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I'm in a very good mood this week, for a lot of reasons. Some of these reasons, such as the incredible emergence of Andray Blatche, have to do with the NBA. Some of these reasons have to do with March Madness, which gives us all an opportunity to scrutinize potential NBA draft picks. Some of these reasons have nothing to do with sports at all. Regardless, I'm a happy guy right now.
So when I thought about this week's power rankings column, I decided it might be a good time to cut the negativity. Normally, I'm poking fun at a lot of teams, especially the ones near the bottom of the rankings. Many of these teams (* cough Warriors cough *) are easy targets. They mismanage their rosters. They don't give playing time to the right people. Their players don't develop as they should. Their veteran players fall off. They play selfishly, taking bad shots and not helping each other out on defense. They seem like they play with little intensity, which invariably causes the casual fan to tune into college hoops instead, because, in their own words, "Duuudee they just play harder!"
But no matter what, every team has a bright spot. Some of these bright spots are obvious, and I'm not here to tell you about those. No, I'm here to talk to you about the stuff you might not notice unless you're an overzealous fan of that particular team. It could be a player that's underappreciated, or a young player that's made a tremendous improvement that few people realize. It could be an underachieving player turned overachiever, or a player that simply came out of nowhere. It could be teamwide success that nobody considers, or a specific area in which the team has shown tremendous improvement all season. Every team has some good things going for them that don't get enough attention.
This week's Power Rankings is devoted to uncovering some of those good things. So sit back, relax, and get yourself into a good mood. Sarcasm need not apply.
(For last week's rankings, click here. As a reminder, we do these rankings in tiers to separate the teams.
IN THEIR OWN CATEGORY
30. New Jersey Nets: 6-53 overall, 1-2 last week
SBN Blog: NetsDaily
Last week: 30.
Good thing going: Courtney Lee in February.
I've never been a huge fan of Courtney Lee, if only because I never understood why people thought he was good enough to be a foundational piece for a team. However, he's proving me wrong recently with some really impressive play in February. Here are his numbers last month: 15.5 points per game in 35 minutes a game on nearly 49 percent shooting. That's really efficient scoring, which is key because Devin Harris is going to continue to force errant shots.
He can also hit half-court shots after the buzzer, which is awesome.
DREGS OF THE LEAGUE
29. Minnesota Timberwolves: 14-47 overall, 1-3 last week.
SBN Blog: Canis Hoopus
Last week: 29.
Good thing going: Kevin Love being awesome.
Because he plays for Minnesota, and because his coaches are too dense to give him more than 30 minutes a game of playing time (sorry, no more negativity), the world sleeps on Kevin Love. They really should stop.
Let me throw some numbers at you. Right now, Kevin Love's player efficiency rating is 22.7, which is better than all-stars Pau Gasol, Zach Randolph, Amare Stoudemire and Kevin Garnett, not to mention snub Josh Smith. He's grabbing over 21 percent of all available rebounds, and he singlehandily improves his team's rebound percentage by 4.6 percent by being on the floor. Oh, and he just turned 21.
How impressive has Kevin Love been this year? Here's a list of players under the age of 23 who have posted a single-season PER above 22 and a rebound percentage over 17: Tim Duncan (twice). Chris Bosh. Elton Brand. Terry Cummings. Kevin Love. That's it. And of the five, Love's rebound percentage is by far the highest.
Play the man already!
28. Golden State Warriors: 17-41 overall, 1-2 last week.
SBN Blog: Golden State of Mind
Last week: 29.
Good thing going: C.J. Watson's underrated-ness.
There's not much to be happy about if you're a Warriors fan, except for Stephen Curry. However, that story's been beaten to death. Instead, let's focus on another Warriors guard who sneakily has turned in his second consecutive solid season. C.J. Watson may be playing out of position, since Don Nelson likes throwing out crazy lineups, but he continues to be a solid shooter, ball-handler and defender. He won't get you a ton of assists, but he can play. Some team is going to be very happy to have him as a bargain backup point guard this summer.
27. New York Knicks: 20-39 overall, 1-4 last week.
SBN Blog: Posting and Toasting
Last week: 25.
Good thing going: David Lee's passing.
When I discussed plans to pursue this power rankings angle on Twitter, I got this response from SB Nation's Knicks blogger Posting and Toasting.
@BulletsForever Umm...uh...Bill Walker's looked decent!
Uhh .. yeah, so there's not much to cheer about in New York these days.
