NBA Awards Roundtable

NBA Awards Roundtable

The NBA regular season will come to a close on Wednesday night, which means it is just about that time to make postseason award predictions.

MVP

Stephen_Curry_meets_with_President_Barack_Obama_in_the_Oval_Office,_2015-02-25

Eric Laboissonniere: 

  1. Stephen Curry (Close to unanimous)
  2. Russell Westbrook
  3. LeBron James
  4. Kevin Durant
  5. Kawhi Leonard

Connor Casey

  1. Stephen Curry (Without a doubt)
  2. Kawhi Leonard
  3. Russell Westbrook
  4. LeBron James
  5. Kevin Durant

Timmy Sclafani

  1. Steph Curry
    1. Kobe Bryant
  2. Russell Westbrook
  3. LeBron James
  4. Kawhi Leonard
  5. Chris Paul

 

 

Defensive Player of the Year

Eric Laboissonniere: 

  1. Draymond Green
  2. Kawhi Leonard
  3. Rudy Gobert

Connor Casey

  1. Draymond Green
  2. Kawhi Leonard
  3. Paul Millsap

Timmy Sclafani

  1. Kawhi Leonard
  2. Draymond Green
  3. Paul Millsap

Rookie of the Year

Eric Laboissonniere:

  1. Karl Anthony-Towns (should be unanimous)
  2. Kristaps Porzingis
  3. Nikola Jokic

Connor Casey

  1. KAT!! (It will be unanimous)
  2. Nikola Jokic
  3. Kristaps Porzingis

Timmy Sclafani

  1. Karl Anthony-Towns
  2. Kristaps Porzingis
  3. Nikola Jokic

Coach of the Year

Eric Laboissonniere:

  1. Gregg Popovich
  2. Steve Clifford
  3. Dwayne Casey

Connor Casey

  1. Terry Stots
  2. Gregg Popovich
  3. Steve Kerr

Timmy Sclafani:

  1. Steve Kerr
  2. Greg Popovich
  3. Dave Joerger

Sixth Man of the Year

Eric Laboissonniere:

  1. Jeremy Lin
  2. Enes Kanter
  3. Ed Davis

Connor Casey

  1. Jamal Crawford
  2. Jeremy Lin
  3. Enes Kanter

Timmy Sclafani:

  1. Jamal Crawford
  2. Tristan Thompson
  3. Jeremy Lin

Most Improved Player of the Year

Eric Laboissonniere:

  1. C.J. McCollum
  2. Giannis Antetokounmpo
  3. Ian Mahinmi

Connor Casey

  1. C.J. McCollum
  2. Giannis Antetokunmpo
  3. Jae Crowder (I had to have at least one homer pick)

Timmy Sclafani

  1. C.J. McCollum
  2. Giannis Antetokounmpo
  3. Kemba Walker

All-NBA

Eric Laboissonniere:

First Team

  • G- Stephen Curry
  • G- Russell Westbrook
  • F- LeBron James
  • F- Kevin Durant
  • C- Draymond Green

Second Team

  • G- Chris Paul
  • G- Kyle Lowry
  • F- Kawhi Leonard
  • F- Paul Millsap
  • C- DeMarcus Cousins

Third Team

  • G- Damian Lillard
  • G- James Harden
  • F- Paul George
  • F- LaMarcus Aldrdige
  • C- Al Horford

Connor Casey

First Team

  • G – Stephen Curry
  • G – Russell Westbrook
  • F – Kawhi Leonard
  • F – LeBron James
  • C – Draymond Green

Second Team

  • CP3
  • Damian Lillard
  • Kevin Durant
  • Paul Millsap
  • DeMarcus Cousins

Third Team

  • Kyle Lowry
  • James Harden
  • Paul George
  • LaMarcus Aldridge
  • Andre Drummond

Timmy Sclafani:

First Team

  • G – Stephen Curry
  • G – Russell Westbrook
  • F – Kevin Durant
  • F – LeBron James
  • C – Draymond Green

Second Team

  • Chris Paul
  • Damian Lillard
  • Kawhi Leonard
  • Paul George
  • Al Horford

Third Team

  • Kyle Lowry
  • Klay Thompson
  • Paul Millsap
  • LaMarcus Aldridge
  • DeMarcus Cousins

All-Defense

Eric Laboissonniere: 

