The All-Star break is in the rear-view mirror, superstars have traded places, and now it’s time for the stretch run in the NBA! Check out where YOUR team stands with just under 20 games to go in the season!
This is arguably the best time of the NBA calendar, with both the All-Star break and trade deadline clumped together. With superstars changing jerseys and teams making their final push to the playoffs, let’s look at what I got right and what I got wrong about the 2021-22 season!
Three things I was big RIGHT on…
1- The Brooklyn Nets Would Implode…
HA! There is a God, and boy are they laughing at the Nets supporters right now. This team was a dumpster fire from day one, and how anyone thought they were title contenders before the season is beyond me. THE TWO BEST PLAYERS EACH REQUESTED A TRADE IN THE OFFSEASON. I don’t need Stats & Info to tell me a team has never won a title with that happening (man I hope I’m right on that one). And the funniest thing of all, is both KD & Kyrie look great elsewhere. And fuck you, Brooklyn, for not sending Kyrie to the Lakers.
2- The Bulls Would Miss the Play-In…
This team gives off a lot of bad vibes, and the Lonzo thing cursed this team before they even had a chance. They still might make the play-in, but don’t count on it. I haven’t all season.
3- The Warriors Would be Alright After All…
I can’t believe people really thought they were done. How many times do you have to see them win titles before you realize their regular seasons don’t matter? The only team in the West that can beat them is Phoenix. I just hope they can avoid each other in the first round…
Now for the fun!
Three things I was big WRONG on…
1- The Lakers…
I don’t even know man. I thought they would be a play-in team before the season, and it looks like I’ll be right about that. But this is more of a day-to-day being wrong about them thing. One day they look like true contenders, the next they look like the 3rd worst team in the league. One day I don’t like Davis, the next day I do like him. I don’t know. It’s just safe to assume whatever I think about my team, I’m wrong.
2- The Raptors Were Legit…
What the fuck? Granted, I was way lower on Barnes than everyone else was after last season (Really? You wouldn’t trade a teenager who can barely shoot for Kevin Durant? Give me a break. Phoenix couldn’t ship Bridges out of town fast enough, and he’s way better than Barnes is. I digress). But Nick Nurse is still an elite coach, and Siakam is an elite forward. I thought for sure they would be better than this. Dammit!
3- The Hornets Could Properly Suck…
What in the HELL is going on in Charlotte? I feel like I’m allowed to have two teams I root for because the combined competence of both the Lakers & the Hornets might equal that of the Rockets, the worst team in the league. I knew Charlotte couldn’t win because their owner sucks (would love to see the Jordan sycophants blindly defend him here like they always do), but I at least thought they could lose. But no. They hired a bad coach, whom we just fired a couple seasons ago, and here they are going on 5 game winning streaks and costing themselves the best odds for Wembanyama. STOP WINNING. I would rather you go 0-82 than 24-58. Oh, and you got LaMelo’s ankle broken. Buzz you, Hornets! Buzz you!
Now let’s take a look at where our Wemby Vibes Index stands:
#5 Charlotte Hornets
See my above comments^. This does not deserve nice things! Or my fandom! I am in a toxic relationship!
#4 New Orleans Pelicans
Wow this team has fallen off a cliff. I dropped them from #1 to #4 for two main reasons: Firstly, the Lakers aren’t going to get the top pick, I feel pretty safe in saying that they are too good for that (cue mirror smashing in the background). And secondly, I’m done with Zion. Dude is out of shape and can’t stay on the court. Tremendous talent, but that means nothing if you’d rather wear sweatpants than uniforms. This kid doesn’t want it badly enough, and I don't want that mentality anywhere near Wembanyama.
#3 Oklahoma City Thunder
This would be a lot of fun. SGA-Wemby-Chet lineups with inserting two of any given players with the last name Williams would be the most fun lineup in the league. I think they’re too good to get him, but this would be Presti’s masterpiece.
