February 25, 2015 Leave a comment
We have reached the NBA All Star Break after a thrilling first half of the season which brought a lot of surprises and phenomenal performances from teams and players alike. No one in their right mind thought the Atlanta Hawks would hold the best record in the NBA at the break. No one thought Anthony Davis would be in the middle of MVP talks. The Cavs were on the verge of self implosion while the Knicks beat out the 76ers for the worst record in the NBA in the first half.
Starting with the NBA’s best record at the break, the Atlanta Hawks started out just flying under the radar 23-8 through their first 31 games which was a good start but then the Hawks had a perfect January going 17-0. Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague both averaged 16+ PPG in the first half of the season and the rest of Atlanta’s starting 5 also averaged 12+ PPG. Kyle Korver has been en fuego from behind the arch as he lit it up shooting over 50% and then matched that with a 90% shooting from the free throw line. The Hawks defense has been one of the biggest factors for their sensational run in the first half as they are 3rd in the league in points allowed per game with just 96.8 while scoring over 100 per game. Now we have seen this before where a team has come out playing great basketball early in the season but ended up having a hard time continuing that level of play over the 82 game season. Will the Hawks be the next team who sprinted too soon in the race? We will find out here in the 2nd half of the season but if they can stay healthy they will be a tough out in the NBA Playoffs.
In the West there is not a single team that is more exciting to watch than the Golden State Warriors. The Splash Brothers, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson have been making it rain night after night. This team is big on momentum and they really feed off of each other very well. Oracle Arena will be an absolute mad house during the NBA Playoffs if the road to the NBA Finals has to go through Splash City. Curry and Thompson are obviously the big names but the role players for the Warriors have been a big part in the success of Curry and Thompson, guys like Andrew Bogut crashing the boards and getting second chance opportunities for guys like Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and Leandro Barbosa. Marreese Speights is finding himself more comfortable in year two with Golden State as he is on pace for a career high season in almost every category. There is not a single team in the league that wants to try to get into a shootout with the Warriors. To beat this team you really have to contest every shot and eliminate second chance opportunities for all four quarters. Dallas learned the hard way that a 17 point lead can evaporate just like that once Steph Curry finds hit rhythm.
What in the world did Madison Square Garden do to deserve to have to watch this awful team on a nightly basis? The Knicks have had 17 different players start for them so far this season. Carmelo Anthony is now out for the remainder of the season after suffering a torn patella tendon in his left knee and trying to play through it for most of the first half of the season. Amar’e Stoudemire continues to fall on the down side of his career and has now been traded to the Mavericks which leaves the Knicks with a starting five of: PG Jose Calderon, SG Langston Galloway, SF Cleanthony Early, PF Lou Amundson, and C Jason Smith. Looking at the rest of their schedule it’s hard to think they reach the 20 win mark. Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher will have a lot of work to do this offseason. The Knicks and 76ers will be in a race for the worst record in the NBA this season and it could come down to a tie breaker.
LeBron’s homecoming didn’t have such a great start that most thought it would when we looked at the Cavs on paper before the season started. Kevin Love looked so out-of-place, there was little to no team chemistry, and LeBron reached a point where he let the team fail to prove his point which ended up being the turning point for Cleveland. Since then the Cavs are 17-2 and have climbed into the 4 seed just half game behind Chicago and one and a half games behind Toronto in the 2 seed. The trade to bring in JR Smith and Iman Shumpert has also helped spark the Cavs in the right direction as both have come in and been solid role players for Cleveland.
The MVP race could get very interesting down the stretch between a number of players. Steph Curry really stands out on the court with his great handles and sweet jumper that has been lighting up scoreboards for the Warriors but he is in a tight race along with Houston PG James Harden who is putting up big numbers this season as he leads the Rockets to a playoff run. Anthony Davis has been spectacular for the Pelicans but with his exceptional play not directly translation to wins his race might fall short if the Pelicans barely make it into the NBA playoffs. A dark horse candidate is Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook. Westbrook has been the solo man in OKC for most of this season as reigning MVP Kevin Durant has been dealing with multiple foot injuries that have kept him sidelined for majority of the first half of the season. Here is a look at these four’s numbers through the 1st half.
Steph Curry PG Golden State Warriors
|PG Steph Curry||23.8||0.483||7.9||4.6||2.2||28||44-10|
James Harden SG Houston Rockets
|SG James Harden||27.3||0.452||6.8||5.8||2||27.3||38-18|
Anthony Davis PF New Orleans Pelicans
|PF Anthony Davis||23.9||0.544||2.7||10.3||1.5||31.2||29-27|
Russell Westbrook PG Oklahoma City Thunder
|PG Russell Westbrook||25.9||0.437||8||6.5||2||29.2||32-25|
Right now my MVP vote would look like this:
1. Steph Curry
2. James Harden
3. Russell Westbrook
4. Anthony Davis
Obviously the 2nd half will make or break some of these guys seasons as they get into that home stretch and we really see who separates themselves in this race. Looking forward to seeing what happens next.