Kelly Dwyer covers the NBA, alongside musical bits and comedy numbers.

The good NBA teams, ranked

Here is the second set, from the middle to the top, the lower half was ranked on Sunday and you can totally read it for free as well.

We crack jokes and try to analyze the things that matter most. This space is free of television, blog and Twitter chatter, these emails are only influenced by the games themselves.

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I understand that it’s weird to pay a single writer, but Tom Ziller is right, this is an independent operation and there aren’t many of these solo acts flying around these days — I’m not supported by a cadre of investors and I’m not part of a larger operation, I’m just trying to come up with February’s rent five bucks at a time.

Oh, quit whining.

LOS ANGELES LAKERS

Make it on hoops.

“There is nothing wrong with watching LeBron all over again, especially when he’s doing everything we’ve ever asked.” — Dec. 6.

“Tune into Stu Lantz. He’s worked into our Kent Brockman, minus the hubris, trying to keep one eye on standards and practices while marveling at the mess that the world around him spun into.” — Dec. 16.

“Worrying about the Lakers is impossible to me, I’ve as many misgivings as anyone about the club’s individual scouting reports but I’m also of a century (I purchase compact discs) where I don’t expect every player to be fully formed and super-amazing by the age of 21.” — Jan. 4.

No. 9 in the West, 25-22.

UTAH JAZZ

Give the album another listen.

“The team didn’t fold a collarbone cram into each of its defensive calculations last season, it didn’t get by on grabs and holds and what the referees didn’t see, but the club currently struggles because this year is different.

“More and more inhibitions draw whistles, the Jazz are suddenly among the league’s worst five clubs in stopping the dreaded “eFG” and the little percentage symbol that comes right after that.

“Let ‘em work, I say. The Jazz should be allowed room to come back from this fit of anger. They’ll take a walk in the rain, the answers aren’t gonna to be waiting under the covers when the steps run out but at least Utah will get the inessential voices out of its heads.” — Nov. 17.

No. 7 in the West, 26-21.

L.A. CLIPPERS

Always a reliable watch, even if Kerry still can’t keep up with all those pots.

“Marcin Gortat is not working for this team as lead center, he tries hard and looks to be in the right places (but if you wait a half-second, he ain’t).

“Montrezl Harrell plays the best minutes of the triptych but the team isn’t familiar with his style as a starter yet, same as Montrezl runs with his own thoughts on the subject. Boban Marjanovich is just too good a basketball player to work for long stretches, we want to keep this game fair. “ — Nov. 2.

“Lou isn’t your best passer, he isn’t a point guard, he’s not tall enough to wonder about Ray Allen’s eyebrows and he ain’t fast enough to help you forget that he played with the Hawks.

“Yet we’re all the way here, deep into repeated TNT Thursday nights, and Lou Williams is balling, that, jack.” — Nov. 16.

“Tobias Harris, mostly-superstar. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, dopamine for days. And Montrezl Harrell, well, he’s just set to dunk in some wins for you.” — Nov. 30.

No. 8 in the West, 25-21.

TORONTO RAPTORS

Read on:

“Toronto is patient, now. There’s no looming LeBron to ruin a night out, to pull your head back into the pillow after you dared consider wresting its heft and burden right outta bed.

“The Raptors are just gonna work until Toronto gets the shot it likes. Defensively, Raps won’t fret until you’ve shown your hand while dribbling, dribbling, dribbling. There’s so little to worry about now, this entire production won’t eventually end in LeBron James’ lap and this has left Toronto to work within its moment.” — Oct. 31.

“This won’t be a top-heavy show for too long, Siakam, man, it’s growing.” — Nov. 17.

“Kyle Lowry was your fork in the garbage disposal, swirling around and causing sparks and reminding us of the sort of struggle that the Raptors have always been about.” — Dec. 13.

“Toronto coach Nick Nurse prepared for this in summer, early summer, he has the plays and Kawhi has the insight.” — Jan. 2.

Best team in the East, 35-13.

SAN ANTONIO SPURS

Coach of the Year, without a doubt, but I don’t want to upset Gregg Popovich’s schedule with the promotional and press-related duties that are tied to the honor.

Give the man gift cards that he can use in an airport.

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“The Spurs are improving, the Spurs are damn good, and you can’t turn the ball over against San Antonio and you can’t let this club walk into its three-pointers. You can’t take parts of a play off against the Spurs, you can’t let your incoming paper do the talking, you gotta pay attention on every damn possession in San Antonio.

“The Spurs have quarterly reviews, literal ones. There are chairs, but everyone stands.” — Dec. 27.

“The Spurs tempt you into taking the shots you shouldn’t, I mean, we’re not supposed to be in this part of the forest.” — Jan. 19.

Sixth in the West, 27-21.

PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS

Looking forward to Blazer games at night the way I used to look forward to those 11:35 ‘Seinfeld’ re-runs.

“The Trail Blazers take periodic breaks from defense, one performer will overplay and the rest of the cast will remind that (guard) that this is no historic outfit, that there are no 7-foot saviors in place to make that last stupid twirl of yours a memory, only a hard-charging Nurkic. The Blazers are top-ten in D this year, but sustaining that ranking demands serenity from each of the participants.” — Nov. 17.

