Happy Monday! Let's chat some NBA Hoops.
1. TORONTO RAPTORS: Tough loss on Sunday vs. Bucks after holding an early 20-point lead. Milwaukee is the team the Raps are chasing for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. Currently 5.5 games behind them. Only 1.5 games behind the struggling 76ers for the ninth spot, and they play them this week. Concentrate on getting into that position and then go from there. A number to consider with regard to how the Raptors perform vs. quality competition. Toronto's record against the 16 teams that would qualify today for the NBA playoffs this spring is 3-14. The record against teams that are currently out of the playoff picture is 11-9. Needless to say, there's lots of heavy lifting ahead if they're going to get close and/or overtake Milwaukee. Lots of pretty decent opponents coming up on the schedule. Some good tests ahead. We'll see what they're made of. Need Kyle Lowry to play a whole lot better - consistency, productivity - seems out of sorts right now.
2. AVERY BRADLEY (Celtics): He comes back from injury and the C's are 5-1. Saviour? Far from it but he does play with an edge and give them terrific energy and defensive toughness. It allows Doc Rivers to push everyone back a notch in the rotation and reduce a few minutes from Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and Rajon Rondo's workload on the perimeter.
3. JOHN HENSON (Bucks): Liked him at North Carolina and I really liked him on Sunday vs. the Raptors. He can play. Nice touch around the basket and terrific length. Gets after it on the glass and will block/change shots. I like his energy level and effort. Good get for GM John Hammond. He has to get stronger in order to be able to play longer minutes and stand up to better post men but he's got a chance.
4. GRANT HILL (Clippers): Nice to see him back in uniform. Class act and can still contribute. Did a very nice job the past few years in Phoenix. Guards his position and knows/accepts his role to the T. Excellent team guy who'll fit in nicely with the wonderful second unit they have in LA. He makes the extra pass and understands flow and team chemistry. Obviously, his leadership style and experience will be a huge help for Vinny Del Negro. Nice luxury to have on a roster along with Chauncey Billups.
5. ERIC GORDON (Hornets): Has played seven games for New Orleans and has averaged 16.6 ppg. They are a different team when he plays, plain and simple. Explosive scorer who can attack you with the dribble and draw fouls. They have laboured to score and he's a perfect tonic to the issues they've had. The big question is, how committed is he to staying in this market? If he is and can stay healthy, things will start to look up considering they have Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers. Both are decent young pieces to build with. Greivis Vasquez and Ryan Anderson are solid pieces as well. They just need to continue to bolster the overall talent base but Gordon definitely gives them and upgraded look - that's for sure.