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A View From the Bench

   by ASA - 12/07/2007

A month has come and gone in the NBA season with certain players and teams setting trends in the early going. Some players have stepped up their play in helping their teams to strong starts. Others have struggled out of the gate, bringing their team down with them. Here’s a little of what we liked in the first month, as well as some things that we didn’t like so much.

Stephen Jackson, Golden State Warriors
The volatile one’s impact on the Warriors has been a positive once since the first day he set foot in California. His impact goes far beyond the box scores, except for those all important wins. Since joining the Warriors, Golden State is 17-3 in the regular season with him in the lineup. Jackson missed the first seven games of the year due to a suspension and the Warriors proceeded to go 1-6 (2-5 ATS) in those contests. Since his return, Golden State is 9-2 (8-3 ATS). Jackson fits perfect into Don Nelson’s offensive philosophy while also being the Warriors’ best perimeter defender. Golden State is making last season’s playoff upset of Dallas look legit as this team appears to be for real, due in large part to Jackson.

Raymond Felton, Charlotte Bobcats
The offseason acquisition of Jason Richardson, along with the development of their young nucleus, was supposed to lift the Bobcats into playoff contention. That hasn’t happened and a big part of that has been the lack of development from Felton. While fellow 2005 point guard draftees Chris Paul and Deron Williams are tearing up the league, Felton hasn’t made that jump yet. Charlotte has lost seven straight (1-6 ATS) by an average of 11.6 points per game and Felton has been a big part of the problem. He has shot just 29-89 (31%) during the streak and is hitting at a 39 percent clip for the season.

Detroit Pistons roster
The Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic have consumed the Eastern Conference headlines this year and rightfully so. Lost in the shuffle has been the Detroit Pistons. Detroit has won five straight, both SU and ATS, and seven of its last eight games outright. And the Pistons are doing it in the exact same fashion that they’ve always done it. They may be the most balanced team in the league with eight players averaging at least eight points and no player averaging better than 17 points per game. Also, Detroit has not forgotten how to defend as it is second in the NBA with just 91.9 points allowed per game. The Celtics and Magic may be the talk of the East but don’t forget about the Pistons.

Houston Rockets supporting cast
The offseason overhaul made to the Houston supporting cast was supposed to be what put the Rockets over the top this year. So far, though, that supporting cast has been wildly inconsistent and hasn’t given Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming the help they need. Since starting the season 6-1, the Rockets have gone 4-8 (5-7 ATS). Over that stretch McGrady and Yao have combined to average 45.3 points per game while the rest of the roster has averaged just 51.2 points per game. While Mike James, Bonzi Wells and Luis Scola have proven capable of having big nights from time to time, they aren’t doing it on a consistent enough basis.

Caron Butler, Washington Wizards
A majority of the betting public thought the Wizards were done for when Gilbert Arenas was lost for three months with a knee injury. Washington has stayed afloat, though, due in large part to the play of Butler. The Wizards are 6-3 ATS since Arenas went down and their offense hasn’t lost a step, averaging 106.3 points per game in going over the total in eight of the last nine games. Butler has been the catalyst over this stretch, averaging 27.8 points, 6.4 boards, 4.9 assists and 2.3 steals while shooting 56 percent over his last eight games.

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