The NBA All-Star weekend came and went so now is a time to look back on the first half of the season. Although it is not technically the midway point in the 82-game season, now is when we can all finally take a breather and breakdown how the season has unfolded so far.
Bloodbath Out East
LeBron James’s decision to sign with the Lakers this past offseason sent ripples throughout the league, especially in the Eastern Conference. With LeBron gone, teams rejoiced with a trip to the Finals on their minds.
The Milwaukee Bucks and the Toronto Raptors each have a hold on most wins in the NBA.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is having, without a shadow of a doubt, the best year in his very young career. He is an MVP candidate and has led the young Bucks to the number one seed out East.
Meanwhile, Kawhi Leonard has proven to be back to his old self after his awkward exit from the San Antonio Spurs. He has the Raptors on the heels of the Bucks.
The Philadelphia 76ers and the Kyrie-led Boston Celtics are also battling to go to the Finals. There is no doubt that the last 20+ games will be an absolute free-for-all. All four of these teams still have to face each other before postseason play.
Ol’ Fashioned Shootout Out West
In addition to The Greek Freak, the MVP race features Paul George, and James Harden. The latter two of the three are currently vying for one of the top four seeds in the Western Conference.
PG13 is undeniably having the best season in his nine-year career. He is lighting up defenses almost every game averaging over 28 points per contest. He is doing serious damage from deep, shooting 40 percent. In addition, he is shooting 45.3 percent from the field.
George has also become the best defensive player for Oklahoma City, locking up the other team’s best player all while averaging 2.3 steals per game, a career high, and grabbing over 6.5 defensive rebounds per game.
After suffering what could’ve been a career-ending injury, four years later, George is one of the league’s best two-way players and is no doubt a top MVP candidate this year.
Moseying on over to the Lonely Star state, H-Town is now Harden-Town. Harden is your reigning MVP, winning the prestigious award in 2018. The Beard is having arguably an even better year boasting 36.6 points, 7.7 assists, and 6.7 rebounds per contest. Not to mention, Harden had one of the craziest streaks in NBA history. scoring 304 consecutive points, all being unassisted. That is unfathomable to think about. However, for Harden, it’s just another day at the office.
With the NBA playoffs looming just around the corner, it will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Letdown: LeBron’s Lackluster Los Angeles Premiere
As mentioned earlier, the Lakers’ acquisition of King James was monumental. Angelinos, as well as NBA pundits, felt that Lebron was the missing component to young core of Kuzma/Ball/Ingram.
LeBron is all by himself at the end of the bench right now. pic.twitter.com/akSdpEAV8k— JCSourwine (@JCSourwine) February 6, 2019
After failing to add Anthony Davis, rumors began spreading like wildfire that there was now resentment between LeBron and the Lakers’ front office. Not to mention, the young players involved in rumors are upset. There were even reports that players were beginning to doubt and confront Lakers’ head coach Luke Walton.
The Lakers currently sit 10th out West. And for the first time in a very long time, a Lebron-led team is under .500. If the Lakers miss the playoffs, it will be the second time in his career that James has had to watch the postseason from home. The first being his rookie year.
Surprise: Pacers on Pace for 48 Wins and Top 3 Seed
When Indiana lost Victor Oladipo to an injury to his lower extremities, it was deemed they would start tanking. Instead, the Pacers just keep winning even without their All-Star guard. The Pacers are 7-5 since losing him and are wedged between the aforementioned Eastern Conference teams in the standings as the third seed.
Surprise: Luka Doncic’s transition from EuroLeague MVP to NBA ROY
When Dallas traded the rights of Trae Young to Atlanta for Luka Doncic, many were left wondering which rookie would be worth the gamble. While Young is producing at a better level than expected for the rebuilding Hawks, the 19-year-old Slovenian Luka Doncic is looking like he will be an NBA staple for years to come.
“The more swings you get the more chances you have to get a hit. To be able to take 1 lottery pick and essentially turn it into 2, that made sense for us.” – @ATLHawks GM Travis Schlenk on the Trae Young-Luka Doncic trade— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 17, 2019
Woj Pod: https://t.co/uFYHZH6HmC pic.twitter.com/27Ppz9gkKe
Doncic has showed a true grasp on basketball and continues to produce highlights on a nightly basis. He has one of the best stepbacks in the league and is an elite passer. Mavs’ fans are losing one European star in Dirk Nowitzki, but have gained what could be an even better European star in Doncic.
All in All
The 2018-19 season is closing out very soon and league has plenty of burning questions that will soon be answered. Will Giannis lead the Bucks to their first NBA Finals appearance since 1974? Can James Harden repeat as MVP? Is there any team that could dethrone the Warriors?
One thing is for sure, the 2018-19 season has been one filled with eye-opening moments from the season opener and will undoubtedly finish with just as many astonishing highlights.