First Team

  • G- Chris Paul
  • G- Tony Allen
  • F- Kawhi Leonard
  • F- Draymond Green
  • C- Rudy Gobert

Second Team

  • G- Avery Bradley
  • G- Klay Thompson
  • F- Jae Crowder
  • F- Paul Millsap
  • C- Hassan Whiteside

Connor Casey

First Team

  • G – Kyle Lowry
  • G – Tony Allen
  • F – Kawhi Leonard
  • F – Draymond Green
  • C – Rudy Gobert

Second Team

  • G – Avery Bradley
  • G – Jimmy Butler
  • F – Paul George
  • F – Paul Millsap
  • C – Hassan Whiteside

Timmy Sclafani:

First Team

  • G – Chris Paul
  • G – Avery Bradley
  • F – Kawhi Leonard
  • F – Draymond Green
  • C – Rudy Gobert

Second Team

  • G – Tony Allen
  • G – Jimmy Butler
  • F – Paul George
  • F – Paul Millsap
  • C – DeAndre Jordan

All-Rookie

Eric Laboissonniere:

First Team

  • G- Emmanuel Mudiay
  • G- Devin Booker
  • F- Karl Anthony-Towns
  • F- Kristaps Porzingis
  • C- Nikola Jokic

Second Team

  • G- D’Angelo Russell
  • G- Justise Winslow
  • F- Myles Turner
  • F-Jahlil Okafor
  • C- Willie Cauley-Stein

Connor Casey

First Team

  • G – Emmanuel Mudiay
  • G – Devin Booker
  • F – Kristaps Porzingis
  • F – KAT
  • C – Nikola Jokic

Second Team

  • G – D’Angelo Russell
  • G – Trey Lyles
  • F – Justice Winslow
  • F – Myles Turner
  • C – Willie Cauley-Stein

Timmy Sclafani

First Team

  • G – D’Angelo Russell
  • G – Devin Booker
  • F – Kristaps Porzingis
  • F – Karl Anthony Towns
  • C – Nikola Jokic

Second Team

  • G – Justice Winslow
  • G – Trey Lyles
  • F – Justice Winslow
  • F – Jahlil Okafor
  • C – Willie Cauley-Stein
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Ben Simmons, Buddy Hield and the modern NBA

In today's NBA, is Buddy Hield more NBA-ready than Ben Simmons?
In today’s NBA, is Buddy Hield more NBA-ready than Ben Simmons? (Courtesy USATSI)

For those of you that don’t know, Ben Simmons has been touted as the prize of the 2016 NBA Draft since before he stepped foot onto the LSU campus. The rookie sensation from Australia has drawn comparisons to LeBron James and Erving “Magic” Johnson for his combination of size and play-making ability and NBA teams like the Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers have given up all hope of immediate success in hopes that they can land Simmons as a franchise-changing piece to the puzzle.

As the collegiate season moved on, though, NBA scouts have started to realize that, in today’s NBA, Simmons has a ways to go in terms of being able to make an immediate impact. His skill set, while elite in a number of ways, may not match up with the what NBA teams are looking for in 2016. In the modern NBA, teams want to spread the floor, they want a stretch-4, and they want two-way players. So far at LSU, we haven’t really seen any of that.

Enter Buddy Hield. The sharpshooter from Oklahoma brings an NBA team everything that they could want from a bench player. Hield defends well, rebounds well for his size (5.5 per game at 6-4), and shoots the lights out. Hield is a borderline 50-50-90 guys for God’s sake! A senior guard still leaves something to be desired from a play-making standpoint, but he has shown consistent growth, especially in his outside, over the course of his four years at OU:

Buddy Hield OU stats

In a league where a knock-down shooter is a coveted commodity, Hield’s abilities are more NBA-ready than Simmons. Hield could step onto an NBA roster and immediately become an asset off of the bench. If you add Hield to a three-point challenged team like the Miami Heat or the Milwaukee Bucks, he would immediately add a dimension that the team did not previously have. He is shooting 48 percent from beyond the arc! And, most importantly, he is aggressive. He knows he can shoot and he is going to if he gets the look.

Now by no means am I saying that Hield will have a better NBA career than Simmons. Simmons’ ceiling is miles above that of Hield, but right now, with the NBA trending toward a league where all five positions are expected to at least have a three-point shot in their arsenal, Hield’s stock is on the rise.

