Best of the East
Just a few weeks into the season, but the Chicago Bulls look like the team to beat in the Eastern Conference. I am on board with the Heat bandwagon, and I think they will get back into form, but as of this pointthe Bulls are better. When he’s not battling injury, Derrick Rose is an MVP, and the low-post combination of Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer may be tops in the conference. Look for the Bulls to make a move to pick up another scorer to solidify the backcourt.
Best of the West
While the Thunder currently own the best record out West, I am compelled to go with the Los Angeles Lakers as the team to beat at this point. Have played inconsistently? Yes, but when Kobe is giving you 40-plus-points per game and Andrew Bynum is getting 20-20 on a consistent basis, they will be hard to beat. My only concern is that they are much older than the Thunder and may wear down as the season goes on, but at this very second, I’d rather play the Thunder.
I’m not going to call this category “MVP” because it is way too early to tell who that award will go to. But as for who is playing the best this year, I am going to go with LeBron James. I know, I know – his team is a bit disappointing; he’s not clutch – whatever else you want to say about him – but he is the best basketball player on the planet. He may not be the best playoff performer on the planet, but when you score 30 points per game as a small forward and among the top five in the league in field goal percentage, you must be doing something right. Oh, and he does all of this while sharing the rock with his superstar teammates. Call me crazy, but there is no better pure basketball player in the world than LeBron, plain and simple.
He had his critics, but Ricky Rubio is proving that he is an NBA talent after all. He is almost averaging a double-double, but it is his passing that really has fans paying attention. He has a unique feel for the game and he sees passes that nobody – except maybe Steve Nash – can see. His numbers were not too flashy in Europe, but clearly his game is more suited for the NBA. The Timberwolves are going to be a team to watch in years to come with the scary thought that Kevin Love and Rubio are still both under 25.
Most Disappointing Team
The Boston Celtics really are aging. At 7-8, they sit second in a relatively weak division. They just snapped a five-game losing streak, while the production of the “Big Three” has faltered significantly. It is time for them to start rebuilding again.
Most Surprising Team
Right now, this award goes to the Philadelphia 76ers because they’re the only team that is really overperforming. They’re fourth in the league in scoring behind solid production from Lou Williams and Andre Iguodala, although their schedule has not been the hardest as of late. I foresee the Knicks passing them in the division at some point, but as of now they look formidable.