boston: 9-0 at home, 100.9 PF, 87.4 PA (1st in NBA), +13.5 DIFF (1st)
San Antonio: 10-0 at home, 101.6 PF, 92.1 PA (2nd in NBA), +9.5 DIFF (2nd)
I do admire how Boston has their two losses to two worthy contenders in the Cavaliers and Magic. Hopefully, they can go the season with a minimal amount of losses to lowly teams, something even the historical Bulls couldn’t avoid.
December schedule against Cavs, Magic:
12/2 Cleveland – W 80-70
Current record against Cavs, Magic: 1-2
Cleveland Cavaliers (9-10, T-7th seed)
Through 19 games last year: 12-7 en route to a 50-32 record, good for the second-best record in the Eastern Conference.
I don’t want to misquote because I know the Daily Dime is a compilation of writers, but there was a prediction on there before the season began that the Cleveland Cavaliers would not make the playoffs. Not wrong yet, but surprising to say, not out of the picture yet either.
That’s because LeBron James is out with a sprained finger and although he’s day-to-day, each game missed is a loss you can count on. They’re 0-3 thus far in the week he’s been out and is their only chance of winning and consequently, making the playoffs. Let’s not forget a sub-.500 record can still get you in the Eastern Conference playoffs though. I predicted a mediocre year for LeBron partly because of last year’s fantasy disappointment, just coming in second place. Hey, you got to blame someone. I know it’s wrong like overpaying for players on your favorite team to be on your fantasy team but as is always the case, I did it.
I think the King read my comment because the 22-year-old is having a career year in his fifth year in the NBA, averaging 30.7 PPG (1st in the NBA) on .486 FG% (career high) and 1.5 3PPG, 7.5 RPG (career high), 8.1 APG (career high), 1.9 SPG and 1.5 BPG (career high). He truly has elevated his all-around game, if it was even thought possible, while maintaining the highest scoring average in the NBA. He has already racked up 4 triple-doubles on the season, tying him with TD king, Jason Kidd, who at 34, is averaging 11.3 PPG, 8.6 RPG (career high) and 10.4 APG. Let this one sink in: someone who puts up numbers like Jason Kidd with triple the points.
Has anyone noticed Anderson Varejao‘s absence from holding out all year? Maybe the lack of the Cavs’ best defensive man (flop, take your pick) on the floor is why they’ve been off to a mediocre start, but I wouldn’t sign the guy either if you knew what he was asking for.
Before the season began:
Cleveland offered a one-year, $1.2 million offer.
Varejao requested a six-year, $52 million offer.
Charlotte made an offer sheet of 3 years, $17.4 million.
Cleveland matched the offer, retaining Varejao.
So in the end, the man who averaged career bests of 6.8 points and 6.8 rebounds last year will likely utilize his third-year player option to earn $1 million for every point and rebound he averages for the next three years.
December schedule against Celtics, Magic:
12/2 @ Boston – L 70-80
Current record against Celtics, Magic: 1-2
Orlando Magic (16-4, 2nd seed)
Through 20 games last year: 14-6 en route to a 40-42 record, good for the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference.
Chris Le claimed at least the 6th seed on the Magic while I didn’t even have them making the playoffs. They have outplayed all expectations, scoring a conference-best 104.5 points per game. I guess the teams to boot were the Bulls and Wizards.
Rashard Lewis is a nice addition to Orlando like Ray Allen is to Boston, putting up 19 and 5 each game. He also has career highs with 2.6 APG and 2.6 3PPG, but the team belongs to 21-year-old Dwight Howard. The 1st overall pick in the 2004 draft has elevated his game in his fourth year in the league, impressively becoming an offensive beast to complement his defensive game.
Chris Le’s predictions: 20 PPG on sub-.600 FG%, 13 RPG and 2.5 BPG.
Current averages: Career highs of 23.2 PPG on .610 FG% (2nd in the NBA), 15.1 RPG (1st in the NBA) and 3 BPG (3rd in the NBA).
Chris was on the dot with Howard’s upward trend along with him being the top center in the NBA already. But who would have thought he was going to be on the short end of the predictions?
December schedule against Celtics, Cavaliers:
12/23 @ Boston
Current record against Celtics, Cavaliers: 2-0
Step aside, KG, the Magic’s center gets my vote as the current MVP. Of Orlando’s four losses, they have fallen to Phoenix twice and to San Antonio. Some cause for concern down the road, but the Magic, not the Celtics, are the team to beat out of the Eastern Conference.