(Photo: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)
The 2017-2018 NBA season is roughly 35 games through an 82-game season. So, being that we are just over 40% through the regular season and now past the Christmas slate of games, why not give an almost mid-way NBA report.
This season has been full of surprises for NBA fans whereas in recent years basketball has felt sort of stagnant. For the past three years we have entered each season having a pretty decent idea of who would be in the NBA finals. The idea of these “super teams” has grown in popularity over the past couple of years and in my opinion, has decreased the excitement level of watching competitive basketball. Coming into this year, many people argued that it was going to be another Golden State vs Cleveland finals rematch for the fourth year in a row, with good reason to think that. This season has felt different than the others. This summer was a frenzy of trades and free agent signings. In the West, the Rockets, Thunder, Timberwolves, Clippers, etc. all entered this season with new identities and new faces to the franchise. The same goes in the East with Boston and Cleveland swapping superstars which may have balanced out the power in that conference. Only 40% into the NBA season, there is more competition between teams than we have seen, which is going to make for an exciting finish to the season.
Teams whose stock is rising…
- Oklahoma City Thunder: After an 8-12 start to the season for the New “Big 3” in Oklahoma City, the Thunder have seemed to figure out how to play together. Winners of 11 of their last 14, the Thunder sit in the fifth sport in the Western Conference, only two games behind the young and talented Minnesota Timberwolves who will definitely make a splash in the playoffs. Carmelo Anthony has determined his role being a spot up three-point shooter and Russell Westbrook is playing at the MVP level we saw last season.
- Golden State Warriors: Now I know most of you are wondering why I would include theGolden State Warriors on a list of teams whose stock is rising, but let me explain. With Steph Curry being sidelined with an injury, the Warriors have been able to play at an extremely high level and have now taken the top sport in the Western Conference from the Rockets. When Curry returns to the lineup, I do not see anyone taking the top spot from the Warriors.
- Toronto Raptors: Starting the season 11-7, the Toronto Raptors are now 23-9 and sit a game and a half behind the Boston Celtics for the one seed in the Eastern Conference. The Raptors are 10-2 in the month of December with DeMar DeRozan averaging over 27 points a game and shooting over 50% from the field. The Raptors have not played any top teams in the league during this hot streak, but do not sleep on the Raptors.
Teams whose stock is falling…
- Boston Celtics: The Boston Celtics were the hottest team in the NBA for the beginning part of the season, starting the year with a 16-2 record. After Gordon Hayward’s ankle injury, it seemed like any chance the Celtics had at competing this year were blown out the water, but Kyrie Irving wasn’t going to listen to that. Irving shot his way up to the top of the list for MVP candidates. Since the incredible start, the Celtics have cooled off. Losing 6 out of the last 11, the Celtics still sit on top of the Eastern Conference, but look for the Cavs and Raptors to overtake them by the end of the season.
- Houston Rockets: Don’t get me wrong here, the Houston Rockets are a solid team, but I have my worries about just how far this team can go. After the 14-game win streak to middle of the pack teams, the Rockets have lost three straight to the Lakers, Clippers, and Thunder. James Harden is playing at a lights out level, but I am worried about the depth of this team especially with Chris Paul sidelined. The Rockets currently hold the two spot in the West, but I see them finishing in the three or four spot by the end of the season.
Most disappointing team of the season…
- Los Angeles Clippers: Entering the season, I believed the Clippers to have a decent team that would be able to compete somewhere around a six or seven seed in the West. This team has been injury stricken since the beginning of the year, never able to find a rhythm. Patrick Beverly was ruled out for the season, Danilo Gallinari has been injured as well as Blake Griffin, and the newly acquired Milos Teodosic has barely made it on the court with his injury issues.