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NBA Notebook: Warriors aren't elite, but they're still fun

Profile Picture: Dan Halverson

February 19th, 2021

The NBA season is now in full stride, with fantastic action taking place on a nightly basis.

Let’s take a look at the top stories and headlines from around the league in this week’s edition of our NBA Notebook.

The Warriors aren’t elite, but they’re still fun

On Wednesday night, the Miami Heat jumped out to a 19-point lead on the road against the Golden State Warriors, and appeared to have a nice victory wrapped up until Kent Bazemore took over the game and helped the Warriors mount an impressive comeback.

The Warriors are just three games above .500 and seventh in the West, but they've become a highly competitive team again due to their renewed defensive focus. They are fifth in the league in defensive efficiency thanks to their multitude of lengthy wings, and while they won’t be knocking off any of the Western Conference favorites in a seven-game playoff series, they are at least fun to watch again.

The NBA All-Star Game will go on, but don't expect a big party

This year’s NBA All-Star Game will not be the celebrated festival of stardom it has been in the past. Most players don’t want to have this year’s event, but Commissioner Adam Silver has announced that it will proceed as planned.

LeBron James and Kevin Durant have been named the captains, and while the players don’t sound thrilled, the NBA does get to boast the one All-Star game that fans actually enjoy. Good decision by Silver to have the fortitude to continue on with this great tradition.

The Utah Jazz are on fire

Remember when the Houston Rockets won 22 straight games back in 2008 with a roster that consisted of Tracy McGrady, Yao Ming, and Rafer Alston? What the Utah Jazz are doing this season is reminiscent of that streak, and while a loss got thrown in there to keep this winning streak from being consecutive, it is just as impressive given the depth and class that exists in today’s Western Conference.

The Jazz have won nine straight, and 20 of their last 21 games. They are 24-5 on the season, best in the league, and they are doing it without any of the top 10 players in the NBA on their roster. Donovan Mitchell is absolutely a star in his own right, scoring 24.2 points per game, and Rudy Gobert is essential, but neither would make a top 10 list. Jordan Clarkson has decided to shift his game to a three-point shooting focus, and is averaging 18.2 points per game as a result.

The Jazz are fourth in offensive efficiency and second in defensive efficiency, and are playing the best team basketball we’ve seen since the superstar Warriors were at their peak. In the cold winter of Utah, the Jazz are truly on fire.

The MVP race is heating up

With a couple months of play under everyone’s belt, it’s time to start having MVP debates. Bradley Beal’s 32.2 points per game leads the league, but he’s on a bad team and scores out of necessity. Damian Lillard is averaging 29.8, third best in the league, and deserves more attention at this point in the year. Lillard continues to come up in the clutch, but he’s also carrying his team throughout each and every night as several of his fellow starters sit with injuries.

MVP Winner 2020/2021

Thu, April 1 2021, 10:00 AM

James, LeBron

+140

Embiid, Joel

+500

Jokic, Nikola

+500

Doncic, Luka

+1200

Curry, Stephen

+1200

Antetokounmpo, Giannis

+1400

Durant, Kevin

+1600

Lillard, Damian

+2000

Leonard, Kawhi

+4000

Harden, James

+6600

Then there is LeBron James, Steph Curry, Joel Embiid, and Nikola Jokic all making valid arguments for their claim to an MVP crown. The NBA is in good hands with the incredible talent around the league, and this year’s MVP looks to be as wide open as any in recent history.

The Milwaukee Bucks have problems

Milwaukee, we have a problem. Last year’s No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference has now lost five straight games and sits at just 16-13 overall. The roster isn’t remarkably different from last year’s team, a troubling sign for a team that failed to defeat the Miami Heat in the Orlando bubble come playoff time, and really didn’t look all that threatening while being sent home.

The Bucks are built around their star Giannis Antetokounmpo, but the athletic forward has never been a great three-point shooter and teams are able to plan around that fact. Opposing defenses are able to sag inward when he has the ball to shut down the lane, and are inviting him to take the easy three. The Greek Freak averages four three-point attempts per game, the second highest number of his career behind last year, and a number that is about 3.5 attempts too high for the career 28% three-point shooter.

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