Simmons has not shown the ability, or even the willingness, to knock down a mid-range jump shot, let alone a three. Simmons has taken just three shots from beyond the arc during the season and has made just one. His seemingly hesitant attitude has caused some alarms to go off in the head’s of every NBA executive and his stock, after a miserable performance in the SEC Tournament and a refusal to participate in the NIT Tournament, is up in the air.

Courtesy Derick E. Hingle/USA Today Sports
Courtesy Derick E. Hingle/USA Today Sports

Simmons has looked disengaged a number of times throughout the season. While Hield has certainly had some bad performances, the most recent being his six points on 1-8 shooting against West Virginia in the Big 12 Championship semifinals, its never because of a lack of trying. Hield is a shot taker, and a confident one at that. Even if he is struggling, he has a scorers mentality and will never fade out of a game. Simmons, while he still makes an impact on the boards and even as a playmaker, sometimes seems to be out of touch on the offensive end. There is some talk around the country that LSU head coach Johnny Jones was partly responsible for the way that Simmons was used in the scheme of the offense, but a player of Simmons’ caliber should be able to make an impact no matter what their supposed role is.

Simmons will not drop below the top two picks in the NBA draft. Some draft experts still have him being picked with the number one overall selection. But after once being seen as the clear-cut number one pick, some doubt is creeping into the minds of those making the decisions on draft night. Hield is projected to go in the top-10 of this summer’s draft but, as of right now, his impact is something that almost every team values. Every team could use a super-sub who can come in off the bench and light it up. Stretch the floor, knock down outside shots, and always attack. These characteristics apply to Hield, but unfortunately not to Simmons.

With Hield getting ready to lead his team on an extended March Madness run, Simmons’ college basketball career is over, since he announced that he not coming back next season. Hield and Brandon Ingram are the only potential top five NBA draft picks left in the NCAA tournament, where players like Jamal Murray, Kris Dunn, Jaylen Brown, and Jakob Poeltl are all out of the tournament already. Simmons, though will have to sit at home and watch, after a disappointing end to a once promising NCAA career.

NBA High-Five Reaction All-Stars

NBA High-Five Reaction All-Stars

So, last night was another eventful night in the NBA. There were not any owners dunking or introductions of new mascots that look like they could be on the cover of cereal box, but there were great NBA games on. The Boston Celtics won their 12th straight game at home against the red-hot Portland Trail Blazers. Rookie R.J. Hunter also had like the worst thing ever happen to him, which you can see below.

Below are basically my high-five reaction all-stars from this season and the past. You make the list depending on how great, funny, and creative your reaction is to receiving or not receiving a high-five. Below are the different types of categories.

The Rookies Don’t Deserve High-Five Guy

The NBA is the sport where most of the teams have stars, and we have seen many times that sometimes, stars are not about that high-five life. Isaiah Thomas was pumped that his team was dominating and that he had a great game, so no way was he going to high-five a rookie. Hunter’s reaction was pretty classic though, basically making a facial expression like “alriighttt……”, and leaving his hand up to make it look like there was something wrong with his hand.

Thomas did apologize after the game for leaving Hunter hanging.

Part of this section will also include this amazing rookie to star handshake between Russell Westbrook and Cameron Payne. This handshake is awesome, and since Payne is not get much playing time anymore, fans should always pay attention to the pregame handshake between these two.

#FREECAMPAYNE

The High-Five For Energy Guy

Russell Westbrook is literally the craziest man in the NBA and if I was going to war with another country, he would be my super soldier cause he is relentless and freakishly athletic. He feeds off energy, so when a player did not give him a high-five coming to the bench, he made sure to stop and get a high-five. Gotta respect his hustle, I would not want to be the dude that did not give Westbrook the high-five.

The High-Five Yourself Guy

Then there is Kosta Koufos, who has the best reaction to a non-high-five in my opinion. I would react in the same exact way if I lent a hand out to friend in need with a high-five, but he was like nahhhhhh, then I would dap myself up. Sometimes if I see a buddy pretty far away but I want to say high, I’ll pretend that we dapped each other up by dapping myself up.

The Too Cool High-Five Guy

The fan just wanted some love from Andre Iguodola, but Iggy was not about that life at all. The fan literally high-fived the air, I would have done the exact same thing. Come on Andre do not leave my dude hanging like that.

