What a fun first half of the season. Most teams are close in the standings with good chances of making the NBA playoffs. The incumbent champion Golden State Warriors are in the middle of their division and conference. The MVP race is either Nikola Jokic’s or Giannis Antetokounmpo’s to lose while coaching and managers are inconsistent. The second half is set up for a fun, intense finish.
Here are the most important topics and questions after the first half of the season.
More teams prefer to contend for the playoffs than tank for Victor Wembanyama
At the All-Star break, there are four teams eliminated from playoff contention. What’s more shocking is how both conferences are competitive and close in almost every playoff seed. Teams such as Orlando, Washington and Utah can make strong pushes and multiple winning streaks to stay in the middle for a play-in round. Veteran teams such as Golden State, Miami and the Los Angeles Clippers are struggling to stay in a top seed despite the stars and coaches who usually make their teams excel.
It’s the reverse of what many fans and analysts expected at the beginning of fall 2022. Teams want giant phenom Victor Wembanyama and will do a lot to land him at the number one or two overall pick. Right now there’s a lot of fight in the 26 competitive teams and that might not stop until the last month of the regular season.
Coach of the year is an easy choice
The coach of the year winner should be Sacramento’s Mike Brown. The Kings are the best team in the deep Pacific division after one half of season play and are third overall in the western conference. Almost an entire generation of NBA fans have never seen Sacramento in the NBA postseason, but that might finally change under Brown’s leadership. Unless Boston, Phoenix or Denver break league records, it’s Brown’s to lose.
How serious is the conversation on reduction of regular season games?
The topic has a larger audience the past few years and it’ll continue when play resumes. Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo and many other star players around the league are or have battled injuries throughout the season. While rest management became the topic of discussion heading into 2020, more criticism of a long NBA season are growing among coaches, players, fans and analysts. While things won’t be resolved at the end of the league’s 76th season, be aware this storyline will stay heading into fall.
The Top 30: Time for one view for each team. The view can range from improvement to an easier transition during the second half of the season.
Atlanta: The Hawks are eighth in the east and a benchmark for mediocrity. DeJounte Murray has floundered at times and coach Nate McMillan was finally fired after all kinds of mismanagement. This was supposed to be a top team in the Southeast and a better contender in the east. They need to figure it out fast.
Boston: Joe Mazzulla is officially locked in as the Celtics permanent head coach. Everyone expects Boston and Milwaukee to be the conference finals contenders, but we need to see how well Mazzulla is in the postseason compared to his predecessor.
Brooklyn: A year ago James Harden was traded to Philadelphia in a blockbuster deal that brought in Ben Simmons and Seth Curry. The Nets are hanging on to fifth place in the east due to interim coach Jacque Vaughn even after the Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant trades. No matter where Brooklyn finishes in the standings, they have a reliable coach in Vaughn and can assess who to add on the roster.
Charlotte: One of the four worst teams in the league, it’s stunning how awful the team is when LaMelo Ball isn’t playing. They’re at the bottom in three point and field goal percentage and ahead of only Detroit in the east. Add in critical players such as Terry Rozier, Kelly Oubre and Gordon Hayward are injured for a while and this team just can’t catch a break.
Chicago: The Bulls are in a tough situation. On the edge of a play-in round with Indiana and Orlando close behind, this roster doesn’t fit well and coach Billy Donovan is running out of options. Expect Chicago to make a run but big changes are coming this offseason.
Cleveland: This team is better and more dangerous with Donovan Mitchell. The past two years solidified a talented roster that can make a run in the postseason. Don’t expect the Cavaliers to drop off when play resumes.
Dallas: The Mavericks finally have a solid number two option to take pressure off Luka Doncic in Kyrie Irving. While the debates rage on, it’s equally important Dallas brought in Markieff Morris. The Mavericks need more options at power forward and that should be discussed more among NBA analysts.
Denver: Nikola Jokic is having another MVP caliber season but the play of guards Jamal Murray, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Reggie Jackson will help push Denver past the second round of the playoffs if everyone stays healthy.
Detroit: Even with Cade Cunningham injured, you’d think the young core of the Pistons, with the addition of Bojan Bogdanovic and Nerlens Noel could be a more competent team. The problem is either coaching, management or a combination of both. Unless Detroit really wants Victor Wembanyama this team is in crisis mode.
Golden State: At first glance the defending champions can’t catch a break. Franchise star Stephen Curry got injured, former first round pick James Wiseman was traded, and Gary Payton II had trouble coming back to the team due to a failed physical. But the Warriors are tied as the number one scoring team in the league, are close to unbeatable at home and would be in the play-in if the season ended today. If this team gets on a roll after the All-Star break, the west could be in trouble fast.
Houston: Turns out coach Steve Silas might not be as good as many people thought. In his defense, how can you tell with this assembled mess called a team. At least the Rockets have a bunch of draft picks heading into summer.
Indiana: The Pacers can’t continue to be the Tyrese Haliburton and Myles Turner show. Management has to make trades and signings to bulk up a roster that’s close to being a play-in contender.
