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The Circuit 2023-24 NBA 1st Quarter Polls

We had an in-season tournament! We had an unhinged lunatic in Golden State! And we have our 1st Quarter Polls!

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Congratulations to the (my) Los Angeles Lakers for winning the in-season tournament! For all of you who are laughing at them celebrating: I get it. You’re jealous that the Lakers have the history, and get the free agents and the primetime games, all valid. But if this tournament is ever going to really matter, the players and teams need to take it seriously. If the Pacers had won and celebrated, no one would have cared. But of course because the Lakers won, everyone is in their feelings. Haters gonna hate! 


And Draymond Green has officially gone nuts. He’s always red-lined, but this year he has gone full-blown psychopath. This Warriors dynasty feels like the wheels are coming off in real time, and it’s too bad. But hey, maybe next year Draymond can land on the Pistons and help them not lose 20+ games in a row! 


Now let’s take a look at some of the things I got right and wrong about this season! 


Three Things I was Right About…

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The Wolves Would Leap…

Did I pick this last year as well? Yep. Was I wrong last year? Sure was! Did I double down this season? YOU BET YOUR ASS I DID. Edwards seems to be taking THE leap before our eyes, and Gobert is back to his defensive anchor ways. With a real point guard, incredible size and a superstar in tow, the Wolves look like they’re poised to make a deep run this Spring. 


The Heat Would Step Back…

Have they taken that much of a step back? Not really, but does anyone think they’re a Finals team again? Of course not. Losing Strus and Vincent hurts them, and Herro has barely played. They’ll make the playoffs, but a Finals team this is not. 


The Rockets Would Improve…But Not Much…

The Rockets are about where I expected them to be. Better than they have been the last few years (Stephen Silas I still believe in you! You got a raw deal there), but not a serious playoff team. 


Three things I got WRONG…

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The Thunder Were a Year Away…

I liked the Thunder, but teams of this archetype don’t typically ascend this high this quickly. I expected them to be around 44-46 wins and a 4-5-6 seed. But these cats seem poised for 50+ wins and a 1-2-3 seed. This league is in trouble if these guys are this poised and this good at 23 years old! My apologies SGA and company. 


The Hornets Would be Miserable…

Buzz Buzz! The Hornets have actually not been horrible! I thought they would be in the running for the worst team in the league, but they are competitive on most nights. Miller has been way better than I thought and Mark Williams has been a great defensive presence. Let’s go Hornets! 


Kawhi & PG Still Would Never Play…

I have been historically very hard on guys who are always injured, and I feel deservedly so. But I want to give some praise! Maybe I’m in the Christmas spirit. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George have played a lot this season, and they deserve credit for that. Maybe it’s a more spread-out schedule, maybe it’s the in-season tournament, maybe they got tired of the constant clowning, I don’t know. But they’re playing, and fans everywhere appreciate the effort they’ve put in. 


Now let’s hand out some hardware! 


Regular Season Awards

 

MVP: Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks)

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Jokic has been fantastic this year, but as of late he has struggled mightily and the Nuggets look more vulnerable than they have in a while. But Luka has played excellent this year, and the Mavericks are wildly exceeding my expectations for them. I doubt he will end up being my MVP at the end of the season, but for right now he’s my MVP. 


Defensive Player of the Year: Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers)

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Did you see that IST final??? Davis has been tenacious on the boards this year, protecting the rim at an elite level, always available, and the Lakers have been rolling. Gobert has been great, but Davis is building a strong narrative for this award. 


Coach of the Year: Jamahl Mosely (Orlando Magic)

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The Magic have been much better than expected, particularly on the defensive end, which with such a young team points to the coach. Amidst some great competition, Moseley has done the best coaching job this season. 


Rookie of the Year: Chet Holmgren (Oklahoma City Thunder)

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Sorry Wemby, but Chet is a major contributor to one of the best teams in the league. Wemby is a major contributor to a 3-win team. One of these things is not like the other. Usually I don’t think record should matter in RoY, but when a guy is the defensive anchor for a potential 1-seed and the other is the anchor for a potential #1 pick, it does. 


Sixth Man of the Year: Austin Reaves (Los Angeles Lakers)

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My man! I don’t like to see him coming off the bench, but I do love to see Reaves go into HIM mode. Depending on what moves the team makes, I think Reaves has an excellent shot at winning this award if he continues to dominate off the bench. 


Stan Van Gundy Coaching Award (Worst coaching job): Monty Williams (Detroit Pistons)

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I mean what are we doing? The guy who got the largest coaching contract in NBA history has lost 20 straight games? I’m not saying the Pistons should be in playoff contention, but I don’t think winning once between Halloween and New Year’s is too much to ask. 


Allen Iverson Award (Most exciting player to watch): Anthony Edwards (Minnesota Timberwolves)

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Watching Edwards take flight is incredible. He’s always been electric, but now he’s more assertive AND he’s finally on a really good team. And not only has he been great, but one of the other most exciting players to watch has been sitting at home the past 25 games. 


