With the NBA mid-point having just passed as teams finished up playing their 33rd, 34th, 35th games, we’ve officially reached the strike-shorten point on the NBA calendar. While everyone and their mother puts out mid-season recaps and 2nd half previews, we’ll put out something along those lines but with a little more surprise. At the 50% mark of the season, we can already pinpoint certain things that are bound to happen that most people don’t want to believe or won’t believe to be true simply because they live in a fake world where all things NBA are natural and none of their awards are predetermined.
For the purpose of this article, we’re giving you a quick look ahead to what will happen in the 2nd half of the year, but instead of simply predicting it, we’ll tell you why it’s a lock to play out already at this point. And now for some second-half destinies…
Truth #1: Barring major injury, regardless of how well LeBron James continues to play, Kevin Durant will win MVP if OKC is the #1 seed in the West.
LeBron James continues to show in 2012 why he is the best basketball player in the world with yet another dominant regular season (insert playoff joke here.) Unfortunately, despite playing the best season of his career to this point, it will all be for naught at the end of the season because the NBA MVP award is about the most predictable award to predict in major sports once you have a large enough sample size. The NBA does not care who is playing the best basketball each season. Unlike a sport like the NFL which gave out 3 straight MVPs to Brett Favre or 4 total to Peyton Manning in a short period, the NBA does not like to give the same guy MVPs too many times. You have to go back nearly 30 years to Larry Bird to find the last guy to win 3 NBA MVPs in a row. All the while you had guys like Michael Jordan who was on top of the NBA world for a decade and Shaq who was the most dominant player in basketball for nearly as long and Jordan could never win 3 in a row. Shaq has 1 NBA MVP to his name in his entire career.
For whatever reason the NBA has shunned big name players from having the chance to win 3 straight MVPs. The most classic example to point to is last year’s. LeBron James had won 2 consecutive MVP awards and was again on the cusp of a 3rd. While Derrick Rose and the Bulls beat out Miami for homecourt, there was essentially nothing you could point to that Rose did better than LeBron. James outscored him, outrebounded him, averaged more steals, shot a higher percentage from the field, was an all-NBA defender (while Rose was left off all 3 teams), and had nearly a 4 point edge in PER. Yet it was all for naught.
In 2012 we’ll see that trend hold true again because the NBA is about “whose turn it is.” Kevin Durant has gone from an elite player to one of the 2-3 biggest faces in the NBA and at season’s end if Oklahoma City sits atop the Western Conference, Kevin Durant will be named the MVP of the NBA for 2012 for simply scoring and rebounding more despite LeBron’s edge in a number of categories and perhaps no more notably than a 5 point edge in PER which as of now would set the NBA record for PER in a single season.
Truth #2: Dwight Howard already knows where he’s playing basketball next year
Dwight Howard is Carmelo Anthony in 2012, he’s just being much less vocal about it. If Dwight wants to be a Laker in 2012, he’ll be a Laker in 2012 as long as he and the Magic make those intentions clear to the Lakers. If he wants to go play in Brooklyn, he’ll be in Brooklyn next year. If he wants to meet up with Deron Williams and head to Dallas instead of Brooklyn, then he’ll make sure the Mavericks can financially make that work and they’ll be Mavericks in 2012. Anyone who honestly believes he’s sitting in the dark and is just “playing hard as a member of the Orlando Magic” should talk to me about some oceanfront property I have in St. Louis. Dwight Howard is gone from Orlando in 2012, most of us know this. Now’s just making sure he gets where he wants and figuring out the best way for the Magic to be compensated for that wish to happen. People are reporting teams like the Warriors are still looking to make a run at him without the guarantee he signs. In reality it’s all one giant joke.
No team is going to throw away a pile of young talent without guarantee that player will sign a long-term extension. David Stern tried taking the power away from the players in the CBA and not allowing the backdoor agreements that led to Miami’s Big 3 happening again but fact is unless there’s a franchise tag sort of option in the future for teams then players can continue to do what has been done in recent years if they’re willing to give up enough money. At this rate Dwight Howard should make his desires firmly public enough that the Magic can do a deal before the deadline passes because at the end of the day he’s not going to end up somewhere next year he doesn’t want to play.
Truth #3: New York Will Win Any First Round Series If They Avoid Chicago and Miami
People HATE these type of statements because it goes against everything they like to believe when it comes to the NBA playoffs and that every team has a chance. Reality is they don’t. Oklahoma City and Denver last year was supposed to be an even matched series between two stars and a deep, balanced team. It turned into a Kevin Durant FT competition as he was given call after call after call. The one chance a team like Indiana, Orlando or Philly has to beat New York in the first round is to simply blow them out in 4 or 5 games. Frankly I don’t see that happening and you’ll see the Knicks get the calls that the Thunder got in Round 1 last year. We all know the reason for it: TV ratings. New York vs Miami or Chicago in Round 2 would generate huge ratings. If you think the NBA is going to watch one of those teams steamroll Philadelphia in 5 games when they could watch them roll the New York TV market in 5 games, you’re being naive.
If I thought the Boston Celtics could climb up to the 6 seed I’d say the same for them but one of these two is almost certain to be the 7 or 8 seed, if not both of them finishing in that spot. The NBA can’t help try and force the Knicks up to the 6 seed or Boston in a frantic regular season like this. But you best believe if one of them does it on their own and has one of the non-heavyweights across from them in the first round, they’ll benefit greatly from the star calls.
Truth #4: The San Antonio Spurs are not a Finals Threat
One of the more popular storylines in 2012 much like last season is the San Antonio Spurs seemingly refusal to regress as they sit at 2nd in the West at the midway point. We all now what happened a year ago as the Spurs became just the 3rd #1 seed to lose in the first round since the playoffs went to 8 teams in each league. While Greg Popovich is once again doing a fantastic job on the bench for the Spurs and they’ve developed some young talent to compliment their older core of Duncan, Ginobili and Parker, the Spurs have one glaring problem that hasn’t been an issue for the Spurs in a long time: defense. While their PPG defense doesn’t look to bad at just slightly over the league average, the biggest problem for the Spurs and the one that will come back to bite them in the postseason is FG % defense where they rank in the bottom 5 of the league, a place they share with the Bobcats, Kings, Pistons and Nets. While it appears they’ve overcome it nicely to the tune of a 24-10 record, it won’t hold up in the long run which they should no better than anyone after years and years of beating the Suns in the postseason who excelled despite a similar defensive deficiency.
Forget the bottom 5 for a moment. From the 1989-1990 season till now (and that’s as far as I went back before giving up), not one team from the bottom TEN of FG% defense has even made the Finals, let alone win it. If there’s one steady trend that has shown over the course of 20+ years to be true it is that if you give up too many easy buckets you probably have very little chance to win the NBA title. While the Spurs appear to be playing well now and have a championship core that has delivered multiple rings in the past, the fact is that with the defense they have no and the style of play that is excelling the regular season helping them to this great record, come playoff time it won’t hold up and they could just as easily fall victim to another 1st round exit this year, but likely not much later if they do advance.
Have any more you feel like adding? Please do. In the meantime, watch in amazement as these things come to fruition in just a short few months. Meanwhile I’m sit back and yawn.