Friday, January 21, 2011

NBA Midseason Review

The Celtics are 32-9 and if my math is correct, that means the Green have completed half of their schedule. I may not be the smartest kid in class but that seems to me like the perfect time to do a review of the first half of what has been a spectacular NBA season. If you haven't done so already, please take a few moments to watch the video at the top of this post. A common theory is that the NBA regular season is a waste of time and it's not worth watching professional basketball until the playoffs start in April. Well, if you're not watching the NBA this year you are missing out. There are five teams (Celtics, Lakers, Heat, Spurs, and Magic) that have a legitimate claim at the title. There are several other teams (Mavericks, Bulls, Thunder, Knicks, Jazz, Hornets, and Hawks) that are worth the price of admission and could push any of the first five teams on any given night. From a talent standpoint, the league is loaded with veteran stars and a young base of talent that make even the bad teams (like the Clippers) worth watching because of rising stars like Blake Griffin. The most beautiful thing about this season is that every team has at least one player capable of making me want to tune in and watch them play and the elite teams have between three and four of those players. It's like the 1980s all over again except that in this case there are 30 teams, not 24. The influx of foreign talent (like Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol, and Manu Ginobili) and a rising level of young American stars (like Griffin, Kevin Durant, and Derrick Rose) has made the talent pool so deep that even a pretty good team like the Hawks are no better than a fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. Bill Simmons of ESPN wrote a terrific column yesterday about the excitement surrounding this year's All-Star Game and of the overall quality of play throughout the NBA. It is definitely worth reading and just the thought of the East putting out a rotation of Dwight Howard-Kevin Garnett-LeBron James-Dwayne Wade-Derrick Rose/Rajon Rondo against the West's Pau Gasol-Dirk Nowitzki-Carmelo Anthony-Kobe Bryant-Deron Williams/Chris Paul in crunch time will have me locked in front of my television set. The one sad thing about this season is the NBA is probably heading towards a lockout starting this summer because the Collective Bargaining Agreement is set to expire and the owners and players will be fighting over their millions of dollars while the common fan will suffer. What they don't seem to understand is that their game - which is in the midst of a golden era - will suffer as well. Hopefully they figure this out before any games are lost in the Fall of 2011. That said, here is my review of the first half of the 2010-2011 season: MVP: Derrick Rose, Bulls Rose has elevated his game and has carried his team to the top of the Central Division while also striking fear into the hearts of Eastern Conference powers Boston, Miami, and Orlando. He is averaging 24.7 points and 8 assists and makes a few plays every night that make you stand up and scream wierd obscenities. In the mix - LeBron James, Heat; Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks; Amar'e Stoudemire, Knicks Defensive Player of the Year: Dwight Howard, Magic The only reason why I don't mention Howard in the MVP discussion is that his offensive game still makes him a liability against good interior defenses. He is without a doubt a force on the defensive end and if the Magic are going to win the title this year, he will have to continue to dominate that end of the floor because the Magic lack toughness. In the mix - Kevin Garnett, Celtics; Dwayne Wade, Heat; Tyson Chandler, Mavericks Rookie of the Year: Blake Griffin, Clippers Griffin is a monster. He is the first player in my lifetime - or really anyone's lifetime - to make the Clippers worth watching on a regular basis. Re-watch th video at the top if you don't believe me. In the mix - John Wall, Wizards; Landry Fields, Knicks Coach of the Year: Doc Rivers, Celtics Rivers has navigated this team through injuries and has successfully handled the numerous egos on his roster to make the Celtics into a T-E-A-M. If healthy, Rivers' team will win their second title in four years. In the mix - Tom Thibodeau, Bulls; Gregg Popovich, Spurs; Stan Van Gundy, Magic; Mike D'Antoni, Knicks 6th Man Award: Glen Davis, Celtics The 6-8 "Big Baby" has developed from a quirky forward with a knack for scoring into a reliable two-way player for the Celtics. With aging giants Shaquille O'Neal and Jermaine O'Neal fighting off age and injuries, Davis has stepped up and given Boston big minutes at forward and center. In the mix - Jason Terry, Mavericks; George Hill, Spurs; Serge Ibaka, Thunder; Jamal Crawford, Hawks Most Improved Player: Kevin Love, Timberwolves Love is leading the NBA in rebounds with 15.6 a night while also scoring 21.3 points. His 31-31 game in November was the first in the NBA since Moses Malone in 1982. Love is the only reason to watch Minnesota play. In the mix - Serge Ibaka, Thunder; Raymond Felton, Knicks; Eric Gordon, Clippers Playoff Predictions East First Round: (1) Celtics over (8) 76ers ... (4) Magic over (5) Knicks ... (3) Bulls over (6) Hawks ... (2) Heat over (7) Bucks Second Round: (1) Celtics over (4) Magic ... (3) Bulls over (2) Heat Eastern Finals: (1) Celtics over (3) Bulls West First Round: (1) Lakers over (8) Grizzlies ... (4) Jazz over (5) Mavericks ... (3) Thunder over (6) Hornets ... (2) Spurs over (7) Blazers Second Round: (4) Jazz over (1) Lakers ... (3) Thunder over (2) Spurs Western Finals: (3) Thunder over (4) Jazz NBA Finals Boston Celtics over Oklahoma City Thunder

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