NBA midseason report: A surprising first half

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Pranav Iyer

With the NBA back in action after All-Star break, let’s take a look back at a very crazy first half of the season.

 

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Teams that greatly underperformed

 

5

San Antonio Spurs

After coming off an NBA championship last year, the Spurs were obviously among the favorites to win the title again heading into the season. However, the Big 3 are slowly deteriorating and everyone is just waiting for them to crumble. Right now, they have just one less loss than they had all of last season. Although they aren’t at the top of the game anymore, at least they are still in the playoff picture. And in the Wild Wild West, that’s an accomplishment by itself.

4

Los Angeles Knicks and New York Lakers (tied)

There’s no way I couldn’t keep these two teams off of the list. Both are among the worst teams in the league — because you can’t expect them to perform well without their star players. This is is not at all surprising due to how poorly the Lakers played last year without Kobe Bryant (aka the Swaggy P show), and how terrible the Knicks were before Carmelo Anthony arrived. I guess the only thing both teams can do between now and draft night is to adore all the championship banners and retired jerseys hanging in the rafters. And I guess playing in Staples Center or Madison Square Garden isn’t too bad either.

2

Oklahoma City Thunder

We knew that the Thunder would be without Kevin Durant for the beginning of the season. But nobody expected them to also lose Russell Westbrook and start 3-12. Even though Reggie Jackson put up solid numbers in place of Westbrook, Jackson could not create the same impact as the two superstars. After the return of Westbrook and Durant, the Thunder have been on a tear and are now on the outskirts of playoff contention.  However, it will be extremely difficult for them to get a high seed in the playoffs so they will likely have to take down the big dogs in the opening rounds.

1

Cleveland Cavaliers

So much hype surrounded Lebron James’ return to the Cavs and the acquisition of Kevin Love. With a new Big 3, including Kyrie Irving, the Cavs were the predicted favorites to win the championship this year. But just like the Big 3’s first year in Miami, the new Big 3 also started off slow, only managing around a .500 record for the first half of the season. However, as of late they have been on a roll, much like the Thunder, even going on a 12-game winning streak. But at the All-Star Break, they are only in fifth place in the East, which is nothing to be proud of. If they want to make a significant run in the playoffs, the Cavs will need to learn how to work as a team, something that can be extremely difficult with three star players vying for the spotlight

 

Teams that far exceeded expectations

 

5

Dallas Mavericks

Dirk Nowitzki has nearly reached the end of the line. Although his game is declining, he continues to put up very respectable numbers. What Nowitzki lacks, Monta Ellis makes up for, averaging nearly 20 points per game. With these two star players, the fifth place Mavericks have what it takes to compete in the playoffs.

4

Memphis Grizzlies

Since 2010, the Grizzlies have been on a steady rise, led by big men Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Although the Grizzlies have been wrecking havoc in the playoffs, they have not been an exceptional regular season team until now. They are currently in second place in the West and boast the third best record in the NBA. Behind their star big men, the Grizzlies allow the fewest points per game in the league. This tenacious defense will allow them to win games even when they don’t hit their shots and will come in handy come playoff time.

3

Toronto Raptors

The Raptors had a successful season last year for the first time since the Chris Bosh era. With the help of excellent guard play by Demar Derozan, Louis Williams and first time All-Star Kyle Lowry, they have become one of the best offensive teams in the NBA. During Derozan’s 21-game absence, the Raptors needed someone to lead them and Lowry delivered. However, without Derozan, their defense efficiency fell from ninth to twentieth. Still, this team has plenty of upside with players like Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas. Ross has showed that the sky is the limit for him last season as he put up 51 points against the Los Angeles Clippers. It’s just a matter of time before him and Valanciunas reach their potential and make this a very dangerous team.

2

Golden State Warriors

For the longest period of time, the Warriors have been known as an offensive powerhouse. But they’ve also been known for their horrific defense. However, with big men Marquese Speights, Andrew Bogut and David Lee working well together, they have tightened up on the defensive end, allowing less than 100 points per game. The Warriors have great star power with the Splash Brothers Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson shooting the lights out. With a great supporting staff, the Warriors have become nearly unstoppable offensively. This may be the year they finally make a deep run in the playoffs.

1

Atlanta Hawks

Whoever predicted that the Hawks would lead the East at the All-Star break is a genius. They were expected to be in the 5-8 range of the Eastern Conference and have a first round departure in the playoffs. They have no superstars. And that is why they are successful. Their key to success is balance and selflessness. The Hawks have so many players that they can go to at any point of the game, so they can still be dominant without their starting five. They are sixth in points scored per game and fourth in points allowed per game. If the Hawks can keep these numbers up, they have a chance at beating Cleveland or even the Warriors despite lacking star power.

With a few days of rest and preparation, we might see completely different teams post All-Star break. We’ll be watching if the Thunder can climb their way up the ladder, if the Hawks and Warriors can keep up their winning ways and how many losses the eighth place team in the East will have. And when it comes playoff time, who will play Cinderella?