We're coming at you fast and furious today, and up next is a new set of rankings. As you know, around these parts we don't beleive a whole lot in "ranking" teams numerically; we prefer to take the easier (and more accurate, really) way out of grouping them into "tiers" of respectability. How appropriate that our Tiers happen to align with the boxing world during the week when the newest Rocky movie comes out.
We're about 30% of the way through the NBA season and we're starting to get a pretty good idea of how things shake out. First, a reminder of how the tiers work:
Tier 1: Heavyweights. Teams who have a legitimate shot at winning the whole shebang.On to the Tiers!
Tier 2: Cruiserweights. Not quite ready to be considered in the league's upper echelon, but close and very talented.
Tier 3: Middleweights. Teams are a few steps away from contention, but have enough to challenge for a playoff spot.
Tier 4: Lightweights. Bad teams who don't have a chance.*
*when we say "don't have a chance", that refers to the championship, not the playoffs. The reason for this caveat is that because the Eastern Conference is so weak, there will inevitably be a lightweight team or two who challenges for a playoff spot.
TIER TRAUMA VOLUME 3
Note: a “+” in front of a team notes that they have been promoted a tier, “-“ signifies a demotion.
Tier 1 - Heavyweights
You all know why the Nuggets get added to this section. Despite last weekend's brawl, I still believe Denver has the potency to compete for a top seed in the West. They'll have Melo back by mid-January, at which point they'll be rolling out a staring five of AI, JR Smith, Melo, Nene, and Marcus Camby, with Boykins, Johnson, Najera and Evans coming off the bench. That's a good ballclub right there, folks. Moving on: I told you all year that Phoenix would get their act together, and I'd say 15 straight wins since our last Tier Trauma rankings pretty much confirms that. I still refuse to include Utah in this group (4-3 in their last seven games and cooling off.)
Tier 2 - Cruiserweights
Courteous of me to add the Jazz and Lakers to this group, eh? Considering they're both playing over .650 basketball and what-not. Orlando and Chicago both fully deserve to be here, and I won't accept any argument regarding this. Those two teams join Detroit, Cleveland and Indiana as the "5 teams in the East that have a shot to go to the Finals to take an ass whooping from whomever emerges from the West".
Tier 3 - Middleweights
It's well documented on this site that the Blazers are now 1/2 game out of a playoff spot in the loaded, loaded West. We don't want to jinx anything so we'll try not to talk about their 5-game win streak TOO much. Sacramento and Milwuakee both get promoted to Tier 3 this month (I'm sure they're quite thrilled), and I refuse to accept Minnesota as a legitimate playoff threat in the West. Between KG's inevitable head explosion and the letdown of not getting Iverson, they're already done. Look at every team on this list, though, and you'll find yourself nodding: "yep, if a few things break right, they could definitely make the playoffs."
Tier 4 - Lightweights
I think we're pretty set here with our bottom tier. Every single team on this list is a bad basketball team, and it's disturbing that 30% of the league is legitimately bad. There's a lot of crappy basketball in the NBA right now, which is too bad because there's a lot of fantastic basketball too. I'd argue that the NBA is extremely top-heavy right now, with those 13 Tier 1 and 2 teams owning everyone else. Boston is probably the only team from this mix who has a shot at making the playoffs, which isn't exactly something to brag about in the Eastern Conference. Seattle gets demoted to Tier 4, where they probably should have been from the beginning, and I don't think we'll be seeing a lot of change here.
Enjoy the weekend, everyone. As a side-note, one of your faithful BlazersBlog authors will be attending the Blazer-NOOCH game next week; email us at the link above if you'd like to have a beer and complain about Jamaal Magloire. We had a decent turnout last time.