We are well into the season now, and we can pretty much tell which teams are going to be in the playoffs, and which teams are going to be at home starting an early vacation. Everybody automatically picked the Warriors and Cavaliers to get back to the finals, but there are some teams that are not going down without a fight.
There’s various amounts of teams that improved their roster this year, like the Rockets, Knicks, Celtics, Spurs, Bucks, and Jazz. Those sets of teams not only improved their own roster but strengthen the overall competition in the Conference as well.
In the past 4-6 years, the Western Conference has been the toughest. It’s a different story in the East. LeBron James owns the Conference; he’s been in the finals for 7 straight years and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. This year might be a little bit harder, though. There are some sleeper teams in both the East & West Conferences that can give the top seeds problems.
I’ve taken a look at the standings and analyzed each team to figure out who can give the top seed teams the biggest scare. I chose the top 2 “sleeper teams” (one from each Conference) and explained why they have a decent chance, and what they can do to improve their odds even further.
New York Knicks
New York Knicks is the number ones overall sleeper team in the East. The reason why I picked Knicks as the sleeper team is because they have the right players and the right coach to knock off any opponent. They are a good matchup good with any team they face. Another reason is because nobody is really talking about the Knicks as being one of the good teams in the East right now. I can almost guarantee you that this team will be much better after the All-Star break.
Players like Derrick Rose (Former MVP), Kristaps Porzingis, and former scoring champ Carmelo Anthony have what it takes to knock out a first round team. They haven’t had enough games playing with each other to build that #1 or 2 seed team chemistry, which is why they don’t seem very scary. But as games go along, you can tell that the chemistry is getting better and better.
New York started off the season 3-6. But since then, they are 12-8. They’re playing better now because of the chemistry they are building with playing time. They will never have a problem scoring because they have 3 real scoring options on offense, but only 2 teams in the league have 3 players in their starting lineup averaging 20+ points. That’s the Warriors and Cavs. The Knicks have 2 players averaging 20+ points.
Derrick Rose is close to averaging 20, as he’s averaging 16.4. three out of his last five games, he scored 20+ points. This team is set up to win, especially with the star-studded starting lineup.If Carmelo Anthony is having a bad game, than Kristaps Porzingis will step up. If Kristaps is having a bad game, Rose will step up. We’ve seen that a number of times in the season already, and it caused the opponents to have a hard time with their game plan. The Knick’s bench have 2 key players that are coming in the game and dominating.
Brandon Jennings and Kyle O’Quinn, both players are key components and impact the game big enough to change the game around. One problem that the team needs to address is the defensive issue; Knicks will be a top 3 team in the East if they can just add a defensive force for the bench before the postseason starts.
The Rockets are the #1 sleeper team in the West because of the other teams that are blocking them from getting any spotlight. There’s the Warriors, Clippers, and Spurs. All before you can get to this Rockets team.
The key addition that Houston made this offseason was key, getting stretch four, Ryan Anderson. They already have key wins against playoff teams like the Warriors, Thunder, Celtics, Spurs, and Trail Blazers. Just like the Knicks, Houston has a great offensive game, because once James Harden attacks the rim, everybody's shooters will be open. Since James Hardens move to the PG position, the Rockets have become an unstoppable force. He’s averaging his career high in assists, (11.6). When he controls the offense, its everybody's potential to the highest. The Rocket’s match up well against the good teams because they have the offense to match anyone.
If your favorite team's defense is not up to par playing against the Rockets, then it will be a long angry day as a fan.The defense cannot take a day off, or sleep against this offensive minded team. Houston has the team and the superstar player to get the job done night in and night out, every day. One thing they are missing, though, is the need for a big man power forward that’s aggressive on the boards and can do the dirty work.
The Rockets can knock out the Clippers and the Spurs in the playoffs right now, but they still have ways to go to before they can think about knocking out the Warriors in a 7 game series. Either way, don’t sleep on them.