By Jason Wojciechowski on October 30, 2008 at 2:54 PM
I watched Cleveland vs. Boston and the Lakers vs. Portland on Tuesday and I saw most of Phoenix vs. San Antonio last night. I haven't yet watched the Lakers' blowout win over the Clippers. So here are some things I've learned.
The Cavs are good. LeBron is as good as ever, if not better, Mo Williams adds a very nice extra scoring option to the team, as well as a real second banana, and the teams has pretty much everything you can name that you want from a team. Size (Wallace, James, Ilgauskas, Varejao), speed (Williams, Wallace, Gibson, West), shooting (Gibson, Wally, Williams, Pavlovic), offense-creation (James, Pavlovic, West to an extent). The thing you still have to be wary of is that they don't have a point guard. Delonte West is an ok player, but he's not really a starting point guard in this league. Mo Williams is basically the definition of "combo guard," and has a score-first game. This means that, just like in the past, Cleveland will be relying on LeBron to handle the ball more than you'd like given that the guy has a propensity to dribble around and heave up jumpers.
The Celtics really need a backup point guard. The dropoff is palpable when you go from Rajon Rondo to Eddie House handling the ball. It's been said before, but it ought to be said again: House is a fine spot-up shooter, but he's not a point. Those just aren't his skills. He's miscast basically because he's short and because Boston has no one else. Boston is also maybe the team most vulnerable to injury in the league: if they lose Garnett, Pierce, or Allen, I think they drop from "best in the East" to about fifth-best just like that. Hell, even losing someone like Kendrick Perkins or Rajon Rondo would really hurt them because they just don't have any depth. Contrast this with the Cavs, who will be terrible if LeBron gets hurt, but can survive an injury to basically anyone else, or the Spurs, where we can say the same about Tim Duncan, or the Suns with Steve Nash. I don't understand how the "Executive of the Year" gets that label when he's built a team where his best bench player is Tony Allen.
The Blazers look young. The Lakers harassed them and harassed them into miss after miss along with multiple shot-clock violations or heaves with one second remaining. There's a lot of talent there, to be sure, and Rudy Fernandez looks for real, even with that awful "I'm European" ten o'clock shadow he's got going. But they're still coming together into a unit where they all know where each other are going to be, know the offense like the back of their hands, and so forth.
Contrast this with the Lakers, who were in sync on Tuesday, and apparently so again on Wednesday as they blew out the Clippers. Kobe didn't have to do too much, Andrew Bynum looked only a little lost (although his jump-shot is ugly -- he needs to figure out quickly that he isn't Pau Gasol), Pau looked like Pau, Lamar Odom played very well with the second unit, and it seemed like everyone made one of their signature plays: a fearless drive to the basket by Jordan Farmar, a three with a chest-pound by Sasha, a high arcing three with 22 seconds on the 24-clock by Vladi, and on and on. Granted that the Blazers and the Clippers aren't exactly the class of the West, L.A. has looked good. As long as Lamar Odom stays happy coming off the bench (and can I just say that L.A. is doing exactly what I wanted them to? Of the triumvirate of Odom, Gasol, and Bynum, there are two on the floor at all times, with Odom always playing PF, Bynum always playing C, and Gasol shuttling between the two -- everyone gets a lot of minutes, no one gets overworked, and everyone is in a position to succeed), this is a dangerous team.