All posts by Pierce W. Huff

Advocate sportswriter

The Advocate’s NBA Top 15 countdown

There are 30 teams in the NBA, but only half of them are worth following.

This is a look at the top half of the teams in the NBA with analysis on who is playing well, who is about to struggle and who is making a rise among the league’s elite.

Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph (50) and center Marc Gasol (33) shake hands in the second half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, in Memphis, Tenn. The Grizzlies beat the Clippers 107-91 (AP Photo/Brandon Dill) ORG XMIT: TNBD112  Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol

Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph (50) and center Marc Gasol (33) shake hands in the second half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, in Memphis, Tenn. The Grizzlies beat the Clippers 107-91 (AP Photo/Brandon Dill) ORG XMIT: TNBD112 Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol

1. Memphis

The Grizzlies have the best record in the NBA and are the deepest team with nine players averaging more than 5 points per game led by Marc Gasol (19.9).

2. Chicago

The Bulls have the third-best record in the Eastern Conference for now, but injuries have been a factor (this won’t be the first time a record gets somewhat ignored in this ranking)

3. Golden State

The Warriors rank 9th in points allowed (96.4), which is the stat that best indicates a new toughness under new coach Steve Kerr.

4. Portland

Trail Blazers have won 10 of their first 13 games, but they were 8-1 at home and 2-2 on the road which is too much of a disparity.

5. Toronto

The Raptors’ 11-2 start was the second best in the winning percentage in the NBA, but they don’t play enough defense to be a serious Eastern Conference contender.

6. Dallas

The Mavericks are playing well and have loads of talent, but allowing teams to shoot 44.9 percent (13th in the NBA) will catch up to them at some point.

7. Houston

Let the free falling begin, because they will struggle to beat competent teams with center Dwight Howard out indefinitely with a strained right knee.

8. San Antonio

The champs are just cruising in the regular season and picking their spots to get playoff ready.

9. Washington

Forget who has the best guard tandem in the NBA, because this team is 4-2 on the road this season, which is proof of their improvement.

10. L.A. Clippers

The team started the season with a 7-5 record, but we’ll give them a pass for now because no team with Chris Paul stays mediocre.

11. Phoenix

The Suns don’t play a decent team until a Dec. 5 game at Dallas, so the wins should continue to pile up.

12. Sacramento

The Kings are young and exciting, but entering this week their next five games were against New Orleans, Houston, San Antonio, Memphis and Toronto so let the test begin.

13. Cleveland

If LeBron James is defacto coach, general manager and leader, then when can he relax and work on his game?

14. Miami

The empty seats for home games in American Airlines Arena are proof that the team is missing something and someone. Who can that be?

15. New Orleans

The Pelicans are sixth in points per game (103.9) and lead the league in blocks (6.6), but getting center Omer Asik healthy again is a must for now.

Sports Illustrated has a mixed-bag reaction to the New Orleans Pelicans this season

Sports Illustrated has released its 2014-15 NBA Crystal Ball predictions, and two of its writers have contrasting opinions about what the the New Orleans Pelicans will do this season.

On one hand, Ben Golliver of SI.com thinks the New Orleans Pelicans can be a surprise team this season.

“Golliver: Pelicans. This isn’t exactly a risky pick. New Orleans offers promise for three obvious reasons: the Pelicans ridiculous run of bad injury last season is unlikely to repeat itself, Anthony Davis is poised to make a third-year leap into undisputed All-NBA status, and the arrival of Omer Asik should substantially boost the defensive efficiency. It should be noted that coach Monty Williams will need a full season (or close to it) of quality production from point guard Jrue Holiday to fully deliver on this team’s potential.”

But on the other hand, Matt Dollinger thinks Pelicans coach Monty Williams could be on the hot seat if the team struggles and doesn’t make the playoffs.

“Dollinger: Monty Williams, Pelicans. Firing your coach is a lot easier than finding a taker for Tyreke Evans of Eric Gordon. Williams is entering his fifth season with the Pelicans and has his best roster since Chris Paul was running the point. With a host of big-name players on big-money deals, New Orleans doesn’t have much flexibility to shake things up should things go south. If the Pelicans decide change is in order, it could be Williams who takes the fall. Williams is regarded as a promising head coach and has gained valuable experience as an assistant on Team USA, but his potential might not be enough to keep him around if New Orleans fails to live up to its preseason hype.”

But Golliver and Dollinger aren’t alone on their contrasting opinions about the Pelicans.

The Advocate even did its own video on “Three reasons why the New Orleans Pelicans will and three reasons why they will not make the playoffs”