The Five Biggest Talking Points Of The NBA Season So Far
We have reached the halfway point of a gripping NBA season that has been packed full of drama, intrigue, heroism and villainy. Events on and off the field have sparked manifold discussions among analysts, ex-pros and armchair fans alike, and here are the five biggest talking points so far:
Who will win the east?
The biggest talking point of the opening week was the horrendous injury suffered by the Boston Celtics’ star player, Gordon Hayward. The Celtics’ chances of finishing top of the east for the second season in a row were widely written off after that, but once again Brad Stevens has proven himself to be a tremendous coach. He is squeezing every last drop of ability out of players like Al Horford, Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, and the Celtics are extremely competitive once again.
The surprise package in the east is the Toronto Raptors, and these two teams are neck-and-neck at the top of the conference at the halfway point. DeMar DeRozan has been on fire for Toronto, and they have the best win percentage in the east. However, the Raptors are still clear outsiders with the bookmakers on https://www.oddschecker.com/au/ to win the conference. The Celtics are in the driving seat as far as the betting sites are concerned, while the team most likely to challenge them is the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Can Cleveland’s new team deliver?
That brings us nicely to our next talking point. The Cavs were enduring a miserable season and looked in grave danger of failing to win the east for the fourth time in a row, so they took drastic measures in the trade deadline. Cleveland went for broke, shattering their roster by dealing Isaiah Thomas, Dwyane Wayde, Derrick Rose, Jae Crowder and Iman Shumpert to sign George Hill, Jordan Clarkson, Rodney Hood and Larry Nance Jr, along with a protected second round draft pick. They have tried to ensure James will stay next season by giving him a team he can lead to the championship, and protected themselves in case he abandons ship by holding onto their first round draft pick. All of a sudden the Cavs look like contenders in the east once again, as they showed by destroying the Celtics in a blowout 121-99 victory on Sunday. James is displaying his best form in years and seems happier with the new men around him, so Cleveland looks a good bet to beat the Celtics to the Eastern Conference title.
Has there ever been a worse team than Phoenix?
The Suns are making a compelling case to be named the worst NBA team of all-time after losing by more than 40 points on four different occasions in the first half of the season. That means they have as many 40-point losses as the rest of the league combined. Before this season they had only ever lost four games by 40 or more points in their entire history, and they have doubled that tally this year. They have the worst record in the league and the team is in desperate need of an overhaul.
Can anyone stop the Warriors?
The Warriors won the NBA Championship with ease last year after adding Kevin Durrant to a super-team already blessed with the talents of Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. They were made heavy favourites to defend their crown this season, and after a shaky start they have found their groove and returned to the top of the Western Conference. The Dubs have the best record in the league once again, with Curry excelling after returning from injury, and Golden State is the clear, odds-on favourite to win a third NBA Championship in four years. A resurgent Cavs or a defensively sound Celtics could provide Golden State a decent obstacle in the Finals, but an even sterner challenge could await Steve Kerr’s men in the Western Conference.
The Houston Rockets have won nine on the bounce and are only one win behind Golden State at the top of the west. When they are injury free they look close to invincible, as James Harden and Chris Paul have formed a devastating backcourt duo and Clint Capela goes from strength to strength. The Rockets are fourth in the NBA futures betting, behind the Cavs and Celtics, and they look great value to seize glory this year. They have gone 2-1 against the Warriors this season and are the form team in the league right now, so it is hard to argue with their credentials. But if Golden State get the better of them, they should cruise to another NBA Finals victory against whoever wins the east.
Who will be named regular season MVP?
The battle to be named regular season MVP has developed into a two-horsed race between Harden and James, and the Rockets star has pulled away in recent weeks. Since returning from a layoff he has recaptured his magnificent form and leads the league in a range of crucial metrics, including points per game and assists.
Harden has twice finished runner-up in the past three years, and it really feels like his time to take the award. Much as it would be great to see James move level with Michael Jordan in the all-time stakes, and the 33-year-old will never have a better chance, Harden is simply putting forward too compelling a case of his own to miss out again. He has been consistently brilliant and at the halfway stage the MVP award is his to lose.
Martin Green is an experienced sports writer and has been covering the NBA for many years. He is a 76ers fan and had to resist the temptation to include Ben Simmons’ All-Star snub in this list.