The only guy worth mentioning is David Lee, so let's do that now. We always knew Lee was a good interior scorer and rebounder, but did you know he's also a very good passer? Because of all their problems at point guard, the Knicks have made Lee an offensive initiator, and Lee has responded by posting a career-high average of 3.5 assists per game. When he's on the court, over 17 percent of the Knicks' baskets come due to a David Lee assist, which is way, way higher than his marks earlier in his career.
Sure, it's Mike D'Antoni's offense, but teams should think of this when they make offers to Lee this summer. He can do more than rebound. He can shoot, pass and even drive for game-winners!
26. Indiana Pacers: 20-39 overall, 1-2 since the break.
SBN Blog: Indy Cornrows
Last week: 26.
Good thing going: A.J. Price coming out of nowhere.
Who knew that Indiana's best point guard this season would be A.J. Price? I sure didn't. However, I think you can easily make that case. T.J. Ford's numbers are better, but Ford's also a selfish player who doesn't do anything to set up his teammates. Earl Watson has more veteran savvy, but he can't shoot or penetrate. Price might be the team's best point guard. Unfortunately, he's racking up DNP-CDs for some reason. I'd love for someone to explain this to me.
25. Detroit Pistons: 21-38 overall, 1-3 last week.
SBN Blog: Detroit Bad Boys.
Last week: 24.
Good thing going: Jonas Jerebko's February.
Quick, guess who won Rookie of the Month in the Eastern Conference in February. Stumped? Here's your answer: Jonas Jerebko. You heard me. This month, Jerekbo averaged double-figure scoring on 56% shooting from the field and 42% from three in just 24 minutes a game. Why does he only play 24 minutes a game? You got me, especially considering the Pistons are going nowhere this season.
Regardless, if we're going to bash Joe Dumars over and over again like we do, we should at least credit him for discovering Jerekbo in the second round of the draft. Now, let's see if we can figure out what position he plays.
24. Philadelphia 76ers: 22-37 overall, 1-3 last week.
SBN Blog: Liberty Ballers
Last week: 23.
Good thing going: Jrue Holiday's development.
It continues to be an absolute mess in the City of Brotherly Love. Eddie Jordan is teeing off on his team, and his players have tuned him out already (it's been less than a year, by the way). So finding a positive was tough.
However, I think it's worth noting that Jrue Holiday is finally getting a chance to show his stuff. For three months, he was in Jordan's doghouse. But with the team continuing to flounder, Holiday's gotten extended playing time and has continued to progress. He dropped 23 points and six assists on the Magic last night, and though his defense was a problem against Jameer Nelson, he's normally a very good defensive player.
He's not there yet, but he's also the youngest player in the league and getting better. You're seeing the flashes of something special this last month.
23. Sacramento Kings: 20-39 overall, 2-1 last week
SBN Blog: Sactown Royalty
Last week: 27.
Good thing going: Beno Udrih's resurgence.
At this time last year, Beno Udrih was known as the poster boy for why a rebuilding team should never give anyone a contract for the full mid-level exception. Back then, Udrih was an afterthought in San Antonio that swindled the Kings into giving him a five-year contract based off four and a half months of decent play. He was terrible last year and didn't help matters by brooding in the locker room.
This year, however, Udrih's been better than ever. He's become one of Tyreke Evans' favorite players to play with, in large part because he's such a good-shooting point guard. Freed from the burden of setting everyone up on his own, Udrih has become Evans' Derek Fisher. He's shooting nearly 50 percent from the field, and while his assists are down, they should be with Evans handling the ball.
Sacramento's season has been one of inconsistency, whether it's inconsistent performances from the young players or inconsistent rotations by the coach, but Udrih's been good right from the start. In the process, he's saved his career. He also can whip out bananas to cause players to slip when he goes into his alter ego Wabeno Udrih (via Sactown Royalty).
22. Washington Wizards: 21-36 overall, 1-2 last week.
SBN Blog: Bullets Forever
Last week: 22.
Good thing going: "Big Game" James Singleton.
Talking about Andray Blatche would be too easy, so let's talk about James Singleton. When he first came to DC, I jokingly called him "Big Game James," as a silly reference to Hall-Of-Famer James Worthy. However, the nickname has stuck because he's been so good. Singleton comes in and gets the Wizards' second unit going with great energy plays, solid picks and great blocked shots. He's become a clubhouse leader and personifies the new Wizards: overlooked, scrappy and cast aside by their old teams.
