2020 has just started. The NBA main protagonists hardly had time to catch their breath during the Christmas holiday, even if some of them became less visible on the court floors, to the great displeasure of their supporters and the media.
Besides, the 2019-2020 season currently offers us an exercise that is as exciting as it is boring at times, combining disappointment and surprise. Without going into analyses and comparisons of all kinds, we will try to take stock, almost halfway through, on the trends that emerge from the NBA conferences after eleven weeks of the regular season.
Nothing New in the NBA Eastern Conference
It’s hard not to talk about the success of the Milwaukee Bucks without mentioning their Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo. Undoubtedly, more fit than ever, the outgoing MVP has just added a new long-range weapon to his offensive panoply. As a result, the Greek Freak has achieved an even more sensational course than last year, once again placing the Wisconsin franchise at the top of the NBA Eastern Conference within a shorter period than last season.
The Contenders in Ambush
Consequently, faced with the impressive domination of the Bucks, resistance to the East is organized behind the scenes. Long considered inferior and sometimes poor in talent compared to its sister in the West, the underdogs for the title have never been so important and pleasant to see play since a certain King set sail for California. Let us mention the return to top of the Boston Celtics, transformed since the departure of Irving and the accession of its attacking trident Walker – Brown – Tatum. The reigning champions Raptors, deprived of their ephemeral star, Kawhi Leonard, have lost practically nothing of their splendor, due to a balanced roster and judicious coaching choices on the part of Nick Nurse.
Even the Pacers, deprived of their bomber Oladipo, and the 76ers, sometimes out of offensive inspiration, are in the game, firmly installed in the top five. The beautiful and big surprise is that Miami Heat has occupied the third place on the podium for almost a month. By first signing with the sensational Jimmy Butler, who was traded by Philly at the end of the 2018-2019 season, the flair of Pat (Riley) allowed the Heat to attract rookies, Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn, while counting on a team already rejuvenated around Adebayo, Winslow or Robinson.
Can They Do Better?
Among the teams that are stuck on the fence, it’s hard not to immediately point the finger at the Brooklyn Nets. An outsider among the outsiders in the East since the arrival of Irving and Durant (even if the two players are injured), there remains an aftertaste of disappointment in terms of the ambitions displayed at the start of the season and the mid-season results.
And then there are disappointments, and they are big enough for many franchises. From the Chicago Bulls, announced as a serious challenger in the fight for the playoffs thanks to a team that is as young as it is talented, to the Detroit Pistons, who should close their ranks before the trade deadline, and the Cavaliers, who are as worried as they are ghostly in their ambitions, failure is a big concern for these notorious franchises.
To finish on a less bitter note, according to the NBA Eastern standings, the Hornets are the very proof that despite the discussions this summer around their fate, the forecasts turn out to be finally wrong, as evidenced by their encouraging start of the season.
The American Wild West
Los Angeles in Power
This is the hit of the season, the new rising rivalry between the two franchises of the city of angels. This summer, both have displayed very high ambitions after their stellar staffing, marked by two victories for the gang of Kawhi and Paul George over their rivals. If you nevertheless thought that it would be enough to make the Clippers the only favorite of the season, you must be kidding yourself. The Lakers and LeBron, who seem to be getting younger from year to year, now assisted by Anthony Davis, will not let go of their Conference leader’s chair as easily and they seem more motivated than ever to restore the purple and gold coat of arms that has been shelved for too long during the final stages.
If we look over the shoulder, we are still far from a Mano a Mano as announced in September. The Nuggets, continuing their successful 2019 exercise, are still showing a good fighting spirit while Houston Rockets and their indefensible (or badly defended?) James Harden, make their contribution to this conference by firmly anchoring, week after week, their position in the first half of the NBA Western Conference standings.
NBA East vs. West
Eastern Conference versus Western Conference: there are also as many good as bad surprises ahead. Like the Heat, the Mavericks, and their new pearl from the Balkans, are now settling among the serious candidates for the playoffs and intend to stay there, which does not help the business of certain franchises, who are going through a difficult time. Playing their part, not without a false note, the Jazz do not quite meet the expectations of those who willingly placed them among the teams that had to be watched closely this year.
Far from being mediocre, Utah still has the merit of displaying continuity in its ambitions, which is far from being the case for San Antonio and Portland. It was finally Oklahoma who knew how to take advantage of the situation, now observing from quite a distance the Grizzlies, Timberwolves, Suns, Kings, and Pelicans, who now form the very big tail of the Western Conference.
If certain teams are yo-yo-ing between a slower pace and an encouraging dynamic, the Warriors, on the other hand, are indeed part of the category of teams in bad shape. Durant left, Thompson and Curry are out for an indefinite period, and Draymond and D’Angelo spent half the time in the hospital – this is how the triple champion is going down at full speed.
A Regular Season That Ends As It Started?
Although the die is not cast yet, many signs indicate very few turnaround situations in the league until April. The Lakers and the Bucks seem to be comfortable on the top standings of their respective conference when their closest pursuers still go through a whole series of adjustments in attack and defense. The significant differences between the first and second half of the table make the top-ranked franchises to maintain their lead in view of the playoffs, hence the following (yet) unanswered question: should NBA reduce the number of regular-season games?
This is a problem to which it is difficult to provide solutions. From the point of view of the media, managers, players, and spectators, opinions diverge, but their interests are even more crystallized. Not long after the death of its ex-commissioner, David Stern, who disappeared on January 1, the NBA of Adam Silver should try to find not one, but several answers to this thorny problem, which generates a fall in audiences this season and a certain lack of attractiveness on the sporting level for athletes. By taking a model from his mentor, a great reformer of the professional system between 1984 and 2014, who was at the origin of the media and commercial boom of the big league on the international level, Stern offered the latter the know-how and legitimacy in Sport Business which the current boss must now use for the sustainability of the league.
Find all our forecasts for the new NBA season on this page. In this new year, there should be even more NBA bets at SugarHouse. And that’s good because this new NBA season 2019-2020 promises to be exciting.