NBA Notebook: Warriors aren't elite, but they're still fun
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 Utah Jazz have everything you need to go to the NBA Finals...great guard play by Mike Conley & superstar Donovan Mitchell, dominate defense led by Rudy Gobert & Royce O'Neale, they are one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the league led by Joe Ingles & Bojan Bogdanovic— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) February 16, 2021
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
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 Warriors and Bucks have the same record (16-13), yet Milwaukee is in 3rd place in the East and Golden State is in 7th place in the West.— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) February 19, 2021
We all thought that would be the case after the Christmas Day blowout, right?!
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.