NBA First Half Recap and Extremely Early Playoff Predictions.



Heat star Jimmy Butler, Mavericks star Luka Doncic, and Jazz star Rudy Gobert.

Jack Kelleher, Contributing Writer

The NBA season has reached the all-star break, concluding the first half of an unprecedented (mostly) fanless season. Going into the break in the Western Conference, the Utah Jazz has been the best team in the league with a record of 27-9, lead by all-star guard Donovan Mitchell and center Rudy Golbert along with strong play from small forward Bogdanovic and point guard Mike Conely, as well as fan-favorite small forward Joe Ingles. The Jazz was eliminated in the first round of the bubble playoffs last year, but this year they might go the distance. Junior Colin Barry is optimistic about the Jazz’s chances when it comes to the second half of the season and playoffs, stating “Jazz is winning the title, they are the best team in the league.” Another team that is doing great this year is the Phoenix Suns, lead by star guards Chris Pual and Devin Booker, as well as Center Deandre Ayton. The Suns missed out on the playoffs last year despite going undefeated in the playing, but this year they have the talent and depth to make a serious run. As expected, the Lakers and Clippers are scary teams with superstars such as Lebron and Anthony Davis on the Lakers and Kawhi Leonard and Pual George. Both LA teams will look to dominate the second half of the season, as in a Western Conference loaded with Talent seeding will be crucial. Other teams in Playoff position at the break include the Trail Blazers, the Spurs, and the Mavericks, with at the moment the Golden state warriors missing out by half a game. There is an entire half a season left though, and the Splash Brothers Steph Curry and Klay Thompson will have something to say about missing out on the playoffs for the second year in a row.
In the East, the Philadelphia 76s lead by center Joel Embid and guard Ben Simmons top the standings followed by the newly formed super team in the Nets, with a big three of point guard Kyrie Irving, guard James Harden, and forward Kevin Durant. These two teams are locks for the playoffs and have the star power and depth to make a deep run into the playoffs. The Milwaukee Bucks, lead by forwarding Giannis Antetokounmpo and guard Kris Middleton, are good this year but not as dominant as in previous years: and with the emergence of the Nets. In fourth place come, my favorite team, the Celtics, who are struggling at the moment. With an abundance of talent in the backcourt but a lack of strength in depth for big men, the Celtics are struggling this year after making it to the conference finals last year. It will be interesting to see if coach Brad Stevens can get the time back in form in time for the playoffs, or if front office changes will be made. The other teams in playoff spots at the moment are the Knicks, the Heat, the Hornets, and the Raptors, all of their teams except the Knicks are .500 or lower. In all likelihood, it will be a combination of these 8 teams in the playoffs, as I do not see any other teams making it in.

My extremely early playoff projection for the West had the Jazz as the 1 seed, Lakers at the 2, Clippers at the 3, Suns in the 4, Denver 5, Mavericks in the 6, Trail Blazers in the 7, and Warriors in the 8 seed. For the Eastern conference, I have the 76ers in the 1, Nets in the 2, Celtics in the 3, Bucks in the 4, Heat in the 5, Charlotte in the 6, Knicks in the 7, and Raptors as the 8.
When asked his thoughts on the first half of the season and predictions on the second, junior Jack Libby had a lot to say, and honestly could have written this article himself. Libby thinks “This season, just like many seasons, is riddled with many surprises that most average NBA fans could agree were unforeseen. To lead off, the firepower the Utah Jazz have brought to the starstruck Western Conference. Despite sharing a conference with a GOAT-caliber player in LeBron James, a Two-headed monster in both the Denver Nuggets, and the Los Angeles Clippers, and the emergence of Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks, the boys from Salt Lake City sits atop the western conference, and at one point had won 20 games in a 21 game stretch. The apparent frontrunner in the Eastern Conference – after a depressing first-round sweep in the bubble – sees the Philadelphia 76ers. Led by 2017 Rookie of the year Ben Simmons, and the favorite to win MVP this season, Joel Embiid. What could have been predicted this season is the 2 seeded Brooklyn Nets, with all-stars Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving, as well as the 3 seeded Milwaukee Bucks, with former Back-to-Back MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo, to both have the outstanding seasons they are having. However what could not be predicted this season is the absolute warzone that the middle of the eastern conference presents. With the #11 seed only 2 and a half games behind the #4 seed, and every team in between having near-identical records, the bottom 5 seeds in the East are up for grabs at this point. For my predictions heading into the second half, I can see the eastern conference beginning to separate, however, I can also see the emergence of a young Charlotte Hornets team, with Rookie Phenom LaMelo Ball. My predictions for each award are as follows. MVP: Joel Embiid, DPOY: Myles Turner, MIP: Terry Rozier (or Jarrett Allen), ROY: LaMelo Ball, 6MOY: Jordan Clarkson, COY: Quin Snyder. I have the Los Angeles Lakers repeating as champions, defeating the Brooklyn Nets in the NBA finals. Whether my predictions are correct or incorrect going forward, It will be a fun second half of the season without a doubt.” An NBA expert living among us! It will be interesting to see if my predictions or any of Jack’s predictions come true, but there are a lot of seasons left and in sports, anything can happen.