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NBA Mid-Season Musings
So here we are, a few games past the halfway point, and for the first time since Lebron moved back to the Cavs, we may not know who will be in the NBA Finals! That and taking a look at the good and bad of the first half of the season.
So let's start at the top and work our way down, down, down, to where Luke Walton hangs out.
Here is the first thing to discuss, can the Rockets actually beat the Warriors? I think the answer might be no, but it is definitely a series with some intrigue. The Rockets are currently 2-0 vs the Warriors this season, with the Rockets winning at both teams home floor. Is this a sign of things to come in May? Probably not. Why? Well, these are regular season games, games that the Warriors don't especially care about, games where the little brother takes pride in beating the big brother when it doesn't really count. The Warriors have been missing guys all year with injuries, and haven't had the stability they had the past couple years where they were able to start the same core guys for almost all the season. They also are coming off an NBA title, and the rigor of the regular season isn't the same as getting up for a playoff or finals game. I think when it comes to a best of 7 series, it will be hard to win 2 games in Golden State. And I believe that Golden State will one at least one game in Houston, which means the Rockets will have to win twice in Golden State. And I don't think that will happen. Here is the problem. The Rockets try to do what the Warriors do, except they don't do it as well. And they can do it better for a game or two games, but for 7? I think inevitably they cannot. And what scares me even more than that is that the Rockets will choke and not even make it to the Warriors. Let's not forget that Mike Dantoni has never beaten Pop in a playoff series. Let's not forget the Rockets went into San Antonio and beat the Spurs by like 50 in game 1 last year. Then they were outcoached, outplayed, outclassed, and sent home rather unceremoniously shortly thereafter. And that's what scares me the most. That they will get outcoached by Pop, and then Pop will take a team that just physically can't compete with Golden State, and Golden State will cruise into the finals yet again.
The Timberwolves are the surprise of the West, sitting at a tie for 3rd with San Antonio. I like their roster, their youth, and their coach, who plays defense in a conference that doesn't. The problem is they are young and inconsistent, losing winnable games because they didn't come to play or because teams give them their best shot and they aren't ready for it. When you become good, teams gear up to play you. On a nightly basis, a team is trying to make their season by beating the Warriors or the Patriots, or Manchester United. Teams that are known for winning. So when you want to wander into that realm, you have to be ready, and the Wolves are not always. So fast forwarding to the playoffs, can a team that young win a series in Houston or in Golden State? Probably not. Experience wins in the playoffs, and besides for Jimmy Buckets, Minnesota doesn't have much. If they slip to the 4 and play OKC in the first round, I would take OKC all day to win that series.
New Orleans is a surprise at the 6 seed, but it has to all be due to their big man player development coach Kevin Hanson. He has Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins looking like the twin towers. If everyone wants to shoot 3's and play from the perimeter, then maybe playing inside and getting easy hoops is a good way to be different. I haven't looked at their strength of schedule to this point, but hopefully, they can keep it up.
The West is definitely down, relative to the East from the past few years where teams with losing records were in the 8 seed. Now the 8 seed in the West is basically .500 which in past years required 7-10 games over .500. This just means the league is more balanced. Does it mean there are more good teams or more bad teams? I don't know but the balance of depth is definitely more even.
The disappointments of the season have to be the Lakers and the Kings. Were the Lakers supposed to be good? No. But with their roster should they be a little better. Definitely. They really don't defend, they really don't like passing, and Lonzo Ball has been wildly underwhelming. It seems as if when he gets hurt they do better. Does that mean they are going to be better in the next 10 years without him? NO NO NO. But this year? Possibly. Think about it. He can't shoot at all. And everyone keeps telling him to shoot. Well, that doesn't make sense. Why would you tell someone who can't cook to cook when you have friends over. Why would you tell someone to take a test who isn't prepared? If you can't shoot don't shoot. You don't shoot out the kinks in your shot in the game, you shoot them out with 1000 shots every day in practice and before games. Then, as those shots start to fall, you slowly work in more shots in the game. Slowly. Instead, every time he shoots from the perimeter its like a turnover. Ya sure some go in but the majority don't so he shouldn't be shooting them. On top of that, they don't have to guard him on the perimeter so now you are playing 4 against 5 which doesn't work at the NBA level. So right now, maybe, they could be better without him. For sure they don't move the ball as well and flow as well without him, but does that counteract his offensive ineptitude. I don't know. But in the long run, assuming he gets better at his perimeter shot, they will be better with him. Kuzma has been the shining star, possibly the rookie of the year in the pure sense. Yes, Ben Simmons is putting up good numbers, but he has WAY better teammates which means less emphasis can be put on him. When your game planning the Lakers, #1 priority should be Kuzma which means he is getting their best defender every night. Not the same for Ben Simmons.
