Last week we looked at how the NBA’s Western Conference teams were doing based on a song which applied to both their season outlook and their team name. To get caught up on last week’s analysis, click here. This week we look at the Eastern Conference teams in the same manner.
Atlanta Hawks: “Swagga Like Us”- T.I. feat Jay-Z, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, and M.I.A
The Hawks have emerged as a strong team over the last couple of years, but this year they re playing like they belong. New uniforms and a new attitude highlight the Hawks, who won seven straight after dropping their first game. The Hawks feature balanced attack and can score from anywhere on the court while also boasting a top ten defense. Atlanta native T.I. raps the following lyric in “Swagga Like Us”: “Lookin’ from the surface it may seem like I got reason to be nervous, then observe my work and see that my adversity was worth it.” The Hawks went through a tough rebuilding era and though most will talk about Cleveland, Chicago, and even upstart Detroit, the Hawks are in a position to challenge for the East this year.
Boston Celtics: “More Than A Feeling”- Boston
The Celtics’ 2013 hiring of Brad Stevens was regarded by many as a good, safe move for a franchise which was trying to dig its way out of some roster issues. Stevens delivered in only his second season by getting the Celtics to the playoffs last year and arm-barring the Cavs from winning the championship. This year the Celtics look to be in the race for a 5-8 spot in the playoffs, but getting past the first round will be tough. Despite this obstacle, a somewhat rocky start to the season, and a lack of any real star-caliber players, Celtics fans should feel good about the future of the team under Stevens.
Brooklyn Nets: “Where Brooklyn At?”- Notorious B.I.G
Brooklyn is awful. I won’t even waste much space on them. Just know that when Biggie asks “where Brooklyn at?”, the answer: last place.
Charlotte Hornets: “Hornets Nest”- Tenacious D
If you’re not familiar with this classic Tenacious D song, I’ll refer you here (SFW). Though this song is about the various geopolitical hot spots of the world, one offensive hot spot in the NBA right now is Charlotte. The Hornets currently have the fourth rated offense in the league, including dropping 130 on Chicago. What has held the Hornets to only a 2-4 record is their horrible defense. This isn’t horribly surprising with MKG out, but in order for the Hornets to take advantage of their strong offensive start, they have to get inside the top 20 defenses (currently 22). Charlotte is likely going to end up outside of the playoff picture which means there is a very good chance MKG won’t see the floor this year. If they can scratch their way into a fight for the eight seed it becomes a possibility they play him, but would making the playoffs only to lose to the Cavs in round one outweigh the benefits of a lottery pick? In the words of Jack Black: “whatcha gonna do?”
Chicago Bulls: “25 or 6 to 4”- Chicago (Full disclosure, I’m a Bulls fan)
I have no idea what this song is about. The title makes no sense and despite having read the lyrics I still just don’t know. I also have no idea what is going on with the Bulls. They beat Cleveland on opening night and last week beat the Thunder with a surging Derrick Rose leading the way. They also gave up 1000 points to Charlotte and lost to the Timberwolves while scoring zero points in overtime. Fred Hoiberg has Joakim Noah coming off the bench and Jimmy Butler is ka-chinging his way to a horrible shooting percentage. I get that it’s a new system so there will be some speed bumps while figuring everything out. By the end of the year they could be fighting for a 2-4 seed as easily as a 5-7 seed. For now Bulls’ fans just hope Rose stays healthy and stay relevant through the first couple of months.
Cleveland Cavaliers: “Cleveland Rocks”- The Presidents of the United States of America
With Lebron James, Kevin Love, eventually Kyrie Irving, and one of the highest paid backups in the league Tristan Thompson, the Cavs are simply more talented than any other Eastern Conference team. Cavs fans look at last year’s Finals loss and can easily point to Love and Irving being injured as the reason why. This year they are fully loaded again and, despite an opening night loss to Chicago, have picked up their winning ways from last season. As long as they stay healthy the Cavs will almost certainly be the number one seed in the markedly improved Eastern Conference and that is something to get excited for.
Detroit Pistons: “Detroit, Rock City”- KISS
Who saw this coming? Detroit has shot out to a 5-1 start this year behind a top ten defense and Andre Drummond doing crazy Andre Drummond things (averaging 20.3 pts, 20.3 rebs/game)(no I’m not kidding). In addition to Drummond, Reggie Jackson returned to Detroit this offseason with more offense and Stan Van Gundy has actually got this group playing solid defense. All of this is well and good, but don’t crown the Pistons just yet. They’ve beaten Chicago and Atlanta, but the rest of their wins haven’t been impressive and a west coast road trip is looming where they play both L.A.s, Sacramento, and Golden State. Those familiar with the song choice here know it ends in a horrific crash and burn. I’m not saying the Pistons will fall off in horrific fashion, but it will be difficult for Drummond to maintain his 20/20 average and as he trails off I think the Pistons will fall into the 6-8 seed range of the playoff seeding and possibly miss out altogether.
Indiana Pacers: “Small Town”- John Cougar Mellencamp
The Pacers have won three of their last four to pull themselves to a respectable 3-4 record after dropping the first three games. The rough start was probably a lot of Paul George getting his game legs back and Frank Vogel’s small ball experiment. To kick the year off the Pacers’ starting five has consisted of three guards, George as a power forward, and Ian Mahinmi. The lineup struggled in those first few games but consecutive 30 point outings for George have allowed the Pacers to gain some momentum. As long as the Pacers offense continues to click, and as long as the Pacers big men rotation consists of Mahinmi, Jordan Hill, and Myles Turner, expect the Pacers to live and die with small ball.
