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Where each team stands seven weeks into the 2010-11 season
The 2010-11 NBA regular season hit its quarter mark this week. So it's time to take a look at where each conference stands 20 games in. Below is a breakdown of the Eastern Conference's frontrunners for MVP, Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, team-by-team MVPs, top rookies and an Athlon's Take on each team. Also check out Athlon's Western Conference first-quarter report.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
Dwight Howard — C, Orlando Magic
It must be a nice luxury to have Superman. If the team is shooting poorly he can clean the glass and give his guys a second shot. If the team is still shooting poorly, then the ball can just be dumped into Howard and he can take care of the rest. He is among the top five in field goal percentage (.585), rebounds (217), blocks (43) and has a player efficiency rating (PER) of 24.9.
Derrick Rose — PG, Chicago Bulls
So Rose can hit jumpers. I guess hearing that enough times and playing with Team USA in the World Championships in the offseason helped solve some of those issues. Rose carried the Bulls to a 9-6 record in the absence of Carlos Boozer and did so efficiently. He is third in the league in scoring (25.7 ppg) on .462 shooting from the field and .357 from 3. His 25 3s through Sunday are seven less than he had in his first two years combined. He is also 9th in assists (8.1 per game) and 15th in PER (22.1). No Rose, no wins for the Bulls this season.
Amar'e Stoudemire — PF/C, New York Knicks
He got the max contract and he's showing New York what he can do with it. Stoudemire is the sixth-leading scorer in the league, seventh in blocks, 13th in rebounds and 12th in PER. Through Sunday, he has only scored under 20 once since Nov. 12. Even during a six-game skid the Knicks went through, Stoudemire shot 51 percent from the field for 22.6 points with 8.6 boards, and 1.7 blocks a game. Take away Stoudemire and the Knicks certainly aren't the No. 3 scoring team in the league or a team with 12 wins.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
John Wall — PG, Washington Wizards
Even missing six games with injuries to his foot and knee, the No. 1 overall pick is killing it both scoring and assisting. He's 13th in the NBA in minutes per game (38.2), seventh in assists per game (8.7) and second in steals per game (2.5).
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Dwight Howard — C, Orlando Magic
Need a defensive glass cleaning? Call Howard. He has 166 defensive boards. Need to host a block party? Call Howard. He has 43 swatted shots. Need the top defensive rating in the league? The two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year has it at 92.3 — 1.3 ahead of another defensive stalwart in Boston's Kevin Garnett.
CONFERENCE TEAM-BY-TEAM REPORT
Quarter mark through Sunday, Dec. 5
Atlanta 13-8, 2nd in the Southeast Division
MVP: Al Horford, F/C. No. 3 in PER, No. 3 in FG percentage (.598), No. 8 in total rebounds (198). He is among the top 10 in the league with his 10 double-doubles through Dec. 5.
Top Rookie: Jordan Crawford, G, Xavier. The first-round pick has played in nine games, averaging 11:11 minutes per game with 4.9 points, 1.8 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.7 turnovers, 0.2 steals.
Athlon's Take: Elbow surgery for leading scorer and minutes getter Joe Johnson at the beginning of December will have him sidelined 4-6 weeks. The Hawks are a team that could be fighting for the fifth seed, and they will need to hold steady with Johnson out. With teams like the Bulls, Pacers, Bucks and Knicks on its heels, Atlanta could find itself out of the playoffs altogether.
Boston: 16-4, 1st in the Atlantic Division
MVP: Kevin Garnett, PF. Rajon Rondo gets the love running the point because he drives the car, but Garnett is the engine. The 15-year veteran is 19th in FG percentage (.527), second in defensive rebounds (176), ninth in total rebounds (197), 17th in steals (31), second in defensive rating (93.6).
Top Rookie: Erden Semih, F/C, Turkey. The 2008 second round pick has played in 17 games at center for the Celtics. He averages 12 minutes a game, pulling down 2.2 rebounds, 0.3 blocks and 0.9 assists. He should get steady work with the plethora of injuries Boston has at its center position.
Athlon's Take: The Celtics still don't have a fully healthy frontcourt and Rondo has injuries nagging him at the point. Despite all that, Boston in 16-4 with the No. 2 scoring defense (92.1 ppg). The Cs have defeated Miami twice, Chicago twice and Atlanta once. The next big clash is with Orlando on Christmas Day. A win there gives the Celtics victories over every team that could possibly challenge them in a seven-game series.
Charlotte: 7-13, 4th in the Southeast Division
MVP: Gerald Wallace, F. "Crash" continues to get it done on both ends of the court. He logs the 10th-most minutes in the league at 38.7 a game. He is 15th in defensive rebounds (136). while he turns attempts to get to the glass on the other end into free throws. He is 14th in free throws attempted (130) and 17th in makes (100) for a .769 clip. Wallace swats 1.2 shots a game as well as stealing 1.2 balls. He also dishes out 2.4 assists.
