Thursday, November 4, 2010

4 (Somewhat) Under-the-Radar NBA Teams to Watch

The Sixers finally got off the schnide, avenging their game three 13-point loss in Indiana by clobbering the Pacers 101-75 in front of about 35 people at the Wells Fargo Center last night. Good for them.

I only half watched the game as I played quizzo at a bar, but looking at the box score, it seems as though the Sixers put together quite a nice game. Six 76ers put up double figures, led by Elton Brand's monster of a game: 25 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists, 0 turnovers, a steal, two blocks, 7-7 from the line and 9-15 from the floor. No wonder Ed Stefanski made him the $82 million man. Joining Brand in the scoring parade were Thaddeus Young (16), Evan Turner (12), Lou Williams (11), Jrue Holiday (11) and Andre Iguodala, who had a nice all-around game with 9 boards, 4 assists, 0 turnovers, a steal and 4 blocks to go along with this play.

Marreese Speights also got his rebounding shoes on, grabbing 11 boards. Good win for the Sixers of what promises to be the first of very few wins.

As nice as it was to see the Sixers finally get on the board in the win column, I have to admit I was way more enthralled with the two games that were on ESPN: Celtics-Bucks and Kings-Lakers. The reason is simple — I really, really like these Milwaukee Bucks and these Sacramento Kings. It was icing on the cake that they were taking on two teams that I love to root against.

Sadly, neither team I was pulling for in those two contests won. Boston outlasted Milwaukee 105-102 in overtime of an incredibly exciting game. Paul Pierce led all scorers with 28 points and became just the third Celtic in franchise history to surpass 20,000 points (joining John Havlicek and Larry Bird). Ray Allen added 23, Rajon Rondo continued to prove he is the real truth with 17 points, 15 more assists, 8 rebounds, 3 steals and a block, and KG gave Andrew Bogut a facial.

In the late game, which I stupidly stayed up to watch in its entirety, was never really that close after the first quarter. Kobe Bryant is still public enemy No. 1 in Philadelphia, but god damn he is still just incredible to watch. Kobe had a triple-double last night, toying with the Kings for a game-high 30 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists. Pau added a double-double himself with 22 and 11, and Lamar Odom almost did too, finishing with 18 and 8. The Lakers are a machine.

Anyway, even though the Kings and Bucks lost, those games reaffirmed that any chance I get to watch them, I'm going to make it a point to do so. They are two of the four teams that don't get a ton of hype the way the Lakers, Heat, Celtics, Magic, Thunder and even teams like the Blazers, Bulls and others receive, but that are still worth watching. Here they are.

Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks certainly got a good amount of attention last year thanks in large part to Brandon Jennings' early-season 55-point game and the team's surprising run to the playoffs. But they aren't exactly a team full of household names just yet. Doesn't matter to me. Any chance I get to see Brandon Jennings play, I'm gonna take it.

Once I saw Jennings play in Gunnin' for that #1 Spot, where he was named co-MVP of his team by scoring 12 points and dishing out 15 incredibly awesome assists, I was hooked.

I've followed him devoutly ever since. Right now, he's my favorite player in the NBA, no question about it. His flair, his style of play, it reminds me somewhat of a young Allen Iverson, though a less skilled scorer and more willing passer. While he may not put up the same kind of statistics just yet as some the the league's best point guards — Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Rondo, Derrick Rose, Steve Nash, etc. — he is the unquestioned floor general for a Bucks team that is on the rise.

So far this season, Milwaukee has struggled, sitting with the same record as the Sixers at 1-4. But with a roster that includes Andrew Bogut, Drew Gooden, Carlos Delfino, Corey Maggette, former 76er and Plymouth Whitemarsh grad John Salmons, and the corpse of Michael Redd, there's a lot of complementary talent. Bogut has developed into one of the best centers in the league, Salmons has somehow become a legitimate scorer, Gooden gives them rebounding, Delfino has been briliant, Maggette is a solid scorer as well and Jennings is plain fun to watch.

Then you add to that 5'5 Earl Boykins, not to mention the athletic Chris Douglas-Roberts and you have yourself an extremely entertaining team. The Bucks are must-see TV in my book. By the way, they come to Philly on Nov. 19 and again on Jan. 14. You can bet your ass I'll be there for at least one of those games.

Sacramento Kings

I first heard about Tyreke Evans when he was a freshman in high school. A product of Chester, he's followed in the footsteps of Jameer Nelson to make a name for himself in high school, college and now the NBA. He has been so hyped from such a young age that at a Beastie Boys concert I attended at Penn's Landing, MCA gave props to Tyreke, then just 16 years old. He was also featured in Gunnin' for that #1 Spot with Jennings.