The biggest disappointment in the West has to be the Kings. I'll keep it short because no one cares about them. They should be way better. They have a good mix of veterans and young players and I thought they would be a playoff contender if not in the playoffs. I don't know what is wrong with them but they aren't winning.
In the East we have Lebron, so that means drama. They are in their usual midseason funk and it will get so bad that something will happen. The problem is they have no assets except the pick. Every other good player is integral to their team or has no trade value (ie JR Smith). I guess they could trade Kevin Love, but trading a guy when he is the scapegoat of the team, is trading him at his lowest value point which doesn't make sense. You want to trade guys when they are playing well and their value is high. I heard rumors of trading for George Hill, and I like that, but that means that Derrick Rose will be out of the lineup or one of those two will have to play the 2. Also, if and when Isaiah Thomas gets back to full strength, he should be playing a lot of minutes which doesn't leave many for either of the backups. The real question is can someone beat Cleveland in the East. And, knowing I was going to write this I have thought about it and tried to visualize the winner of the East. And I'm really stuck. Sound judgement says take the Celtics. They will have home court, they will have the easier route to get there, they are definitely improved with Kyrie instead of Thomas, and the Cavs are a mess. Heck right now I don't know if the Cavs could beat the Raptors in the East semis. But at the end of the day, you still have to beat Lebron James four times. And that hasn't been done by an Eastern Conference team since 2010. So I will take no one right now and I will see you back here at the end of the regular season when I will force myself to make picks.
Ok, looking at the rest of the east...Raptors, good but no one cares, Heat, overachieving but no one cares, Wizards, Scotty Brooks is still a terrible coach, but no one cares, no one cares, no one cares, aha! Milwaukee.
So Milwaukee just made the best personnel move of the year so far. I'm not breaking trade news. No, I am talking about firing Jason Kidd. He is one of the 5 worst and most overrated coaches in the NBA and finally he is gone. Which should scare the Eastern Conference. Because if they put a coach in there who has any clue what they are doing, they will be a top 3 team in the East for the foreseeable future. I have watched Milwaukee play many times, and you look at their roster and their talent and it just doesn't add up. You see them play no defense. You see them be so sloppy and unorganized on offense. And you see the ridiculous talent on display. And it all leads back to Kidd. Kidd says they are young and inconsistent. Guess what Jason Kidd, your not the first coach to have young players, and to be frank, they aren't that young. Young in age does not mean young in experience. Every year I keep waiting for the Bucks to be a top 3 seed and to challenge Lebron with one of the 2 or 3 guys in the league that can match up with him in both size, strength, and speed. And every year they disappoint. They need a veteran coach who will get them organized, make things simple, and get them to defend. Then the East will be in trouble.
Looking at the rest of the East, Philly should be a little better, they are inconsistent but see they are young in age AND experience, and no one cares about the rest.
So what have we learned so far this season? 1. Doc Rivers is so happy his whole team is injured because it covers up how overrated he is. 2. Even though it seems like everyone is a little vulnerable right now, in the end, it will probably be 1v2 and 1v2 on each side. 3. No one likes Golden State and especially Draymond Green. Oh we didn't learn that we already knew that. And while I'm here he would average 10 and 7 on a normal team. They still don't even guard him on the 3 point line and he still won't shoot it, and I could pass the ball to Durant, Curry, and Thompson and average 6 assists per game ((since no one would be guarding me(oh wait they would because I can shoot)). 4. Can't wait for the playoffs.