Hello Palawan! The National Basketball Association 2018 – 2019 season has reached its midseason point and I would like to give you an assessment on how things are shaping up in the league thus far. Let’s have a quick look on standings, movements, coach updates and other developments in the highest level of basketball in the planet.
“Fear the Dear”
The Milwaukee Bucks, as of this writing, is on the top of the standings with a 28 -11 record for a league leading 72% win percentage. This achievement is but a bi-product of a monster season coming from the Greek Freak Giannis Antetokounmpo (don’t ask me to spell it again please), one of the leading candidates for Most Valuable Player this season. Giannis is having a gem of a season and is very much at par with the New Orleans Pelicans’ Anthony Davis in points, rebounds and blocked shots and game dominance thus far.
Backing the 6’11 Antetokounmpo in the Bucks fold are a crew of solid role players in starters Eric Bledsoe, former rookie of the year Malcolm Brogdon, 7’0 center Brook Lopez and reliable 3 and D wing Kris Middleton. This starting unit of the Bucks is solid and can match very well with other league leaders this season. Adding bench support to Milwaukee’s cause this season are veteran playmaker George Hill, Center-Forward Ersan Ilyasova, Center Thon Maker, and wingman Tony Snell.
You really don’t see much of big name players in the Bucks roster but head coach Mike Budenholzer, a former San Antonio Spurs assistant and Atlanta Hawks head coach, did very well in surrounding the Greek Freak with a good crew of contributors. Let’s see how the Bucks sustain their performance as we enter the second half of the season.
What’s Up North
The trade for Kawhi Leonard is paying good dividends for the Toronto Raptors this season. They are a close second to the Bucks in the Eastern Conference race and if you are watching the Raptors’ games lately, it would seem like Leonard didn’t come off an injury last season at all. He is his usual dominant do – it – all guy for the team of “The North”. The Bucks and the Raptors are tipped to battle for the Eastern Conference crown this year alongside a traditional power house in the Boston Celtics.
A pleasant surprise atop the leader board in the Western Conference, the Denver Nuggets of coach Mike Malone are off to a blazing start this year. Similar to the Bucks, this team has no big name on their roster. A bunch of steady contributors led by 7’0 Nikola Jokic, who is having a break out season, and resident power forward Paul Millsap are the steadying force of the Nuggets this year.
Malone, a former assistant coach of the Golden State Warriors, has also gotten major contributions from their guard rotation led by Jamal Murray and Gary Harris. The Nuggets have yet to see some minutes from Isaiah Thomas, currently going through rehab for last season’s injury, but their reserve crew led by forward Juan Hernangomez, big man Mason Plumlee, and guards Malik Beasley and Trey Lyles are turning in some major contributions this year. Expect the Nuggets to compete heavily in the Western Conference playoff race.
The Warriors and the Rockets
Starting relatively slower this year, don’t write out the traditional Western Conference powerhouses, folks. The Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets are currently ranked 2nd and 5th respectively in the West but I expect KD, Steph Curry, and Klay Thompson to work their championship magic for the Warriors in the second half of the season. Let’s also not forget that the Warriors have yet to unleash Demarcus Cousins. It’s wait and see how “Boogie” meshes with the big 3.
For the Rockets, the Carmelo Anthony experience didn’t work out but they have since managed to rebound and have recently added Austin Rivers in the mix of things adding depth to support and preserve star point guard Chris Paul. Oh and in case you haven’t noticed, James Harden is working on a heavy case of back to back Most Valuable Player (MVP) seasons this year.
Early All NBA
One can predict, based in part on the storyline above, who the consensus “early” all NBA first team members are. The Greek Freak Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis (he’s making a good habit of double doubles this season), Kawhi Leonard, Lebron James and Kevin Durant. The second team is open season at this point but yours truly sees Steph Curry, Russel Westbrook (OKC Thunder), Nikola Jocik, Blake Griffin (Detroit Pistons) and Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers) in the mix.
It is also looking like a clear Rookie of the Year spot for Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks if he continues his stellar play.
The NBA also has its share of coach firings this year. The likes of Tyrone Lue of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Fred Hoiberg of the Chicago Bulls and, just recently, Tom Thibodeau of the Minnesota Timberwolves all got their pink slips thus far. You see, with the huge amount of dollars being spent by each team owner to build a team that will sell games, one cannot really afford a bad losing streak. It is the way of professional sports.
On the flip side, we are seeing stellar coaching from the Houston Rockets master tactician Mike D’Antoni and Mike Budenhozler of the Bucks.
Palawan, there are a lot more for us to talk about on developments in the NBA but I will reserve that for next article. The level of the games are just about to hit peak levels and now is the best time to watch great quality games!
(The writer is a senior leader of the only Business Process Outsourcing Contact Center company in Puerto Princesa. He also is the current Puerto Princesa Underground River Festival Foundation President)