NBA: Fast Lane to the Playoffs
All Star Weekend is firmly in the rear view mirror, and its full steam ahead to the playoff hunt. Not only does the NBA do it’s showcase event better than any other American sports league, but they time it perfectly too. No one is looking more forward to the next game (NFL), or is exhausted at the thought of approximately 1 billion games left to play (MLB), but with 2/3 of the season down, it’s crunch time for everyone. What better time than to give our readers a taste of not only what’s happened so far, but arm them for conversations they will be having now that we’re forced to not watch football. Here are 7 stories so far, predictions for the rest of the way, and some 2/3 awards to be delivered.
1. The Hawks are Scary Good…
For once, this isn’t JUST my well-known Atlanta bias creeping through – this Hawks team is amazing. Eye popping ball movement, stifling defense, and great depth off the bench, even the notoriously fickle home crowds of Atlanta have gotten behind the Hawks. They own the season’s longest winning streak in the Association to date, beating top contenders from both coasts along the way, and are becoming a ‘cool’ team to get behind. And I didn’t dream any of it!
2. …The Warriors are Just Scary
Golden State started the season in a bit of tumult, as they fired their most successful coach in my lifetime after he improved their record for two straight years. They flirted with trading away Klay Thompson, Steph Curry was mad they got rid of his coach, and they landed former Phoenix GM and TNT analyst Steve Kerr only after he got lowballed by the Knicks (more on that dumpster fire later). But all the upheaval has worked out for them, as they own the best record in the NBA and are appointment television at this point. If you have League Pass, please DM me your login info and schedule your life around Golden State games.
3. The Lakers are Hilariously Bad
They’ve been good for the past 70 ish years. Get your jokes in now. I am.
4. Hot and Cold Cavs
LeBron made history this summer by being the first person to willingly move from Miami to Cleveland, and he’s made history this season as the first player/coach/GM. Really, an impressive move by him. Things started unevenly and the Kevin Love experiment hasn’t gone well thus far, but ever since LeBron took 2 weeks off
to rest finish building his team, this squad has more closely resembled a team to take seriously. It’ll be interesting to see how the experiment plays out, what with Love unsigned for next year.
5. Western Conference
Once again, the West is the place where you do NOT want to be to make the playoffs. Even as Phoenix seems positioned to slip out with the current Dragic noise, either the Thunder or the Pelicans look to be left out of this year’s field which is INSANE since those two teams employ three of the best ten players in the NBA (if you haven’t been watching this year, Anthony Davis has fully arrived as a force of nature). Hell, Memphis is the 2 seed in the West right now which would mean a 7 game series with the Spurs. Seems like a crappy prize for taking 2nd in the West.
6. Playoffs. PLAYOFFS?!?
A loaded West means we get to rehash a familiar argument that occurs every three or four years: that the NBA should move to open seeding between the two conferences. In the 90s, this was an argument because the East was so strong. Look, there are a lot of things wrong with the NBA schedule (three games in four nights in three cities, too many games), but nothing gets solved by eliminating conferences and divisions from the equation, which is what would have to happen with open seeding. It’s too big of a fix for a cyclical problem that seems to resolve itself every few years.
They are sitting at 10-43. After successfully outbidding no one for Amare Stoudemire (Center, crappy poet) in 2010 with a 5 year $100 MILLION deal, they bought him out this week, and he’s a Dallas Maverick now. The buyout occurred because his knees are uninsurable and have been for years, which is why no one else was bidding for him in 2010. Carmelo Anthony is their best player, and he is shutting it down for the season with an injury AFTER clocking 30 minutes (second on the team!)
wasting space playing in the All Star Game. And people are writing things like this about Phil Jackson. (Also, if you have Lakers fan friends who are also Phil Jackson disciples, this is a good time to revisit number 3 on this list. You’re welcome.)
DYC Officially Official NBA Finals Pick: Hawks vs. Grizzlies. Admittedly, this is a dream for me because I like conflicting styles and barbecue, but wouldn’t this be the most southern thing ever? AND IMAGINE THE MUSIC. Sir Foster is giddy just thinking about it.
DYC 2/3 MVP: Stephen Curry (Runners-up: James Harden, LeBron James, Anthony Davis)
Until we retroactively take away Steve Nash’s MVP for just his offense, this case stands. Hell, it’s even stronger. Curry has evolved into a MUCH better defender under Kerr, and he’s a top 10 performer in scoring, 3-pointers, assists and steals.
DYC 2/3 Most Improved: Jimmy Butler (Runners-up: Klay Thompson, John Wall)
THAT is how you play in a contract year. He added an ability to create his own shot, and it didn’t take away from the defending and rebounding that was already well-known. With Derrick Rose still finding his way, Butler has kept the ship afloat in Chicago, even as he priced himself out of town this coming offseason.
DYC 2/3 Rookie of the Year: Andrew Wiggins (Runners-up: LOL, JK)
And it’s not even close. This is the award that’s going to keep LeBron from capturing the coveted DYC Executive of the Year award. Damn shame.
DYC 2/3 Defensive Player of the Year: Draymond Green (Runners-up: Anthony Davis, Tim Duncan)
If the Spurs didn’t have more injuries, Old Man River probably wins this, but the biggest difference maker for the Warriors this year over last has been Green. People know about Steph, Klay, and the Warriors offense. People forget that they also trot out the best defense in the Association as well. And Draymond is a big reason why.
DYC 2/3 Sixth Man of the Year: Jamal Crawford (Runners-up: Isaiah Thomas, Manu Ginobili)
Can we rename this award the Jamal Crawford?
DYC 2/3 Coach of the Year: Mike Budenholzer (Runners-up: Steve Kerr, Jason Kidd)
Longest winning streak in the league. Zero max contract guys. Eighth in the East last year. Cue the music.
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