To recap my last recap, I discussed the highs and lows of the Miami Heat season, and why you shouldn’t count your eggs before they hatch, regarding the MVP debate. That leaves me with the Lakers, the Spurs, and the Carmelo Anthony trade saga.
Do you remember your preseason picks? I’m sure plenty of people had the Lakers to, once again, come out of the West with the best record. Most commentators and bloggers had the Lakers to have the top seed in the Western Conference. They were just the safe pick. The Lakers roster arguably got better, with the additions of Matt Barnes, Steve Blake, and Theo Ratliff for extra depth. They didn’t lose any significant pieces, so they were early favorites to do what they have done so many times; win the West.
In hindsight, it really is surprising that the Lakers didn’t finish with the best record. Andrew Bynum was injured, but is that really anything new? The Lakers were struggling with him in the lineup too. Something just wasn’t right with them this season. Early on in the season, I should say.
With a veteran team, struggles don’t last long, and the Lakers came blazing out of the gates winning 17 of 18, before their current 5 game losing streak. Big wins over the Magic, Thunder, Mavericks (twice), and Hawks, made the talk stop for good. Sure the Lakers are in the midst of a losing streak, but this close to the playoffs, I think you can chalk that up as the Lakers showing less effort. I’ve watched a few games during this losing streak, and while they fought hard in the game against Utah, they showed very little effort in the Portland loss, or the OKC loss.
The Lakers have already won their division, and are currently tied with Dallas for second most wins in the West. Second best? That still doesn’t sound right!
If you follow the NBA at all, and I’m sure you do if you’ve made it this far, you would know that the old guard, the San Antonio Spurs have the best record in the NBA (still!) and are looking to cause some serious damage in the playoffs. The Spurs have a unique lineup. They have successfully integrated players of all ages. While they have Tim Duncan and Antonio McDyess, they also have young players like DeJuan Blair and Gary Neal. Not many teams get as much production from veteran players, and younger sophomore/rookie players alike as the Spurs.
Who seriously predicted the Spurs to have the best record in the NBA, with only 2 games to play? After last years playoff ousting, at the hands of the Suns, I’m guessing not many. The scariest thing is, Tim Duncan is playing fewer minutes this season than ever. If he can get more burn during the playoffs, this might be a team that even the Lakers fear out West.
It’s not often that the team with the best record wins the Finals, or even makes the Finals, but this is a team that knows what it takes to win. They have championship experience, and are coached by arguably the best coach in the league, Gregg Popovich. Don’t look now folks, but you might see a different team representing the West in the Finals, for the first time since 2007 (which was also the last time the Spurs won the championship).
How about those Knicks? It has taken some time, but it finally seems like they are starting to get it together. After a 6 game losing streak, that took them from 6th seed the 7th, the Knicks are in the midst of a 7 game winning streak. Carmelo has played slightly better in blue and orange too. His win shares per 48 is 0.163, up from 0.128 as a Nugget. His PER is also 23.0 up from 21.2 as a Nugget.
So what about the Nuggets? Well, the Nuggets have not lost a beat. They have won 17 of 23 and are 5th in the West. They don’t have any star players, but have many above average players. I guess we’ll have to wait until the playoffs start to see whether or not the lack of a star player will be a problem, but they are a scary team, and OKC will have their hands full in the first round (assuming they play each other in the first round).
So, who won the trade? In my opinion, the Nuggets won the trade this year, but I think New York may have ultimately won. Having a player of Carmelo Anthony’s caliber, and Chauncey Billups, is good because it will attract free agents, and veteran players looking for a last hurrah. New York is an attractive destination, but with Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo playing there, it might be even more attractive.
That just about wraps it up. Hope you enjoyed my (premature) season recap. Look for a playoff preview coming up sometime later this week, on STS.
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