Post All-Star NBA Predictions

Gordon reads the tea leaves for the second half:

The All-Star break is over and games resume tomorrow night. Time to make some predictions for the final 30-or-so games of the season. First up, players and individual awards:

What’s got six fingers and shoots the lights out? THIS GUY!
(Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images.)

Kyle Korver keeps up his unprecedented shooting and makes NBA history by finishing the first ever 50-50-90 season. The Hawks were wearing down a little bit before the All-Star break; their last game was a one-point loss to the Celtics. The extra rest this year will help the Hawks and Korver stay fresh for the home stretch. He did make 7-of-12 threes during the All-Star Game.

Jimmy Butler wins the Most Improved Player Award. This seems pretty obvious. Butler has had a great season and made a huge bet on himself when he turned down the extension the Bulls offered him prior to the season. He is going to get paid. Whatever offer he gets in restricted free agency, the Bulls will certainly match.

Mike Budenholzer wins Coach of the Year. Steve Kerr would probably win this award if it weren’t for the season the Hawks are having.

Danny Ferry wins Executive of the Year. I’m not sure this is even possible since Ferry has been on an indefinite leave of absence since an embarrassing story broke last September, but with the Hawks coalescing into an Eastern Conference favorite, who else would it be? LeBron James? (Admittedly, that article already looks pretty short-sighted as the Cavs cruised into the break winning 14-of-16, including a stretch of 12 in a row.)

Steph Curry narrowly edges out James Harden for the Most Valuable Player Award. You can make an excellent case for either one of these guys, but I think the voters just like Curry more than they do Harden.

On to the teams and playoffs:

The Suns fall out of the eight seed. This is so sad. They could be the best team to miss the playoffs for the second year in a row. And now Goran Dragic wants out and the Suns will apparently be forced to move him before the trade deadline. Just sad.

The Cavs climb up to the number two seed in the Eastern Conference. Toronto and Washington have scuffled a little while the Cavs have been moving in the other direction. Maybe LeBron is a better GM than we thought.

Milwaukee wins a playoff series. This may seem pretty outlandish right now, but I see them getting Toronto in the 3-6 matchup and wreaking all kinds of havoc with their positional funkiness.

The trade deadline is boring, for the most part. Most of the teams with moves to make have already done so. There will be a trade or two, because there is always a trade or two, but most of the big moves have been made.

Memphis wins the Western Conference. They win with bulk in the pace-and-space era. No one else does what they do, which makes them so difficult to prepare for and match up against.

Atlanta wins the East. The dream season continues. They have proven their style of play can work against anyone and no one is scary with the possible exception of the Bulls and Cavs. But they will likely beat each up on each other in the conference semi-finals, leaving the Hawks with a bruised opponent in the conference finals.

And your NBA Champion is: your favorite team and mine, the Atlanta Hawks.

Headed to the ATL?

They win a grueling seven-game series with Memphis. And, thanks to a pick swap with the Nets, they also win the draft lottery, ushering in a decade of dominance unseen in the NBA since the 1960s.

Please excuse the indulgent piece of fan fiction above, but it is completely within the realm of possibility that the Hawks win the title. Especially when you consider that they have $4.9M in cap space, more than enough to sign a buy-out candidate or take on salary in a trade. (Thanks to Zach Lowe for the cap number.)

Anyway, enjoy the stretch run of the most intriguing NBA season in recent memory. It’s bound to be extremely entertaining.

(I was going to predict that Carmelo Anthony would sit out the remainder of the season to rest his ailing knees, but is reporting that he will have surgery and miss the rest of the season. I can’t predict what already happened – or should I say I’m already 1-for-1?)

All-Star Starters Reactions

No Hawks starters AT(a)L(l)? Gordon takes a closer look:

The NBA announced the All-Star Game starters last Thursday and not a single Atlanta Hawks player made the cut.  Is this the first time in NBA history that the team with the most wins did not get a single starter on the All-Star team?

The Hawks will almost certainly have three players (Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap, and Al Horford) voted into the reserve squad by the Eastern Conference coaches, and have a decent chance of garnering a fourth spot (Kyle Korver shooting over 53% from 3, anyone).  They will also be represented by Coach Mike Budenholzer and his coaching staff, as the Hawks have the best record in the East.

I don’t really have an issue with most of the Eastern Conference starters. I’m actually pretty proud of NBA fans for getting Kyle Lowry into the starting lineup over Kyrie Irving and Dwyane Wade (even though he takes Jeff Teague’s potential starting spot).  John Wall has been playing out of his head and has led the Wizards to the second-best record in the Eastern Conference; LeBron is LeBron, looks fully recharged, and has led the Cavs to seven straight wins after his two week hiatus; and Pau Gasol is having his best season in recent memory for the fourth-place Bulls in spite of the team having a mini-slump in mid-January.

All in all, I’d say the fans did a pretty good job of getting the starting lineup right, but there is one glaring error. Why is Carmelo Anthony going to start the All-Star Game? The Knicks are so bad that one of the top stories on their ESPN team page is about their game on Monday night that was canceled due to snow.

Possibly even more damning is the story right above it touting Langston Galloway’s new contract. The state of basketball in New York is dismal right now. But they do get to host the All-Star Game which Carmelo will start before (likely) hanging up his sneakers for the rest of the season as the Knicks go into full-on tank mode. It will give him a really good opportunity to work on building his brand.

This should be Paul Millsap’s starting spot. He has been a more meaningful player on a much more meaningful team. That should count for something in the new analytics era of the NBA. And it probably does for most NBA writers and other people in the know around the league (I’m almost certain that the coaches will reward the Hawks with at least three spots on the team).

Really, I am disappointed with Hawks fans. And myself. I didn’t cast an All-Star ballot even though it was especially easy this year because of all of the social media options. But it feels like nobody else did either. It’s too late for Hawks fans to vote their players into the All-Star Game, but I urge them to get behind the team and really enjoy this historic run that the Hawks are on. In the NBA, success is fleeting, and with Millsap set to be a free agent at the end of the season, who knows how long it will last in Atlanta?

Other Reactions: Congrats to Kyle Lowry on his first All Star selection, to Anthony Davis and John Wall for their first starts, and to Steph Curry for winning the popularity contest (most votes).

Does the fact that no Hawks will start in the All-Star game mean that this campaign #failed?

Feat of Klay

You can get the League Pass and watch every NBA game for the next thirty years, but you may never see what Klay Thompson did last night duplicated. Thompson went for 52 points in Golden State’s 126-101 win over Sacramento, but he scored 37 points in the third quarter, setting a new league record for most points in a quarter. (The previous record was 33, shared by George Gervin and Carmelo Anthony.)

The way he did it was even more impressive: he converted all 13 of his field goal attempts, including 9 three-pointers, and both of his free throws.

Behold: the finest 12 minutes of individual offensive play ever?