With most teams approaching the 41 game mark this weekend, it’s time to take a look at where things stand, and see what I got right and what I got very wrong in my preseason predictions!
Through scandals, injuries, and whatever the hell is going on with Kawhi Leonard, the NBA is nearing the halfway point in the season! Some things are going exactly as expected, while others are completely out of left field. Let’s dive into what I got right, and more importantly, what I got wrong!
Three things I was big RIGHT on…
1- LeBron James is still elite…
You would think that people would stop doubting LeBron and Brady, but yet people still seem to think that the normal rules apply to them. LeBron is still averaging 29 a game and keeping an ATROCIOUS Lakers team in the periphery of the playoffs without *surprise surprise* Anthony Davis. LeBron is still playing at an ALL-NBA level, and if you don’t see it then I don’t know what to tell you. Someday, will LeBron be even an average player? Probably. But I will NEVER be ahead of that curve. I will believe that when I see it, and I haven’t seen anything indicating that yet.
2- Philadelphia would turn it around…
I wasn’t hitting the panic button after 5 games, but I didn’t feel great about the 76ers when they were 1-4. But I did believe that my Finals pick would turn things around and look like they are true contenders, and they have. They’ve now put themselves in a good position to get home court in the first round, and see where things go from there.
3- The Suns would set…
Firstly, fantastic word play there. Second, I was spot-on with this team. No team could possibly come back from that spanking in the playoffs at the hands of Luka and the Mavericks. It wasn’t like the 2013 Spurs who just lost on a buzzer-beater (okay, that was only game 6, and it only forced overtime. It might as well have been for the series!). At least those Spurs came back knowing they were good enough to win, just came up one rebound short. The Suns were pathetic in that game, and it was a sorry display of effort for all those hard-working fans who paid serious money to go to that game. That game was a joke, and so is this Suns team moving forward. Yes, they’ve had injuries this year, but I don’t think even being healthy will be enough for these Suns to rise again (too much? A second may have been too much).
Three things I was big WRONG on…
1- The Raptors would be good…
Thankfully they are showing some signs of life lately, but this has been ugly so far. Nick Nurse is a top-5 coach, Siakam is playing at an All-NBA level, and somehow they aren’t even in the play-in right now. I am hopeful things will turn around, but I have to admit my confidence in them has been rattled.
2- The Nets were bad…
I have no fucking clue with this team.
3- The Timberwolves would be good…
I was always doubtful this team could get to the Finals, but I did believe that Rudy Gobert could help them become a really good regular season team. IT doesn’t help that Edwards couldn’t be bothered to start the season in shape; it’s always concerning when a PROFESSIONAL ATHLETE isn’t in shape because, you know, they’re literally paid to be in shape, but it’s especially concerning when an athlete in their VERY early 20’s is out of shape. I had college teammates who lived off of nicotine and whiskey and stayed in phenomenal shape (you know who you are). This team should be much better, but now they’re headed towards blowing things up.
Iiiiiit’s Wemby time! Let’s take a look at the Wemby Vibes Index and see who the best realistic fits for the French Alien are:
#5 San Antonio Spurs
I really hope this doesn’t happen, because this roster is awful, but at least with the Spurs he will have a great coach. Pop can teach him the ropes in the NBA, and get his career off on the right foot.
#4 Charlotte Hornets
Obviously, as a Hornets fan, I’m praying nightly for this. However, even I must admit, Charlotte has looked even worse than expected. And not in a good way. I hoped they would have an abysmal record, and they do. But I also hoped that LaMelo would at least look improved amidst the losing, but he looks like he may be heading down a dark NBA path. I hope they get him, but they don’t deserve him.
#3 Orlando Magic
Paolo has been amazing, and this would be an elite pairing. Plus, they could have maybe the longest team in NBA history.
#2 Oklahoma City Thunder
They keep rising here as SGA develops into a superstar. If they can pair him with Wembanyama and Holmgren, this team could be really special really, really soon.
#1 New Orleans Pelicans
This team has taken great strides, and this would be the final piece of a championship team. A Zion-Wemby duo could break the NBA, and most certainly would be everyone’s favorite 2K team. If my Hornets can’t get him, this could be fun.
Now let’s hand out some awards!
