I was hoping to do a halfway NBA update but, procrastination – my arch nemesis – once again got the best of me so I settled on a 3/4th (roughly) season update along with my take on some other popular talking points right now in the NBA.
Looking back to my preseason predictions, I’m spot on with a few teams (Mavs and Warriors) within 2 spots for several (Pacers, Heat, Bulls, Hawks, Cavs, and Spurs), within the spots on a few (Thunder, Clippers, and Rockets), and completely off the radar with the rest of the field. In the East I can still see Miami overtaking Indiana for the top spot but in the West my pick of the Clippers is going to be wrong…the Spurs may be able to oust OKC from the top spot being just 1.5 games back (as of 3/3/14) but that will be tough with OKC seeming to find it’s groove again after the return of Westbrook.
At this point I’d have to stick with my original prediction of Miami winning the title, but my original pick of the Clippers coming out of the West would probably shift to OKC first then the Spurs. The recent additions of Glen Davis and Danny Granger could make things interesting if they mesh well as it adds some depth to the Clippers making a tough out even tougher. I think their title aspirations will be a lot more clear in the next month once we see some of the new lineups and rotations.
I think it’s fairly safe to assume at this point that either Miami or Indiana will come out of the East based on the historical awfulness that is the NBA Eastern Conference this year. I believe that the winner of that matchup will win the Finals. Both teams bring their own set of strengths/weaknesses, but they’ll likely need fewer games total to reach the Finals as compared to teams in the West and I think either team can cause problems for any of the top Western Conference teams.
- Who is the MVP? Like most people, pre-All-Star break it was clearly Durant, followed by LeBron and Paul George. LeBron was still having a season that most people will never have, but Durant was simply on fire and carrying a team in a tougher division. LeBron has certainly turned it on since (see the 61 point game) but he’s going to have to have a fantastic run to end the season coupled with a reduction in KDs stats and probably Miami ending up with a better record than OKC. I’d still say Durant has the edge, but it’s closer now than a month ago.
- Speaking of MVP… while there is no official singular criteria to determine the MVP, a lot of people emphasize that MVP doesn’t mean best player (and yes, LeBron is still the best player) and place the point of emphasis on “value”. If we look at it that way, we are saying that a specific team would be significantly worse without said player. If that is truly the case, the league MVP should probably come from a team with one star and a bunch of role players who overachieve enough to get into the playoffs. If you are on a good team (LeBron/KD) you need to do something transcendent to overshadow the fact that you are on a good team, and both are doing so this year. The ultimate MVP test is probably seen when the MVP candidate is forced to miss some action for a length of time. Steve Nash’s Suns depended so much on him that they looked like lost puppies in the 2004-05 season when he missed some time.
- What happened to Portland? Was the crazy start to the year a fluke or is the recent play a minor bump in the road? It’s probably somewhere in the middle, but I don’t think the top teams in the West are as nervous about 7 potential games against them as they were in December.
- The past few years Kobe has been harkening back to the good old days of full contact basketball as if he grew up playing during the Bad Boy Pistons era. I get that he’s doing this as a subtle way to take shots at the new generation of scorers, but he should probably take it back a notch considering 61% of his career points and (six of his highest seven scoring season) came in the updated hand check rule era post 2004-05 that he’s referenced. He’s essentially arguing against the era he’s spent the majority of his career in.
- The hype that is (apparently) no more… remember when people said next year’s draft class would be the best in years before the college season started? Now people have stepped way back and have their doubts with NBA logo Jerry West calling the draft class “poor”. I think that our view of rookies has been skewed and we’re expecting too much in the first place. The number of players who jumped from high school right to the NBA that actually lived up to the hype is extremely low, but when some of the best players of the past 20 years (Kobe, KG, LeBron) did it and did it well, it’s like we expect it to happen more often. Now we are seeing it more with the one and done crowd. NBA teams are being forced to draft potential, unpolished, and athletic with the hopes that fundamentals, skill sets, and hoops IQ will follow. Until the NBA values, as in how they draft, more polished players over potential, we are going to continue to be disappointed by a lot of these super hyped young players (and it isn’t their fault).
- Speaking of hype… can we all agree that the dunk contest really was over once Vince Carter put on the best dunk contest performance of all time? We’ve tried teammate alley oops, jumping over people, free style sessions, jumping over cars, bringing out musicians, costumes, etc. Until someone can start doing flips while dunking, let’s just quit hoping that the dunk contest will be what it was.
Enjoy the final quarter!