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.
The point guard is the most important position in the game of basketball. He controls the floor and creates scoring opportunities for his team. This season, the role of a point guard has proved to be huge, as some teams ail without one, and others thrive with one. Here is a look at who I have as the top five point guards who are currently in the NBA.
5. Tony Parker- The five time All-Star continues to play at quite an elite level. At age 30, the Frenchman has won three championships and has been putting up staggering figures since entering the league in 2001. For his career, Parker is averaging 17 points per game, 6 assists, and 1 steal. This year, Parker is recording some of his highest stats ever, averaging 7.5 assists per game and 20.1 points per game. Parker’s San Antonio Spurs are currently first in the Western Conference.
4. Russell Westbrook- He is a point guard who can butcher a opposing teams by passing or shooting. Russell has both a signature pullup jump shot and an ability to attack the hoop. These assets are helping him 19.4 points per game in his career, and 22.5 this season. Not to mention his passing, dishing 7 assists per game over five seasons, and 8.4 this season. On the defensive side, Westbrook’s quickness has earned him 1.6 steals per game in his career, along with about 5 rebounds per game. Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City are second in the West.
3. Rajon Rondo- The Boston Celtics look like they may not reach the playoffs with the absence of their offensive leader. Rondo’s season sadly ended a few days ago with an ACL tear, but he is still one of the best players in the game. Scoring wise, Rondo is not too effective, but his court vision is astonishing. In the past three seasons, Rondo has averaged 11.3 assists per game. To go along with his feistiness towards players and referees, Rondo is a plain nuisance when he steps on the court. Here’s a clip of Rajon Rondo’s best passes from the 2011-2012 season.
2. Derrick Rose- Like Rondo, Derrick Rose has had to miss this season due to an ACL tear that happened last May. Although, Rose will miss essentially the 2012-2013 season, I still see him as one of the best. He was the youngest player to receive the MVP award at just 22. Over the course of his short career, Rose has averaged 6.8 assists per game and 21 points. When I look at Derrick Rose, though, I see probably the most explosive player in the NBA. His leaping ability for dunks is unreal, and he has speed like no other. Plus, the Chicago Bulls are still one of the best teams in the NBA, even without their star player. When Derrick Rose returns, Chicago could potentially represent the East in the NBA Finals. The Bulls sit at third in the Eastern Conference, 2½ games out of first place.
1. Chris Paul- Paul has led the Los Angeles Clippers to one of the best records in the NBA. To go along with a great record, the Clippers are undoubtedly the most dynamic team in the NBA. Without Chris Paul, L.A. would not even be in playoff contention. Paul is averaging nearly 10 assists per game in eight seasons. He is also putting up 18.7 points per game in what has been quite an illustrious career. As a six time All-Star and two time Olympic gold medalist, Paul continues to work for an NBA Championship.
The point guard controls the floor, but the shooting guard is the one who can hit the big time shots. Coming up, I will rank who I believe are the top five shooting guards in the NBA. Stay tuned.