Regular Season Awards
Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks)
This is a historically close race, and I imagine will be through the finish line. Tatum, Durant, Giannis, Jokic, and Embiid are all going to have fantastic arguments, but I see Luka edging them all out. Now a lot of this depends on the records; if the Mavericks fall into the play-in, he has no chance. But if he can keep them hovering around the 4 seed, he is in a great spot. On top of that, he’s likely to win the scoring title which would matter.
Defensive Player of the Year
Brook Lopez (Milwaukee Bucks)
I imagine that I will change off of this pick as the season goes along, but right now I want to recognize Lopez. He’s been awesome! Once a defensive liability, he has been a solid anchor for the Bucks defense and is near the top of the league in blocks. What a great story!
Coach of the Year
Jacque Vaughn (Brooklyn Nets)
I was flatly wrong about Steve Nash. I thought it was wrong to fire him, that no one could coach this dumpster fire of a team, and that he was the Jack to Durant’s Rose (Titanic reference for those who are keeping score). But, I was wrong. Either Nash is truly awful at coaching, or Durant and IRving hated him so much that they intentionally blew this up to get him fired (unlikely since they literally hand-picked Nash to coach them, but NBA superstars are fickle like that). Vaughn took over a sinking ship and has them absolutely rolling, so he should be the coach of the year.
Rookie of the Year
Paolo Banchero (Orlando Magic)
Paolo has been balling and deserves this. One of the better rookie seasons I’ve seen in a long time. Things are looking up in Orlando!
Sixth Man of the Year
Bones Hyland (Denver Nuggets)
Jordan Poole has not been great so far, and the Nuggets deserve some representation in the awards, so here comes Bones!
Stan Van Gundy Coaching Award (Worst coaching job)
Steve Nash (Brooklyn Nets)
See my Coach of the Year comments. ^^
Allen Iverson Award (Most exciting player to watch)
LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers)
That’s right! The dude is 38 years old, and he’s scoring nearly 30 a night. It’s exciting to watch James play every night to see how many he can score and if he can lift this sorry Lakers team to the win. Plus, he’s likely to break the scoring record before the 3rd Quarter Polls, which makes him even more exciting.
Rasheed Wallace Award (Most impactful trade/buyout player)
Jakob Poeltl to somewhere
Poeltl has surprisingly been one of the biggest names on the market, and I think he can make a real difference for a team looking to make a run. Whether it’s the Warriors, Mavericks or Raptors, Poeltl can really help a playoff team.
Jeremy Lin Award (Hottest 2-week stretch from a random player)
Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks)
This is not the spirit of the award; it’s supposed to go to a relative unknown who gets hot. But Luka was so extraordinarily hot when he was dropping 60 point triple doubles, we have to give it to him.
1st Team All-NBA
G- Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks)
G- Ja Morant (Memphis Grizzlies)
F- Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics)
F- Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)
C- Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets)
2nd Team All-NBA
G- Steph Curry (Golden State Warriors)
G- Donovan Mitchell (Cleveland Cavaliers)
F- Kevin Durant (Brooklyn Nets)
F- LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers)
C- Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers)
3rd Team All-NBA
G- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Oklahoma City Thunder)
G- Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns)
F- Pascal Siakam (Toronto Raptors)
F- Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers)
C- Brook Lopez (Milwaukee Bucks)
Now for the fun stuff; the playoff predictions!
8 Chicago Bulls def 7 New York Knicks
10 Toronto Raptors def 9 Atlanta Hawks
7 New York Knicks def 10 Toronto Raptors
I think this Hawks team is drawing dead, and don’t think for a second they’re getting out of the play-in. Toronto is a tough one for me, but I like the Jalen Brunson story and think the Knicks sneak through.
7 Phoenix Suns def 8 Sacramento Kings
9 Los Angeles Lakers def 10 Minnesota Timberwolves
9 Los Angeles Lakers def 8 Sacramento Kings
Oh, Sacramento. You tried so hard! And we’re all very, very proud of you. But LeBron James is going to bulldoze you out of the play-in and unfortunately your playoff drought will continue.
East 1st Round
1 Boston Celtics def 8 New York Knicks 4-0
2 Philadelphia 76ers def 7 Chicago Bulls 4-1
3 Milwaukee Bucks def 6 Miami Heat 4-2
4 Brooklyn Nets def 5 Cleveland Cavaliers 4-3
The Celtics are the best team in the league. Assuming health, they will obliterate the Knicks.