Alas, with everything Wizards, Singleton sprained his ankle and has barely played the last two games. The Wizards have missed him badly in both games. I never thought I'd say that.
21. Los Angeles Clippers: 25-35 overall, 2-2 last week.
SBN Blog: Clips Nation.
Last week: 21.
Good thing going: Craig Smith.
I've professed my love for Craig Smith before, so to me, he's not underappreciated. But he continues to be extremely productive and efficient off the bench for the Clippers, even after they made sweeping changes to the roster. Explain to me why he doesn't start again.
20. Miami Heat: 29-31 overall, 0-3 last week.
SBN Blog: Peninsula is Mightier
Last week: 16.
Good thing going: Jermaine O'Neal not actually being washed up.
I could write something on my own about how O'Neal has been the only stable piece on the Heat this season other that Dwyane Wade, or I could just excerpt Kelly Dwyer of Yahoo!, who put it way better than I ever could.
Would you mind, terribly, if I moved off this terrible game and talked about Jermaine O'Neal?
Great defense Sunday night, 13.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, just 1.8 turnovers in under 29 minutes a game. Those are FANTASTIC stats for any center, much less one who looked like he couldn't play last year. And the year before.
And the kicker? Before even starting this rant, my head guessed, "I bet his shooting percentage is at a career-high; that'd be a nice hook for this aside." And for once, my head is right. He's shooting 54 percent, far and away the best mark of his career. Same with his True Shooting percentage, and he's coming through with an 18 PER. It might fall apart next season. Shooting percentages rarely sustain after a big jump in one season, or a big drop. Players usually revert, for better or worse. Sometimes, they Levert. Doesn't matter, JON's having a great year, one we should be paying more attention to.
With the rest of the Heat being an absolute mess, it's nice to see someone show some consistently solid play. That it's Jermaine O'Neal, who was universally regarded as being washed up before this season, is all the more impressive.
19. Charlotte Bobcats: 28-30 overall, 1-2 last week.
SBN Blog: Rufus on Fire
Last week: 20.
Good thing going: Tyrus Thomas since the trade.
It's only been six games, but Tyrus Thomas has been everything the Charlotte Bobcats hoped and more. He's hitting jump shots, grabbing rebounds, making great passes and playing his usual great (if still a bit highlight-filled) defense. It's amazing what having a coach who gives you a nice, solid role and doesn't play unproven players over you can do for your confidence.
You hear that, Chicago Bulls? You messed up. I seriously can't believe that Larry Brown took only six games to do what the Chicago Bulls couldn't do in four years. Brown understands that Thomas wants to be more than just an energy player. He also understands that Thomas tends to sulk when his minutes are jerked around. So Brown has given Thomas a directive. He's essentially told him, "I'll let you try to do more things on offense, as long as you do what I expect in terms of playing hard and being in the right spot on defense." The Bulls? They said to him, "We'll mess around with your minutes, and you should be a professional anyway." That kind of tough love works with some players, but it was foolish to think it would work with Thomas.
Of course, if Thomas falls off, all bets are off. But I happen to think that a lot of this is sustainable. Maybe he doesn't play this well offensively, but Charlotte has themselves a player that will change games with his athleticism. All it took was Flip Murray and a first-round pick the Bulls may not see anyway. Not bad, Michael Jordan. Not bad at all.
18. Memphis Grizzlies: 28-27 overall, 2-2 since the break.
SBN Blog: Straight Outta Vancouver
Last week: 15
Good thing going: O.J. Mayo's commitment to defense.
This is merely an observation. I don't have any fancy stats to back this one up, and trust me, I've tried finding some. But in watching Memphis a lot this year, I've been really impressed with O.J. Mayo's defensive commitment. The Grizzlies entered the year as a team destined to fight over shots and play no defense, but that hasn't been the case. They aren't a great defensive team, because that's impossible when you have Mike Conley and Zach Randolph, but they've been passable, particularly recently.
I'm convinced that one big reason they've been able to play together this season has been Mayo's attitude on the defensive end. You can tell he's taking a lot more pride it in than last year. He's bodying up even the best perimeter threats and fighting them for every inch. Sometimes, he lapses, such as when he went behind a ball screen late in a loss to the Lakers last Tuesday and allowed Kobe Bryant a free look at a game-winning three, but his effort on that end is contagious. He's let it be known that he's cool doing the dirty work, and that's encouraged others to sacrifice as well. That's a pretty special intangible quality for such a young player and one that should be noted.