#2 San Antonio Spurs
They’re the most boring team in the league, nobody wants to watch them. But at least if Wemby went here he would be with a great coach in a great organization. Plus, those fiesta uniforms are some of the very best threads in the association.
#1 Orlando Magic
They have karma on their side. Paolo is already a borderline all-star, Wagner is Manu 2.0, and they’re playing hard every night (the difference between the Magic and the Hornets playing hard is one of them has talent and the other does not. I’ll let you decipher who’s who). This is probably the best-case scenario for the league, other than the Warriors landing him and breaking everyone’s brains.
Now let’s hand out some awards!
Regular Season Awards
Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers)
Embiid is phenomenal. But I want to talk about the other guy.
Jokic winning 3 straight MVP’s is a travesty. This has NEVER been a regular season award. Never. We have always given this out based on the regular season, but we also judge these players by what they have proven in the playoffs. And the few times we have ignored postseason success, are the few times we have truly gotten this wrong (Nash in 2006, Rose in 2011, Westbrook in 2017). If Jokic wins this year, then let’s just give him the next 5 MVP’s because nothing is going to change. He will put up the same numbers, and continue to lose in the playoffs. Funny that we blast Westbrook for getting triple-doubles but with Jokic we idolize it. He won last year because he “had no help”. He’ll win this year because “he’s the #1 seed”. How about we choose the actual best player? Or the second? Or even the sixth? There’s a reason he’s always picked at the bottom of the All-Star draft; the players know he’s a fraud. And so do I.
Defensive Player of the Year
Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)
He’s the best player in the world, and arguably should be the MVP (him and Embiid are riiiiiight there). But since I went with Embiid there, this was an easy choice. Sorry Brook Lopez!
Coach of the Year
Mike Brown (Sacramento Kings)
Mazulla only had a case with the best record, but it seems that ship may have sailed. Vaughn had a case until that ship sank. Brown should win this award. The Kings are not only going to make the playoffs for the first time since 2006, but I think they might win a series (provided they don’t play Golden State in the 1st round)! He’s immediately built a great culture, and I hope he gets this honor.
Rookie of the Year
Paolo Banchero (Orlando Magic)
Done. No discussion needed.
Sixth Man of the Year
Malcolm Brogdon (Boston Celtics)
Call me crazy, but I did think Westbrook had a shot at this until the trade. With seemingly no other options, I’m giving it to Brogdon. He’s the 6th man on a really good team, having a really good season.
Stan Van Gundy Coaching Award (Worst coaching job)
Steve Clifford (Charlotte Hornets)
See my numerous Hornets comments above. ^^
Allen Iverson Award (Most exciting player to watch)
Damian Lillard (Portland Blazers)
This dude is a walking nuclear explosion. You never know when he’s going off for 70 points in a game. I would say that’s more than deserving of this honor.
Rasheed Wallace Award (Most impactful trade/buyout player)
Kevin Durant to the Phoenix Suns
First off, I crushed this award all season. The first couple polls I had Durant moving (gimmie but still) and last poll I had Poeltl winning this award, and he’s made a significant difference in Toronto. But the answer is Kevin Freaking Durant. He took the Suns from a middling, 1st round exit to title contenders in the blink of an eye. Good luck defending a Paul-Ayton pick-and-roll with Durant and Booker on the wings waiting for a kick out. Jesus.
Jeremy Lin Award (Hottest 2-week stretch from a random player)
Damian Lillard (Portland Blazers)
Hard to beat a couple 60+ point performances in a relatively short span! I’d like to see Jeremy Lin do that! (No seriously, that would be awesome if he did that)
1st Team All-NBA
G- Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks)
G- Damian Lillard (Portland Blazers)
F- Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics)
F- Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)
C- Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers)
2nd Team All-NBA
G- Ja Morant (Memphis Grizzlies)
G- Donovan Mitchell (Cleveland Cavaliers)
F- Kevin Durant (Phoenix Suns)
F- LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers)
C- Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets)
3rd Team All-NBA
G- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Oklahoma City Thunder)
G- Steph Curry (Golden State Warriors)
F- Pascal Siakam (Toronto Raptors)
F- Julius Randle (New York Knicks)
C- Brook Lopez (Milwaukee Bucks)
Now let’s make some final standings & playoffs predictions!
