We are rapidly approaching the midpoint of the season across the league, so I thought we would have a little fun checking in on some preseason predictions. As a reminder, the selections are below and were made before the year began. I had the pleasure of grading these myself, and I used the checks and balances system of me, myself and I to grade out some of the subjective answers, as well as the leaders in the clubhouse for various awards.
Rob is killing it so far on the Awards categories. I would say he is tracking to get 5 of the 8 correct and I’m not sure we can completely rule out Zion (think Embiid ‘16-17 finishing 3rd in 31 games) and the Jazz rolling (without Conley) have Snyder’s chances creeping up by the minute. The most common MVP selection, Steph Curry, was never really given a chance to get off the ground as he broke his hand in just the 4th game of the year. Just under three months in, I would give our biggest whiff to nobody naming Luka Doncic as their All-NBA first timer. As the breakout player of the year, and someone we have already grown to expect a 25-8-8 from on his off-nights, Luka seems like a slam dunk to make an All-NBA team this year. Another thing in the “nobody-saw-coming” category was Harden’s absurd 37.1 PPG up to this point. Shin was the closest but is still over four ppg low. Currently, Harden is only the second player (Wilt Chamberlain being the other) in history to be averaging over a point per minute.
Movers & Shakers
Obviously there is a long way to go, but our Chicago backers probably want a mulligan here as they are on pace for just over 29 wins which would be a modest improvement of +7 from a year ago. Only myself (Johnson) and Rob are on our way to the right answer, albeit both well shy of the Lakers’ current 66-win pace. “Best Player Traded” is essentially an incomplete at this time with several weeks to go before the deadline but given there’s been a couple deals so far, Jordan Clarkson wins by default given Utah’s recent resurgence. If you are a casual fan, and haven’t been reading the Tip Off, (first, you have been missing out on some quick and easily digestible daily hoop recaps and nuggets – but also), you might not know much about Devonte’ Graham. Consider this a great time to get acclimated to the Year Two explosion that Graham has been having. He has vaulted almost 14 full points per game and is tied for 3rd in the entire league for 3PM per game (3.6). While none of our esteemed writers identified him this preseason, we have all done pretty well predicting scoring jumps. Rozier (9), Kennard (6), Adebayo (6), Tatum and Jaren Jackson Jr. (4.5) have all seen noteworthy spikes in points per game.
Another arena where there’s still much to be decided is the playoffs, although I think we can still safely grade out a couple of these selections. Barring something wild, the Lakers have a strong lead on becoming the highest new West seed; perhaps only a crazy Dallas run could supplant them. It is also looking pretty safe to pencil in the Miami Heat as the top newcomer out in the East, as they are all the way up to the 2nd seed at the moment — not to mention they are currently the only newcomer among the 8 playoff seeds. With the same caveat of it being very early, the Lakers being the most fraudulent contender pick does not look so prescient. I don’t think it’s fair to even pencil in a champion front runner at this juncture, but Philadelphia is probably looking like the shakiest of our picks thus far.
It was a very short-lived sweat for the first 50-point scorer of the season, as Kyrie Irving dropped exactly 50 in the Nets’ season opener on just the second night of the league schedule. Consolation points to Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, and Harden backers as all of them have compiled 50-point games thus far, but didn’t manage to get there first. I scored the LA-LA game as the best because
that’s what I predicted it featured four top 15 players, was tied with five minutes remaining, and was the only game decided by fewer than 10 points (I’m sure you all agree). Recency bias is probably strong at play here, but Jimmy Butler gets the Social Media award for now. His spirited tussle with TJ Warren ended with Butler circling the calendar for their next game with the Pacers on Instagram, urging Warren not to be mad that he couldn’t guard Jimmy. It’s tough to really score the Flag Planting players, but Trae Young (team record aside) and Markelle Fultz have both seen their stocks rise quite a bit. Shoutout to Finkelstein for nailing Fizdale as the first coach fired. It seems so easy in hindsight, because dysfunction is the one thing you can always count on the Knicks to provide. I have regrets for missing this one.
For the Road
While not dead, our collective Orlando optimism is definitely on life support. Aaron Gordon has not quite broken out thus far, and the Magic are only hanging onto the final playoff spot, closer to the 13th seeded Cavs than the 3rd seed. While Shin earns a demerit for his Nickeil Alexander-Walker flag plant, I am impressed by his Caruso call, who has already been seen in multiple closing lineups for the Lakers. Oh, and I would be remiss not to mention that we have at least one very sharp mind out there who accurately predicted the Bucks’ 18-game winning streak, which they successfully accomplished by December 14th! Color me impressed.
Unofficially, Rob has the large bucket of bragging rights at the mid-year checkpoint, with a projected 8 correct predictions so far — but it is far from over. Let us know if you disagree with any of our current leaders in the clubhouse, or have a few noteworthy predictions for how the second half of the season is going to shake this board up. The safest prediction is always that many of the above will be very wrong. Here’s to another fun half season of hoops!