- The NBA Review – Midseason Edition - January 18, 2023
- NBA Draft – To Tank Or Not To Tank? That Is The Question - November 8, 2022
- The NBA Review – The Good, The Bad And The Interesting Edition - November 4, 2022
Now with the NBA passing the midway point for all 30 teams in the league, we have a good gauge of how each of the teams are looking and playing so far this season. In one of the most exciting years in recent memory, there have been so many storylines that have been created and so many more left to talk about. So, in this edition of The Review, we will catch you back up on everything you might have missed.
Everyone has been talking about how good the Atlantic Division has been this season. The Boston Celtics have the best record in the NBA, the Brooklyn Nets are right behind them even though they have had so many headlines on and off the court. The Philadelphia 76ers are only a half of a game out of second place in the conference even though Joel Embiid, James Harden and Tyrese Maxey have missed more than 10 games each. But the one team might not get as many headlines is the fourth place New York Knicks.
Yes, they are in fourth place in their division but they are in sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings. One of the main reasons of their success has been the play of point guard Jalen Brunson. Fresh off a season where he came into his own as the second main scoring option with the Dallas Mavericks, Brunson signed a 4-year $104 million-dollar deal in mid-July with the Knicks. Fans were split down the middle on whether contract was worth it.
After 42 games, Brunson has not only won over Knicks fans and skeptics, but he has firmly put himself in consideration for his first NBA All-Star appearance next month in Salt Lake City. Not only is he averaging career highs in scoring, assists, steals and three pointers, Brunson has earned his money when it counts the most, in crunch time. As of January 17th, no player in the NBA has scored more points in the second half in crunch time (the final five minutes of a half) than Brunson. He is shooting 52 percent from the floor while only committing one turnover in the 17 games that the Knicks have been in clutch situations. In the final 30 seconds of games decided by two points or less, only the Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic has scored more points.
Has any team taken a more of a step backwards than the Charlotte Hornets? Last year, the Hornets won 43 games and made the Eastern Conference play-in game, losing to the Atlanta Hawks on the road. Since that defeat, the Hornets have gone backwards on and off the court. But for the sake of this article, lets just talk about the things going wrong on the court. Last season, the Hornets were in the bottom third in just about every single defensive team stat category, which was one of the reasons why the team hired former Head Coach Steve Clifford to replace James Borrego in the off-season.
Well, this year’s Hornets have gotten progressively worse compared to last season. Charlotte is ranked 25th or lower in 10 of the major team defensive categories in league. They are giving up 118.9 points per game (third worst in the league) and have given up 125 or more points in 14 of their 45 games played this season.
The offense has not found a rhythm and it has led to poor results. The Hornets were the sixth best shooting team from beyond the arc last season but have fallen to 28th overall and they are the third worst shooting team in the season after finishing 11th overall a season ago. But it’s not because the team isn’t taking enough shots. The team is third in the league in field goals attempted just like they were last year. The biggest problem is outside of Mason Plumlee (65.7%) and Jalen McDaniels (46.1%), no other Hornet that plays more than 20 minutes a game and has played least 20 or more games shoots over 44% from the floor. Even though LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier and Kelly Oubre Jr. all average over 20 points per game, none of the three are shooting over 42% from the floor.
How many people in the preseason that aren’t Sacramento Kings fans would have said that the Kings would be top four in the Western Conference standings at the midway point in the season? If you are one of those people, I would suggest either playing the Mega Millions or taking a flight to Las Vegas because you have a special gift. The Kings, whose major offseason moves were trading for Kevin Huerter, signing Malik Monk and drafting Keegan Murray, have surprised the league with not only their exciting play, but have given first year head coach Mike Brown something to smile at every night.
Sacramento might not be the best defensive team in the league (24th in points allowed), but they make up for it with offense. Sacramento leads the NBA by scoring 120 points per game and has six players who average 12 or more points per game. Brown’s offensive style has unlocked Domantas Sabonis’ playmaking ability – he has seven or more assists in 26 games this season, including a 16-assist game against Houston on January 13th.
We’ve also seen a more efficient De’Aaron Fox (averaging 23.8 points per game shooting a career-high 51% from the floor). Fox’s efficiency is creating spacing so that Huerter and Murray can have quality looks from behind the three point line. Both players have hit 95 or more threes and are shooting over 40% from beyond the arc.
As long as the Kings can continue this pace, Sacramento and their fans will have a chance to see playoff basketball for the first time since 2006.
On every edition of “The Review”, I will provide you a top-5 of two different categories. You will always get my MVP Top-5 and an additional Top-5 of something unique.
MVP Top 5-
- Jayson Tatum- Boston Celtics
- Luka Doncic- Dallas Mavericks
- Nikola Jokic- Denver Nuggets
- Giannis Antetokounmpo- Milwaukee Bucks
- Kevin Durant- Brooklyn Nets
Tatum and Doncic are going at it on a nightly basis and this race for MVP is more than just those two. But I have Tatum ahead by a nose because he’s putting up career-high numbers while leading the best team in the NBA. Doncic has had a 60-point triple-double and has carried the Mavericks just a much as Tatum has.
The Joker is right back in the MVP race because he’s close to doing something that no other center has done in the history of the league – averaging a triple-double. He’s a few double digits assist games away from averaging 10 assists per game.
Antetokounmpo has cooled down over the last week or two, but he’s still averaging 31 points, 12 rebounds and 5 assists a game.
Durant was flying up the MVP list, but he suffered a sprained MCL will miss the next three or so weeks while he recovers.
Top 5 Players Under the Radar-
- Nic Claxton- Brooklyn Nets
- De’Anthony Melton- Philadelphia 76ers
- Jalen Williams- Oklahoma City Thunder
- Ivica Zubac- Los Angeles Clippers
- Tre Jones- San Antonio Spurs
Most people remember Claxton for his free throw debacle against Boston in the playoffs last year. On a team this season that has Durant, Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons, Claxton gets lost in the shuffle. But his play on the court should have people paying attention. Claxton leads the NBA in blocked shots and field goal percentage, while being in the top-20 in offensive rebounds.
Melton has filled in nicely as starter especially due to the injuries of Harden and Maxey. Known for his defense (he’s second in the league in steals per game), Melton has become quite the shooter from deep. He’s hit 94 three-pointers this season and is shooting close to 40% (39.5% to be exact) from beyond the arc.
Williams was an intriguing selection by the Thunder in this year’s draft, and has turned into one of the best rookies in the class. Since December 27th, Williams has averaged 14 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals a game for a Thunder team that is still in the playoff race.
Zubac is quietest player in the league to average a double-double a game this season. He has been a constant fixture on a team that has had their superstar players miss a combined 41 games this season.
Even though the Spurs haven’t won a lot of games this year, Jones has stepped in very well in place of all-star guard Dejounte Murray, who was traded to Atlanta in the off-season. Jones is averaging 14 points, 6 assists and 1.3 steals per game. All of these stats are a career-high for him as he started all 43 games he’s played.