17. New Orleans Hornets: 31-30 overall, 1-4 last week.
SBN Blog: At the Hive
Last week: 15.
Good thing going: Marcus Thornton's shooting.
Thornton's kind of an underground hero in the NBA blogosphere, so it's hard to say he's been an unnoticed positive, but it's worth noting his amazing play in February. Thornton's averaged nearly 19 points in just under 30 minutes a game last month while shooting 43% from three-point range. He comes in and starts shooting, and lately, he has not been missing. Just ask the Cavaliers, who were blitzed by Thornton earlier this week.
If you're Byron Scott, you're probably sitting somewhere in the Caribbean wondering why you didn't give this guy a chance when you were coaching the Hornets. Of course, you're also sitting on a pile of money you're getting from the Hornets anyway without having to work, so it's not all bad.
16. Houston Rockets: 28-27 overall, 1-3 since the break.
SBN Blog: The Dream Shake
Last week: 19.
Good thing going: Chuck Hayes' passing.
Rockets fans can pardon my ignorance, but before this season, I figured Chuck Hayes was good at one thing and one thing only: post defense. I still loved him for that, but I didn't think he could do anything else. So you can imagine my surprise every time I see the Rockets run a successful offensive set that involves Hayes catching the ball in the high post and surveying as cutters run off him. It's been really nice to see Hayes show a skill I never thought he possessed.
Hayes' assist percentage (see Kevin Love section for explanation) is 12.5%, which doesn't sound like much, but is pretty good for a frontcourt player. It's also a career high by a significant margin. Well done, Chuckwagon!
15. Chicago Bulls: 31-29 overall, 2-2 last week.
SBN Blog: Blog A Bull
Last week: 14.
Good thing going: Overall team defense.
When the Bulls let Ben Gordon walk in free agency last summer, the stated short-term reasons were that their ball movement and improved defense could compensate for Gordon's shot-making ability. The ball movement part has kind of fallen flat, but the defense part has not. The Bulls are the league's eighth-best defense this year and are in the top five in the league in opponents' effective field goal percentage. Their defense has allowed them to compensate for games where they just can't score, which helps explain why they're four games better at the 60-game mark than they were last season. Last year's team had more talent, but this year's team plays much better defense. That, and Derrick Rose, have been the keys all season.
14. Toronto Raptors: 31-28, 0-4 last week.
SBN Blog: Raptors HQ
Last week: 11.
Good thing going: Jarrett Jack's stability.
I've talked a few times about how Toronto really only took off when they inserted Jarrett Jack into the starting lineup for Jose Calderon. The effect of that move was that it made Hedo Turkoglu the primary playmaker, which is the role that suits him best.
However, Jack's also been a pretty damn good player himself this year. He's shooting 49 percent from the field and 42 percent from three-point range, and his assist percentage is way, way up from last year. He's also making considerably more shots inside -- according to the site HoopData, his shooting percentage on layups has risen from 56 percent to 65.6 percent. He's also Chris Bosh's best friend, which certainly helps Toronto as they try to get Bosh back this summer.
I scoffed when Toronto gave Jack the full mid-level exception last summer. The Raptors should scoff back at me.
13. Milwaukee Bucks: 30-29 overall, 3-1 last week.
SBN Blog: Brew Hoop
Last week: 18.
Good thing going: John Salmons has re-emerged.
In Chicago, John Salmons was a shot-jacking malcontent that lost his starting spot and the respect of his teammates. He was then traded to Milwaukee, where he has rediscovered what made him such an underrated player in the past. His jumper is falling, he's aggressively driving to the basket and he's actually passing once again. Throw in his usual tenacious, if not always effective defense, and Salmons has been the key reason why Milwaukee had won six games in a row before Sunday's overtime loss in Atlanta.
GOOD, BUT NOT GREAT
12. Boston Celtics: 36-21 overall, 1-2 last week.
SBN Blog: Celtics Blog.
Last week: 7.
Good thing going: Kendrick Perkins' improvement.
field goal percentage record.
So there's that, I guess.
11. Portland Trail Blazers: 36-27 overall, 4-1 last week.
SBN Blog: Blazers Edge
Last week: 12.
Good thing going: Nicolas Batum's emergence since his return from injury.
When you look at Nicholas Batum, you think to yourself, "That's not a basketball player! He's too skinny, too awkward, too soft." Then, you watch him play, and you can't help but be amazed. Last year, he showed he could play defense. This year, he's proven he can shoot, make highlight plays, grab offensive rebounds, block shots, make great passes ... should I go on? He won't do all these things all the time, but that's the mark of a great role player; capable of doing everything, but only doing what his team needs.