Top Rookie: Sheron Collins, PG, Kansas. The former Jayhawk standout went undrafted, and he is getting little time with the Bobcats. He averages a little over two minutes in 12 games played and has connected on just one of eight shots with just five assists.
Athlon's Take: After a 1-6 start, the Bobcats put together back-to-back wins to stop the bleeding. It's the only time Larry Brown's squad has consecutive wins this season. They are ninth in scoring defense (97 ppg) but just 24th in scoring (94.9) themselves. Outside of Stephen Jackson (18.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.1 assist, 1.4 steals) and Wallace, Charlotte is not getting much else.
Chicago: 10-8, 1st in Central Division
MVP: Derrick Rose, PG. So much for shooting woes for Rose. He is sixth in field goals made (169), fourth in field goal attempts (366), third in points per game (25.7), ninth in assists per game (8.1), 15th in PER (22.1).
Top Rookie: Omer Asik, C, Turkey. The 7-foot center, a 2008 second round pick of Portland's, has logged minutes in every game for the Bulls. He averages a little over 12 minutes with 3.1 boards and 0.7 blocks.
Athlon's Take: The Bulls finally got to see their big free-agent acquisition make his debut when Carlos Boozer took to the court Dec. 1. Chicago won its first circus trip in 13 years and managed a 9-6 record in Boozer's absence. The Bulls have no signature wins over legit title contenders through Sunday — with two losses to Boston, a loss to Oklahoma City and a drubbing against Orlando in Boozer's debut with a full roster. The 2-guard spot is where the Bulls must find help. Keith Bogans, Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver, all new pieces this year, have not been consistent answers.
Cleveland: 7-13, 4th in the Central Division
MVP: Anderson Varejao, F/C. If there is an MVP on this roster, he's the closest to it. Maybe the reason Varejao was the only Cav to hug LeBron right before tipoff in there game in Cleveland was so he could whisper: Take me with you. Varejao is 16th in rebounds per game (9.0) and has four double-doubles this year.
Top Rookie: Manny Harris, SG, Michigan. No one is really contributing from the three-man rookie class, but the former Wolverine has logged the most minutes. He's played in five games, averaging 9:18 at 4.0 points per outing.
Athlon's Take: This season will always be defined as the first season without LeBron. When the Cavaliers had a chance to show they could at least tread water without James they failed miserably, losing by 28 in front of a packed home crowd. They followed that up with a 34-point loss to Minnesota and a 10-point loss to Detroit. They are 27th in scoring (94.3) and 19th in scoring defense (102.4). It doesn't look like it's going to get better anytime soon.
Detroit: 7-14, 5th in the Central Division
MVP: Charlie Villanueva, PF. Maybe having a sixth man as your best player through the first quarter of the season is the reason for being seven games under .500. CV is ninth in 3-pointers made (42) and eighth in attempts (105). He also averages 4.8 rebounds (third on the team) — 3.9 on the defensive end to lead the Pistons. His one block per game is tied for second on the team.
Top Rookie: Greg Monroe, F/C, Georgetown. The seventh overall pick took a little while to get going, but has picked up the pace over the last week. He is averaging around 28 minutes over the last four games, with 21 boards and 33 points on 64 percent shooting.
Athlon's Take: Only once this season — against the Clippers and Kings — have the Pistons put together back-to-back wins. Of course that means there have been losing streaks. A five-game skid started the season followed by a four-game slide that ended Dec. 5. There was turmoil when the season began, as it didn't seem like many Pistons knew their role. With the 26th-best offense (94.6 ppg) against the 16th-best defensive (100.1), it's going to be a rough one in the Motor City.
Indiana: 9-9, 2nd in the Central Division
MVP: Danny Granger, F. He is third in 3-pointers made (44), fourth in 3-point attempts (112) and 16th in scoring (21.4 ppg). Take away Granger and the offensively-challenged Pacers would lose their leader in minutes, points, steals, and free throw attempts.
Top Rookie: Paul George, G/F, Fresno State. The 10th overall pick has played in eight games, logging 16:30 per contest with 4.9 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.5 steals and 0.3 blocks.
Athlon's Take: One step forward. One step back. That has been the M.O. of the Pacers so far. Only twice have they won consecutive games, but only twice have they lose consecutive games. Indy has the 16th-best offense (99.4 ppg), and its 11th-best defense (97.6) is getting the job done. When the Pacers win they can be the best scoring defense in the league at 90.5 points allowed. However, when they lose it goes just the other way as they allow what would be the worst in the league at 116.2 per game. It's hard to believe inconsistency like that will survive any seven-game series.