Philadelphia has to answer one simple question: Can Harden elevate his play in the postseason? I think they get by Chicago regardless of whether he can or can’t, but this team should have a higher goal than getting by the Bulls in the first round.
The Heat are always plucky and just a pain in the ass to play, but Giannis is too great to go down this early.
And there are the Nets. I don’t know. Sure? I like this Cavs team way more, but assuming Durant is healthy and Kyrie hasn’t pissed off yet another major religion, I just think the NEts will have too much firepower. I don’t like this Cleveland! I will be rooting for you I promise.
West 1st Round
1 Denver Nuggets def 8 Los Angeles Lakers 4-1
2 Memphis Grizzlies def 7 Phoenix Suns 4-3
6 Golden State Warriors def 3 New Orleans Pelicans 4-2
5 Dallas Mavericks def 4 Los Angeles Clippers 4-2
Unfortunately my love for LeBron can’t transcend how terribly Rob Pelinka has constructed this roster. If you want to blame LeBron for the Russ trade last year, fine. But he was clearly pushing for them to trade him, they had offers, and they didn’t. This is no longer on James, it’s on the Lakers and they have failed the G.O.A.T. Jokic will slice this sorry team up in 5 games.
The Suns will put up a valiant effort, but this Grizzlies team has some edge. Give me the Grizz in 7.
Heeeeere we go. Everyone wants to bury the Warriors now, but once the playoffs start and it’s Jose Alvarado and Dyson Daniels standing opposite Steph Curry and Klay F*cking Thompson, some tunes will change. The Pelicans are a fun story but the Warriors will get through them.
Luka. That’s it, that’s the reasoning. And it’s not like Kawhi Leonard will be playing anyway, so this will fairly textbook for Dallas.
East 2nd Round
1 Boston Celtics def 4 Brooklyn Nets 4-1
3 Milwaukee Bucks def 2 Philadelphia 76ers 4-2
Alright, this Nets stuff is over now. They won’t be able to touch this Celtics team with the defense they play and the athletic wings Boston can throw at them.
This is a Giannis pick. Embiid is great, but if Harden lays another egg they have no chance. I hope it doesn’t happen, but if you’re asking me to bet on either A) Giannis being awesome or B) Harden exercising demons, yeah. I’m going with Giannis.
West 2nd Round
1 Denver Nuggets def 5 Dallas Mavericks 4-1
6 Golden State Warriors def 2 Memphis Grizzlies 4-2
I love Luka, but he just doesn’t have the horses to keep up with Denver. The Nuggets have the far superior team.
Warriors vs. Grizzlies is quickly becoming arguably the best rivalry in the NBA. These teams hate each other, and I love it. Klay Thompson genuinely looks like he wants to fight Dillon Brooks every time they play (can’t say I blame him there), and this will be another great chapter in the rivalry. Give me Warriors in a classic.
Eastern Conference Finals
1 Boston Celtics def 2 Milwaukee Bucks 4-3
The Celtics are so good. Milwuakee has been really floundering since their incredible start, and the arrows appear to be pointing in opposite directions. I think it goes 7 because of my respect for Giannis, but the Celtics find a way to get through. Also, Jaylen Brown wins the East Finals MVP in an upset over Tatum.
Western Conference Finals
1 Denver Nuggets def 6 Golden State Warriors 4-3
I think this is where all these struggles the Warriors have dealt with all season finally catch up to them. Jokic had no help when they met last year, but now he’s got his guys back. If this dude is really as good as everyone makes him out to be, this is where he needs to prove it and get to a Finals. And he wins the West Finals MVP. I mean, come on. It’s obviously him.
1 Boston Celtics def 1 Denver Nuggets 4-2 (Finals MVP: Jayson Tatum)
I think losing to the Warriors humbled this team, and motivated them to come back better than ever. Tatum avenges his brutal performance from last year a la LeBron in 2012. Give me the Celts, give me Tatum, and give me a drink when I have to listen to all my Boston friends at the bahs goin nuts and asking me if I like them apples (I do not).
There you have it! My second quarter polls for the 2022-23 NBA season. Make sure to check back in regularly at The Circuit to see what we got right, and more importantly, what we got very very wrong.