And yes, that includes scoring lots of points when his team needs it, which is exactly what he did last week. Be honest with yourself: did you ever think you'd see a "31" in Batum's point column in the boxscore? Of course not, but it happened. Here's video evidence.
10. San Antonio Spurs: 34-24 overall, 3-1 last week
SBN Blog: Pounding the Rock.
Last week: 13.
Good thing going: Manu Ginobili's recent play.
Remember when we thought Manu Ginobili was done? Remember when we thought injuries wrecked his fearlessness and production. Ginobili's February performance says your argument is invalid. After a pitiful January, Ginobili averaged 18.5 points in just 29.7 minutes per game in February, by far his best scoring month of the year. He's certainly not what he used to be, but he's back to being Manu Ginobili again. We should be noticing.
9. Oklahoma City Thunder: 35-23 overall, 2-2 last week
SBN Blog: Welcome To Loud City
Last week: 8.
Good thing going: Serge Ibaka comes out of nowhere.
It's tough finding an underreported storyline for a team that has captured the hearts and minds of NBA fans across the globe. Every little happy thing gets beaten to death, as it should. So I'm guessing Serge Ibaka has probably received a bit of dap already for how he's emerged the last couple months.
Whatever, I'm giving some more dap to him anyway. He's become a game-changer off the bench, displaying outstanding defense, great rebounding and tons of energy, or whatever. He's like Tyrus Thomas in his rookie year, before the Bulls messed up his confidence. Every game, he makes one or two plays that make you jump out of your seat, even if you aren't a Thunder fan (and If you aren't a Thunder fan, join the bandwagon already!). Just ask Grant Hill.
8. Atlanta Hawks: 38-21 overall, 3-1 last week.
SBN Blog: Peachtree Hoops.
Last week: 5.
Good thing going: They never turn the ball over.
Atlanta's basically playing the same way they did last year with the same players. The only difference is Josh Smith is way better and Jamal Crawford has been an upgrade on Flip Murry. Both of those guys have received enough pub, so I'm going to instead focus on a team-wide thing.
The Hawks simply don't turn the ball over. As a team, they lead the league in fewest turnovers committed per 100 possessions, and it's by a large margin too (one turnover/100 possessions better than second-place Dallas). Now, the skeptic might say that's because they run an isolation-heavy offense without much passing, and they're right, but still, you'd never think the Hawks would be the gold standard for taking care of the ball.
7. Phoenix Suns: 38-24 overall, 4-1 last week
SBN Blog: Bright Side of the Sun.
Last week: 10.
Good thing going: Goran Dragic's massive improvement.
Last night, while watching the Suns blow out the Nuggets, I posed this question on my Twitter account:
This is going to sound a little crazy, but why isn't Goran Dragic getting more love in the Most Improved Player race?
I wasn't just saying that because Dragic was unstoppable against the Nuggets in the second quarter last night. I'm saying that because he's been great all season. It's remarkable to see someone go from being so lost one year to being such a weapon the next.
And yes, Dragic was lost last year. The Suns brought him in to back up Steve Nash, and he was just terrible. He couldn't shoot or penetrate, and it became a self-fulfilling prophecy because he eventually lost all his confidence. I honestly thought he was the worst rotation player in the entire league.
This year, though, has been completely different. He looks so much more athletic, both in transition and in the halfcourt. He's running the pick and roll flawlessly and doing an incredible Nash impersonation. There was one play he had last night where he whipped a left-handed bounce pass to Robin Lopez in traffic from the left baseline all the way into the paint. Not only was Dragic making the pass against a hedging double team, but the Nuggets had rotated to Lopez well and were poised to intercept the pass. The pass had to be absolutely perfect; otherwise, it would have been a turnover. Dragic delivered the pass right on target and Lopez got a dunk.
I can think of only one other player that could have made that pass. Here's a hint: he's Dragic's teammate. I think it's fair to call Dragic a "Slovenian star" at this point.
6. Utah Jazz: 38-22 overall, 2-2 last week.
SBN Blog: SLC Dunk
Last week: 5.
Good thing going: Wesley Matthews comes out of nowhere.
You'd wish a team as good as the Jazz would be working to make upgrades instead of dumping a rotation player like Ronnie Brewer to save a few bucks. However, you have to appreciate the play of undrafted rookie Wesley Matthews. Matthews essentially made Brewer expendable, because he's providing the same production for far less money. He's played really good defense all season and has provided some real toughness on the wing.
