Co-Written by Braden Wagle, Austin Wodock and Louie Snyder
We are now a quarter way through the season and teams are starting to figure it out and the standings start to normalize. Time to dive into our thoughts so far.
Who is your MVP a quarter way into the season?
Austin: Giannis Antetokounmpo. My heart is screaming “Luka Doncic” but my head knows Giannis is the MVP at this point in the season. Coming off his MVP last year where he scored 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists, Giannis has taken another leap and is producing a career-high 30.9 points, 13.4 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game, all while leading the Bucks to a tie with the Lakers for the best record in the NBA. I fully expect Giannis to maintain this pace, if not improve as the season progresses and his 3 point shot develops
Braden: Giannis would be the easy pick, but I have to stick with James Harden. The Rockets are 5th in the west despite Capela missing games and Westbrook having an awful rating on the floor for the Rockets. Harden is scoring THIRTY-EIGHT points per game right now and seemingly effortlessly. He single-handedly challenged Kawhi and PG-13 and continues to play at a level not seen recently.
Louie: Giannis, do I really need to explain? I didn’t think he was the MVP last season, but if he keeps this up how can you not say he’s the MVP? He’s averaging 31/13/6 and 1.5 blocks and steals
Name a team that has overachieved and will slow down?
Austin: Minnesota Timberwolves. This is kind of a weird or obvious pick since the Timberwolves are only 10-9 and nobody expects them to do anything noteworthy, but that only reassures my thought that they are extremely likely to slide way down the standings. Andrew Wiggins is having his best career season and has maintained his output for a quarter of the season, but I do not expect his pace to sustain much longer. Outside of Wiggins and Towns, the Timberwolves have a putrid roster with either Jeff Teague or Robert Covington as their 3rd best offensive player. What’s more, they allow the 9th most points per game and have a negative point differential, in-spite of their winning record.
Louie: Toronto. I don’t think they have the star power to keep the 2 seed. Siakam has been great but I don’t know if he can continue to shoot nearly 40% from 3. Only time will tell.
Braden: The Raptors and Mavericks both will likely slow down as the season progresses in my opinion. The Raptors are good, but will they stay ahead of the Celtics, 6ers and even Pacers when Victor Oladipo gets healthy. I believe they fall off. The Mavericks have had an amazing show put on by Doncic, but as the season progresses there lack of depth might slow them down.
Name a team that will improve down the stretch?
Austin: San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs have to turn this around, right? Maybe I am just naive, but I just can’t imagine a world where Gregg Popovich and the Spurs aren’t in the playoffs as they have been for the past 22 straight seasons. The roster isn’t great, but it should have enough talent to turn things around as the season goes on.
Louie: The Jazz should improve. They’ve been good so far but they could be great down the stretch when they learn to play with each other. Also gonna throw the Blazers in here.
Braden: The Pacers will improve as Victor comes back, and the Blazers should also improve, but the team to really watch could be the Pelicans. If Zion Williamson can return in early January and this team can start to get some chemistry together they have the talent to challenge for an 8-seed if this slow start hasn’t killed them already.
Who has surprised you the most?
Braden: The Heat are a solid pick, but since I picked them 3rd to start the year it’s not a huge shock, the Timberwolves and Suns, on the other hand, have been. I thought both these teams would be bottom dwellers in the West and while I still doubt either makes the playoffs, the fact that they are competing in the West is a shock.
Austin: Miami Heat. I never expected the Heat to look like a good NBA team this year. Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro have been fantastic as rookies for the Heat and have helped propel them to 3rd in the Eastern Conference. Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra have done it again and has built a competitive roster out of seemingly nothing, with Spoelstra on the path towards another NBA Coach of the Year award.
Louie: Honestly I didn’t think the Bucks would have this good of a start. I thought they would drop off a little this season but Giannis hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down so obviously I was wrong. Sorry, Giannis.
Austin: Clippers vs Raptors, Clippers win 4-2. The Clippers arguably have the most talent in the NBA, and they will fully unleash it throughout the playoffs. The combination of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard is going to be an absolute killer on both ends of the floor and pairing those two with Montrezl Harrell and Landry Shamet could be an absolute defensive buzz saw throughout the playoffs. The Raptors meanwhile, are a bit of an unlikely pick for the Finals out of the East. The defending champs lost Kawhi Leonard, but Pascal Siakam has taken yet another jump and may win the NBA’s Most Improved Player for the second year in a row. Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol, and Kyle Lowry are providing steady, veteran production and Fred VanVleet is continuing to produce at a high level on both ends of the court.
Louie: Lakers v. Bucks, Lakers win in 6. The LeBron and AD combo is what we all thought it would be. Who’s gonna stop Giannis in the East?
Braden: Clippers beat Celtics 4-3. I had high hopes for Boston entering the year and I still believe they get through the Eastern Conference. I believe the 76ers help them out and eliminate the Bucks in round 2, and then Boston plays a tough series against the 6ers with the difference being Boston’s 3pt-shooting. In the West, the battle for L.A. will be intense and LeBron and Anthony Davis might be unstoppable for most, but the Clippers have stars of their own and a better supporting cast. The Rockets could be the sleeper that knocks off one early, but would not be able to beat them both. In the Finals, the Celtics will put up a great fight, but PG and Kawhi will just be too much to overcome.