“(Kevin Calabro.)” — Nov. 29.

“Some old school Stottsisms in this Blazers win, real heap of Stotts Play. Action was slowed but not too slow, defense was good but not too good, Vincent Askew couldn’t have been more than a few feet away (in spirit).” — Jan. 8.

Fourth in the West, 28-19.

Negative birthday time.

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

I analyze this team poorly because I enjoy watching them so much, for some reason I think the Thunder get warmer when we do.

“Jerami Grant looks like someone who you won’t recognize by the end of spring semester, the man is fun and curious.” — Nov. 29.

“Turns out you’re really going to have to be great against Oklahoma City’s defense, this isn’t a normal team, these won’t be normal games.

“Opponents have to show up ready to execute, mindful that they can’t take the eyes off anything, in every OKC corner lurks a reason (for why they have the ball now).” — Dec. 16.

Third in the West, 27-18.

BROOKLYN NETS

I want to attend my first Brooklyn Nets game so badly.

“One of those nights where Spencer Dinwiddie finally sits at the booth and immediately spots the missing button that you’d assumed nobody had seen so far, the one under the left collar, you tried to hide it with the way you hung your tie and the hunch that dragged your blazer into this whole fraudulent affair.” — Nov. 17.

“The Nets are going to make a season of it. The team will find a way to manufacture wins out of all this wagon circlin’, anything can happen in this league if you compete.” — Dec. 6.

Sixth in the East, 24-23.

INDIANA PACERS

We talk about the Pacers a lot.

“The Pacers are a wickedly confident team, they’ll settle into actions two and a half hours after tip and you’ll wonder why the game stayed competitive for this, damn, long.” — Nov. 10.

Third in the East, 31-15.

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

This is so messed up.

“The Sixers are a trip north when all you wanted to see was the arrow pointing ‘W,’ this game never felt like it was pulling away and yet there the 76ers stood, all slippery and rain-soaked, slowly being told that Route 6 is far too desolate to hitchhike on.

“The Sixers wear themselves out, over the course of a contest, the team plays too many non-shooters at a time and it stops running plays. You can’t take your eyes off any of it.” — Nov. 2.

“Wilson Chandler cannot jump over a bean and rice burrito at this point.” — Dec. 18.

“You wanted something different, out of this league, let it live a little.” — Dec. 28.

Fourth in the East, 30-17.

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

NBA Teams, ranked

This is the bottom of the list.

We’ll publish the top of the list tomorrow, also for free, and from there we’ll dig in for about-a half-season’s worth of Behind the Boxscore.

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CHICAGO BULLS

If Toxic Masculinity could fly a plane, this would be its bus.

“General manager Gar Forman is Paxson’s people person, the bearer of no news, the fella left to explain why Hoiberg doofed his way into lying about former All-Star Joakim Noah’s place in the starting lineup, the man left to conclude that we were the idiots prior to formulating the explanation for pairing Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo alongside a starfucker like Jimmy Butler.

“Prez Paxson and GM Forman have been terrific at their jobs for long stretches, but the argument against the duo long ago ceased to be about basketball, rather the miserable atmosphere they’ve made the redass-backward United Center and its accompanying practice facility.” — Dec. 11.

No. 14 in the East, 10-36.

WASHINGTON WIZARDS

The best argument yet for term limits.

“Bradley Beal led Hell with 27 points.” — Dec. 4.

“Trevor Ariza tuned the dial on the clubhouse radio back to the traffic info station but he couldn’t get John Wall ready for the Atlanta Hawks.” — Dec. 18.

“They’ll just perch an apple up there before begging you to put the entire fruit (and anything underneath) out of its misery.” — Dec. 27.

No. 10 in the East, 19-26.

HOUSTON ROCKETS

I guess I’d pick James Harden as my MVP, he’s been winning a whole lotta games by himself. I respect the hell out of the dude and his team, even when they aren’t so exciting to watch. I won’t be sick of James Harden for a long time.

The award was always pretty nutty, due to that nebulous title, now its purpose exists basically to provide programming filler.

Dan Devine@YourManDevine"Houston’s flaccid band of but-he-said’s" is just a note-perfect description of the Rockets. Pay the man: https://t.co/1zhEEyGjiQ

Kelly Dwyer@KDonhoops

Houston is coal energy : Behind the Boxscore : https://t.co/Y9ZNzvvKeU https://t.co/JLClZeSzZT

“James is in Math Mode again.” — Dec. 28.

“Houston’s a bitch, Denver knows it and the rest of the NBA hates it. Houston’s a MF’er with a drawl that turns high and lonesome the second it gets upset. The Rockets are just going to be this way until James Harden gets tired or bored or both.” — Jan. 8.

No. 5 in the West, 26-19.

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

“The Wolves’ new coach is 32, which means he’s a likely candidate for the smartest person in most rooms, youngsters that age were forced long ago to develop a pliancy that reflects well on every survivor’s future, let alone a basketball club’s.” — Jan. 11.

