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NBA Neighborhood Watch: Started From the Middle, Now We’re Here

Let’s take a quick jog around the block.

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the Brew Hoop Neighborhood Watch. The NBA is a vibrant community, and while the Milwaukee Bucks are our preferred resident, we still want to be in touch with our neighbors around the league. After all, that’s what good neighbors are for. Today, we obtained a visitor’s pass to the gated community the Bucks find themselves in, among the best of the NBA’s best.

Current Bucks Rankings

Record: 10-3 (2nd in East)
Offensive Rating: 116.3 (3rd in NBA)
Defensive Rating: 104.9 (2nd in NBA)
Strength of Schedule: 2.98 (2nd in NBA)

Toronto RaptorsRaptors HQ

Record: 12-1

Toronto is on a six-game win streak, and started the year the same way (sandwiched around a drubbing by...the Milwaukee Bucks). Their only significant injury is Norman Powell, who’s out for about 4-6 weeks with a shoulder injury. Powell is infamous amongst Bucks fans for performing above expectations after being drafted with a pick the Bucks originally controlled, but Raptors fans are significantly cooler on his long-term future.

Toronto has a top-5 offense and a top-10 defense, thanks to both the brilliance of Kawhi Leonard and rookie head coach Nick Nurse. They’re on top of the Eastern Conference, and it’ll take more than a Jimmy Butler trade to make them nervous.

In short, Butler is a Type-A control freak who terrifies me when he steps onto the hardwood against Toronto.

And yet...

I can’t shake the feeling that the Sixers just did Toronto a favour in making this trade.

One of the offseason stories that flew under the radar was how Toronto split up the duo of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, who had grown to become great friends as Raptors.

/sniff Who’s cutting onions in here?!

Philadelphia 76ersLiberty Ballers

Record: 8-6

Philly has had a rougher start to their season than expected; despite boasting both a healthy Joel Embiid and a healthy Ben Simmons, it turns out it’s really hard to keep up in the modern NBA without high-level shooting! JJ Redick can’t do it all by himself. The obvious solution:

Is he going to fit in?

This is Elton Brand’s first move, yet also a defining one. Butler’s antics could lead to Simmons and Embiid feeling alienated by Brand and management.

Ultimately though, Jimmy Butler’s vast ability provides more for the team than did Covington and Saric. If all goes right, Butler becomes the third star the Sixers craved all along.

Hey, speaking of fitting in...

Bucks fans: Please add Carmelo Anthony to the growing powder keg that is the Jimmy Butler-era 76ers.

Joel Embiid has gotten knocked for his availability and conditioning, but some of his accomplishments are really impressive. And in other news, Markelle Fultz is just weird.

Indiana PacersIndy Cornrows

Record: 8-6

The Pacers have an average offense and an above-average defense, but their defining stat is their snail-like pace (96.7, 29th in the league). They simply drag teams down to play at their level,

Victor Oladipo is the reigning Most Improved Player, but he can’t do it by himself.

The Pacers also have a difficult choice ahead of them, with both Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis deserving of minutes at the 5. Or do they?

The ability to play Turner and/or Sabonis, depending on the situation, is one of the few things (outside of Oladipo) that makes the Pacers unique.

Just the threat of being able to play either person can make it harder for teams to develop a game plan against Indiana. It becomes even more vital in the playoffs when you have to make your first adjustment. [...]

Both players have different strengths and weaknesses that make them valuable in different moments. It shouldn’t be seen as choosing one or the other, but instead choosing which player gives Indiana a better chance at winning at that exact moment.

Boston CelticsCeltics Blog

Record: 7-6

The Celtics are who they were last season: great on defense, terrible on offense. They started the season pretty strong, but after a 1-5 road trip Boston fans are getting antsy.

Kyrie Irving, who’s having a pretty solid season, is making some comments that make Celtic fans more puzzled. Al Horford not that guy?

What’s the source of all this angst? In their last two road games, the Celtics exhibited a troubling trend:

Both games played out with an all-too-familiar story: Celtics have a sluggish start, fall way behind, rally back and fall short. Against a team like the Suns, Boston’s talent overcomes and they can win. Against good teams like the Jazz and Trail Blazers, especially on the road, they can’t muster the energy to get it all the way back and to then hold on.

The slow starts are getting frustrating in their predictability. While the comebacks are exciting, that’s a roller coaster you only need to ride a few times before you’re sick of it. Eventually, Brad Stevens has got to figure out a way to get the team flying right out of the gate. This type of play isn’t sustainable for another 60+ games.

And here’s your periodic update that things even among general Bucks fandom are looking up: