Now that every team has played at least 20 games, I am going to do a Full In Depth Summary on the NBA season so far including our Quarter Season Awards.
The first 2 months of the season has been wild, unpredictable and we have been spoilt be multiple great performances. The Lakers and Celtics are both good again at the same time, the East has multiple contenders and the West is as wild as ever. Life is good for an NBA fan right now.
There has been no shortage of Drama either. We’ve had high profile buyouts (Carmelo Anthony), big conflicts and locker room problems (Warriors surprisingly and the Wizards not so surprisingly), big trades (Jimmy Butler to Philly) and a shockingly even Western Conference where 14 teams are all fighting to reach the playoffs. As we stand today the Rockets who were one game away from the NBA finals are struggling in 13th place with the Jazz (11th), Pelicans (12th) and Spurs (14th) all out of the playoffs. Surprising teams the L.A Clippers , Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks and even the Sacramento Kings are all ahead of them!
There have been no less than eight 50 point games in little over a month of action which is unheard of, especially at the start of the season when many players are still getting in the groove. Kevin Durant (51), Klay Thompson (52) and Steph Curry (51) became the first trio ever to each get a 50 point game in the same season and they all did it within a few weeks of each other. Lebron James, James Harden, Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose also all scored 50+ and Kemba Walker even managed 60 against the Sixers! There have been dozens of 40 point games with Durant's 49 leading the way and 21 year old Canadian Kid Jamal Murray with 48 huge points in a big win against Kyrie Irving and the Celtics.
A slight disappointment this season has been the second year players, with breakout stars Ben Simmons, Jayson Tatum and Donovan Mitchell all having decent but unspectacular starts to the season. As for top draft pick Markelle Fultz, never did I think something could be uglier than Charles Barkley’s golf swing until I saw Fultz’s shoot free throws! He followed his ‘Chuck Hayes I got the Yips' shot with a ridiculous ‘Hot Potato’ routine. It’s like the movie Thunderstruck where Kevin Durant’s basketball abilities was just sucked out of him and he simply forgot how to play….that’s how bad it is looking for Markelle right now.
So let’s take a look at our early Quarter Season Awards and at the end of the article there are some Bonus All Star and Playoff Predictions:
MVP of the 1st Quarter
The Greek Freak has been nothing short of sensational, leading his young Milwaukee Bucks to 2nd place in the East and cementing himself as the MVP front runner this season. He is leading his team in EVERYTHING, averaging a monstrous 28pts, 13 Rebounds, 6 Assists and 1.5 Steals and 1.3 Blocks, while shooting a blistering 58% from the field. His below average Free Throw Shooting (69%) and woeful 3 point shooting (11%!) are the only blemishes on what has been a stellar season.
East MVP Runner Up
The most dominant player in the East, Embiid is also averaging 27 points and 13 rebounds a game but he shoots much better from the 3 (1.2 per game) and from the line (80%). After a bit of a stuttering start, the Sixers are finding their rhythm with new All Star Teammate Jimmy Butler, winning 8 out of 9 games to put themselves in a virtual tie with the Bucks.
Los Angeles Lakers
He understandably took a few games to get a feel for his new teammates, but after a 4-6 start, the Lakers are 12-3 in the last month to solidify their playoff position. Lebron is averaging a Lebron like 28 points, 7.7 rebounds and 6.7 assists and has been the most impressive player among the top 5 teams. His main challengers Anthony Davis and James Harden are both out of the playoffs with losing records at the moment, and Steph Curry has missed too many games while Kevin Durant who has been spectacular at times also has to take some of the blame for the all the problems in Golden State after Curry got injured.
West MVP Runner Up
New Orleans Pelicans
Although the Pelicans have been up and down, Anthony Davis has been a fantasy dream, filling up the box score on a nightly basis with season averages of 28 points, 13 rebounds, 4.8 Assists, 2.7 Blocks and 1.6 Steals. New Orleans has had some big wins but if they are going to make the playoffs then they have to cut out the losses to losing teams such as the Knicks, Wizards and Heat who all beat the Pelicans in a one week period.
Defensive Player of the 1st Quarter
The Greek Freak has been equally dominant on the defensive end ranking near the top in the East in all advanced stats such as Defensive RPM and Defensive Win Shares. His length, speed and versatility allows him to legitimately guard all 5 positions giving the Bucks incredible defensive versatility. Kawhi Leonard who is widely regarded as the best perimeter defender in the league hasn’t had the same individual impact as Giannis, especially since Toronto is littered with versatile defenders all over their roster including Serge Ibaka, Pascal Siakam, Danny Green and Leonard’s back up, OG Anunoby.
The Defensive Player of the Year so far has been former winner Marc Gasol. He has anchored the best defense in the league better than ever before and brought the Grit and Grind back to Memphis after a depressing year without his running mate Mike Conley in 2017-2018. He is averaging a career high in Defensive Rebounds and Steals and he actually leads the whole NBA in RPM largely due to his dominant defensive rating. He is also top 3 in Defensive Win Shares just behind Conley and Paul George.
Rookie of the First Quarter
Flying a bit under the radar especially since most of the top rookies reside out West, is Cleveland Cavs rookie Collin Sexton. He has been better and more efficient than the more high profile Trae Young, as he is shooting 44% from the field, 46% from 3 and almost 90% from the line, compared to just 38% FG and 24% 3P for Young.
Doncic is the best rookie this year by a large margin and has performed with the poise and consistency of a seasoned vet, averaging a rookie leading 18 points a game and leading the Mavs to playoff position in the tough West. High draft pick bigs Deandre Ayton and Marvin Bagley have been solid but the most impressive rookie may be Jaren Jackson Jr. who at just 19 years of age has had huge games and he isn’t afraid to take and make the biggest shots in the clutch. In one game against the Nets, the Grizzlies were 7 points down with less than 30 seconds left and Jaren Jackson first scored a 4 point play and then hit a big 30 footer to finish with a Rookie high 36 points to force overtime.
Coach of the First Quarter
Milwaukee Bucks (Wins 16 Loses 7, 2nd in East)
There are probably only two candidates for this award in the East with Mike Budenholzer and 1st year coach Nick Nurse both leading their teams impressively to the top of the conference. I give the slight edge to Budenholzer just because nobody expected the Bucks to be this good and he has completely transformed the Bucks offense to easily be the best in the league at an astounding 121 points per game. They even lead the league in 3 pointers made, making more 3's then the trigger happy Houston Rockets even though their own star Antetokounmpo does not even contribute in this category.
Los Angeles Clippers (Wins 16 Losses 8, 3rd in West)
Coach of the Year is always very subjective with many different opinions as to what constitutes a great coaching job. Is it a the coach of a team that was supposed to be really bad but ends up being respectable (Rick Carlisle from the Mavs and Dave Joerger from the Kings)? Or is it the coach that takes a team from respectable to good (J.B Bickerstaff Grizzlies) or maybe a team that was supposed to be good is at the top of the conference (Billy Donovan OKC Thunder and Mike Malone Denver Nuggets)?
Well I am giving it to Doc Rivers who jumped a few levels by taking a team nobody predicted to make the playoffs, to near the top of one of the toughest Conferences that we have ever seen.
The son of basketball legend Arvydas Sabonis, Domantas has been the second best player for the Indiana Pacers behind All Star Victor Oladipo. He averages over 10 rebounds off the bench in just under 25 minutes a game which has probably never been done before. He also averages almost 15 points on a blistering 64% from the field.
Shout out to Miami Heat legend Dwyane Wade who at 36 years old is proving he still has some serious game left, averaging over 15 points and making several clutch plays down the stretch for the Heat.
New Orleans Pelicans
Randle has been a monster off the bench for the Pelicans averaging an impressive 18.6 points and 9.3 rebounds in just over 26 minutes a night. Other candidates Derrick Rose and Montrezl Harrell have been selected for other awards leaving no doubt who should win this one.
Most Improved Player
Has there been a more impressive role player this year than this guy? Many people didn’t know just how multi skilled this special player is but Pascal Siakam is a super athlete who can score, rebound, pass and dribble, and he plays great defense as well. Upping his scoring now to almost 15 points from 7 points a year ago and shooting a super efficient 63%, Siakam has been better than anybody could have expected.
Special Mention to Caris Levert of the Nets who was a frontrunner for this award until he suffered the freak injury which thankfully was not as bad as it looked.
Los Angeles Clippers
One of the unsung heroes in the Clippers shock foray into the top of the Western Conference has been Montrezl Harrell. Originally a throw in from the Rockets in the Chris Paul trade, Harrell has been a revelation in his second year in L.A. Averaging 18 and 8 off the bench in November, he has been taking more and more minutes away from the starters and has been the difference maker in many games.
Almost forgotten in the original Jimmy Butler trade is the uber talented and athletic Zach Lavine. A year back from a catastrophic ACL injury, Lavine started this season like a house on fire scoring 20 or more points in each of the Bulls first 14 games including four 30 point games to open the season and a career high 41 against the Knicks.
The Derrick Rose revival has been one of the feel good stories of the season. He started the season well and looked young and springy with his moves but then starting point guard Jeff Teague got injured and Rose was thrust into the starting lineup against the Utah Jazz. Rose had the game of his life with a career high 50 points including the go ahead basket and free throws to ice it. At that moment the world knew that Derrick Rose was back and he is now averaging 18.3 points on 50% shooting, while shooting a Steph Curry like 47.5% from 3.
All Star Team if Chosen Today
The East MVP is the first player selected to the team. He leads the Bucks in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and Field Goal %. He is second in the league in P.E.R. to Anthony Davis and he is one of the best defenders in the league as well.
Kawhi Leonard is playing better than ever averaging a career high in points 25.5 and 8.6 rebounds. He is shooting the ball very efficiently (FG 49%, FT85%) and is a terror on defense as always, leading the Raptors to the best record in the league.
Embiid has been absolutely dominant throughout the first month and half of the season and has had as many monster games as anyone in the league. The question is can he keep up this torrid pace after the acquisition of Jimmy Butler who is sure to get a large chunk of the shots, especially in the 4th quarter and crunch time.
Irving had an expected slow start returning from knee surgery and trying to fit back into a Celtic team that went one win away from the NBA Finals without him. But in the last month Kyrie is finding his range, averaging 25 points on 51% shooting in November after averaging just 16 points on 43% shooting in October.
Kemba Walker has been playing the best basketball of his career this season, single handedly carrying the Hornets on offense in many games this season. He has had some remarkable performances including a few 40 point games and career high 60 points against the 76ers.
Backcourt 1 - Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors)
Backcourt 2 - Jimmy Butler (Philadelphia 76ers)
Frontcourt 1 - Blake Griffin (Detroit Pistons)
Frontcourt 2 - Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons)
Frontcourt 3 - Nikola Vucevic (Orlando Magic)
Wild Card 1 - Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers)
Wild Card 2 - Victor Oladipo (Indiana Pacers)
It was a tough decision to select Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker over Kyle Lowry from the East leading Raptors. Lowry leads the league in assists and started the season very well, but has cooled down considerably in the last few weeks averaging just 13 points on less than 40% shooting since October.
There wasn’t a lot of competition for the rest of the East reserves with Detroit pair Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin easily getting in as do Philly pair Jimmy Butler and Ben Simmons. Victor Oladipo has been injured but has still played enough games to make it and Nikola Vucevic has been outstanding for the Orlando Magic averaging an impressive 21 points and 11.5 rebounds while contributing in every category.
Injured – Kristaps Porzingis, Kevin Love
Snubs – Khris Middleton, John Wall, Bradley Beal, Jayson Tatum, Hassan Whiteside
Kristaps Porzingis and Kevin Love would have been strong favourites to make the team if they were healthy. Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton just misses out, and Washington pair John Wall and Bradley Beal are penalized for creating such a toxic environment in the capital. If Washington does get over .500 and inch back into the playoffs expect Wall to find his way onto the team.
All Star Team if Chosen Today
Los Angeles Lakers
A no brainer here, Lebron has been great at finding a balance between developing his young teammates and taking over the game when needed. Nobody controls an NBA game like The King and after losing a few tight games at the start of the year, Lebron has been willing his team to victory with some impressive fourth quarter performances.
Golden State Warriors
Curry’s amazing play coupled with the whole Draymond Green fiasco has distracted from the fact that KD is having an amazing season, maybe the best of his career. He is scoring 30 points a game while shooting 52% from the field and a blistering 93% from the free throw line. And he is understanding the game even better then before, upping his assists average to a Lebron like 6.3 per game, a career high. He has improved his defense as well to transform from a scorer into a truly great all around player.
New Orleans Pelicans
As mentioned before Anthony Davis is not surprisingly putting up video game numbers and would be a strong favourite for MVP if the Pelicans had a better record. If they don’t improve and get home court advantage in the playoffs, then the rumours rumbling about Davis going to L.A will only get more serious.
The Rockets have been a big disappointment, currently in 13th place with 13 losses already after only losing 17 games the whole of last year. But that doesn’t detract from the fact that James Harden has been ballin this year averaging a career high 30.6 points and 2.3 steals, leading the NBA in both categories. He had probably the best game of the season with a 54 point, 13 assist, 8 rebound masterpiece in a loss against the equally struggling Washington Wizards.
