With the All-Star Weekend nearly here, the NBA has hit the halfway point in the season. Even though we can only make a judgment on 50% of the basketball that will eventually be played, it’s never too soon to look ahead to the real contenders and pretenders when it comes to winning a title.
Los Angeles Lakers
They are the defending champions, so it’s only right that the Los Angeles Lakers lead off our midseason judgments. The biggest news for Los Angeles is that on Wednesday, LeBron James did not make the trip with the team to Sacramento.
It’s his first absence of the season, and it comes because of an ankle injury. He has opted for treatment instead of playing another game.
The Lakers are not the dominant regular-season team that we expected, but they are also banged up. Anthony Davis is still out, Kyle Kuzma has a bad heel, and Alex Caruso has an injured neck.
The biggest surprise of the season is easily the Utah Jazz. They have the best record in the NBA as we reach the halfway point, and they are getting lights-out performances from a number of players, including the likely Sixth Man of the Year, Jordan Clarkson.
Clarkson also thinks that a couple of his teammates deserve to be considered for an even higher award, league MVP. Donovan Mitchell is the leading scorer on the best team in the league, but he will only be a reserve in this weekend’s All-Star Game.
Joining him for the weekend is teammate Rudy Gobert, who is third in the league in rebounds and second in the league in blocked shots.
Are the Jazz being disrespected? Perhaps. Some people certainly think so. They have the best record in the league, but according to online bookmakers, they are just the fifth-most likely team to win the NBA Championship, currently paying +850.
When the season began, the Jazz were +3550, so clearly the betting public is taking notice.
At the start of the season, the Milwaukee Bucks were the favorite to win the East, followed by the Brooklyn Nets. Those numbers flipped when the Nets traded for James Harden in the middle of January, and Brooklyn has remained the favorite ever since.
Betting numbers aside, those two teams have also been the best on the court each night, as well as the Philadelphia 76ers. Even though the Sixers have the record to match the other two, regression is expected.
They simply aren’t scoring like the other two teams, which will eventually catch up to them. The Nets lead the NBA in scoring, and the Bucks are second in the league. Philadelphia is only ninth, even as Joel Embiid averages nearly 30 points per game.
Boston was a trendy pick during the offseason and right after last year’s playoffs ended. But they are paying just +1000, according to online oddsmakers.
Miami, an NBA Finals participant in October, has faded to +3550 to win the NBA Championship.