In these cold winter months, NBA fans tend to find refuge in staying in and turning on their TV’s to see what’s happening with every jam-packed night in the Association—so shout out to these freezing December temperatures; I guess we can attribute that to rekindling our love for the game.
We’re just under the halfway point of a regular season that has most certainly lived up to the hype thus far. Outside of some gravity defying dunks, crazy buzzer beaters, and hilarious post-game sound bites, there hasn’t been a shortage of entertainment just two short months into the season. But what exactly has been the most notable from the 2016/2017 season so far?
Not every team comes charging into the season with high expectations and impressive output; most are presumed to remain immersed in a middle ground of mediocrity among most other teams around the league. But every season there are those select few teams that show up and show out and make all of us eat our words.
The Memphis Grizzlies have done just that. Currently holding the fifth place in a tough Western Conference, the injury-laden Grizzlies have come together to persevere through adversity. Under first-year head coach David Fizdale, this team has embodied their signature “grit and grind” moniker more than ever. Despite missing starters Mike Conley and Zach Randolph to a combined 17 games, the Grizzlies have remained competitive, boasting impressive wins over the Clippers and Warriors among many others.
Another major surprise has also come out of the Western Conference, this time from the Lone-Star state. The Houston Rockets are surging through the league as they hold the third seed in the West led by MVP candidate, James Harden. Following an impressive 10-game win streak, the Rockets are second in the league in both points and assists per game. It’s safe to say that signature Mike D’Antoni offense has kicked in and paid off for a team struggling to find their identity in the past.
We’re all guilty of hyping up teams that we think are going to breakout and have some epic seasons, but that’s not always the case. Then there are those teams that fans expect to be a solid squad, but they fail to even reach the standards of mediocrity.
Following the acquisition of esteemed coach Tom Thibodeau, the Minnesota Timberwolves talented young roster was expected to take the next step and compete for a playoff spot in the West. But thirty games into the season, the T-Wolves hold a familiar stance at the bottom tier of the Western Conference. Their nucleus of Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, and Zach LaVine have put up impressive numbers, but the team as a whole has failed to reach their high expectations.
The Dallas Mavericks have had their own struggles as well this season, but not ones that we are used to seeing from this consistent team in the recent past. Tied for last place in the Western Conference, the Mavs have left NBA fans in awe, but not for the right reasons. With franchise star Dirk Nowitzki missing more games than having played, it’s understandable to take some L’s throughout a lengthy season, but this roster is far too talented to be holding one of the worst records in the league.
Every NBA season gives us a new wave of talent that decide to come into their own and bestow their dope skills to us loyal fans (we’re spoiled, we know). This season hasn’t been any different; if anything, it’s given us even more firepower from some of the most talented players around the league.
Leading the Milwaukee Bucks in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, and plus-minus, Giannis Antetokounmpo is doing pretty much everything and setting franchise records along the way. Antetokounmpo is making a strong case for Most Improved Player and will likely play in his first All-Star game later this season. The Greek Freak made the leap from good, to great, to just plain amazing and he’s only getting started at the ripe age of 22.
It doesn’t seem right to call Russell Westbrook a breakout star when he’s been tearing up the league for years now. But what Westbrook has done so far this season as the lone superstar of the Oklahoma City Thunder has been unreal and can’t be understated. Other than merely averaging a triple-double, Russ has carried his team to a solid 17-12 record and let the league know that he can run the show solo. He’s also given his very lucky fantasy owners some serious bragging rights (and yes, I’m salty he’s not on my team).
It’s that stagnant point in the season where most teams are in an absolute kerfuffle in terms of their record. In the East, seeds four through nine are separated by a mere two games, while in the West, there are a number of identical records rotating every night. As usual, playoff seeding will come down to the wire in both conferences and we should be granted with some thrilling matchups.
So, with a little over 45 games left in the regular season, much is to be seen: who will attain home court advantage for the playoffs? Which players will make their All-Star debuts? And who will be leaving fans in awe as an insane season continues on? Stay tuned; things are just getting started.