All-Star weekend in Houston is over, and the trade deadline has been met. A handful of teams have surprised the world, while others have been utterly disappointing. With the month of February coming to an end, here is what you need to know about the NBA today.
Starting in the Western Conference, the Los Angeles Lakers have essentially been a failure. Before the season, small forward Metta World Peace believed the Lakers could win 73 games, something that has never been done. L.A. has only won 28 games with 24 remaining. Mathematically, it looks like the Lakers will not be winning 73 games. Kobe Bryant is more than confident that Los Angles will make a late season push into the playoffs, yet the Lakers are currently ninth in the West.
The San Antonio Spurs are as good as they seem. Though the Spurs may be old, this team currently has a 45-13 record, the best in the NBA. Tony Parker is averaging 21.1 points per game on the year, and Tim Duncan is rebounding around 10 times per game. Many believe the team is so old that they have forgotten how to lose. San Antonio looks like a legitimate contender for the NBA championship.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are the same, explosive team as last season. However, the loss of James Harden is proving to be a burden for OKC. The Thunder are just 17-9 in the new year, but are still second in the West. Kevin Durant is making his case for MVP, leading the league in scoring, averaging 28.8 points per game. Oklahoma City is still a tough place to play at, and that could hold well for the Thunder come playoff time.
To me, the surprises of the West are the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets. Golden State is a young team that is statistically one of the better teams in the league. The Clippers are third in the West and have a roster that can win match-ups against nearly any team. No one expected the Houston Rockets to be where they are right now. James Harden has Houston eighth in the West after being predicted to finish last in the conference. The obvious disappointment is the Lakers, but I also think of Minnesota as a disappointment. Although Kevin Love is out, I did not expect the Timberwolves to have a record of 20-33. Next season, Minnesota could be a serious playoff contender.
In the Eastern Conference, the Miami Heat are dominating. LeBron James is at the top of his game right now, averaging 27 points per game with a field goal percentage of 57. Plus James is grabbing a career high 8.1 rebounds per game along with 7.1 assists per game. He is the frontrunner for the MVP, and the Miami Heat are frontrunners for the title, currently first in the East at 40-14.
The Indiana Pacers are on the rise with the return of Danny Granger. The Pacers are virtually and physically the only team in the East with a chance of beating the Heat in the playoffs. Their size and athleticism gives Indiana a colossal advantage over some teams, more notably Miami. The Pacers are second in the East, trailing the Heat by six games.
The East may not be too competitive, but the New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls have been impressive thus far. The Knicks got off to a hot start at the beginning of the year, going 11-4 in November, but have since fallen to third in the East. Carmelo Anthony is having the best season of his career as he looks to carry New York to a high seed in the playoffs. The Chicago Bulls have been missing their star player in Derrick Rose the entire season, yet are still in playoff contention. With Rose’s return coming any time he feels like he can play, the Bulls will only be better. The Boston Celtics are the only disappointment to me in the East. They lost point guard Rajon Rondo to injury, but I feel like they should be better than 30-27. Boston had a chance to go to the Finals last season, but it looks like a championship run is out of the Celtic picture.
As the race for awards begins, here are some of my predictions for the more major awards.
Rookie of the Year- Damian Lillard, Portland Trailblazers
Sixth Man of the Year- Jamal Crawford, Los Angeles Clippers
Coach of the Year- Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs
Most Improved Player- Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia 76ers
Most Valuable Player- LeBron James, Miami Heat
2012-2013 NBA Champion- Miami Heat over San Antonio Spurs (4-3)
With about two months left, the rest of this NBA season should shape out to be an exciting one.