Golden State Warriors
This was a tough decision as the two best point guards in the league Steph Curry and Russell Westbrook both missed 8 games or more. Damian Lillard was primed to take this starting spot after the Blazers hot start, but they have gone from 1st to 8th in the Western Conference playoff race with 6 losses in 7 games. Although Curry has missed significant time, he has been so unbelievably good averaging over 30 points and shooting 52% from the field, 93% from the line and an unheard of 50.3% from 3 at almost 11 attempts a game! Clearly Curry would be the MVP favourite now if he didn’t miss so many games.
Backcourt 1 - Russell Westbrook (OKC Thunder)
Backcourt 2 - Damian Lillard (Portland Trailblazers)
Frontcourt 1 - Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets)
Frontcourt 2 - Paul George (OKC Thunder)
Frontcourt 3 - Karl Anthony Towns (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Wild Card 1 - Tobias Harris (Los Angeles Clippers)
Wild Card 2 - Mike Conley (Memphis Grizzlies)
Russell Westbrook and Damian Lillard were automatic selections and there could be little debate about Nikola Jokic, Karl Anthony Towns and Paul George who is enjoying his best season, averaging career highs across the board in Points, Rebounds, Assists, Steals, Blocks and 3’s. Tobias Harris (21pts, 8.5 reb 51/41/85% Shooting) earns his 1st selection for his super consistent play leading the no name Clippers to the top of the conference. The last pick came down to Grizzlies pair Mike Conley and Marc Gasol who are both equally worthy after stellar seasons putting the Grizzlies right in the thick of the playoff race. But with 3 centers (Davis, Jokic, Towns) already on the team and only two guards on the bench, I decided to select Mike Conley as the 12th and final pick.
Injured – DeMarcus Cousins, Draymond Green
Snubs – Chris Paul, Klay Thompson, Donovan Mitchell, Demar Derozan, Jrue Holiday, Rudy Gobert, Luka Doncic, LaMarcus Aldridge
The West unlike the East is loaded with players worthy of an All Star Selection so there were plenty of snubs. Other All Star Mainstays Chris Paul, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green have not performed at their normal All Star level and Golden State does not deserve 4 or even 3 All Stars this year.
The San Antonio Spurs have been a big disappointment which eliminates LaMarcus Aldridge and Demar Derozan from contention. And there's no room for young hot shots Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert from the Utah Jazz or ROY favourite Luka Doncic. But the biggest snub goes to Marc Gasol who has been the Defensive Player of the Year so far but rather then give the Grizzlies 2 All Stars, I thought it was more fair to reward the great play of Tobias Harris and give the two surprise teams of the West 1 All Star each.
Bonus: Playoff Predictions Which Teams Will Make It?
1. Toronto Raptors (Current Record 21-5, 1st)
The Raptors took a big gamble when trading Toronto lifer Demar Derozan for former Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and so far the gamble looks to be paying off. Toronto looks infinitely better with the best record in the league and favourites at this stage to reach the NBA Finals. They have 5 efficient switchable two way players in their starting lineup and their bench is also one of the best in the league, with a Coach of the Year Candidate at the helm.
2. Philadelphia 76ers (Current Record 17-9, 3rd)
The 76ers also took a big gamble of their own when they traded all of their shooting and chemistry for All Star swingman Jimmy Butler. But so far so good as the Sixers are playing much better with a clear leader and closer to help them in close games and this will be even more valuable come playoff time.
3. Boston Celtics (Current Record 14-10 Tied 5th)
The Celtics have been one of the disappointments of the season, hovering around .500 and losing many games to inferior teams. Their talent level is undeniable, but incorporating Gordon Hayward and Superstar Kyrie Irving into the team that did so well in the playoffs last year has proven to be more difficult than anticipated. Still I expect the C’s to gel better as the season goes on and fight the Bucks and Sixers for the 2nd seed.
4. Milwaukee Bucks (Current Record 16-7, 2nd)
Could this really be the Year to Fear the Deer? If there is any doubt that the Milwaukee’s hot start was a fluke, look no further than their league best 10.7 point differential, probably the best indicator to gauge team strength. What about the eye test? Impressive wins against all the league’s best teams including the Warriors, Raptors, Sixers, and Nuggets (twice) will attest to that.
