As the season progresses, the NBA’s top teams begin to try to create some separation from the rest of the league. The Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers and San Antonio Spurs are doing just that in the Western Conference, while the Miami Heat and New York Knicks are attempting to do the same in the East.
At the same time, there are some surprise teams that have been able to keep pace and are still trying to make their way into the thick of the playoff hunt.
The Atlanta Hawks, who traded Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams in the offseason, are 22-16 and just 3 1/2 games behind Miami in the Southeast Division. The Chicago Bulls, playing without Derrick Rose, are 22-15 and a half game out of first in the Central Division. The Golden State Warriors, who have made the postseason once since 1994, are 23-14 and jockeying for homecourt advantage in the first round.
One thing most of these teams have in common is their stellar bench play, with a few players in particular highlighting the pine for each of these respective teams.
This week’s rankings may look a tad similar to the rankings of a week ago, but that does not take away from some of the folks that are close to eventually seeing their faces appear in the table of top five candidates for an award that is often (unfairly) overlooked.
To this point, Ray Allen has not made his name onto the list despite putting up close to 12 points per game and continuing to shoot the basketball at the same level of efficiency that he did back in Milwaukee, Seattle and Boston. Odds are that Heat fans are ecstatic with their veteran shooting wizard; the fact that they don’t even have to start him to be successful is a testament to the team around him.
Another name that hasn’t been mentioned on this list to this point is Jarrett Jack. Part of this may be the way Warriors coach Mark Jackson has been able to disperse the scoring load among many players, including some subs. Both Jack and Carl Landry are serious contenders for the award, but playing for the same team may actually hurt their chances for serious consideration.
The last name that hasn’t been mentioned is Ryan Anderson. Injuries to Anthony Davis forced Anderson to start 17 games for the Hornets, and the winner must come off the bench in at least half the games he plays. Now that Anderson has played 39 games, he is eligibile and makes this race all the more interesting.
Now, onto the list, where one major inclusion is going to shake up everything, making it a much tighter race than just one week ago.