The first half of the NBA season has been quite a wild ride. There have been the typically predictable outcomes, like Miami leading the Eastern Conference and the West being led by the Thunder and Spurs, but who would have predicted this far into the season that the powerhouse Lakers would be the laughing stock of the league. We have seen more injuries this year than I have ever witnessed in all my time following basketball and with the trade deadline quickly approaching every team is making their final panic moves to prepare for their end-of-the-season runs for the playoffs. Here is a quick recap of where players and teams stand so far and what I feel is going to happen next.
MVP Race: The obvious front runners for the MVP crown through the first half of the NBA season are perennial favorites Lebron James and Kevin Durant. Lebron is having just an unreal year with the 4th highest PPG (26.5) in the league and he is also filling the rest of the stat sheet with 8.3 RPG and 7.1 APG. His most incredible stat in my opinion is the fact that he is shooting an astonishing 55% from the field when his career average is only 48%. Durant is leading the league in scoring (29.6 PPG) and has led the Thunder the the NBA’s second best record (34-11). The two players that are trailing these two superstars, but not by far in my opinion, are Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul. Carmelo is having a career year leading the Knicks to the second best record in the East and only 1.5 games behind the Heat. Paul has help build relevance around a franchise that has been completely irrelevant throughout their existence. Any of these four players could win the MVP without too much argument but I think it will all come down to which players team finishes the season the strongest.
Conference Titles: The Eastern Conference is hands down the weaker of the two conferences. That being said, I still feel that the NBA Champions will come out of the East…maybe some biased there or maybe just sensibly sticking with the returning champs. As of right now the Miami Heat hold a 1.5 game lead over my New York Knicks for Eastern Conference supremacy. Even though the Knicks haven’t been this good in a while, most analysts (like myself) picked the Knicks to finish 2nd or 3rd this season with their successful off season. What most people didn’t predict is that the Boston Celtics would be clinging onto the 8th seed in the East, and with the loss of Rondo for the year they will most likely fall out of that position as well. The surprises in the East are the Chicago Bulls, who hold onto the 3rd spot sans Derrick Rose, and the Brooklyn Nets, who since the firing of Avery Johnson have gone 13-5 for the once choked out PJ Carlesimo (If you don’t get that joke look it up), have really been showing that they are a top tier team in the East.
The Western Conference is a whole other beast. There is no rhyme or reason to anything that is happening out West right now. The Spurs are once again defying the laws of age by holding the NBA’s best record (37-11) while the Lakers have shocked the world with a sub-.500 record this late in the season. The Thunder have been holding strong and the Clippers are proving that all of their recent draft picks as well as their Free Agent spending is truly paying off. The Grizzlies have established themselves as the scrappy team that needs no superstar to be successful. I feel the biggest surprises in the West are the the Utah Jazz, Houston Rockets, the Portland Trailblazers and especially the Golden State Warriors. All four of these teams are surprisingly over .500 and they all have a solid chance of making it in one of the bottom 4 seeds in the West. I do beleive that the Lakers will turn this slow start around and finish with the 6th or 7th spot in the West but I think the Conference for the most part is wide open for the taking.
The 2nd Half of the Season: Before the season started I predicted that the Lakers would be facing off with the Heat in the NBA Finals. With the D’Antoni cursed Lakers playing like absolute garbage I am now changing my prediction to the Heat versus the Clippers. Most people are going with the Thunder but I think that the depth that the Clippers have as well as their veteran leadership is just the perfect recipe for success. So technically my prediction for an LA vs. Miami Finals is still a possibility I don’t even think that the Heat are a 100% lock to make the Finals. The Knicks have had stretches of inconsistency lately but they have proven that with a fully healthy roster that they can beat anyone in the league. If the Knicks meet the Heat, whom they have beaten twice already this season in blowouts, in a seven game series, I do beleive that they will have a chance to dethrone King James and company. I also wouldn’t sleep on the Bulls because once Rose comes back healthy they will be considered a top 5 NBA team once again.
As for the end of the year awards, I feel that Vinny Del Negro deserves Coach of the Year for how he has the Clippers playing. I assume Lebron will win his 4th MVP but I would love to see Carmelo finally get one. Rookie of the Year will go to Damian Lillard and there are no questions about that. As for 6th man of the year, it’s a close battle between Jamal Crawford and JR Smith, but I think Crawford has the slight edge.
I have loved every minute of the first half of this NBA season and I can’t wait to see what’s to come.