A Look Back on the First Third of the NBA Season

With nearly a third of the NBA season gone, its time to hand out a few awards and take a look at the some of the emerging themes. 
Max:

MVP: LeBron James
You can have the stats of Harden or Westbrook. Give me the all-around dominance of LeBron. He’s routinely slapping up 25-9-9 lines and anchoring the Cavs defense when it matters.

DPoY: Kawhi Leonard
Just ask Ben McLemore if Kawhi is the right Defensive pick.

MIP: Tim Frazier
Frazier has been a revelation for the poor Pelicans, bereft of virtually any NBA-level talent outside of Anthony Davis.

Coach: Luke Walton
I mean, the guy turned Nick Young into an important rotation player. Nick Young!

Rookie: Joel Embiid
Always. Trust. The. Process

 

 

Kelly:

MVP: Russell Westbrook
I think a man who is attempting to average a triple-double a game deserves the MVP nod, especially since his team is pretty awful without him on the court.

DPoY: Anthony Davis
There’s been a lot of talk about Davis’ offense (hello he’s averaging 30 a game!) but he’s also putting up almost 3 blocks per game along with 1.7 steals. Add to that double digits rebounds and he’s putting on quite the show.

MIP: Brook Lopez
Brook Lopez can shoot threes! I repeat, Brook Lopez is shooting threes!

Coach: Luke Walton
Everyone said that he was just lucky to take over the Warriors’ roster and have Steve Kerr to go to for advice. Well Luke is showing that he can do it on his own, and with way more raw projects.

Rookie: Jamal Murray
Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram grabbed the headlines before the draft. Murray watched Jaylen Brown, Buddy Hield and Kris Dunn go before him and yet, he’s turning out to be sneaky

Storylines:

The Timberwolves are still young pups

Max: Everyone who predicted the Timberwolves would win 50+ games this season sure looks silly. Thus far, they’ve continued to show all the hallmarks of a young team- defensive lapses, second half struggles- and little growth. Its past time for everyone to take a step back. This team is incredibly young and has only played Tom Thibodeau’s intense defensive system for a quarter of a season. Karl-Anthony Towns continues to be amazing and Andrew Wiggins has stepped up as well. Let the young Wolves grow, man.

James Harden and Russell Westbrook Playing for Separate Teams Is Awesome

Max: No, I’m not declaring the conversation about the Harden trade over. It remains the most fascinating exchange of my lifetime. But, man, are we blessed that Harden and Westbrook have their own teams. Westbrook’s seven-game streak of triple-doubles and continued obliteration of opposing defenses boggles the mind. Harden, meanwhile, is the league’s preeminent halfcourt artiste, setting up his teammates and himself in incredibly creative ways night in and night out.

Westbrook averaging a triple-double at seasons end and Harden becoming the first player to lead the league in scoring and assists per game since Tiny Archibald isn’t out of the question.

Jrue Holiday Proved His Worth

Kelly: At the start of the year, Jrue Holiday sat out the first 12 games of the year so he could take care of his wife, Lauren, and new baby. While this was incredibly admirable and 110% necessary, it was very clear the Pelicans missed their point guard. The team went just 2-10 without him and put incredibly pressure on Anthony Davis to score at least 40 points a night to keep them in games. With Holiday back on the floor, the Pelicans rattled off four wins in a row. Obviously their hot streak has cooled considerably, but he still provides them with a second legitimate option behind Anthony Davis and his ability to play defense on everyone from guards to forwards has been incredible so far.

Can the Jazz ever get healthy?

Max: The Jazz are just 15-10, but have a better point differential than both the Spurs and the Rockets, teams with just five and seven losses respectively. Seemingly everyone-Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Alec Burks, George Hill, Rodney Hood- has missed time. Their ideal starting lineup of Hill, Hood, Hayward, Favors and Rudy Gobert has had all five players together just once. This team has had to rely on the depth acquired in the offseason to stay afloat and still looks formidable. Hayward has taken another step forward and Rudy Gobert’s play should get him into the All-Star conversation. If the Jazz manage to get healthy, watch out.

What on Earth is Going on in Washington?

Kelly: Everyone had pretty much conceded the top spot in the East to the Cleveland Cavaliers, but the question for who would come in second, third, etc was pretty much left open. The Wizards, featuring their dynamic duo of John Wall and Bradley Beal, were supposed to be in contention for those next spots, especially after they made certain moves last year to make a push like acquiring Markieff Morris. However, with a myriad of issues, from rumors that Beal and Wall don’t actually get along, to just giving a lackluster effort against teams such as Miami (twice) and Philadelphia. They’re hovering near the 8th spot, but the team just doesn’t seem ready to make that next step forward.

The Golden Age of Toronto basketball

Max: The best offensive team in the NBA through 25 games isn’t the Golden State Warriors- its the Toronto Raptors. That will likely normalize over the course of the season, but the Raptors have been phenomenal. DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry don’t exactly bring the Splash Brothers to mind, but their offensive games are crafty and ruthless. DeRozan is the latest player to see a noticeable jump in production after playing with Team USA and his midrange game has been all kinds of fire. The Raptors fanbase should being glowing watching this team every night.

We’re Still Headed for Cavs-Warriors III

Max: It’s the loudly whispered story of this season. The Spurs, Clippers, Rockets and Raptors have all been impressive this far, but none of those teams feels close to playing on the same plane as the Cavs and the Warriors. Cleveland and Golden State, when totally locked, can run everyone else in the league off the floor. Barring an unforeseen trade or injury, the last gasps of this season will again play out at Oracle and Quicken Loans arenas.

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