The past two years have been terrible for the NBA regular season. Games haven’t mattered less for a long time. But that’s because most basketball fans knew that it was going to be the Cavs and Warriors battling it out at the end of the year. And even with those three straight Cavs-Warriors Finals, you can make the argument that two of them were lackluster.
In 2015, the Warriors had a total point differential of +43, including their losses. In last year’s Finals, a series of 5 games, they won one game by more than 20, one by more than 15, and another by one more by than 10 points. And, had a total point differential of +34, which includes a loss of more than 20.
However, after significant changes during the year to not only the Cavaliers and Warriors roster, but rosters all across the league, the NBA is starting to look a little more appealing. And finally, a little interesting.
Starting with the two teams above, it seems that their spots in the Finals are not as guaranteed. After struggling for a brief period early this season, the Cavaliers find themselves behind the current-best team in the East—Kyrie Irving’s Boston Celtics. The usual contenders—Raptors, Wizards—are also there. But this time with a few new faces that have made this season a better one.
The Warriors are currently 18-6, which is absolutely astounding. For reference, the last time the Warriors lost six games before December was in 2013. That’s also when they were bounced by the Clippers in the first round of the playoffs. Last year, they didn’t have six losses until January. The year before it wasn’t until March. And in 2014, it was January again.
The Warriors don’t even have the No. 1 seed right now so it’s going to be interesting to see how the rest of the season plays out for the Dubs. Currently, the Rockets—specifically James Harden—is dominating the Western Conference. The Spurs are nipping at the Warriors’ heels for second, with the Nuggets in fourth.
The Celtics have been the story of this season, however. Irving’s incredible play in the absence of Gordon Hayward has taken the Celtics straight to the top of the conference. Amazing cameo performances by Al Horford, rookie Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown have helped Boston reach high heights this season.
Most fans’ preseason pick for MVP, Giannis Antetokoumpo, has led the Bucks on a nice stretch of play as well. They have won seven of 10 and are currently sixth, in fact. The Bucks are counting on the performances of the newly-acquired Eric Bledsoe, Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon and Khris Middleton to do some damage in the playoffs, which is definitely their objective this season after losing to the Raptors in last season’s postseason in six.
The Pacers are also on the right track. Not only make the playoffs this year, but for the many years to come. Led by new players Victor Oladipo, Bojan Bogdanović and Domantas Sabonis, the Pacers have a renewed sense of competition. They are currently holding on to eighth in the East. The Pacers are seeing great production from their usual suspects—Myles Turner, Thaddeus Young and even Lance Stephenson—after he made his triumphant return to Indiana.
Of course, one of the biggest stories of this season are the Philadelphia 76ers.
Trusting the process is finally starting to pay off. Joel Embiid is playing like an All-Star. The addition/return of Ben Simmons has been nothing short of fantastic. Simmons is definitely the early favorite for Rookie of the Year. He maybe even has an All-Star appearance waiting for him in February. The 76ers are in the fifth spot in the conference with a 13-9 record. Of course, they are hoping to finish at least .500 and with a playoff spot for the first time since 2012.
Their 12 wins are more than they had in 2015-16. Plus, only six and seven games less than their totals in 2012-13 and 2013-14, respectively. Aside from their amazing rags-to-riches narrative that they seem to be following, they’re one of the most fun teams to watch this season. Simmons is a magician with the basketball. Plus with the form that Embiid and Dario Šarić are in, along their countless role players, they can definitely make the playoffs.
Fun fact: J.J Redick has never missed the playoffs in his entire career.
It just seems that the variety and parity can actually make this NBA season fun to watch. The Hornets, Bulls, Hawks, Thunder, Clippers, and Grizzlies, who usually occupy playoff spots at the end of the year, look like they’re going to have trouble staying afloat this year. That means that new teams can take their place come
Additionally the rookies, the new-look teams and the overall equality from the entire league suits the NBA well. And it is better for the league in the grand scheme of things, of course.
We can only hope it lasts.