Rasheed Wallace Award (Most impactful trade/buyout player): Alex Caruso to Any Contender

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Of all the Bulls who are scrolling on Zillow, Caruso is the one who will make the biggest impact come the playoffs. Whether it’s the Lakers, 76ers, Warriors, or someone else, Caruso could be the difference between losing in the second round and winning the title. 


Jeremy Lin Award (Hottest 2-week stretch from a random player): Alperen Sengun (Houston Rockets)

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Sengun is probably here to stay for a while, but the opening stretch of the season seemed to be the coming-out party for him. He’s been excellent, and the poster boy of a Rockets team that has been a pleasant surprise. 


**I don’t care that the NBA has made the terrible decision to move All-NBA positionless; that isn’t how it should be and I refuse to acknowledge it in mine. 


1st Team All-NBA: 

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G- Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks)

G- Tyrese Haliburton (Indiana Pacers)

F- Kevin Durant (Phoenix Suns)

F- Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)

C- Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets)


2nd Team All-NBA: 

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G- De’Aaron Fox (Sacramento Kings)

G- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Oklahoma City Thunder)

F- Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics)

F- LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers)

C- Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers)


3rd Team All-NBA: 

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G- Steph Curry (Golden State Warriors)

G- Damian Lillard (Milwaukee Bucks)

F- Anthony Edwards (Minnesota Timberwolves)

F- Paolo Banchero (Orlando Magic)

C- Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat)


Now with all the individual awards out of the way, let’s get to the fun stuff; playoff predictions! 


East Play-In: 

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8 Cleveland Cavaliers def 7 Indiana Pacers

9 Atlanta Hawks def 10 Brooklyn Nets

7 Indiana Pacers def 9 Atlanta Hawks


The Cavs are in the middle of a fairly disappointing season, but for one night they’ll be able to celebrate and forget that Mitchell is about to leave them at the altar.


The Pacers are too good offensively to miss the playoffs. Haliburton is a locomotive engine this season and will knock Trae Young out of the playoffs. Because the Atlanta Hawks are an unserious team. 


West Play-In: 

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7 Sacramento Kings def 8 Los Angeles Clippers

9 Golden State Warriors def 10 New Orleans Pelicans

8 Los Angeles Clippers def 9 Golden State Warriors


Light the damn beam!!!


Despite all the Draymond hysterics, I can’t see this dynasty missing the play-in, or even going one-and-done. Maybe this will be the loss to motivate Zion to actually get in shape! 


But all dynasties must fall, and Clippers chemistry experiment will be the ones to end it. 


East 1st Round: 

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1 Boston Celtics def 8 Indiana Pacers 4-1

2 Milwaukee Bucks def 7 Cleveland Cavaliers 4-0

3 Philadelphia 76ers def 6 New York Knicks 4-2

5 Miami Heat def 4 Orlando Magic 4-2


The big stories here are that the Cavs are about to have an identity crisis this offseason and lose Mitchell (and maybe trade Allen???), as well as the Magic are one year away from real contention. Those damn Heat! 


West 1st Round: 

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1 Denver Nuggets def 8 Los Angeles Clippers 4-0

2 Minnesota Timberwolves def 7 Sacramento Kings 4-3

3 Los Angeles Lakers def 6 Dallas Mavericks 4-1

5 Phoenix Suns def 4 Oklahoma City Thunder 4-2 


As great as the Thunder have looked, I still don’t believe they will advance in the playoffs if the other team, in this case Phoenix, is healthy. But the Wolves are ready to advance, and the Lakers will win the Kyrie Irving bowl (I am 100% confident Kyrie will be playing for one of those teams. Just not sure which). 


East 2nd Round: 

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1 Boston Celtics def 5 Miami Heat 4-1

2 Milwaukee Bucks def 3 Philadelphia 76ers 4-3


The Celtics will exercise a lot of demons by blasting the Heat back to South Beach, and the Bucks will find a way to keep Embiid out of the conference finals. 


West 2nd Round: 

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1 Denver Nuggets def 5 Phoenix Suns 4-1

3 Los Angeles Lakers def 2 Minnesota Timberwolves 4-2


Jokic will bury Durant for the second straight year in the second round, and for the second straight year the Lakers will get to the conference finals. 


Eastern Conference Finals: 

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1 Boston Celtics def 2 Milwaukee Bucks 4-2


Bucks fans will have to watch in horror as Jrue Holiday locks up Lillard and the Celtics clinch the conference in Milwaukee. 


Western Conference Finals: 

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1 Denver Nuggets def 3 Los Angeles Lakers 4-3


Same result, much different journey. The Lakers are better than last year and the Nuggets are worse, which will lead this this matchup to go from a sweep to a seven-game thriller. 


NBA Finals: 

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1 Boston Celtics def 1 Denver Nuggets 4-3

(Finals MVP: Jayson Tatum)


The Celtics just have so much defense and so much length, it’s hard to imagine them not winning the title unless they have major injuries. 


There you have it! Make sure to check back in towards the end of January for the 2nd Quarter Polls, and make sure to check out all of our other great content on the NFL, the Oscars, and more! 

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