DAR Sports: NBA Midseason Report

By @TrueGodImmortal

The NBA season is already halfway over, and we've seen some things play out just as expected. The top two teams in each Conference are the same as last year, and as expected, the top seeds in each Conference are the last two NBA Champions. Nothing too shocking there. However, we wanted to look back at the year so far and give a Midseason Report on the top teams, any disappointments, who shows promise for the future, and who are the front runners for each individual award. Let's get into it.

*Disappointments And Teams Fighting For The Playoffs
-The season has seen some shocks so far, as some teams have not been efficient or as good as expected. Some teams started off hot and quickly fizzled out, while others started off poorly and are finally starting to get things together. For instance, the New York Knicks is one of those teams that really should be better than they are. A mostly healthy Derrick Rose, Carmelo Anthony, and the future of the team Kristaps Porzingis, have not really had the chemistry needed to become a contender in the East. Rose has been pretty good as a 2nd or 3rd option, but it's becoming apparent that the growth of the Knicks relies on Porzingis and that it needs to be his team. Melo needs to defer a little bit more to Porzingis, and not play hero ball so much, and maybe that'll make a difference. Regardless, you can see the team lacks the chemistry and the strength to close out games, and as a result they are in grave danger of missing the playoffs as we arrive to the halfway mark.

Another team that people had doubts about were the Chicago Bulls and those have been justified. The fact is that the Bulls are going through a shift and the change hasn't been so easy thus far. Jimmy Butler is an All Star and one of the best players in the league this year, and I think he's the franchise of this Bulls team. Dwyane Wade has been good in spurts, but one thing that's missing from this team is a solid three point shooter in the starting lineup. Doug McDermott and Mirotic can sometimes pull up for three, as can Butler and periodically Wade (a new trick in his bag), but they've shot themselves out of games before. They're still not a bad team, but they're likely to just get into the playoffs with an 8th seed, 7th seed at best if so.

The Washington Wizards are a bit of a disappointment and then they're not, but as of now, they're right where I expected them to be. I don't have faith in the Bradley Beal and John Wall backcourt to really go further than a 7th or 8th seed as well and despite being in the 5th seed currently, they will drop down by the end of the season I'm sure. The race is really tight for the final 4 spots. While they weren't expected to be a top 4 seed in the East, I can't help but think that with another piece added, they could do more damage and become a top 3-4 seed. I'd like to also consider the Indiana Pacers a huge disappointment and in a way, the Charlotte Hornets have also disappointed despite good play from Kemba Walker. Both teams will likely make it in to the playoffs, but it's certainly likely that they will be in the lower half of the seeding in the East, not necessarily a great place to be, but also manageable for a team that many didn't expect to be a contender.

Over in the West, the Los Angeles Lakers surprised everyone with their early hot start, before eventually becoming as bad as we expected. Truth be told, with an additional piece added and more experience, this team could end up being a future playoff team, and they were in the 8th seed position for a while. They really seemed to have chemistry early on, but injuries and loss of momentum affected them. Another team in the West that disappointed a bit has to be the Portland Trailblazers. The Blazers weren't expected to be a top West seed, but there's been inconsistent in the game of their star, Damian Lillard. The Blazers are in the 8th seed at the moment, but have teams like the Sacramento Kings, Denver Nuggets, and New Orleans Pelicans all knocking on that door. They have to tighten up and Dame has to get into a consistent rhythm in order for them to finish in the 8th seed. Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins are two top tier players who suffer from lackluster teams. AD could make the playoffs this year, but it's going to take a lot to pull that off, and the same is true for Demarcus and the Kings. Both teams have to adjust in the 2nd half in order to knock each other out of the race or for both teams to steal the final two spots, which doesn't seem likely.

Speaking of the West, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Memphis Grizzlies, and the Utah Jazz are basically where we expected them to be. Clearly, Russell Westbrook is the man in OKC, and he's getting the job done, but the Thunder keep switching from the 4th to the 7th seed in a matter of a game. This is how close the race in the West after the top 3 positions. The Jazz, the Thunder, the Grizzlies, and at one point the Clippers, were all neck and neck, and still are. Who will end up in the 4th seed? My guess is the Clippers, but that remains to be seen if they can manage to hold on. Who will be the 4th seed in the East? Right now it's anybody's game, much like in the West. The top 3 seeds in each Conference are basically set however. Which brings me to...

