This regular season has been riddled with a litany of storylines that have driven this years NBA regular season. From Cleveland to Philly, we have learned a lot about the NBA this year.
Here are 10 things we learned about the Eastern Conference this regular season.
10. Welcome to Drama Island
“They’re high,” Rose said to NBA.com. “I mean, with these teams right now, they’re saying us and Golden State are the super teams, and they’re trying not to build that many super teams, and Adam Silver came out with the statement and this and that. … You’ve got Brandon (Jennings) who just signed for one year, he’s got to show why he’s there. I’ve got to show why I’m there. Joakim (Noah) has to show why he’s there. Everybody’s trying to prove themselves.”
That was a quote from Derrick Rose before the season started. Now that the season is over here is what you might have missed:
. Derrick Rose forgot how to pass to his teammates. Then tore his meniscus (again)
. Kristaps Porzingis was NY’s best player, but never got the ball
. The Carmelo Anthony/Phil Jackson battle ran rampant throughout the whole team
. THEY WOULD NOT ABANDON THE OUT DATED TRIANGLE OFFENSE
. They finished 31-51 (12th in the East)
So much for the Super team.
9. Pass the ball, Reggie!
Detroit was a team just a year ago that gave Cleveland all they could handle in the first round of the playoffs. This year however, was one to forget.
After starting guard Reggie Jackson missed the beginning of the season, Detroit looked bad, Not terrible, but bad. Outside of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, no one could shoot the ball. Andre Drummond did not make the leap that was expected by him and their defense was horrible. But that was going to all change once they got starting point guard back right? WRONG!
When Jackson returned, not only did Detroit get worse, they got astronomically worse. Their offense plummeted to bottom five, the team held several “Player’s only meetings,” and all the problems point to one person, Reggie Jackson.
It is understood that when you get paid “superstar” money, you have a complex that you can do it all. While Jackson is a good (not great) offensive point guard, he has a problem with over dribbling and completely looking off his teammates to jack a head scratching shot.
From a man that dished out 20 assist in one game just two years ago, he has gone away from that completely.
8. What happened to Charlotte?
Going into the season, Charlotte had some question marks.
Did they have enough scoring? Did they have enough good defenders? Did they have enough to make it back to the playoffs? Could they even sniff in the same direction of the Cavs? NO..NO…NO…And Heck NO!
Outside of Kemba Walker, the team was awful. Nicolas Batum’s age is finally starting to show. The team was not great at shooting and ultimately the team could not defend.
Yes, Walker made it to his first All-Star game, that’s how far the accolades went for the Hornets.
With how the team is constructed now, do not look for them to make any runs at another playoff appearance in a while.
7. The Wizards are serious contenders
After starting 2-8, Washington’s panic button was nearly pushed. They were dead last in defense, bench scoring, and second to last in offensive efficiency. Wall was coming off surgery and looked a step slow and nothing was clicking.
Then Wall got healthy. And with this health rising, so did the team. Bradley Beal was operating at a full clip and Otto Porter has been one of the most lethal three point shooters in the NBA. Behind these three core players, Washington went on a roll and has not slowed down.
The bench was a problem when it came to scoring. That changed with the acquiring of Bojan Bogdanovic and Bandon Jennings in the middle of the season, they gave the bench a much needed offensive presence. While the bench still has defensive question marks, Washington has the third ranked starting five in the league.
Washington has throttled both Cleveland, Boston, Houston and Golden State this year and when they are clicking on all cylinders, they can beat anyone in a seven game series.
6. DeMar DeRozan for MVP (for the Raptors)
When Toronto lost their starting All-Star point guard in Kyle Lowry, it was DeMar DeRozan that carried the load for the Raptors.
No, he does not shoot threes. While he is not the best defender by any stretch, DeRozan has been everything for his team. He tied an NBA record with most consecutive 30 point games to start the season (tied with Micheal Jordan) and he propelled himself forward as one of the best shooting guards in the NBA.
Without Lowry, The Raptors still were able to finish third in the East. Without DeRozan however, they would be far far worse.
