It’s been an insane two and a half months of NBA ball. The season has yet to reach its halfway point but the league has already sent us reeling on our couches with Nolan-esque plot twists coming from all angles.
So, to get you up to speed with all the thrills and spills around the Association, we present the NBA Almost-Mid-Season Report, featuring the biggest storylines that have been shaped the NBA landscape thus far.
Get reading, fellow hoop junkies!
Crisis in Cleveland?
At the start of the season with LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love at the forefront of the Cleveland Cavaliers franchise, the Ohio team became instant favorites to win the East, and possibly the entire thing.
But so far, things have panned out about as smoothly as Javale McGee’s post moves. As of the moment, the Cavaliers (19W-20L) aren’t doing much better than Milwaukee (20W-19L), a ball club whose main draw is a Greek import with Mr. Fantastic's limbs.
Cleveland’s woes stem from a number of reasons including but not limited to their LeBron-centric offense, their defensive deficiencies—no thanks to Love—and rookie NBA head coach David Blatt’s lack of command. The wine and gold-clad ballers have clearly underwhelmed and King James is not amused.
Video via tw dong
Considering that LBJ is under contract to stay in Cleveland for only a year, it looks like the Cavs management have already pressed the panic button. In an attempt to keep Bron happy and keep him from taking his talents elsewhere AGAIN, they traded for New York's Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith. They also made a deal to get Denver's serviceable center Timofey Mozgov. Question is, how will these new guys fit in a team that's already filled with guys that are new to playing with one another?
Ladies and Gentlemen, Meet Your 2014-2015 New York Nix
Although nobody bet on the Knicks to win the championship this year, we thought they would be good enough to at least compete with the better teams in the East. Especially since the Eastern Conference isn’t as stacked with powerhouse squads as the West is.
But Carmelo and his cohorts came into the season as flat as a tire with multiple punctures. As of this writing, the Knicks have won a staggering five games, enough to beat Minnesota (six wins!) and Philadelphia (seven wins!) to become the NBA’s worst team. Compounding their issues are injury problems, most notably Carmelo's, thus forcing coach Derek Fisher's hand into fielding a starting five that’s about as fierce as your grandmother’s 70-year-old pet cat:
PG – Jose Calderon
SG – Tim Hardaway Jr.
C – Cole Aldrich
PF – Jason Smith
SF – Quincy Acy
Has Knicks president Phil Jackson thrown in the towel and decided to just go full tank mode? It looks very much like it. In fact, the New York squad has been so bad that some of their fans have resorted to highly unconventional methods just to stand watching their team’s embarrassing play.
Video via watchnba201415
Jimmy Buckets and Pau Gasol 2.0 Become Alpha-Bulls
Fantasy GMs who picked Chicago’s Jimmy Butler early in their respective drafts are either geniuses or just really, really lucky mother-effers. Who knew Jimmy Butler III was poised to lead the Bulls in scoring? If you’re that guy, we want to meet you so we can ask for winning lottery numbers.
The fourth year shooting guard out of Marquette is averaging 21.4 ppg., an 8.3 point increase from his previous offensive output average. But not only has Jimmy Buckets been torching the nets, he's also been the Bulls’ most clutch player. Just take a look at this game winner against the Hawks:
Video via NBA
If that's not enough pudding for you, check out his cold blooded free throws versus Minnesota (skip to 2:10).
Sorry, D. Rose. We’re glad to see you back and relatively healthy but right now it looks like there’s a new sheriff in Chi-town. If Jimmy Buckets keeps his guns blazing until the end of the season, he’s locked in to win the league’s Most Improved Player trophy.
Holding down the fort in the Windy City together with Butler is the reinvigorated Pau Gasol. Suiting up for the Bulls may have been the best thing to happen late in the Spanish big man’s career. The former Laker has been playing like the 2008-10 conquistador version of himself as he’s again dropping 18+ points a game and crashing the glass for a very nice 11.3 rebounds per outing.
He peaked on January 11, 2014 vs. Milwaukee, where the 34-year old bullied his way to a career-high 46 points and 18 boards. The signs are looming, the duo of Jimmy and Pau has the makings of a one-two punch that can really bust through the Eastern Conference.
The Atlanta Spurs este Hawks
The Eastern Conference-leading Hawks (30W-8L) have been playing basketball so beautifully this season that they’ve been compared to the reigning champs San Antonio Spurs. Yes, you read that right: Atlanta is Number One in the East and the team is playing excellent ball.
Practicing sublime teamwork, that’s what the Hawks have been busy doing this season. All five starters are scoring in double digits led by point guard Jeff Teague and all-star forward Paul Millsap with 17.5 ppg And 17.0 ppg, respectively. PPGs. Sixth man Dennis Schroder, who looks and plays similar to Rajon Rondo, is averaging 8.0 ppg. The balanced attack is a testament to the unselfishness of the Hawks and the efficient system employed by Atlanta’s headmaster, Mike Budenholzer, who have transformed these dirty birds from a run-of-the-mill outfit into dangerous high-flying birds of prey.
