With All-Star break over with, I figured it’s time to look at where we are so far this season. The below breaks down some of my thoughts, award predictions, and playoff predictions. Before the playoffs begin, I’ll be back to breakdown the matchups to see where we will end up.
This year may be the biggest reason we have ever had to do something about the current conferences. In the East, there are five, maybe six teams deserving of a playoff spot. In the West, before Memphis traded Gasol, there were fourteen teams I’d like to see make the playoffs1. It really is incredible. The rankings below are not based on current standings, but are ranked in order from best to worst, purely based on my opinion.
I had to think long and hard about the three spot after the Tobias Harris trade. Talent-wise they are probably the best team in the East. However, the tension with Butler, and the way teams will be able to game plan against Simmons, who can’t shoot outside of eight feet, is ultimately a detriment to how good they can be.
Brooklyn has been the biggest surprise and most fun team to watch work their way up the ranks. I only wish LaVert had a full healthy season to build on what the Nets have, but I can still see them wrecking havoc in the East next year. Although I have them at five, it’s only due to Oladipo’s injury, otherwise Indiana would have the five spot locked up easily.
Two through four is really a toss up. Ultimately, I have Denver at two because of their record and Houston at three because of how far they pushed Golden State last year and the rampage Harden has wrought on the league these past few weeks. But when it comes down to it, Oklahoma City might end up being the best of those three. It’s a sticky place to be.
The back half is probably just as tough. I have the Spurs over the Trailblazers purely because I think Pop would win a seven game series2. I also have the Kings getting the go-ahead at number eight due to them just being fun. I really don’t think the Lakers will make the playoffs, so the only other real contender for that spot would be the Clippers.
MVP: Giannis Antetekoumpo
ROY: Luka Doncic
DPOY: Rudy Gobert
6MOY: Marcus Smart
MIP: De’Aaron Fox
COY: Mike Malone
Hardens been great, but Giannis is doing just as much with less around him and at a better record.
Doncic is a no-brainer.
Gobert seems like he should get this. He’s just a monster.
I think Smart is starting now so I don’t know if he’d be eligible, but he deserves it for what he brings to Boston every night.
Fox is killing it. Maybe it’s too early, given its only his second year, but he’s leading the Kings to a potential playoff spot much earlier than anyone expected.
Denver brings it every night no matter who is out there with only one all-star who doesn’t even score that much. Malone has guys playing together beautifully, and when one guy is out the next comes in and fills the role without missing a beat.
G: Steph Curry
G: James Harden
F: Giannis Antetekoumpo
F: Paul George
C: Nicola Jokic
Pretty straight forward here. Jokic over Embiid is tough, but I just love his game more.
G: Kyle Lowry
G: Damian Lillard
F: Kevin Durant
F: Kawhi Leonard
C: Joel Embiid
Lowry isn’t getting enough credit for what’s happening in Toronto. He’s the glue guy and heartbeat for the team. Every player on the Raptors is better because of him.
ECF: Toronto Raptors v. Boston Celtics
WCF: Golden State Warriors v. Houston Rockets
Golden State Warriors v Toronto Raptors
Golden State Warriors
I thought long and hard about crowning the Raptors here. Kawhi can hang with Durant. Gasol and Ibaka can hang with Cousins. Green and Lowry can’t hang with Curry and Klay, but Toronto can also throw out OG, and Siakam as tough defenders who can shake things up.
And Siakam vs Green will be the matchup to watch. Green is great at frustrating guys but Siakam is a tough matchup for Green. I don’t think Siakam gets frustrated too easily and his length, on both ends, might be what ends up getting to Green, who has struggled this year.
Plus Toronto has McCaw, Lin, Powell, and VanFleet who can give you minutes to help keep the other guys fresh, which is a luxury the Warriors don’t have.