The NBA all-star break is over, and the second half is set to begin. The first half was filled to the brim with storylines. Whether it was major injuries or surprise teams, the NBA landscape has changed. With that said, two things remain the same—The Golden State Warriors are still very good, and the Cleveland Cavaliers are as well.
The Warriors have been consistently great since the beginning of the season minus a few hiccups. Whereas the Cavaliers have had a lot more trouble. However, they loaded up at the deadline with one of the more eventful trade deadlines a team has ever had. They are 3-0 since their acquisitions with impressive wins over the Celtics and the Thunder. Yet the big questions remain. Are they good enough to make it back to the finals? And, will the Warriors steamroll past their opponents yet again to create yet another rematch?
Many NBA analysts and personalities have screamed at the top of their lungs about how there is a lack of parity in the NBA. Well, if this happens again they would look very smart. Now, obviously, there are fans who are rooting for a fourth straight rematch, but would it truly be that exciting? The Warriors are far and away better than the Cavs even after the deadline moves, evident by nearly every single metric. Would it be that exciting to see a final go four or five games?
Now, I know this sounds crazy but what if we got a different matchup? With all the talk about how much Cavs got better, this might be the year where they get dethroned before the finals. The Celtics and Raptors have both been consistently great all year long yet get overlooked due to the “LeBron effect.” LeBron is one of the greatest of all time but let’s say the Celtics get very hot again and Gordon Hayward returns before the playoffs. That team can go the distance with the Cavs.
The Toronto Raptors lose in the playoffs a lot. This is true, but every team has lost in the playoffs a lot in this era of LeBron’s dominance. The Raptors, however, have never looked better and may have their best team in over a decade. The point is that the competition is greater this year then it has been in years past for LeBron. Of course, he is LeBron James and could easily steamroll through playoffs on his own as he has done before.
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The Western Conference features the two best teams in the league. The Warriors have been great all year as most expected. However, the Houston Rockets have been equally impressive—if not more so. The acquisition of Chris Paul that was questioned by many at first has proven to be a flawless decision. He has helped James Harden control the tempo as the two of them have not lost more than four games when on the floor together. They have been far more dominant than last year in many ways but regardless, many fans view them as the Raptors of the West. People don’t seem to believe that Paul can ever make a final’s appearance let alone a conference finals appearance. Yet, this team is different and has the offensive firepower to go toe-to-toe with the Warriors. However, it remains to be seen whether they can do it on the biggest stage.
There are a few dark horses in the west to keep an eye on as well. One of which is Oklahoma City. The Thunder and Russell Westbrook have had a strong season. In addition, they seem to have the Warriors number but again it remains to be seen whether or not it can be done on the biggest stage.
The West will ultimately go one of two ways. We may finally get the competitive playoff series we’ve been waiting for the past few years with the improved rosters of the Rockets and Thunder. Or, as we have been accustomed to, the Warriors will march right through to anotheFinal’s appearance. The East will be quite similar. Maybe this is the year the dysfunction catches up to the Cavs and LeBron and they fall short of an eight-straight Finals appearance. Both Boston and Toronto look more capable than in years past. Or, LeBron and the Cavs could turn on the switch and roll to another Finals loss. From afar it looks like this year will be different for those two team’s but we have also watched this movie before.
The second half of the NBA season is shaking up to be a great one.
Jared Talbot is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage. He covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @JaredTalbot17