NBA season midpoint sees Utah lead standings

Harrison Simon, Sports Editor

After a successful postseason last summer in the NBA bubble, the league has made it through this unique season relatively unscathed. As we reach the NBA season midpoint, there have been a decent number of game postponements, but overall, the association has to be happy with where it is now. Last week, the NBA announced the remainder of the regular season schedule, as well as set dates for the postseason.

Each of the past two seasons, the runaway MVP winner has been Bucks’ forward Giannis Antetokounmpo. This year, however, the race is more contentious. Currently, the top candidate seems to be Denver Nuggets’ center Nikola Jokic. Jokic, an almost seven-footer with the grace and shooting of some of the league’s best guards, is currently averaging 27.3 points, 11 rebounds and 8.6 assists per game. Denver, however, is seventh in the competitive Western Conference, which will certainly hurt his odds.

It seems like a no-brainer that one of the premier players on the team with the league’s best record would be in the MVP talk, yet Utah Jazz forward Donovan Mitchell is nowhere to be found in those discussions. The Jazz are off to an incredible 27-8 start and don’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. Behind Mitchell, two-time Defensive Player of the Year center Rudy Gobert, and role players Bojan Bogdonavic and Mike Conley, the Jazz seem to be headed towards a deep postseason run.

However, one can never count out the Los Angeles Lakers, the reigning NBA champions. At the age of 36, the King, LeBron James, is still putting up unreal numbers, averaging 25.8 points, 8 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game. Prior to Anthony Davis’ recent calf strain injury, the tandem of James and Davis was menacing on defense league-wide, and whenever Davis returns, the Lakers will have their defensive prowess back. If the Lakers can shore up on defense, there’s no doubt they can make it back to the NBA Finals. 

In the East, the talent is a little harder to come by. After the early season blockbuster trade for superstar guard James Harden, the Brooklyn Nets seem to be finding their rhythm under first-year coach and NBA Hall-of-Famer Steve Nash. Harden along with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant combine to make the most dangerous offensive trio in the league. The Nets are currently 0.5 games behind the Philadelphia 76ers, who are seeing stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons play some of the best basketball of their careers. 

Two surprising teams at the NBA season midpoint in the East are the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks, albeit for opposing reasons. The Knicks, led by All-Star Julius Randle, are currently sitting at .500, a mark that has Knicks fans ecstatic. They currently sit sixth in the East, but are neck and neck with the aforementioned Celtics and the Toronto Raptors. The Celtics have struggled quite a bit this year, as the team was hoping to contend with the best of the best in the East. General Manager Danny Ainge has blamed himself for the team’s struggles thus far, but whatever the solution, Boston needs to find it fast if they want to hang with the Nets and 76ers come playoff time.