*Top 3 Conference Seeds
I figured the top 3 seeds in the East would be the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Boston Celtics, and  the Toronto Raptors. Now, the Raptors are currently in 2nd, but I believe they'll drop to 3rd when the year finishes out and the Celtics will be no. 2. Regardless, no one is shocked at the Cavs being the no. 1 seed in the East, but for all the talk of how easy it is to get it done, the Cavs have had their struggles here and there. LeBron has been playing at a high level this year, probably higher than his last two regular seasons, which has him in the running for the MVP award, though I don't see him winning it. Kyrie Irving is having a great year as well, and should be able to help secure the Cavs as no. 1 seed and push them alongside LeBron to the NBA Finals for a 3rd straight time. The Raptors could potentially be a problem and so can the Celtics, but those are the only teams that could challenge the Cavs in the East. They are the top team for a reason and the defending champions for a reason.

Over in the West, The Golden State Warriors are once again the best team in the NBA. Like the Cavs, the Warriors have had their struggles, but the Warriors maintain as the best team, leading the league in scoring, assists, blocks, and steals, showcasing that they can get it done on both sides of the court. Their only competition for the postseason would be the 2nd and 3rd seeds, the San Antonio Spurs and the Houston Rockets, who has surprisingly ended up ahead of teams like the Thunder, Clippers, and Grizzlies based on their offensive prowess. The Spurs pose the biggest challenge, and while the Rockets look amazing as a team, in the postseason, I don't see them as a huge threat. The West will likely go through the Warriors, and a rematch of the last two Finals seems to be imminent, barring injury for both teams. Regardless, I really think these three teams in the West are the best to watch in the NBA and could all finish with 60 games won at the end of the season, as they are all on pace to do so. Here's hoping we finally get that Golden State Warriors vs San Antonio Spurs Conference Finals matchup.

*Season Awards 
The race for the regular season awards has been heating up and we are currently seeing the front runners take their place. For the MVP Award, I'd say there are four frontrunners with 2 of them being slightly ahead of the other two. James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and LeBron James are the four choices, but if I had to pick one today, I'm going slightly with Harden. Westbrook probably deserves it a bit more, but when your team isn't in the top 4 seeds solidly at the moment, it's hard to give you that accolade. So for the MVP Award, so far, I'd give it to Harden with Westbrook not too far behind.

As far as Rookie Of The Year goes, I think the only choice would be Joel Embiid. Finally healthy and able to play, Joel has shined on the lackluster 76ers team, and shows that trusting The Process might be worth it after all. As far as other choices, the only rookie who I've seen step up big this year personally is Malcolm Brogdon of the Milwaukee Bucks. He's put up triple doubles, dunked on some of the top players and has really been vital to a Bucks team that is in playoff position. However, Embiid clearly takes this one and is on his way to being voted into the All Star Game this year in his rookie year, which only furthers his case for the Rookie of The Year award, and there's really no other honest pick for that award.

As far as Most Improved Player goes, this is a tough one. There's a lot of players that have improved and I could see some giving it to Nick Young of the Lakers as he's having a very good year, but the man who sticks out as the most improved is the Greek Freak himself, Giannis Antetokounmpo, who has seemingly becoming the leader of the Bucks team this year and is on his way to being an All Star and one of the more dominant players in the league. He's totally unreal to watch and if I have to give this award to anyone, it would be Giannis. He was impressive last season as well, but this year is even beyond that.

As for the Defensive Player Of The Year award, I'm going to go with the man who's been no. 2 for the last two seasons, Draymond Green. Draymond is one of the most versatile players in the league. His game isn't pretty, it's a reminder of the old school way of playing, but to be perfectly honest, he's really been the defensive juggernaut for the Warriors and very clutch in crunch time. His decision making has improved immensely since he's been allowed to play the game the way he wants to, and while Kawhi Leonard and Rudy Gobert are both good candidates as well for the award, I think this is the year Draymond finally takes it. Love him or hate him, it's a well deserved award.

And finally, 6th Man of The Year award is a toss up between Eric Gordon and Lou Williams. I really think Lou Williams early on in the season was a lock to win it, but now it seems as if Eric Gordon has the better case. Personally, I'd give it to Gordon, just because his play with the Rockets is beyond what even I expected from the jump. If someone gave it Lou Will, I'm not mad at that either, as he's been clutch and necessary for the Lakers when they need him. However, my personal pick is Eric Gordon for this award so far.

*Looking To The 2nd Half
The 2nd half of the season is riddled with questions: can the Warriors maintain the no. 1 seed? Can they win 70 games? Can the Spurs stay the course and hold onto the no. 2 seed? Will the Rockets take a fall in the second half after playing so well in the first? Will Harden will MVP? Can Westbrook average a triple double? What teams will suffer due to injury? Can the Knicks turn it around and make the playoffs? There's a number of things that basketball fans are all wondering and those answers will be here in no time. Just look at how fast the first half of the season went by. When playoff time comes, we'll all be watching and ready for the most exciting time in basketball.



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