NBA Coffee Table Talks: Rookies

NBA Coffee Table Talks: Rookies

For this edition of NBA Coffee Table Talks, the staff writers at C&B will give their takes on some of the rookies around the league. We will talk about players like Kristpas Porzingis, Cameron Payne, Jarell Martin (maybe not), and much more!

2015 NBA Draft Towns

Is the NBA ROY race already over?

Timmy: It sure is. Can you even call Karl-Anthony Towns a rookie?  I mean… It’s his first year in the NBA, but it doesn’t even seem fair. Towns just had his 12th game with 25+ points and 10+ rebounds, which is the fourth most in the NBA. Just 2/3 of the way through his rookie campaign he is drawing comparisons to Tim “Old Man Riverwalk” Duncan–one of the all time greats. The only stat that really favors Porzingis is PER–but watch one game, or look at one stat line, and you will see that KAT is the undisputed rookie of the year.

Connor: Timmy pretty much summed it all up. KAT has been heads and shoulders above the rest of the rookie class. Sure Porzingis has had his impressive performance and his stretches where he has looked like ROY candidate, but KAT has been the most consistently productive. I think a lot of people *cough, Timmy, cough* overlooked KAT because he wasn’t able to show his entire skill set at Kentucky. We saw the defense and the post game but we barely ever saw the shooting touch or the play-making ability (thanks a lot Calipari). It’s a no-brainer at this point for me and I don’t think any other rookie can do anything over the remainder of the season to change my mind.

Chris: Can’t argue with the fact that Towns is an absolute beast and has proved that he’s going to be a double-double machine for a long time. If the season ended now then yes, Towns is the ROY without a doubt. Unfortunately for him Kristaps Porzingis a.k.a The Latvian Lion, Godzingis, KP, Zinger is right behind Towns in PPG, Rebounds and leads all rooks with 1.90 blocks per game. So while Towns’ play has been stellar I still have faith in my man KP to make a late season run and further contend for the coveted ROY title. There’s not much else a Knicks fan can hope for this season…

Eric: Kat Kat Kat!!!! He is a monster and has been a monster all year. Kristaps is certainly in the discussion as well and maybe you could convince me that Devin Booker is in the conversation as well. Booker has been awesome, even though the Phoenix Suns might be the worst team in the NBA.

  1. Towns
  2. Gawddzingis
  3. Booker

 

What rookie has really impressed from the get-go?

Timmy: I will use this question to show some love for the Zinger. He walked on to a flawed New York Knicks team and is averaging 14 points per game and 7.4 rebounds per game. While Porzingis still needs to put on some weight and work on his defense, he immediately made himself one of the NBA’s most exciting players to watch. If you don’t love a good ol’ fashioned Porzingis putback dunk, then you don’t love basketball. To top it all off, he got Melo to share not only the spotlight–but also the ball!

Connor: I’m going to have to go with Devin Booker on this one. He is stuck in a terrible Phoenix organization that has no direction whatsoever, but he has really proved to be a brilliant shooter. Not to mention he is the youngest player in the NBA this season. He has proven to be a capable defender and has even shown flashes of play-making and ball handling. I didn’t think coming out of the draft that he would be able to contribute so quickly.

Chris: Clearly my bias lays with Porzingis as he (as promised) turned the draft day boos into cheers with excellent play over the course of the season. I have run into many Knicks fans that have claimed they knew Porzingis would end up being a stud from the beginning of the season, ironically those were the same people who sent me “fire everybody” texts after New York took KP 4th overall. Interesting.

Eric: I know Justise Winslow does not have great numbers like Towns, Porzingis, or even Booker, but he has been terrific as well from the start. Sometimes it is hard for rookies to come off the bench right away, but he has really adapted to his role in Miami. He is an excellent defender and pretty good on offense, especially when he is taking it to the rack.

He must improve his three-point shooting, but other than that, he has looked really sharp.

Most disappointing rookie?

Timmy: I’ll just admit that I went through the list of rookies and didn’t see a single one that I would classify strictly as a disappointment. They’ve basically all shown promise, which is really the most you can ask in a guys first year. This rookie class has been deceptively great and I think a LOT of these players have potential not only to be in the league for many years–but to develop into legit starting players and All-Stars.

