Column: A Review of the NBA season so far
We’re just a few days away from the NBA All-Star break and this season has been filled with thrilling play, eventful storylines and of course, pettiness.
One of the most exciting storylines to follow has been the NBA Rookie of the Year race, but before we take a look at the candidates, let’s review some of the best NBA drama:
- On the day of the NBA trade deadline, the Cavaliers traded six players and a 2018 first round pick in less than two hours, in order to appease a frustrated King James.
- One of those players included Isaiah Thomas, which marks the fourth time he’s been traded in his career, and in the span of a year he went from MVP candidate and the face of Boston, to Lonzo Ball’s backup – l believe this places him right behind Macbeth in all-time saddest character arcs.
- In the summer, the Clippers enticed Blake Griffin (who was a free agent at the time) to re-sign with them by giving him a mock jersey retirement ceremony, fully equipped with a choir and calling him a “lifelong Clipper” … and then went on to trade him to the Detroit Pistons six months later … which Griffin found out via Twitter.
- LeBron James’ all-star team is cursed – Boogie Cousins (torn achilles), Kevin Love (broken bone in hand), John Wall (knee issues + surgery), and Kristaps Porzingis (torn ACL) have all gone down with injuries since being selected on LeBron’s team on Jan. 25 – Steph Curry’s team has sustained no injuries.
-The Celtics are currently second in the East at 40-18, and the aftermath of the Cavalier’s trade frenzy essentially means that in the grand scheme of things, the Cavaliers traded Kyrie Irving for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance. Kyrie Irving is living his best life.
Now back to the Rookie of Year race.
Prior to the 2017 NBA draft, many analysts praised the 2017 draft class and predicted that it would go down as one of the best ever. The 2017 rookie class has risen to that standard, and they’ve done it with the help of many players who were overlooked coming into the season. At this point, the rookie of the Year race has been narrowed down to the top two, but I’ll still list my top five, just for kicks and giggles.
- Lauri Markkanen – PF, Chicago Bulls
Coming into the season, most people hadn’t heard much about him other than the fact that he was part of the biggest trade on draft night, which sent Jimmy Butler to the Timberwolves along with Justin Patton in exchange for himself, Kris Dunn and Zach Lavine. According to basketball reference, he’s averaged 15 points per game, seven rebounds per game and he’s the fastest player to ever make 100 3-pointers. Oh and did I mention he’s a seven-footer. He’s going to develop into a great scorer as an athletic seven-footer and while his defense isn’t perfect, it’s nowhere near as bad as scouts expected –and at 20 years old he has plenty of room for growth.
- Kyle Kuzma – PF, Los Angeles Lakers
Coming into the draft, the biggest storyline was that of the infamous Lavar Ball and his son, Lonzo, who finally fulfilled his dad’s dream/prediction/prophecy (call it what you want) of Lonzo getting drafted by the Lakers and becoming a star. Lonzo has been good … and bad. He’s been somewhat inconsistent, but his teammate Kyle Kuzma has been one of the most entertaining players to watch this season. His 16 points per game average places him only behind Donovan Mitchell and Ben Simmons among rookies, and he’s doing that coming off the bench. His defense needs slight improvement, but the combination of him and his fellow rookie teammates Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart make for an exciting future in LA.
- Jayson Tatum – SF, Boston Celtics
Aside from the Super Bowl loss, Boston is a good place to be right now. As a starter, Tatum gets to play alongside some of the best talent in the league in Kyrie, Al Horford and Jaylen Brown. Pair that with the fact that he also gets to play in the best defensive system in the league courtesy of head coach Brad Stevens. He’s currently shooting a staggering 44 percent from 3-point, which is a drop from the 51 percent that he was shooting up until late December. Tatum has cooled down as of late, but he’s still poised to become a valuable part of the Celtics future because of his scoring ability.
- Ben Simmons – PG, Philadelphia 76ers
Simmons was considered to be the next big thing coming into the 2016 NBA draft, but he was sidelined the entire 2016-2017 season due to a foot injury, and Sixers fans were again told to ‘Trust the process.’ This year, the process has come into fruition as Simmons has proved to be everything scouts expected him to be and more. He’s averaging 16 points per game, seven rebounds per game and seven assists per game – for a frame of reference, King James averages 26 points per game, eight rebounds per game and eight assists per game. At 6-foot-10-inches, he’s an oversized point guard that can score at will against smaller guards, but on the other end he’s shown that he’s capable of keeping up with smaller, versatile players.
- Donovan Mitchell – SG, Utah Jazz
Simmons has been the frontrunner for the majority of the season, but the Philadelphia Eagles have proved this is the year of the underdog. Donovan Mitchell was largely overlooked coming into the 2017 draft and he ended up being selected 13th by the Nuggets and then later traded to the Jazz for the 24th pick and Trey Lyles. He has since made the Nuggets and all the other teams who passed up on him deeply regret their decision. He leads all rookies with an average of 19 points per game, and he’s become the Jazz’s go to scoring option. He’s also had two 40-point games this season – the only other rookies to do that are Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Blake Griffin, Jay Vincent and Allen Iverson. The Jazz are an exciting team to watch, partly because they’re playing extremely unselfish basketball and finding the open man on every possession, but also because Mitchell is showcasing that he can become one of the best scorers in the league.
Regardless of who takes home the Rookie of the Year award this season, the 2017 rookie class has proven the future of the league is in good hands.