The ultimate showdown of skill
NBA all-star break arrives and leaders of the pack emerge
We are just past the half way point in the NBA season and the all-star game is fast approaching. So now may be a good time point to review the season thus far and see who the contenders really are.
The biggest story of the season has to be the play of the Atlanta Hawks, who are dominating every other night and put together a 19-game win streak. Nobody predicted that the Hawks would be holding the lead in the Eastern conference and battling for the NBA’s best record come the all-star break.
Paul Millsap has been a game-changer for Atlanta and is leading the team in points per game, rebounds per game and steals per game. The real star of the Hawks, is their head coach Mike Budenholzer, who has got Atlanta to compete and beat the best teams in the league without a blockbuster star on the court. Not bad for a team who is getting the results Cleveland expected for $20 million less a season.
Speaking of the Cleveland Cavaliers, it seems that they can rest easy for now because they should have their bandwagon fans back. In the middle of January, they were sitting with a 20-20 record and were deemed a failure and most certainly not a championship contender. But after putting a 12-game win streak together, it looks like they may have found chemistry and could be a force to be reckoned with come the postseason.
LeBron James is the same player they expected when they gave him over $20.5 million for the season, averaging over 25 points a game and also leading the team in assists per game. James’ leadership may have even rubbed off on some of the other players as even Kyrie Irving is passing the ball averaging little over five assists per game, good for second most on the team.
The Cavs are still pushing for home court advantage after the hole they put themselves in at the start of the season. Good news for Cavalier fans because people are starting to see them as favorites, along with the Hawks for the Eastern Conference Championship.
The Western Conference holds even better storylines, as at least all eight playoff spots are held by plus .500 teams. The Golden State Warriors are sitting atop of the conference led by the highlight-making splash brothers (Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson) who arguably make for the best backcourt in the association. The shocking thing may be that the Warriors get all-star production out of Klay Thompson for just over $3 million a season.
Warriors head coach, Steve Kerr, has proven to the world that he can certainly make the transition from the play-by-play desk to coaching seamlessly and successfully.
The great thing is that despite the great play of the Warriors they have to be on their toes every night as the Memphis Grizzlies are breathing down their necks only a couple of games back. Don’t forget about Houston and Portland who are both sporting records just below .700.
To see a Grizzlies/Warriors Western Conference Finals and a Hawks/Cavaliers Eastern Conference Finals would leave every NBA fan pretty excited.
As mentioned the all-star game is approaching and selections have some people surprised and disappointed. The big spectacle used to be the dunk contest, let’s face it there’s nothing much more entertaining than seeing NBA players attack the rim and throw it down with authority.
The dunk contest has seen headline-making players such as, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Dominique Wilkins. Yet this year, fans of the dunk contest get to look forward to players such as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Zach LaVine and Mason Plumlee.
Look forwardt to the game brings a little comfort, even if the all-star game itself may be a little pointless. Starters for the east will be John Wall, Kyle Lowry, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Pau Gasol.
Starters representing the west are Stephen Curry, Kobe Bryant (replaced by DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins), Blake Griffin, Anthony Davis and Marc Gasol. Neither team has a player that can be argued. After all, the fans voted for them and since the weekend is dedicated to them, they couldn’t really have gotten it wrong.
The problem comes with the reserves, something that is taken out of the fans hands and voted for by the coaches. What is confusing is thesplit that lets the fans choose the starters and the coaches choose the reserves. If it is going to be put down to a popularity contest, then make the whole roster selection a popularity contest and let the fans pick all the players.
The biggest snub is leaving one of the best shooters in the game, Damian Lillard, off the west’s roster, even after Kobe Bryant withdrew due to injury. There may be a case in saying that the west has so many talented players that some big name players were bound to be left out, but selecting Russell Westbrook over Lillard?
Westbrook is an amazing talent and is one of, if not the most exciting player in the league. But Westbrook has missed 15 games this season and Lillard hasn’t missed a single one, which should have earned Lillard the nod.
Due to the western conference being as loaded as it has ever been with quality teams and a few exciting teams in the east, there should be an exciting finish to the season. Look for Atlanta to keep rolling, Cleveland to keep improving, Golden State to keep dominating and Memphis to keep grinding.