5. Indiana Pacers (Current Record 14-10, Tied 5th)
The Pacers recently lost All Star Victor Oladipo to injury and have held the fort down in his absence going 5-4 and staying in 5th position in the East. Oladipo’s return is imminent and with many weak teams in the East, expect the Pacers to get close to 50 wins and fight the Detroit Pistons for the 5th seed.
6th Detroit Pistons (Current Record 13-9, 4th)
The Pistons and the Drummond / Griffin tandem has been better than expected and they currently stand in 4th position with Home court advantage in the 1st round. But expect the Celtics and Pacers to catch and pass them as the season goes on. Pistons fans are just hoping the annual Blake Griffin injury won’t happen this year, especially since they have a weak bench so even a small injury for a few weeks could seriously derail their season.
7. Charlotte Hornets (Current Record 11-13, 8th)
Kemba Walker has been a one man wrecking crew at times for the Hornets this year and in the top heavy East, that is more then enough to grab one of the lower seeds. But does Kemba have enough help to do any damage in the playoffs or are the Hornets just happy to make it?
8. Washington Wizards (Current Record 11-14, 9th)
One of the biggest disappointments this season, the out of sorts Washington Wizards have been walking through games, playing no defense and it seems like nobody on the team even remotely likes anybody else. Yet they still find themselves just half a game out of 8th spot in the East.
Just missed Out: Orlando Magic, Miami Heat
1. Golden State Warriors (Current Record 17-9, 4th)
Currently in 4th place, the Warriors were cruising at 10-1 one month ago. Everything was clicking and it was starting to look like they would run the table and challenge their own 73 win record.…until Steph Curry’s unfortunate injury. Then they lost 8 of 13 games, more injuries piled up and worst of all there were big problems in the locker room between All Stars Kevin Durant and Draymond Green. They have since righted the ship and Curry is back so expect the Warriors to go on a serious run.
2. Denver Nuggets (Current Record, 17-7, 1st)
Right now the biggest threat to the Warriors are the surprising Denver Nuggets who are tough on the road and can run you out of the building at home better then any team in the league. With Nikola Jokic working his magic in the middle, these Nuggets are serious contenders for ‘Best of the Rest’.
3. Los Angeles Lakers (Current Record 15-9, 5th)
When the Lakers started 0-3 and 2-5, everyone panicked, even Magic Johnson and Lebron James. Now they have found their groove and look like a good bet to get home court advantage in the playoffs. Once there I am not betting against Lebron in a series against any team apart from the Warriors.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder (Current Record 16-7, 2nd)
The hottest team in the league are an impressive 16-3 since their terrible 0-4 start. Russ and PG look better and better everyday together and if they keep this up, this may be the year where they get out of the 1st round.
5. Houston Rockets (Current Record 11-13, 13th)
A slow stuttering start, coupled with niggling injuries to their star players and a messy breakup with Carmelo Anthony, has left the Rockets languishing in 13th place after winning an NBA best 65 games a year ago. Still they are only a game out of the playoffs and if James Harden and Chris Paul can stay healthy then expect them to start rolling again soon.
6. Los Angeles Clippers (Current Record 16-8, 3rd)
Probably the surprise team of the whole NBA, the L.A Clippers have one of the league’s best offenses, a budding star in Tobias Harris and 2 of the top bench players in the whole NBA in Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell. Don’t expect the Clips to keep challenging for the best record but expect them to hang on to a playoff seed in the ultra competitive West.
7. Utah Jazz (Current Record 13-13, 11th)
The other really disappointing team with the Rockets is the Utah Jazz, who were projected by most to finish somewhere between 2nd and 4th in the West before the season started. But they have had the toughest road heavy schedule in the whole league and they are too good of a team to miss the playoffs.
8. New Orleans Pelicans (Current Record 13-13, Tied 11th)
The Pelicans are a very good team but about 12 other teams in the West can say the same. The only difference is that the Pelicans have Anthony Davis in the middle and with three 20 point scorers around him in Nikola Mirotic, Jrue Holiday and Julius Randle, it’s hard to imagine them missing the playoffs.
Just Missed: Blazers, Wolves, Grizzlies, Mavs and Spurs
It was really hard to leave out Damian Lillard and the Blazers but the West is just too tough to find a spot for them. Likewise for the talented Wolves, Gritty Grizzlies and Surprising Mavs who are all very good teams and would easily make the playoffs in the East. If this season isn’t enough proof to convince Adam Silver that we need to take the 16 best teams regardless of Conference then nothing will be.
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