He's not a better player than Brewer, but he's good enough to be Utah's starting shooting guard, which means he makes this list. May I remind you again that he went undrafted.
5. Denver Nuggets: 39-21 overall, 2-2 last week.
SBN Blog: Denver Stiffs.
Last week: 4.
Good thing going: Arron Afflalo, diamond in the rough.
The Nuggets could have signed Dahntay Jones, a key player on their Western Conference Finals team last year. They could have gone the continuity route. Instead, they let Indiana overpay him and replaced him with a better player. Afflalo's been a godsend for them, playing fundamentally-sound defense while hitting three-pointers at a ridiculous rate (46 percent, if you must know). He doesn't do anything stupid, unlike Jones, who was a tough defender, but also was out of control offensively and committed tons of silly fouls.
On a team that tends to do stupid things a lot, that's a major plus.
4. Dallas Mavericks: 40-21 overall, 4-0 last week.
SBN Blog: Mavs Moneyball.
Last week: 6.
Good thing going: Brendan Haywood, the perfect center for this team.
Writing this makes me sad, because I've been trying to tell people for years that Haywood is among the most underrated players in the league. But now that he's in Dallas, a place that actually appreciates him, Haywood is showing everyone what only the most ardent Wizards fans knew. He's really, really, really good.
No, he won't wow you with big point totals or athletic plays, but Haywood is the ultimate role-playing center. He's an elite defender, an outstanding rebounder and a great pick-setter. He shuts down opposing centers and never complains when he doesn't get shots. All he wants is some recognition for doing the cerebral things, and trust me, Jason Kidd is the exact type of person that will keep showing him that love.
Dallas has now won eight in a row, and Haywood's the reason why. Fellow newcomer Caron Butler keeps struggling with his shot, and everyone else is pretty much playing the same, but Haywood has been such an upgrade on Erick Dampier that he's singlehandily surged the Mavericks into championship-contender status.
Now let me go cry in the back of the room.
3. Orlando Magic: 41-20 overall, 3-1 last week.
SBN Blog: Orlando Pinstriped Post.
Last week: 3.
Good thing going: Matt Barnes, the perfect glue guy.
When you are the fifth starter among four outstanding offensive players, you have to focus on filling in the gaps. Matt Barnes has done that this year better than pretty much any role-playing swingman in basketball. The Magic are over seven points better per 100 possessions with Barnes on the court, and it's because Barnes has become the tough swingman that Mickael Pietrus was supposed to be. Unlike Pietrus, Barnes can be counted on to play hard, make great cuts and play great defense every night instead of just on some nights. He shoots the three well, but he isn't just a three-point shooter. I'd tell you more about what he does, but I think that stat kind of says it all.
He's also inspired some Magic fans to make up terrible songs about him.
As Charles Barkley would say, that was tuuuurrrrible.
2. Los Angeles Lakers: 45-15 overall, 3-1 last week.
SBN Blog: Silver Screen and Roll
Last week: 1.
Good thing going: Ron Artest - glue guy?
There were a lot of people (myself included) that were skeptical of the Ron Artest/Trevor Ariza swap, but it's actually worked out quite well for the Lakers. Sure, Artest's numbers are down, but he's played his role extremely well. He's starting to hit open threes with consistency, and he's not breaking the offense to make crazy one-on-one plays like he did for Houston last year. Defensively, he's really been excellent, as evidenced by his great work on Carmelo Anthony on Sunday. The Lakers are over six points better defensively with Artest on the floor than off it. Think of this stuff the next time Ariza takes an ill-advised shot in Houston.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: 47-14 overall, 4-0 last week.
SBN Blog: Fear the Sword
Last week: 2.
Good thing going: Anderson Varejao and the little things.
I hate Anderson Varejao with a burning passion, but sometimes stats don't lie. In this case, it's Cleveland's team stats when Varejao is on the court. Check these out.
Cleveland's offensive efficiency (points scored per 100 possessions) with Varejao on floor: 116.4
Cleveland's offensive efficiency (points scored per 100 possessions) with Varejao off floor: 102.1
Difference: 14.3 points.
In other words, despite Varejao having no jumper, no ability to finish inside and no athleticism, the Cavaliers are 14 points better on offense with him in the game. He's annoying, strange, ugly, whatever, but he is also so, so valuable to the league's best team. For that, he deserves credit.
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