After mid-January, there tends to be a significant focus on the NBA. There are multiple reasons as to why that happens, such as the conclusion of the NFL season, the NBA All-Star weekend, and the playoff race to the Larry O’Brien trophy intensifies. There are storylines that have emerged after the halfway point of the season.
The most prominent storyline within the NBA is the Golden State Warriors. The triumvirate of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green are continuing to shatter everyone’s expectations. This 2015-16 Warriors team is receiving constant comparisons to the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls team that won a NBA record of 72 wins. With a record of 40-4 through 44 games, the idea of the Warriors breaking the Bulls’ 72 wins seems feasible. However, the Warriors will face their real test this week when they play the San Antonio Spurs on Monday, Jan. 25 and the Oklahoma City Thunder two weeks later. If the reigning MVP, Steph Curry can get victories from the Spurs and Thunder, then expect smooth sailing for the rest of the season for the Warriors.
Speaking of MVP, the MVP race is heating up. Even though Curry seems like a presumptive favorite to capture a consecutive MVP award, there are other players who will challenge him for the award. These names are Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and former MVP, Kevin Durant. Leonard has reached a whole new level of superstardom. When LaMarcus Aldridge signed with the San Antonio Spurs over the summer, it was expected that Leonard would take a secondary role on offense following the signing. However, Leonard is averaging a career high 20 PPG, 7 RPG, 2 APG and 1 block and steal per game. The only other players with this stat line are: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins, Paul Milsap, and Paul George. That is pretty elite company. In addition, Leonard has the best three point field-goal percentage in the NBA at 49 percent while leading the Spurs to a 38-6 record, well enough for second place in the brutal Western Conference.
There is another award race that is coming down to the wire, and that is the Rookie of the Year award (ROTY). Initially, the Rookie of the Year race was a two-man race between Minnesota Timberwolves forward, Karl-Anthony Towns; and Philadelphia 76ers center, Jahlil Okafor. Nevertheless, Latvian forward, Kristaps Porzingis, has entered the fray. He is crushing expectations as he is helping Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks try to achieve a playoff berth for the first time since the 2012-13 season. So far, Towns and Porzingis are the only rookies who have been consistent with their play and performance. Okafor stumbled out of the gates during the first couple weeks but with Ish Smith at the helm at point guard, Okafor has been stabilizing his play.
Synonymous with the halfway mark besides All-Star weekend is the Trade Deadline. Up to this date, the league has been relatively quiet in terms of trades. However, names that are frequently mentioned on the trade block are DeMarcus Cousins, Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon, Rudy Gay, Thaddeus Young and a disgruntled Markieff Morris. The teams that will be active on the trade deadline are teams that are aggressively making a push for the playoffs and teams that decide they want to rebuild and have a fire sale. Teams that fit in this category are the Washington Wizards, Phoenix Suns, Brooklyn Nets, Sacramento Kings, and the New Orleans Pelicans.
The last storyline that has been prevalent this season is the Ben Simmons sweepstakes. Prized LSU forward, Ben Simmons is the presumptive no. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA draft. Simmons has drawn comparisons to LeBron James and Magic Johnson due to his versatility and athleticism. Currently, the five worse teams in the NBA are the Nets, 76ers, Lakers, Suns and the Timberwolves. The question is which team will emerge victorious and win the number one pick in May’s Draft Lottery.
There is a lot of activity to look for during the remaining ten weeks of the season. Stay tuned as more storylines will emerge.
Garbiel Smith is a fourth-year communication studies major. He can be reached at GS783203@wcupa.edu.