They’ve already had a stretch early in the season wherein they won 14 out of 15 games and they’re starting to get used to notching five to seven victories in a row. Atlanta’s moniker Hotlanta has never sounded more appropriate, punctuated by Kyle Korver's 50-percent three-point shooting clip.
Fifty percent?! He's become as automatic as a GIF:
Surprise: Washington and Toronto Are the New Eastern Powers
Gone are the days when the East was all about Miami, Indiana, and Chicago. Aside from Atlanta, supplanting the Heat and the Pacers in the east coast top tier are Toronto (25W-12L) and Washington (26W-12L). The Raptors floor general, Kyle Lowry, has been playing like a bona fide franchise player, with stellar across the board averages of 20.0 ppg., 4.8 rpg., 7.6 apg. and 1.5 spg.
Lowry, whose unwavering drive on the court resembles the tenacity of a bulldog, has willed his mates to making it all the way to the top tier of the Eastern Conference this season. And although the soaring Hawks and the surging Bulls have overtaken them in the overall East standings recently, the dinosaurs from Canada still rule over the Atlantic Division with no one hot on their trail.
Image via Cbssports.com
Like Toronto, the Wizards’ magical campaign is also spearheaded by their premier point guard, John Wall, who has been looking a lot like the best PG in the NBA these days. The numbers he’s putting up have been startling. He leads the Wizards with 17.2 ppg. and has been Merlin-like with the basketball with a league-leading 10.3 apg. The 2010 number one overall pick also gives his team a couple of extra possessions and easy baskets with his 2.1 spg.
2014 Draft Class, Anyare?
The 2014 Draft class was highly touted to rival the awesomeness of the 1984 batch highlighted by names like Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon and Charles Barkley. But as we soon found out, its chances to live up to the hype are about as good as Praybeyt Benjamin’s shot at winning an Oscar. One may argue that the thing to blame for the freshmen’s failure to impress is the injury bug. Eight of the 14 lottery picks have already been hurt, causing them to be sidelined for an ample amount of time.
A couple of this season’s more popular draftees were also casualties as No. 2 pick Jabari Parker and promising Lakers PF Julius Randle will miss the rest of the season due to knee and foot problems, respectively. But even if all the lauded newbies were healthy it’s unlikely that they would’ve torn up the stat sheets. Before Jabari, the “super scorer” of the bunch, went down he was just tallying 12.3 ppg for the Bucks.
Andrew Wiggins of the T’Wolves, the frontrunner to be named ROY, is the hottest guy among his peers but his 14.5 ppg., 1.6 apg., and 4.2 rpg. are quite modest. Those numbers are a far cry from MJ’s 28.2 ppg. in his neophyte season. Comparing the two crops of talent is a plain mismatch like a one-on-one game between June Mar Fajardo and Manny Pacquiao.
But all is not lost. One good thing these young guns have going for them is that, well, they're young guns. They’ve got more than enough time ahead to make up for what’s turning to be a forgettable rookie year.
Despite the missed projections though, there have been some bright performances:
Video via Dawk Ins
Dishonorably Discharged in Detroit: Josh Smith
Image via Cbssports.com
On December 22, 2014, an unprecedented waiving of a player in the NBA went down, which was so unique mostly because of the star status of the individual involved. Three days before Christmas, the Pistons waived one of their marquee players in Josh Smith.
The versatile forward practically shot his way out of Detroit. His teammates Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe have a much more dominant inside presence and that forced J. Smoove out of the paint. And just in case you didn't know, Josh Smith lurking around the perimeter especially in three-point land is as effective as drinking more alcohol to get rid of a hangover.
The former Hawks star was shooting 26 percent from long distance before Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy asked him to look for a new nest which would eventually be Houston. Since releasing the 2005 Slam Dunk Champ, The Pistons have become one of the most entertaining and dangerous teams in the NBA, winning seven in a row and beating the likes of the Spurs and the Mavs. On Houston’s end, it’s yet to be determined if Josh can truly fit into Coach Kevin McHale’s system or if he’s a poison to all NBA teams like what the harsh trolls of the Internet world are saying.
The Golden State Warriors’ Golden Season
We knew the Warriors were good but we didn’t know they’re 29-5 good. The Dubs have won 85 percent of their games and they’re doing it by giving Class A effort on both ends on the floor. It’s common knowledge that Golden State can shoot the lights out with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson's sniping but the firm commitment on D is a breath of fresh air.
The improvement on defense has been magnified by Curry’s league-best 2.21 spg. It’s a sign that the three-point demigod has developed into a respectable defender, polishing off one of the few flaws in his game. Under Steve Kerr’s watch, the Warriors have become the best and most entertaining team in the NBA. The high octane offense has remained but everything is done within the confines of team ball. The starters are all averaging double figures in point production led by Steph’s 22.9 ppg. and Klay’s 21.6 ppg.
These guys have been so good, it’s almost unfair.
Video via Best NBA Mixes101
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