DeRozan also finished the season ranked fifth in scoring at 27.3 points a game.
Toronto has all their pieces healthy headed into the playoffs and look to upset the balance of things by making it to the first NBA Finals in team history. But if DeRozan does not play at the level he has this whole season, they will fall short of said dream.
5. Firesale Coming soon?
Do not let making the playoffs fool you, Indiana did not have a good season this year. Making the seventh spot in the East could blind the fact that the Pacers experiment did not work. After acquiring Jeff Teague, Thaddeus Young, and Al Jefferson, Indiana was seen as being one of the best teams in the East on paper. However, the game is not played on paper.
Outside of Myles Turner and Paul George, Indiana is a bad defensive team. Teague and Young can’t guard an AAU team and Jefferson’s age has defiantly shown. Even George has criticized both his teammates and the refs throughout the year.
It been rumored that George wants to bolt and play for the Lakers once he hits the free agency market and he will more than likely be out millions of dollars this year for missing the All-NBA team. If Indiana wants to keep him, they will need to throw the book at him. Which means so players will need to either go or get traded. George has also said he wants to play for a contender and if the Pacers stay how they are now, George is gone!
4. Dwight Howard had a sneaky productive year
Dwight Howard has a stigma on him that’s been hard for him to shake. After a rough ending in Orlando, a failed stint in LA, and a sputtered launch in Houston, Howard needed a fresh start. Going back home to Atlanta was seen as Howard’s “last chance” destination. And whether you are a fan of Howard or not, you can not deny he had a solid year for the Hawks.
Who finished fifth in rebounding in the NBA? Dwight Howard. Who finished fourth in field goal percentage? Dwight Howard. Who finished fourth in second chance points? Dwight Howard. And who finished in the top 20 in blocks, Defensive usage rate, and offensive rebounding percentage. You guessed it, Dwight Howard.
While many might not get over Howard’s past, you can not say he did not have a good season.
3. Most Improved Player Award Goes too…
Giannis Antetokounmpo is a freak of nature. Along with his incredibly long frame, Giannis is on the cusp on superstar status.
Leading the Bucks to the sixth spot in the East, Giannis never fails to amaze. Whether he’s doing free throw dunks in game, or coming out of nowhere to block a seemingly unreachable shot, Giannis has improved leaps and bounds from not only his rookie year, but from just last year.
To put the icing on this cake, the Greek Freak became the only player in NBA history to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and block in an entire season.
Now imagine if he gets refines his three point shot, he will truly be unguardable.
2. Cavs are nothing without LeBron
Putting aside that Cleveland has the 22 ranked defense in the league even with LeBron James, Cleveland is nothing without him.
Yes they have Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, but since coming to Cleveland, the Cavs are 4-22 without LeBron and 0-5 this year. LeBron is their best passer, defender, has the highest I.Q, and he is the best player in the world.
While Kyrie Irving is one of the top scorers in all of basketball and Kevin Love is a solid shooter and rebounds, they both are huge liabilities on the defensive end of the floor. Other than J.R Smith, they don’t really have another two-way guard that can defend at a championship level (and Smith isn’t even that good of a defender.)
Without LeBron, even with Irving and Love, Cleveland would be a lottery team.
1. Mighty Mouse is real
Standing at 5’9, Isaiah Thomas became the shortest player in NBA history to finish in the top three in scoring in the NBA at 28.9 points a game. He also joined Larry Bird as the only Celtic in team history to average over 28 points a game.
Thomas is the superstar leader Boston depends on night after night for huge scoring outings. Being labeled as “Mr. Fourth Quarter,” Thomas averages the most points in the fourth quarter in the NBA at 19 and he is as clutch as they come.
Due to his height however, Thomas is statistically the worst defender in the league, but he makes up for it and more on the offensive side of the ball. Behind Thomas, Boston was able to grab the number one spot in the East, which means the much coveted home court advantage.
Boston IS Isaiah Thomas and a little like LeBron and the Cavs, they will need the best Thomas has to offer if they want to go deep in the playoffs and ultimately upset “The King.”