Connor: This might not be a fair assessment but I had pretty high hopes for Frank “The Tank” Kaminsky this year. After Michael Jordan and the Hornets organization refused to take up to six draft picks from the C’s just so that they could grab Kaminsky made me think that he might be a hidden gem. While he has certainly had some good moments throughout the season, shooting 40 percent from the field doesn’t get me too excited about what he has to offer. Sure he can has time to grow, but with Al Jefferson out for almost two months, Kaminsky had a chance to solidify himself as a mainstay in the rotation and, in my opinion, he did nothing to make himself stand out.

Chris: This has been a stacked rookie class from top to bottom and as most of these guys are still teenagers it’s impossible to predict where their play will be at a few years down the line. With that being said I expected a little more out of Emmanuel Mudiay. He slipped a little bit on draft day after playing a year professionally in China. Mudiay is averaging a solid 11.3 PPG and leading rooks in the assist per game with 5.7. With his professional experience I thought he would have been a top 4 scorer for rookies heading into the season, solid play but it just goes to show how talented the rookie pool really is this year.

Eric: Kelly Oubre Jr. only play 11.3 MPG because he has not been very good this season for the Washington Wizards. The team definitely had high hopes for Oubre on the wing to help the team with scoring but he has disappointed big time. He averages 3.7 PPG, but he does shot 35 percent from deep, which is not bad. In the month of February, he is averaging 4.4 MPG and 1.9 PPG because people have came back from injury and because there is no need for Oubre in the lineup.

I thought Oubre was a steal for the Wizards in the draft because it filled a need on the wing to back up Otto Porter Jr., but he has been a huge disappointment so far.

Which rookie is in the worst situation?

Timmy: Uhm, can I pick the Celtics rookies? Sure they are in a great, team-oriented locker room with one of the best coaches in the NBA on a team currently sitting in 3rd place in the Eastern Conference… but they can’t BUY minutes on the floor unless it’s a blow out in one direction or the other. Towards the beginning of the season R.J. Hunter was getting some nice first-half minutes–but despite some promising outings, Coach Brad Stevens has all but cut him out of the roster in the interest of shortening the bench.

Connor: As much of a Celtics homer as I am, I have to agree with Timmy on this one. Now I’m not advocating for all of them to be playing 20 minutes per game, but I think there are spots where their skill set could be helpful. When fellow rookie KAT was putting a hurting on the C’s on Monday night, would it have hurt to throw Jordan Mickey in there and see if he has any chance of slowing him down? Certainly nobody else had been able to stop him, so why not throw him in? If I had one qualm with the way Brad Stevens coaches is that he sometimes gets a little to trusting in his veteran players. Granted, Evan Turner has been playing really well lately, but sometimes the match ups call for different things and the Celtics’ three rookies have something to offer.

Chris: Maybe a better question  would have been what rookie is in the best situation? Philly, LAL and Minnesota all have young talent and presumably solid draft picks in 2016. The young players on these teams are growing and developing together to one day get out of the gutter and contend in the playoffs. Towns and Okafor are averaging 30 minutes per game which is great for their development into All-Stars down the line. I don’t understand why D’Angelo Russell isn’t getting more time in L.A. on such a weak team. Might be time to start playing your draft pick so he has time to grow rather than focus on the Kobe Farewell Tour, just a thought.

Eric: Mario Hezonja should be playing a lot more than he is. He is a very talented young player, that has the ability to put on a show on any given night. He reminds me of a smarter J.R. Smith because they both are really good deep shooters and they also have a lot of confidence in themselves. It is not his fault that there really is not much room for him to play, he is a shooting guard on the Orlando Magic, which is a team full of guard and they just added another guard in Brandon Jennings. The Magic need to play him much more.

My second pick for worst situation would be Bobby Portis. People see now that Portis is starting to play a lot more, but the only reason he is starting to play a lot more is because Joakim Noah and Nikola Mirotic are sidelined with injuries. He is a very good player that could be playing a lot of quality minutes on plenty of teams, but the Bulls need to make some moves this offseason to clear up their heavily crowded frontcourt, so Portis can play more.

Last question, do you think Timmy should apologize to Karl-Anthony Towns?

Timmy: Hey, hey, hey. See question 1.

The short answer is yes.

Connor: If there isn’t a thank you card sent out by the end of the day I’m going to be furious. So many apologies need to be made.