No. 11 in the West, 21-24.

ORLANDO MAGIC

Cool to ride with (until everyone catches up).

“Nik Vucevic will remain a load until he decides to finally finish installing that swingset.” — Nov. 10.

“The Magic lead the NBA in participating in these sorts of contests, running like the little idiot that eats his day’s worth of packed sandwiches and hidden candy even before the tram let him out at the gate, spending the entire afternoon throwing up on roller-coasters he used to handle. Even sweated through the fireworks.” — Jan. 10.

No. 11 in the East, 19-27.

Thanks again to By: Dylan Clark.

DALLAS MAVERICKS

There are like 29 other people I’d rather pick (not all of them NBA players) but J.J. Barea had to be the Sixth Man of the Year this season, until what happened happened.

The little bugger was the sickening force in so many Mavericks victories or near-victories this season. He knows so many plays.

“Devin Harris (18 minutes in 2018) played as well as you remember from that box TV you used to have.” — Nov. 10.

“This is Texas, though, Harrison Barnes is paid like a CEO and sometimes he even acts like an officer, 28 points. J.J. Barea was back at executive assistant and he mostly ran the show, seven assists and 18 points, Luke Doncic fit in with 21 and 11 free throw trips, his 62 bosses celebrating each and every hour of that artificial cap contract.

“Dorian-Finney Smith was the Maverick up-and-rusher, trying to work off the ball to create opportunities the original budget didn’t call for, attempting to seek common workplace ground among the grunts and the greats. For his agitation in the face of all this free enterprise, he was dealt a 1-9 shooting night from the field. Four fouls.” — Nov 22.

No. 13 in the West, 20-25.

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

They have to play so many more games this season.

“Larry Drew coached some good teams in Atlanta, his groups enjoyed OK-enough movement and effective offensive rushes in spite of Josh Smith halting as much action as he could in order to rub his wrists all over the basketball.

Some of that is in Cleveland now, one of the many reasons Mr. Drew asked for what he was owed upon his ascension to head coach. This guy knew things were going to be different, maybe not ‘good,’ but the Cavs were at least going to be professional in the application. Dunks and open shots.” — Nov. 22.

Last in the East, 9-38.

DETROIT PISTONS

Blake and the Vacuums and their hit “I Know That (But).”

“I already called the Detroit Pistons “Allosaurus-armed” and I am going to run out of dinosaur names to use by the end of winter.” — Dec. 6.

“The Pistons travel out West after this and frankly they shouldn’t.” — Jan. 8.

No. 9 in the East, of course, 20-25.

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MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES

pasivo/agresivo

“Memphis dug in on what it does: JaMychal Green yelled at Jusuf Nurkic, Shelvin Mack picked up his dribble near the half-court line, MarShon Brooks won a new car with one of his five buckets and Kyle Anderson remains wildly productive even on the No-Show Nights (which have become increasingly rarer).” — Dec. 8.

“The Grizzlies have made bad, worse. These guys aren’t lousy enough to be mean.” — Jan. 3.

No. 14 in the West, 19-27.

MIAMI HEAT

Mostly cocaine jokes so far.

“James Johnson is getting his ‘together’ back. Winter is going to be hell on a lot of who the Heat got next.” — Dec. 8.

“I don’t know if Justise Winslow has ever played what we call ‘a basketball position.’” — Dec. 29.

Seventh in the East, 22-22.

BOSTON CELTICS

Still waiting for them to shed some skin.

“The Celtics want us to trust that there is method to this creepshow.” — Oct. 31.

“The Celtics have more to figure out than most, the team wastes endless hours faffing away possessions with Brad Stevens’ bullcrap (his word, I assume) college offenses and the individual efforts haven’t struck as enough to overcome this season’s initial difficulties.”

Answers will come, but for now the kids aren’t hitting (8-22 for Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown against New York) and Gordon Hayward (not terrible, 19 points on 14 shots) stands around like a scared small forward instead of pounding like the proud power forward he needs to grow into.” — Nov. 22.

“The point guard had Tommy Heinsohn cackling all evening, happy to have Irving on the right side, Kyrie is spectacular and human.” — Dec. 1.

Fifth in the East, 28-18.

CHARLOTTE HORNETS

Now we’re into the territory of teams we enjoy even when they butt-up all over the place.

“ … the hosts kept pushing, suddenly the place had more rooms than you remembered and every one of them had some sort of intrigue within. Some of noises were louder than others (Cody Zeller doesn’t stop moving, Jeremy Lamb is in some sort of prime, Nicolas Batum percolates on a break when you least expect it) and it wouldn’t have stopped but for the buzzer.” — Nov 22.

Eighth in the East, 22-23.

ATLANTA HAWKS

Funn.

“The Hawks perform better than most terrible teams, the village is already starting to make an impact in the community, these weirdos locate good shots and develop solid spacing, you’d never know that Atlanta was on its way to 9-to-12 wins this season.” — Nov. 29.

“Alex Len missed all three of his shot attempts in under ten minutes of play, dragging his points per game average down to 9.8.” — Dec. 6.

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