Exactly one month into the season, the NBA has already seen more than its fair share of action. Lebron James and the new look Cavaliers have been up and down, the Raptors and Grizzlies have taken their respective conferences by storm, Derrick Rose would rather play catch with his grandchildren in 40 years than play 40 minutes for the Bulls, and the Philadelphia 76ers have yet to figure out how to score more points than the other team. Injuries have also played an enormous role in the way the league is shaping up thus far. With the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and recently DeMar Derozan finding themselves injured on the end of the bench, teams and players alike have taken the opportunity to assert their spots in the limelight. To celebrate this busy month of NBA action, it’s time to name some NBA first month superlatives.
Team Most Likely to Lose Steam: Toronto Raptors
Toronto has proven to be one of the most impressive teams in the league this season, mostly thanks to rising superstar DeMar Derozan and his 19.4 points per game. Unfortunately, thanks to a torn tendon in his groin, he will no longer be of assistance. Can Kyle Lowry, Lou Williams, and Jonas Valanciunas carry the load the rest of the way without him? My gut tells me no. Derozan was not only Toronto’s leading scorer but their spark plug on both ends of the floor. I see this injury deflating the Raptors, quickly.
Player Most Likely to Wreak Havoc on Your Favorite Team: DeMarcus Cousins
In a word: Boogie. DeMarcus Cousins has been an absolute beast this past month, putting up 23.5 ppg and 12.5 boards per game. The Kings have rallied behind him and have put up impressive performances against some of the best in the West with wins over the Clippers, Trailblazers, and Spurs. It appears as if the previously unpredictable Cousins is becoming more disciplined, with huge games in match-ups against Dwight Howard and Anthony Davis in particular (29 pts and 17 rebs, 24 pts and 17 rebs, respectively). It goes to prove that Boogie can take down any team on any given night, and he will be an absolute wrecking ball for opposing teams come playoff time.
Team Most Likely to Have a Second-Half Breakout: Boston Celtics
The Celtics have been pedestrian at best in the first month of the season behind the reigns of Brad Stevens, but the young team has all the pieces to put together a dangerous unit in the second half of the season. With Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green leading the charge, the 4-9 Celtics are actually 6th in the league in scoring and 2nd in assists, one of the most potent offenses in the NBA. However, the C’s also find themselves allowing over 107 points per game, 28th in the league. Does this mean the team is permanently liable on the defensive end of the floor? Absolutely not. Defense in the NBA is a team game, and with all of the Celtics young pieces still figuring one another out, the defensive unit hasn’t completely formed yet. Tyler Zeller and Kelly Olynyk look like lost children in the mall in the defensive post sometimes, while sloppy rotations on the perimeter are leading to late closeouts and untimely fouls down the stretch. With time (and Marcus Smart coming back from injury), the Celtics will undoubtedly solidify their defense and become a more well-rounded team for the second half.
Player Most Likely to Laugh in LeBron’s Face at All-Star Weekend: Chris Bosh
The Miami Heat are still figuring out their post-LeBron team dynamics, but Erik Spoelstra is proving he doesn’t need King James to make Miami a threat in the East. Chris Bosh in particular has appeared to be taking LeBron’s departure personally (rightfully so), putting up 21.7 ppg and 8.8 boards per game through 15 games. The 8-7 Heat are currently barely edging out LeBron’s Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference, and have impressive wins over Washington, Dallas, and Toronto. Bosh and the Heat have a brutal schedule in the coming month, climaxing with a Christmas showdown against Cleveland. If Bosh can keep up his stellar performance and the Heat can stay ahead of the Cavs in the standings, I’m sure Bosh will have a smile on his face when he sees LeBron at the mid-season break. Add a win on Christmas day to the mix, Bosh will be skipping up and down the streets of South Beach for years to come.
Player Most Likely to win MVP:
Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Anthony Davis, Carmelo Anthony, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, and James Harden…
Okay, so I didn’t pick just one here. Not even close. But that’s the point. These are actually all the players that Magic Johnson tweeted out as his MVP candidates in early November which he caught a lot of slack about considering he named basically half the league as a candidate. He ain’t wrong though. With Durant out with injury and LeBron still finding his way with the Cavs, this is the most open the MVP race has been in a long time. Essentially, that’s why this question is even included as a superlative: it epitomizes the NBA this year. Any player on this list could step up and lead their team to the top at any time and I wouldn’t be surprised. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone like Marc Gasol or John Wall explodes and jumps to the top of the race.
Look for the rest of the NBA season to get a little weird, in a good way.
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