Eric: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZSM3w1v-A_Y

Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 9.18.05 AM
Towns’s Stats As A Rookie

 

Coffee And Basketball Vodcast #6

Coffee And Basketball Vodcast #6

For this edition of the Coffee and Basketball vodcast, Connor and I talk about basically every trade that happened at yesterday’s trade deadline. We also talk about some of the winners and losers of the trade deadline; spoiler alert… Stan Van Gundy is a gawddd!

A few technical difficulties with sound on this vod, and I had to leave mid-way to handle a room lockout.. Duty calls!

Coffee Table Talks: Midseason Takeaways

Coffee Table Talks: Midseason Takeaways

For this edition of Coffee Table Talks, the writers at C&B will talk about some of the biggest surprises and disappointments of the NBA season now that we are heading into all-star weekend.

What NBA team has exceeded expectations?

Timmy: I absolutely have to go with the Toronto Raptors. I want to give honorable mention to the Portland Trailblazers, but strictly in terms of wins and performance the Raptors have blown my expectations out of the water. I thought they would regress while the rest of the East got better, and I couldn’t have been more wrong.

DeRozan and Lowry just keep on taking bigger and bigger leaps every year, and now they are probably the second-best starting backcourt in the whole league. The Raps have the 5th best point differential in the league and the 6th most efficient offense. As it stands right now, I could easily see a Cleveland-Toronto ECF going to 6 or 7 games. I wouldn’t even be shocked to see Toronto make their way in to the finals if they keep playing the way they have been.

The only thing to watch out for is another post-All Star break collapse like last year.

Eric: I will admit, I thought Portland Trailblazers were going to be one of the worst teams in the NBA this season, but they have been pretty awesome this season, plus they are very fun to watch. They have one of the best backcourts in the NBA and they are currently projected to make the NBA playoffs. They got rid of every player in their starting lineup from last season other than Damian Lillard.

No one would have been surprised if the Blazers tanked and became a lottery team, but no one would have predicted that the team would make the playoffs, which could happen.

Connor: Man you guys took all the good answers before I got here. Since you two already took my first two answers I will have to go with the Dallas Mavericks. While I know they have been a perennial playoff team in the Western Conference, I didn’t think they had it in them after they got worked in the “DeAndre Jordan Saga.” After thinking they had one of the most dynamic shot blockers in the NBA, they quickly had to turn face and fill the void with Zaza Pachulia. They acquired Wesley Matthews, but he was coming off a major knee injury. They had a lot of point guards, but Derron Williams was seen as washed up and Raymond Felton was never more than a backup.

The odds seemed to be stacked against them but somehow they have been able to stave off tanking and remain relevant. Pachulia was a borderline All-Star, Williams has, thus far, avoided the mark injury that has plagued him in so many previous season, and Dirk has turned back the clock and been very productive. While they don’t have a chance against the Warriors or the other Western Conference elites, I definitely didn’t see them competing for a possible home court advantage in the playoffs.

 

What NBA team has disappointed?

Timmy: There is a few teams that deserve this title, but none more than the Houston Rockets. Houston came out of the gates playing like garbage, and not a whole lot has changed since then excluding a few decent stretches of basketball. The centerpiece of their team, James Harden, seems to have taken a step back since last year. He has mostly returned to form at this point in the year, but it took him a month or two after living the life of a Kardashian this offseason.

The Rockets have the 5th worst defense in the league, and it’s a known fact that those teams simply do not last in the playoffs. As it stands today, the Rockets are outside of the playoff picture. Even if they do bump the Jazz or the Trail Blazers out, they are looking at a ridiculously tough first round matchup against any one of Golden State, San Antonio, or Oklahoma City.

Eric: A combination of the New Orleans Pelicans and the Atlanta Hawks have been the most disappointing teams this season. It is hard to blame the Pelicans for being bad this season because of the amount of injuries the team has suffered. The most disappointing thing about this team is that I really thought they were going to make the leap this season behind superstar play from Anthony Davis, but both the team and Davis have not made the leap due to injures for the most part.

For the record, I never thought the Hawks would come even close to the 60 win season that they had last season, but I thought they would be the second best team in the Eastern Conference. The Hawks are still a top five Eastern Conference squad, but I just think they have not been very good this year and they have struggled against many teams. I still do not think the team should blow it up, like many rumors have suggested, but they have been disappointing.