Miami Heat: “Miami”- Will Smith
First and foremost, anybody else here excited about Will Smith and Jazzy Jeff putting out a new album and tour next year? I’m pumped. Wherever the nearest tour stop is, I’m going. You can come too, we’ll carpool. Anyways, the Heat have recovered better than expected from Lebron’s departure. Heck, until Chris Bosh had to sit out last year they were already doing well and heading for a playoff spot. Hassan Whiteside appears to actually be good and is showing last year was not a fluke. Dwayne Wade has rolled back the clock a bit and been his old self. This isn’t likely to last and the complimenting cast of Goran Dragic, Luol Deng, and Bosh have all been mostly mediocre. Justise Winslow has been able to contribute, but isn’t really moving the needle much. I expect Miami to end up in the bottom of the playoff pack by the time the season is over, assuming Wade plays more than he doesn’t, and Bosh doesn’t have any setbacks. Miami is a good team and could knock off a two or three seed in the NBA playoffs.
Milwaukee Bucks: “In the Street”- Cheap Trick (That 70s Show Theme Song)
Hello Wisconsin! The Milwaukee Bucks are a funny team. They gave up a ton of points in their first couple of games, but have since been playing better defense. Jabari Parker, like Paul George, is getting his basketball legs back and will likely only get better as the season progresses. Add an improving Parker with Michael Carter-Williams, the Greek Freak, and free agent signing Greg Monroe and there are some ingredients for a fun basketball team. Fun does not mean good though. The Bucks, despite their freakish athleticism, will struggle a lot as they just aren’t as talented as most teams in the league. The Bucks are only a couple pieces away from being a real player in the Eastern Conference, but for now, they’re just alright.
New York Knicks: “Longest Time”- Billy Joel
How long have the Knicks been rebuilding? Sure, they made the playoffs three straight years from 2011-2013, but those were short lived playoff runs. Besides, that was during a time in the Eastern Conference when most everybody wasn’t very good. Madison Square Garden used to be the mecca of basketball, but now it’s a punch line. The only time fans get excited is when they can see opposing team’s stars come to town. This year is shaping up to be like many of the other previous 15 years. They stink. Carmelo Anthony claimed that this team could win a championship. He actually said that, and only a month ago. Kristaps Porzingis has been a bright spot in an otherwise blackhole of a team. They’ll probably end up better this year than they were last year since Anthony is playing (for now), but expect their rebuilding to continue.
Orlando Magic: “Magic Carpet Ride”- Steppenwolf
You truly don’t know what to expect with the Orlando Magic so far this year. According to NBA.com’s John Schumann “All seven of the Magic’s games have been within five points in the last five minutes“. They are 3-4 in those games so it really has been a toss up when watching the Magic play this year. As an NBA fan these games are fun and make for a good ride. As a Magic fan I imagine it’s extraordinarily frustrating. Victor Oladipo has been a high point of the young Magic, whose core of Oladipo, Aaron Gordon, Tobias Harris, and Elfrid Payton averages to be just under 22 years old. Successful NBA teams usually have solid veteran play to get to the next level and the Magic don’t appear to have that yet in either Channing Frye or CJ Watson. I expect the Magic will be in the hunt for a 7 or 8 seed, especially if they can bring in someone to help them get over their youth.
Philadelphia 76ers: “America, the Beautiful”- Ray Charles
Like Brooklyn, Philadelphia just isn’t any good. They’ll be in the hunt for most ping pong balls next year. Their only bright spots are Nerlens and that April is only four and a half months away. Rather than talk more about them, lets listen to Ray Charles while watching a clip from the Sandlot.
Toronto Raptors: “Started From the Bottom”- Drake
If I had to give my insanely early playoff projections today, this would be my list: Cleveland, Atlanta, Toronto, Chicago, Washington, Boston, Miami, and Detroit. In the last several years the four/five matchup has been a toss up, with the five seed winning three straight years. Toronto was on the losing end of that streak last year despite a strong showing in the regular season. The Raptors added Demarre Carroll in the offseason and he’s provided some additional offense and the Raptors currently have a top 10 defense which has propelled them to a 5-2 record to start the season. There will be a lot of pressure on Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan to keep up their production and help Toronto advance further this year than the previous two years playoff trips. This is a conversation Raptor fans have been wanting to have for a long time though as it means they have finally emerged from from bottom of the conference.
Washington Wizards: “TNT”- AC/DC
There are a couple of reasons I chose this song for the Washington Wizards. On the surface, the Wizards are a combustible unit right now with a lot of firepower, but a lot of instability. What Paul Pierce did for that team is obvious in his absence. The Wizards are in the bottom third in the league in offense and defense right now but number two in pace. Essentially they are playing out of control. This sounds worse than it actually is though, as they have been able to get to 3-3 in spite of this. John Wall has stepped up and said he needs to do a better job of getting his team in a position to win. I think he will do that and the Wizards will end up back in the playoffs, but in all honesty, they’re not a threat to win the title this year. This brings up reason two for the song choice. Last week I used the AC/DC song “Thunderstruck” for OKC. As the two teams are linked through the band I chose, so too are they linked in their real existence. Kevin Durant’s upcoming free agency and assumed interest in Washington will be the talk of the NBA this week, and again once the season winds down. If the Wizards can add Durant to a team of Beal and Wall then they become one of the best five teams in the league. That is Washington’s ultimate end game this season, find a way to get KD.