As the NBA season nears the halfway mark, it makes sense to reflect on it. This season has been exciting to watch and has taken many unexpected twists and turns. To give an example of just how unpredictable this season is, the Los Angeles Lakers were one of the favorites for the NBA championship before the season at +350 (3.5:1 odds) according to NBC Sports, which was second only behind the Brooklyn Nets. However, they have struggled to stay around the .500 mark.
The Lakers' struggles seem to primarily stem from their lackluster defense. They rank 26th of 30 teams in points allowed per game, and one of the biggest reasons for this is the loss of Anthony Davis, who has already missed seventeen games to date with an MCL sprain. He recently returned and had an immediate positive impact. Davis has numerous defensive awards, including his inclusion on four NBA All-defensive teams. He will no doubt help his team through their tough times and possibly return them back to their winning ways with the help of their ageless superstar, LeBron James.
Another team that has surprised many fans this season is the Memphis Grizzlies. Led by young and exciting guard Ja Morant, they currently sit as the third seed in the West at 33 wins and 17 losses. They currently lead the fourth-seeded Utah Jazz by two and a half games. This newfound success is very much credited to breakout performances from former role players like Desmond Bane, who is currently averaging around 18 points and 42.5% from the three-point range.
Another huge surprise this season has been the play of the Miami Heat, who currently occupy the top seed in the eastern conference. Under head coach Erik Spoelstra, the Heat have been to five NBA Finals in the last decade, anchored by their stout defense and great team play on offense. What’s even more impressive about this is that their two best players, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, have both been dealing with injuries throughout the season, which has forced established players like Tyler Herro, Kyle Lowry, and some other young players to step up.
Further down the standings in the east, there are teams like the Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, and Atlanta Hawks. These teams are the ninth, eleventh, and twelfth seeds respectively out of the 15 in their conference at the moment. All three teams were very solid playoff teams last season, with the Hawks even making a run that led them to the Eastern Conference Finals.
However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for Boston as projections from one of the best advanced NBA analytics websites “FiveThirtyEight” have them finishing 45-37, and gives them a 75% chance of making the playoffs. The same model gives the Hawks a 57% chance to make the playoffs and the Knicks a 5% chance to make it, which would leave New Yorkers upset with another lackluster season after what should have been their best in recent memory.
When talking about this NBA season, you must mention the race for the Most Valuable Player award. The favorite to win is reigning champ Nikola Jokic, who averages 26 points, 14 rebounds, and 7.5 assists. He is currently leading the NBA in triple-doubles and has been killing the opposition. The two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is putting up numbers that seem to be just standard for him, with 28 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists. These rankings might change soon though as the third-ranked Joel Embiid has been on a tear in 2022, averaging more points than minutes. He managed to score 50 points and grab 10 rebounds in 27 minutes. If he keeps up this pace, he will be the clear favorite in no time.
While many sports fans might feel lost with the football season coming to a close, the NBA season is and will always be a perfect replacement for their sports cravings. This season has been one of my favorites in recent years, and I’m excited to see how it turns out!