Connor: Once again I will go outside the box a little bit with my answer. This may be more of a personal disappointment than anything, but I think the Miami Heat have severely underperformed so far. Coming into the year a healthy Chris Bosh, and impactful rookie in Justise Winslow, and an improved bench made Miami an immediate contender in the Eastern Conference. NBA pundits around the country were saying that they thought Miami would have the best chance to knock off the reigning Eastern Conference Champion Cleveland Cavaliers. I thought that their starting lineup was excellent and as long as everyone could stay relatively healthy, they would have a shot.

While Miami is certainly still in the mix in the East, currently holding the fifth seed right now, they have not truly fulfilled their potential. Dwayne Wade and Bosh have done their part, but Goran Dragic has been a disappointment and their bench has been very inconsistent.

What NBA player other than Stephen Curry is making a strong MVP case?

Timmy: I’m going to totally contradict my last answer here and say James Harden–but let me explain myself. This is following a strict definition of MVP as the MOST VALUABLE PLAYER, not the BEST player. All of the other elite players in the league are paired up with better talent than Harden is. My first thought was to say Russel Westbrook, but OKC would still be a solid team because of Kevin Durant. LeBron James, Draymond Green, Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry– all of these guys have AT LEAST one other all-star playing with them. Harden is basically alone, and he carries the Houston Rockets on a nightly basis.

Eric: Has to be Draymond Green or Kawhi Leonard. Green is Golden State’s most valuable player and Curry is the team’s best player. I know Green does not have the numbers to try and make a strong MVP case, but he is certainly playing like an MVP on both ends of the floor.

Kawhi has made the leap that everyone wanted him to make this season. He can finally takeover on offense, and he is still one of the best defenders in the NBA.

Connor: I’m going to have to go with Kevin Durant on this one. After an injury-filled season last year, KD has burst back onto the scene and returned to his MVP form. He has the third highest scoring average in the league, the second highest PER behind Curry and he is a borderline 50-40-90 guy. He is crashing the boards at an almost career-high level and has stepped up his defense.

Simply put he can do things that not many other people in the league can do. People may have forgot the sheer greatness of KD because of his injury, but no longer.

Who are your NBA stealth title contenders?

Timmy: Refer back to answer 1; Toronto Raptors. I don’t really think that the Raps are built for a championship run just yet, but it’s not stealthy enough to say Oklahoma City. I think most hoop fans know that, no matter how good Golden State is, San Antonio or OKC could end up knocking them out in a Western Conference Final. If that happens, I think Cleveland or Toronto would have a change at winning in a 7-game series.

Eric: The Oklahoma City Thunder are a stealth title contender, which is crazy to think about seeing that they have two of the best five players in the NBA on their squad. The Thunder have been awesome this year, but they are being overshadowed by the Warriors and the Spurs. If Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are healthy for the playoffs, boy are they going to be tough to beat.

Connor: It’s hard to think of a stealth title contender because the Warriors, Spurs, Thunder and Cavaliers have separated themselves so much from the rest of the pack. If I had to pick one sleeper for a playoff run it would have to be the Clippers. I know that they are the Clippers and will find a way to screw things up in the playoffs, but outside of the top four teams in the league I think the Clippers have the most talent. Their bench needs work and they could get better with a few trades at the deadline, but they could cause some problems.

What is your biggest NBA midseason takeaway?

Timmy: Every time I think the NBA can’t get any better, it does. This season has been fantastic so far, and it is only getting better. I think the overall watch-ability of the NBA has never been higher. Just about every team in the league has SOME reason to tune in and watch them play on any given night of the week. Even in the doldrums of February, the league is turning out exciting game after exciting game.

Eric: This is a popular opinion, but my biggest takeaway is that Stephen Curry is ridiculously amazing. I thought the reigning MVP was incredible last season, but he is even having a better season this year. Along with Curry being amazing, my other midseason takeaway is that the Warriors are probably going to win the title and only end the season with less then 10 losses, which is crazy to think about.

Connor: My biggest takeaway from the first half of the season is that the 2016 NBA Champion is going to come from the Western Conference. Without and pretty big upset, the Cavs are going to come out of the East. While the Cavs  could muck up some games and take a game or two in the Finals, they aren’t beating the Spurs, Warriors or Thunder in a seven-game series. I’m not sure anyone is beating the Warriors at all, but even the Spurs and Thunder have a better team than the Cavs. And while everyone knows I’m not the biggest Cavs fan, this is not me being a hater. The three top teams in the West are better overall teams than the Cavs and that is just a fact.

THE NBA IS AMAZING