What a great NBA season so far. At this point in the season, we really start to figure out what each team is all about. As we near the midpoint of the NBA season, the playoff picture is becoming more and more clear. Take a look at the current playoff picture below.
Playoff Picture Via NBA.com
There are many storylines developing as the second half of the season approaches. Will the Thunder make the playoffs? Is Stephen Curry the MVP? Can anybody stop the Warriors in the West or the Hawks in the East? Will the Cavaliers get it together?
Where will the chips fall when the 82nd regular season game for each team is in the books?
1. Golden State Warriors
The Warriors are simply dominating the league, despite a rookie coach. Injuries to David Lee and Andrew Bogut, two key players on their team, have not slowed this team in the slightest. They had a nice 16-game winning streak going earlier in the season, and they are currently up to 8 in a row. Stephen Curry has established himself as the MVP favorite halfway through the season. There is no stopping this Golden State Warriors right now.
2. Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers and the Warriors have previously lived as lower seeded playoff teams with strong playoff bids. Now everything has changed. The Blazers are a force to be reckoned with in the West. Damian Lillard has been a star from his first day in the NBA, and he is the most responsible for the success of this team. He and Steph Curry have recently come out with each of their first signature shoes. That should let you these two young Point Guards are ascending into stardom quickly.
3. Houston Rockets
With newly arrived Josh Smith joining the Rockets, this team is in a prime position to seriously compete for a title. They have been among the best in the West so far this year. James Harden is having a season worthy of a possible MVP, as he has become a true leader of this team. Dwight Howard, when healthy, has been a beast in the paint as well.
4. San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs have understandably not been so dominant this season thus far, dealing with injuries to some pretty important players (Aka Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli, Kawhi Leonard). Realistically, this is the probably the best seed the Spurs can grab at this point in the season, as they are currently in 7th in the Conference. However, we know that their current record speaks nothing of the serious title contender they are, so fully expect the Spurs to be in complete playoff form come June.
5. Memphis Grizzlies
Trading Tayshaun Prince may come back to haunt the Grizzlies. They will miss his experience and especially his defensive play. This team is a lot better than their seed may suggest, but there are just a lot of good teams in the West. The Grizzlies are a fun team to watch and play that all-around team basketball that is so apparent in winning teams. Mike Conley has been a real hero.
6. Dallas Mavericks
Despite a 1-8 record against the current Western teams in the playoff picture, the Mavericks have promise. They have a team on paper that should be able to contend for a title, we just haven’t really seen it yet. They have plenty of opportunities coming up to prove themselves as elite in the West. Rajon Rondo may end up the key cog here.
7. Los Angeles Clippers
It is very hard to succeed in the Western Conference, and the Clippers window for title contention (with the current roster they have) may be closing. Chris Paul has not yet led this team past the Second Round of the playoffs, and they have not been playing up to the level they were at last year. However, they are a good enough team to get in the playoffs as one of the bottom seeds in the West, and they always are dangerous. Don’t count them out!
8. Oklahoma City Thunder
They certainly have their fans scared with a poor start to the season, but I think they will be able to oust the Suns for the 8th spot, but their margin for error at this point is thin. I just don’t think that the reigning MVP will miss out on the postseason, even with the odds stacked up against him.
1. Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks have become the new and improved Spurs, in the sense that they play fundamental team basketball with great chemistry and no true “Superstar” (although I do consider Tim Duncan to be a Superstar). The Hawks are an exciting young team to watch, and there is no one in the East that can catch them right now.
2. Chicago Bulls
Derrick Rose has been logging solid minutes for the Bulls for the first time in years, which will soon pay off for the Bulls once he gets back into his rhythm (IF he gets back into his rhythm). Pau Gasol has been playing like he’s 25, and he scored a career high on Saturday against the Bucks.
3. Washington Wizards
The Wizards are quietly becoming one of the better teams of the East. John Wall is playing at a high level, and he is making everyone around him better. To make my point clear, they are a team that is 100% under the radar at this point in the season, which is a great place to be.
4. Toronto Raptors
The young Toronto Raptors have in my mind officially joined the batch of young contenders in the East. The defensive struggles for the Raptors have been somewhat of a problem early in the season, but they have a good nucleus of young players who can gain experience.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavaliers have had their struggles this year, and the transition to the new Big 3 has not gone as smoothly as planned. And the turmoil that would surround the Cavs with going into the playoffs without a favorable seed is something we may see. But this team is just not meshing, and I don’t think they can catch Toronto. However, they are definitely good enough to catch up to the Bucks. Lebron is healthy now, and the Cavs have a chance to find their playoff form in the coming months.
6. Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks have been maybe one of the more surprising teams in the League, in a good way. Even with the loss of 2nd overall pick Jabari Parker they still look strong enough to make the playoffs in the lowly East. Brandon Knight has been playing some great ball as of late.
7. Miami Heat
The Miami Heat drop from the 2nd seed of 2014 to the 7th seed of 2015. This has to have been expected with the loss of LeBron in free agency, but they are still good enough to sneak in (in the East). Luol Deng, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade make up enough talent to bring them back to the postseason.
8. Charlotte Hornets
Whether or not this team trades Lance Stephenson before the deadline, the Hornets will surprisingly be in the 2015 Playoffs, mostly because of Kemba Walker. Kemba has led this team to many victories already, coming up huge down the stretch of games. Al Jefferson is also returning soon, making this team’s late season push more likely.
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