Miami: 13-8, 3rd in the Southeast Division
MVP: LeBron James, SF. His numbers are down against his career averages. He is scoring 24.1 points. (3.6 below his average), rebounding 5.7 a game (1.3 below is average) and stealing the ball 1.6 times a game (0.1 below his average). His assist numbers are up — 7.3 vs. 7.0 a game — good for 10th-best in the league. He is seventh in minutes played (777), 8th in field goals made (165), sixth in field goal attempts (360), second in free throws made and attempted (154/197) ninth in PER (24.5), 14th in defensive rating (99.7)
Top Rookie: No rookies have contributed.
Athlon's Take: Where do you begin? The chemistry excuse was the reason during the first 10 games. The standing around on offense and not speeding it up has been the excuse the last 10 games. Add in a little bit of missing Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem and no consistent contributions from the point guard or presence in the paint and you have the Miami Heat. Unless a team like Chicago catches fire, the Heat should feel pretty secure in getting at least a fourth seed. Miami's health will certainly play a factor, but the work of the Big Three — James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh — will be the difference maker. Not sure what to make of the fact that the Big Three, through 20 games, are only averaging a little under 24 minutes a game on the court together. The prior Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce average a little over 27 minutes and a have a plus-minus of 182 compared to Miami's 112.
Milwaukee: 7-12, 3rd in the Central Division
MVP: Brandon Jennings, PG. In just over 35 minutes of action per game, the second-year point guard is averaging 18.6 points, 5.6 assists, 4.3 boards and 1.3 steals for the Bucks. He is 15th in the NBA in 3-pointers made (36), 10th in 3s attempted (104) and 20th in assists (107). He leads Milwaukee in points, assists, steals, field goals attempted and made.
Top Rookie: Larry Sanders, F/C, VCU. The 15th overall pick out of Virginia Commonwealth has played in 14 games, averaging just over 14 minutes per contest. He scores at 4.1 a game with 3.2 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 0.4 steals. The highlight of his rookie season has to be the 14-point, 10-rebound, 8-block effort he had Dec. 1 against Denver.
Athlon's Take: Six teams had a worse record than the Bucks through Sunday, but not one of them was as bad at scoring as Milwaukee. It's hard to believe the Bucks have seven wins with a league-low 91.6 points per game, but it is the sixth-best defense (93.2) that has kept them out of the cellar. A three-game winning streak was followed by losses in seven of Milwaukee's next eight before defeating a depleted Orlando team Saturday. Injuries have plagued the Bucks as Andrew Bogut (hand/arm) will have to deal with the pain from last year's season-ending injury throughout the entire 2010-11 campaign. Drew Gooden, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Corey Maggette have also missed time with injuries. Carlos Delfino played seven games before concussion-like symptoms sidelined him indefinitely. If the Bucks can start to get healthy and turn it around on offense they could be a dangerous team come playoff time.
New Jersey: 6-15, 5th in Atlantic Division
MVP: Anthony Morrow, SG. Hard to find many positives with the Nets on either end of the floor. Morrow has logged the 17th-most minutes (739), taken the 17th-most 3s (94) and made the 12th most 3s from downtown (39). He's also shooting .878 from the stripe for 17th-best in the NBA.
Top Rookie: Derrick Favors, PF, Georgia Tech. The No. 3 overall pick has played in all 21 games, averaging nearly 19 minutes with 6.6 ppg on 54-percent shooting from the field to go with 5.3 boards and 0.6 blocks a game.
Athlon's Take: The Nets are much like the Bucks, sans the injuries. Their defense — 13th best at 98.1 points allowed — has kept them in the game while the offense struggles at 93.2 points per game (29th in the league). New Jersey won its first two games of the year, but then went on a five-game skid. Losing streaks of three, two and a current four-gamer have followed. Since the two-game streak to open, the Nets have failed to win back-to-back games. It took until the 19th game, and three OTs in that contest, for center Brook Lopez to record his first double-double. Through Sunday, Lopez has just two double-digit rebound games and is shooting .436 for the season. The drafting of what's considered a project player in Favors and failing to use a 3-point/rebounding threat in Troy Murphy, who the Nets traded for, leaves many scratching their heads. Another 6-15 mark for a 12-30 record should be expected once the halfway mark hits.
New York: 12-9, 2nd in the Atlantic Division
MVP: Amar'e Stoudemire, PF/C. The big free-agent acquisition has not disappointed in his second stint under former Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni. Stoudemire is 10th in minutes played (772), sixth in ppg (24.9), 12th in PER (23.0), third in field goals made (191), fourth in field goals attempted (366), fifth in FT attempted (174) and seventh in FT made (135), 13th in total rebounds (190) and seventh in blocks (40).
Top Rookie: Landry Fields, SG/SF, Stanford. The second-round pick has emerged as quite the find for the Knicks. He's started all 21 games through Sunday and has had six double-doubles. The 6-7, 210-pound Fields is averaging 10.8 points, 7.4, boards, 1.8 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.2 blocks in nearly 31 minutes per contest.
