As the 2018-19 NBA season hits its midpoint, it’s time to figure out what’s real and what isn’t. The Lakers in the playoffs? The return of Kristaps Porzingis? And who is the best NBA prospect since Anthony Davis? That and more are coming your way.
Paul George for MVP
George leads the Oklahoma City Thunder – you know the same Thunder that has Russell Westbrook – in scoring averaging 26.8 points a game. He also pulls down eight rebounds a game and is a likely candidate to win the league’s Defensive Player of the Year. MVP? Forget it.
Unless the Thunder find a way to win the Western Conference – they are currently third – and at least play for an NBA title, George won’t even finish in the top three. The competition is just too much. George could be the DPoY, finish in the top five in the MVP race, but still not make an All-NBA team.
The Chaotic West
Speaking of the Western Conference, it is and will remain chaotic from now until the very end of the season. ESPN’s Power Index projects 11 teams in the West will finish above .500. That means every game in the second half of the season will be important. Chaos? Yes, it’s here to stay in the West.
New York Knicks star Kristaps Porzingis will return … wait for it … next season. Yes, that’s right. The 7-foot-3-inch forward who averaged 22.7 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks before getting hurt last season, will not return until 2019-20. The Knicks have just 10 wins this season and are 14th in the East. They will be better off allowing Porzingis to continue his rehab and have a strong shot at a lottery pick in this year’s draft. Plus, Porzingis will be a restricted free agent this summer. Why risk an injury and put a potential $150 to $160 million deal in jeopardy?
The Road to Zion
Duke’s Zion Williamson is a human highlight reel. His statistics are through the roof. His per-40-minute averages are as follows: 30.2 points, 14.4 rebounds, 3.2 steals, and 2.9 blocks. Amazing! He’s the best NBA prospect since Anthony Davis … or is he?
Davis is all of 6-10. Karl-Anthony Towns, who came out in 2015, is all of 6-11. Joel Embiid (2014) is a 7-footer. Even Ben Simmons (2016) is 6-10. Williamson’s problem is that he’s probably more like Charles Barkley who was listed at 6-6 but was more like 6-4½. Williamson’s athleticism is amazing and he is an outstanding defender. Is he the best prospect since Davis, Towns, Embiid, etc.? Probably not. At least yet.
A Lakers Postseason
It has been five full seasons since the Los Angeles Lakers last made the playoffs. Will they make the postseason in 2019? Yes. As long as they can stay healthy. And “they” means LeBron James. James injured his groin on Christmas Day and has yet to return to the lineup. Los Angeles has won just twice since their star has been out.
James isn’t the only one either. Veteran point guard Rajon Rondo had surgery to repair a finger and will be out another month. Rondo plays just over 24 minutes per game, but they are a valuable 24 minutes. The Lakers are currently eighth in the West at 22-19. James should be back soon and that should help keep Los Angeles in the top eight for the remainder of the season.