It wasn't the first or last time these two were linked either. With Jennings getting out to such a quick start last year, he was the early favorite to win Rookie of the Year. But Tyreke wound up winning the award going away, becoming just the fourth rookie in the history of the NBA to average at least 20 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists. The only others to do it are some guys named Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan and LeBron James. Perhaps you've heard of them.

Evans alone is reason enough to watch the Kings, but he's hardly the only reason. Much like John Calipari groomed Tyreke for the NBA, he did the same for DeMarcus Cousins, the man selected 4th overall by Sacramento. Cousins may end up being the second best rookie in this class (excluding Blake Griffin, who was drafted in 2009) behind John Wall this season and someone that is sure to become a dominant big man in the league.

Other notables include "You Ugly as Shit, Donte" Greene, Israeli Omri Casspi, Luther Head, Carl Landry, Jersey boy Jason Thompson, everyone's favorite former Philadelphia 76er Samuel Dalembert and intriguing rookie prospect Hassan Whiteside.

The Kings are currently 3-2 on the season. They come to Philadelphia March 27.

Los Angeles Clippers

Yeah, those Los Angeles Clippers. The historic laughingstock of the NBA. Believe it or not, this team is most definitely one to watch, and the biggest reason is Blake Griffin.

The No. 1 overall pick in 2009, Griffin suffered the curse of the Clippers by missing the entire year thanks to a torn ACL. It was tragic, especially for a player so explosive and powerful. It looked as though his career may be doomed. But fret not, because Griffin has dominated in his first 5 NBA games, averaging a double-double — 17 points and 10 rebounds. He's the clear-cut favorite for Rookie of the Year. And about that explosiveness and power — yeah, it's still there.

This is a young man you have to see play. The Clippers also have Eric Gordon, a guy who can fill it up, a solid center in Chris Kaman, and Baron Davis, who when motivated can be one of the better point guards in the NBA. They also have rookies Al-Farouq Aminu and Eric Bledsoe, another Calipari product, not to mention Philly flavor in LaSalle's Rasual Butler and Villanova's Randy Foye. The Clippers come to Philadelphia Dec. 15.

New Jersey Nets

Again, yes, I'm talking about the New Jersey Nets. The same New Jersey nets that gave the 1972-73 Sixers a run for their money as the worst team ever. If you look at the roster, this team isn't far away, at least foundation-wise. They really aren't.

The Nets have a good, relatively young point guard in Devin Harris. They have a very skilled center in Brook Lopez, the 22-year-old that is already one of the league's best at his position. And now they have Derrick Favors, the man picked immediately after Evan Turner.

Hindsight is always 20-20, and at the time Evan Turner seemed like the clear-cut No. 2 pick after John Wall. I admitted as much, talking myself into liking Evan Turner as the pick for the Sixers even though I really didn't like him all that much. At the same time, I lobbied for Derrick Favors, the player I really wanted the Sixers to draft. I can't blame Philadelphia for picking Turner. No one really can, no matter how this plays out. But it's pretty clear that Favors is and will be the more exciting player, and potentially the better one too. In his first five games, he's averaging nearly a double-double — 10.5 points and 9.5 rebounds — in just 22 minutes a night. And he dunks all over people with extreme regularity.

The man looks legit. I wish he was looking that way in a Sixers uniform.

The Nets also have intriguing Louisville product Terrence Williams, a multifaceted player who has tremendous point-forward skills, rookie from Texas Damion James, instant offense scorer Anthony Morrow and one-time Sixer Joe Smith. As an Atlantic Division foe, the Nets visit the Sixers twice — Nov. 27 and April Fool's Day.

So there you have it, four teams that should be fun to watch for one reason or another. I'll also have my eye on Detroit to see how rookie Greg Monroe fares, among several other teams and players. Truth is, I can find an excuse to watch any team in the NBA, because there are some many individual players I enjoy following. The league may have plenty of disparity between the haves and have nots, but there's always a reason to watch. These teams are just four examples of that.


  1. What about the Toronto raoptors? They have a team of no names and they look quite decent. They have one of the league's top rebounders in Reggie Evans who is grabbing like 16 per game.

  2. Yeah, Toronto could have easily been on here too. I like Demar Derozan. And look at our boy Reggie Evans. A Philly fan favorite.

  3. All Hail Terence Williams, one of my favorite players in The League. Sadly, I see him being trade bait. A player that talented is always gonna be in demand.

    Congrats to the 35 fans who got to see Philly get their first dub as well.

    Oh, and you're right about Blake Griffin. The young man is a problem.