Los Angeles Clippers: There might not be a more frustrating team in the western conference than the Clippers. No one knows what team they’re getting any given night. Will the team that thumps the rival Lakers take the court or will the team that gives up double digit leads show up? It’ll be a headache thinking of how well they’ll do in any playoff round.
Los Angeles Lakers: The Lakers got the needed additions at the trade deadline but now we’ll see how good Darvin Ham is with the upgraded talent, especially late in games. Get ready for more headlines about how LeBron James feels on leadership after the moves these next few months.
Memphis: The west would be different if Grizzlies point-guard Ja Morant didn’t shoot his mouth off on the roster rivaling the Celtics. Memphis is a great team in the conference but the young core isn’t conference championship level yet and whoever they play the first two rounds will let them know it.
Miami: I don’t doubt the Heat can leap to a top four or five seed in the east but it’s alarming how they’ve sputtered most of the season and are bottom five in so many categories on offense. There are too many injured guards on this team and one must wonder if they flame out fast in the first round. That could thin out the true contenders category quick.
Milwaukee: The Bucks and Celtics are the top teams in the east. If Milwaukee wants to come out on top and return to the finals, they have to remain at full health and continue being the best rebounding team in the league. More scoring opportunities and offensive possessions will wear down opponents late in the season.
Minnesota: It’ll be fun watching a Timberwolves team that just traded for Mike Conley contend when Karl-Anthony Towns returns from injury. Can coaching elevate this team past a play-in round seed into a top six spot? We’ll find out fast.
New Orleans: Zion Williamson’s injuries would dominate basketball headlines if the Pelicans were worse and didn’t have other quality players like C.J. McCollum stepping up. His health problems aren’t going away anytime soon.
New York: It’s hard to understand the Knicks. Two years ago they were a surprising playoff team. Last year they fell off a cliff in offensive production. This year they’re a top six team in the east. There aren’t words to describe this team outside of wild.
Oklahoma City: The Thunder were another team people wrote off as a lottery team but are a contender in the play-in round. That’s due to the MVP caliber play of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey leading the third highest scoring offense in the league. This is already an interesting team to watch but their draft picks focusing on depth at center and small forward will make the roster more formidable next year.
Orlando: A team where numbers don’t tell the whole story. Rookie Paolo Banchero was a great choice at number one in the draft and this team plays hard despite their record. There will be teams such as the Bulls, Nets and Hawks that face serious challenges to their roster after the season and some teams will be elevated to playoff contending because of that. The Magic could be one that finds themselves lucky to move up.
Philadelphia: It’s time for Doc Rivers to stop coaching. The 76ers do have the third best record in the east but they’re not championship contenders if they face off against Boston or Milwaukee. That’s alarming despite P.J. Tucker and Montrezl Harrell on the roster. Plus the number of blown leads and terrible decisions holds them back further.
Phoenix: It’s been an up-and-down season in the desert. The Suns could’ve went the roster demolition route but instead traded for Kevin Durant and gave up a lot of draft capital. This is a move that’s regarded as a success only if a championship is won, and it’s been a long time coming for Phoenix to bring home the Larry O’Brien trophy.
Portland: At what point do the Trailblazers tell Damien Lillard he has to go in order for this soap opera to end? He won’t win a championship in the pacific northwest and it’s ok for everyone to admit that. It’s just a shame he’s wasted the best years of his career never getting to an NBA finals appearance.
Sacramento: Not many people (especially analysts) are talking about how the Kings are tied as the number one team in scoring, the third best team in field goal percentage and are top ten in three point percentage during their short reign on top of the Pacific division. It probably won’t stay the second half of the season but it shows how well coach Mike Brown has done improving the offense and making De’Aaron Fox a true threat at point-guard.
San Antonio: If this isn’t coach Gregg Popovich leading the Spurs every night, this team would be getting trashed on television every night. San Antonio can’t compete and people are wondering if they began tanking the season early for Wembanyama.
Toronto: Late in 2022 writers were wondering when coach Nick Nurse would be fired so the Raptors could do a full re-build on the roster. Toronto may not have that option due to how many players prefer being on a team in the U.S., so the firing of Nurse and building a better roster from the ground up would be a terrible idea. On the other hand, the Raptors have looked worse since the bubble tournament in 2020. There are valid concerns, but it feels more on management’s hesitations than coaching.
Utah: I don’t think anyone had this team near .500 when the season began. Danny Ainge and Dwyane Wade are re-vamping something special in Salt Lake City. Their offseason should catch most true fans’ attention.
Washington: Statistically and roster-wise, this is a team that could advance past the play-in round. The question on will they actually play to that potential is what will be most interesting since Atlanta, Toronto and Miami might fizzle out faster.
1 thought on “2022-2023 NBA First Half Analysis, Questions, Answers and Much More”
These picks I make , yes they are dynamic, they adjust as things materialize within the games…
I disclose my bias for the Celtics. Home team.
My NBA final picks right now:
Boston defeats Phoenix 4-2 (games)
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