Athlon's Take: The Knicks can score for sure, doing so at 107.1 a game for third-best in the NBA. But the D'Antoni trend of no defense continues as the Knicks are 26th at 105.7 points allowed. New York opened with a 3-2 start before losing six in a row. The team has bounced back in a big way, though. New York has lost just once in its last 11 games and scored under 99 just once — a 90-99 loss to Atlanta. It's hard to say what this offense could do in a seven-game series in the East, but with a little bit of defense the Knicks could be a much more difficult out than anyone thought.
Orlando: 15-5, 1st in the Southeast Division
MVP: Dwight Howard, C. The centerpiece of the Magic is fourth in field goal percentage (.585), first in FT attempts (214), 11th in FT made (116), fifth in rebounds (217) and blocks (43), 17th in ppg (21.3) and fourth in PER (24.9).
Top Rookie: No rookie contributions.
Athlon's Take: After a demoralizing 96-70 loss to division rival Miami in the second game of the season, the Magic clicked off four in a row, lost two, won another four in a row, lost one and then reeled off another six in a row. Sickness took over the team as the month of December began, sidelining many players, but a healthy Magic is a troublesome Magic for the rest of the East. A Christmas Day matchup against Boston is certainly the most anticipated game left in this calendar year for the Magic. Unfortunately it will come after games against Atlanta, Dallas and San Antonio in the five days leading up to Christmas.
Philadelphia: 6-14, 4th in the Atlantic Division
MVP: Elton Brand, PF/C. Brand has stayed healthy, playing 34 minutes a game, scoring 15.8 points. on .517 shooting from the field, .808 from the stripe with 8.0 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.2 blocks per game. He is ninth in offensive rebounding (67).
Top Rookie: Evan Turner, SG/SF, Ohio State. The second overall pick has played in all 20 games, starting 12 of them. He's averaging 26:30 minutes with 7.5 points on .416 shooting from the field, .739 from the stripe, 5.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 0.6 steals per contest.
Athlon's Take: The Sixers are 21st in scoring (97.4 points per game), 14th in scoring defense (98.9) and have won consecutive games just once — New Jersey and Portland on Nov. 27 and 30. The season began with a four-game skid, slowed by a 2-2 mark before losing eight of nine followed. The 8-of-9 stretch had just two game in which the Sixers scored at least 100 points.
Toronto: 8-12, 3rd in Atlantic Division
MVP: Andrea Bargnani, PF/C. Toronto's scoring is spread out across the board, but Bargnani leads the team in scoring (20.7 ppg), rebounds per game (5.7) and blocks (0.8). He's 12th in the league in field goals made (157) and 11th in attempts (342).
Top Rookie: Ed Davis, PF, North Carolina. The 13th overall pick had knee surgery just before training camp and finally made his NBA debut on Dec. 2. He had 11 points and six boards in 24 minutes.
Athlon's Take: Toronto got off to a horrible 2-9 start before reeling off four straight wins. The Raptors followed with a six-game stretch that included two losses, two wins and two more losses. They are another inconsistent squad like Indiana. The Raptors can score (101.2 ppg) for 11th-best in the league — but are 20th in defense (102.8). Toronto scored the first big trade of the season when it got guard Jerryd Bayless and guard/forward Peja Stojakovic from New Orleans. Bayless is starting to emerge as competition for Jose Calderon, while Stojakovic (knee) continues to be ineffective. A broken bone in his right foot has sidelined forward Reggie Evans, one of the league's top rebounders at the time, until early February. If the Raptors can get their roster in order and remain healthy, they could push for the eighth seed come season's end.
Washington: 6-13, 5th in the Southeast Division
MVP: John Wall, PG. Maybe it could be post player Andray Blatche and his being the team leader in rebounds, points and minutes played, but Wall has missed six games due to nagging injuries and isn't far off of the team lead in a number of categories. He has scored 104 less points than Blatche, his 33 steals are 13 more than the next closest player and his 113 assists are 21 ahead of the Kirk Hinrich, who has played all 19 games.
Top Rookie: John Wall, PG, Kentucky. The top pick has dazzled in the 13 games he's played. Wall averages 38 minutes a game, 17 points on .409 shooting from the field, .826 from the free throw line, 8.7 assists, 2.5 steals and 3.3 boards.
Athlon's Take: The Wizards have won six games and doubling that total by the halfway point would probably be right at expectations. The team is not very good and are 2-3 when Wall is out. But as Wall goes so too will this team. Blatche's numbers are up in points, rebounds, free throw percentage, assists and steals compared to his five-year career numbers. JaVale McGee is an emerging talent down low as well. Nick Young, a guard/forward, is also getting his chances to shine.
— Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter