A Christmas-inspired list for each Eastern Conference team.
Western Conference wish list is here.
The C’s sit atop the Eastern Conference with a league-best 27 wins. However, if last year’s playoffs proved anything it was that regular season record is far less important than postseason form.
The young tandem of Taytum and Brown have been excellent so far but they would likely need All-Star Gordon Hayward to return if they want to make it out of the East.
Whether it’s late this season or next, the Celtics are hopeful for Gordon to return to his 22/5/5 form.
More 3’s from DD
The Raptors are enjoying an extremely successful season behind their superstar DeMar DeRozan and improved bench play. DeRozan is shooting an extremely efficient 44%(14/32) from deep in December leading the Raps to a 10-1 record.
The Raptors right now are 10th in the league in 3PM but they are undefeated, however, when DeMar hits three or more 3s.
Jose Calderon is great and all, but he’s no Isaiah Thomas…
IT4 gives the Cavaliers an elite ball-handler, playmaker and 3-point shooter. Lebron is averaging 37.2 minutes per game, good for second in the league, which is not ideal for a team with Championship aspirations. Thomas should give the Cavs a chance to rest Lebron and remain competitive when he’s on the bench.
Now that he’s back dunking, Thomas is just a few weeks away from making his presence felt.
More Magic Dust
The Pacers currently LEAD the NBA in 3-point percentage at 38.9%.
Who would have thought that when Paul George left things would get better? The Pacers are playing with more pace and conviction this year. They have shored-up their rotation. Domantas Sabonis and Victor Oladipo are both playing inspired basketball. Nate McMillan has gotten good production from veterans Lance Stephenson and Corey Joseph off the bench.
The Pacers sure hope Santa refills their magic dust.
More Time for the bench
The Pistons’ bench is currently 6th in +/- in the league. Guys like Langston Galloway, Ish Smith, and Boban Marjanovic have all been playing solid basketball so far.
Head Coach SVG refuses to play his bench the minutes they deserve. Both Langston Galloway and Anthony Tolliver shoot near 40% from 3 which helps spread the floor for Drummond to work inside. Yet both of these guys play less than 20 minutes per game…
The Pistons have the answer to some of their questions on their roster, sitting when they should be playing.
A Big Body
I don’t think DeAndre Jordan fits under the Christmas tree, but boy Jason Kidd would be happy to see him there.
The one thing Milwaukee is missing in Kidd’s defensive scheme is a legitimate rim protector and paint enforcer. The Bucks are averaging a pitiful 30.9 defensive rebounds per game which is third-to-last in the entire association. John Henson and Thon Maker are both good energy players but neither have the size and strength to battle real bigs. Milwaukee just lost another close game to the Hornets, mainly because Dwight feasted in the paint to the tune of 21 points and 16 boards.
The Bucks need another big body, an enforcer in the paint.
A healthy john wall
All I want for Christmas is a healthy John Wall. When in full form, John Wall is one of the scariest two-way players in the league. He can block shots, make plays, and score in transition at truly elite rates. Unfortunately, he’s dealt with lingering knee issues which keep the Wizards from really breaking out like they should.
Beal, Oubre, and Porter have all been playing good basketball this year but Washington won’t go anywhere without Wall. DC’s squad might have to rest Wall more, or find ways to lighten the load he carries on offense and defense.
New York Knicks
More Minutes for Frankie
The Knicks are bringing Frank Ntilikina along slowly, giving him 20 minutes per game. In his limited minutes, Ntilikina has proved his defensive prowess and has shown flashes of offensive upside. Frank’s 6’ 5” frame and near 7-foot wingspan is hard to score on, even for Kyrie…
Hornacek has done a good job bringing Ntilikina along slowly, but Knicks’ fans are excited to see more Frankie-Smokes in the new year.
Better Production at Home
The Heat are the only team in the league to have a winning road record and losing home record. Their -4.1 differential at home is worse than their -0.1 on the road which is confusing as most teams have an inverse ratio.
Miami has had an up-and-down year, failing to generate consistent offensive production. Their paltry 100.1 ppg is 26th in the association and their offensive rating is 23rd
The Heat right now are the 9-seed in the East with one more loss than the Knicks. Their offense has remained stagnant, and their subpar play at home is a large part of the reason why. With their franchise big man Hassan Whiteside out, Spoelstra will have to continue to tinker with lineups and rotations to win games in Miami.
Better Medical Staff
The 6ers are no notorious for their “Trust the Process” mantra. Philly fans have grown accustomed to waiting for their young players to get healthy. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid both missed their first seasons due to injuries.
Now that Markelle Fultz is once-again on the shelf the 6ers seem to be in the same predicament. Perhaps these injuries are all just a coincidence, or maybe Philly needs a new Medical Staff better at injury prevention.
A new defensive identity
The Nets have long been in the bottom of the league in defensive categories. This year they rank 21st in blocks(4.1) and 29th in steals(6.5).
Their roster includes players that are very offensive-minded in an attempt to stay relevant with the current NBA trajectory. Their squandered 16 point lead to the Pacers highlighted major structural issues on defense. With no true rim protection, the Nets are allowing high percentage looks from in the paint which opens up outside shots as well.
The rebuilding Nets may continue to lose games as they wait for young players to develop. However, before they become competitive, their defensive identity needs an overhaul.
Kemba Walker is still one of the better point guards in the league, and he is in his final 2 years of his 4 year $48 million contract. This deal is a bargain, and any team looking to upgrade at point guard should be contacted.
Right now, the Hornets are 12-21 and 3-7 in their last 10. Head coach Clifford is out with medical issues which further clouds the future in Charlotte. Dwight Howard is actually playing good basketball again, but their 6th-highest payroll cannot be justified.
The combination of Howard, Batum, and Kemba clearly has failed and the Hornets may need to embrace a fresh start with young assets.
Pick a Player
The Magic have absolutely no identity. Their hot start at the start of the year was fueled by made 3s and ball movement. The winning didn’t last as the Magic are now on an 8-game losing streak.
Their roster is filled with young prospects like Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic, Elfrid Payton, and Jonathan Isaac. What the Magic is missing, however, is a consistent go-to player in crunchtime. Some nights it’s Vucevic, some nights it’s Gordon, some nights it’s Simmons, some nights it’s Fournier, some nights it’s Payton. This lack of leadership and identity has led to close losses and undefined roles.
If the Magic are lucky, Santa will pick a player for them…
Lavine back in action
The Bulls have been playing better basketball as of late behind solid play from Mirotic, Dunn, and Markennan. Winning games while playing young assets is a recipe for success in the NBA.
What the Bulls are still missing, however, is a truly explosive athlete and wing scorer. Zach Lavine gives them exactly that. He needs to get back to form before his ACL injury, but if he does, he provides the Bulls with a player who can finish at the rim and hit 3s at an efficient clip.
Face it, Dennis Schroeder and Taurean Prince aren’t winning a title anytime soon.
The Hawks have hit a full reset button with the departure of Millsap. Right now they have the worst record in the league and should land a top pick in the 2018 draft which features players like Marvin Bagley, Luka Doncic, and Mo Bamba.
The Hawks should continue to lose given their lack of talent and chance to improve through the draft…