With the East’s victory in the All-Star game, the NBA season is a little more than halfway over. The Western conference still reigns supreme, as the current eighth seed in the West, the Dallas Mavericks, would be the third seed in the East.
But anyhow the playoffs are a little under two months away. And while the field in the West in basically set, the East is still wide open as there are nine teams within 10 games of the third seed, the Toronto Raptors.
And a lot will change in the coming weeks as teams decide whether to stick it out for a playoff run or blow it up in an attempt to secure a high lottery pick in one of the best drafts in a long time.
That being said, here are my predictions for the rest of the NBA season, from playoff seeding, to who will hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy:
- Indiana Pacers: The Pacers are the most complete team in the East and will be the Miami Heat’s main roadblock to LeBron and company’s third straight championship. Currently 1.5 games ahead of the Heat in the East, the Pacers should lock up the No. 1 seed, barring any major catastrophes.
- Miami Heat: While the Heat could theoretically challenge the Pacers for the No. 1 seed, LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will not be playing as many minutes the second half of the season, to rest themselves for the playoffs, but also costing them the No. 1 seed, which could come back to bite them when and if they take on the Pacers in the Eastern Conference Championship without home court advantage.
- Toronto Raptors: Lo and behold the Raptors have proved everybody wrong and will most likely win the Atlantic Division and host a playoff series for the first time since Chris Bosh was a Raptor. A strong core led by DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, and a mid-season trade of Rudy Gay has helped this team surprise.
- Chicago Bulls: Tom Thibodeau will not let this team tank. No matter what talent the Bulls give him, Thibodeau’s team gives 110 percent night in and night out and will make the playoffs, even after losing Derrick Rose and trading away Luol Deng.
- Washington Wizards: A healthy John Wall and sharpshooter Bradley Beal has turned into one of the best young guard combos in the league. Barring an injury to Wall or Beal, this Wizards team will make the playoffs and if they can overcome the loss of Nené, they could possibly host a playoff series, if they can jump the Bulls in the standings.
- Brooklyn Nets: Somehow, Jason Kidd got this incredibly talented team to turn it around and start playing together. A cast of Brook Lopez, Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce should make the playoffs and with their experience could surprise come April.
- Cleveland Cavaliers: Having won five of their past seven the Cavs, are (hopefully!) starting to turn things around. Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters are prolific scorers and are slowly figuring out how to play together and play defense as well. With the Atlanta Hawks in a slow fall after losing Al Horford and the Bobcats most likely falling out as well, the Cavs sneak in and take the seventh seed, setting up a grudge match with LeBron and the Heat in the first-round of the playoffs, and a possible return to Cleveland in free agency by James.
- Atlanta Hawks: The Hawks beat out the Knicks for the last playoff spot in the East. Without Al Horford the Hawks are in a slow free-fall, but the combination of Kyle Korver and Jeff Teague will keep them in the playoffs and ahead of Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks.
- Oklahoma City Thunder: The Thunder are on a roll right now, and that’s without star point guard Russell Westbrook. With Westbrook returning in the next few days, Oklahoma City will keep on winning on their way to the best record in the NBA and the first seed in the Western Conference.
- Los Angeles Clippers: With Chris Paul back from injury, the Clippers are the second best team in the West. Lob city takes the second seed as the Spurs rest their players for the playoffs.
- San Antonio Spurs: The Spurs core keeps getting older and older, yet they continue to win. But the Spurs will rest their aging core down the stretch to save them for a playoff run, allowing the Clippers to take the second seed.
- Portland Trail Blazers: LaMarcus Aldridge being out for a week will hurt them, but the Trail Blazers have the best guard-forward combo in the West, after the Thunder. Damian Lillard and Aldridge have been phenomenal and will make the Blazers a team to watch come playoff time.
- Houston Rockets: The Rockets get the short end of the stick on the five really good teams in the West and will have a playoff series on the road. Dwight Howard, James Harden and Chandler Parsons make up an excellent team, but the West is just so good, they fall to the fifth seed.
- Golden State Warriors: The Warriors have the best shooter in the NBA in Stephen Curry, but with the disappearance of Harrison Barnes and Andre Igoudala’s nagging injuries, the Warriors finish sixth in the stacked West.
- Phoenix Suns: Like the Raptors in the East, nobody expected anything out of the Suns this year, not even their own management, who traded away Marcin Gortat at the beginning of the season. But Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe have stepped up and made this team one of the better offense teams in the West. But because the West is stacked, the Suns end up the seventh seed, wishing they could be in the East, where they’d be the third seed.
- Memphis Grizzlies: The saying goes a good defense beats a good offense. The Grizzlies, with the No. 3 defense in the NBA, beat out the Dallas Mavericks, the No. 6 offense in the NBA, for the last and final playoff spot. Both teams are left wishing they were in the East, where they’d both be hosting playoff series as the third and fourth seeds, respectively.
- NBA Finals MVP: Paul George, SF, Indiana: The Finals MVP usually goes to the best player on the NBA champ, unless there are extenuating circumstances. George, the star of the Pacers squad, wins the award.
- NBA MVP: Kevin Durant, SF, Oklahoma City: After winning four of the past five and the last two MVP awards, LeBron’s dynasty is broken by Durant, who’s having a huge year carrying the Thunder team, averaging 31.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game
- NBA Defensive Player of the Year: Roy Hibbert, C, Indiana: Hibbert anchors the best defense in the NBA, while averaging 11.7 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. Hibbert is becoming one of the best centers and defensive big men in the NBA and one of the main reasons why the Pacers are first in the East.
- NBA Rookie of the Year: Michael Carter-Williams, PG, Philadelphia. Carter-Williams is the lone bright spot on a team destined for a high lottery pick. Averaging 17.3 PPG and 6.3 APG with 15.86 Player Efficiency Rating, Carter-Williams has vastly outplayed his draft position in a very weak draft class.
- NBA Sixth Man of the Year: Reggie Jackson, PG, Oklahoma City. With Russell Westbrook out for significant stretches, Jackson has filled the void and helped the Thunder stay atop the Western Conference with the NBA’s best record. Without Jackson and another huge year from Durant, the Thunder might have fallen from the No. 1 seed when Westbrook was out.
- NBA Coach of the Year: Terry Stotts, Portland. Stotts has turned this team around, from the talking about trading LaMarcus Aldridge to one of the top teams in the West. The Blazers had the best record in the West for a while, and have a scary one two punch in Aldridge and Lillard.
- NBA Most Improved Player: Anthony Davis, C, New Orleans. The former No. 1 pick has shown huge improvement in his second year the league. After averaging 13.8 PPG, 8.2 RPG and 1.8 BPG last year, Davis is averaging 20.4 PPG, 10.2 RPG and 3.1 BPG this year. His PER has increased by five points and he has been a force for the Pelicans.
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