8 Atlanta Hawks def 7 Brooklyn Nets
9 Toronto Raptors def 10 Washington Wizards
9 Toronto Raptors def 7 Brooklyn Nets
I just can’t see this Brooklyn Nets team surviving the play-in. Toronto and Atlanta are both better, and I would probably pick Washington too if this was a triple elimination tournament.
7 Dallas Mavericks def 8 Minnesota Timberwolves
9 Los Angeles Lakers def 10 New Orleans Pelicans
9 Los Angeles Lakers def 8 Minnesota Timberwolves
Give me a healthy LeBron over Herb Jones and Rudy Gobert. Call me a homer if you want. But I think that LeBron and Davis in a single-elimination setting is maybe the best duo in the league, and the teams around them are quickly falling apart.
East 1st Round
1 Milwaukee Bucks def 8 Toronto Raptors 4-1
2 Boston Celtics def 7 Atlanta Hawks 4-0
3 Philadelphia 76ers def 6 Miami Heat 4-2
5 New York Knicks def 4 Cleveland Cavaliers 4-2
The Bucks and Celtics will both move on with next to no resistance. The 76ers will advance, but not before everyone runs their piece on “HEAT CULTURE” when Miami is up 2-1 and Harden looked passive in game 3, but Philly will get through. The best series in the East will be Cleveland-New York in the Mitchell Bowl. The Knicks will get the last laugh, with Brunson cooking them 4 straight games and sending the Knicks to the second round.
West 1st Round
1 Denver Nuggets def 8 Los Angeles Lakers 4-3
7 Dallas Mavericks def 2 Sacramento Kings 4-2
3 Phoenix Suns def 6 Los Angeles Clippers 4-1
5 Golden State Warriors def 4 Memphis Grizzlies 4-2
Like I said earlier, Jokic is a fraud, and he will barely escape the Lakers in the 1st round. The Suns will quickly dismantle the Paper Clips, and the Grizzlies will run their mouths so frequently they’ll tire out and the champs will prevail in 6. The big crime here is that 2-7 matchup… I’m sorry Sacramento! I don’t take pleasure in this. But I just can’t see Luka and Kyrie bowing out to you… I just can’t.
East 2nd Round
1 Milwaukee Bucks def 5 New York Knicks 4-0
3 Philadelphia 76ers def 2 Boston Celtics 4-2
Call me crazy! I’m betting on the 76ers in the playoffs. I don’t feel good about it but I’m doing it anyway! And the Bucks will obliterate the Knicks in a tidy sweep.
West 2nd Round
5 Golden State Warriors def 1 Denver Nuggets 4-2
3 Phoenix Suns def 7 Dallas Mavericks 4-1
Fraud! I would say the Warriors will beat Denver easily, but they really struggle on the road, so I’ll be kind and give the Nuggets 2 wins. And in the Brooklyn Bowl, Give me the team with 4 excellent players as opposed to 2.
Eastern Conference Finals
3 Philadelphia 76ers def 1 Milwaukee Bucks 4-2
That’s right! They were my preseason pick and I’m not bailing now! I have an average amount of faith in this team and that’s good enough for me!
Western Conference Finals
3 Phoenix Suns def 5 Golden State Warriors 4-3
This will be the best series of the playoffs, but given Golden State’s struggles on the road, give me Phoenix prevailing in an instant classic.
3 Phoenix Suns def 3 Philadelphia 76ers 4-2 (Finals MVP: Kevin Durant)
Beep Beep motherf*ckers! There’s a new bus driver in town and his name is Kevin Durant! I think this lineup is too good, especially on the wings, for Philly to slow down. Give me the Suns in a close six game series.
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.