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NBA First Half Season Recap

This season is the first full NBA season since 2018-2019. The fans are back in the stadium, and players are showing out.


The NBA’s 75th season is looking like it will be one of the most entertaining we’ve seen in a while, and with that being said, here are some of the major storylines to look out for in the second half.


Surprises


For years, the Western Conference had been regarded as the stronger conference. From 2000 to 2017, the West won 12 out of 17 All-Star games played, which led to the NBA changing the All-Star game format to make the game competitive.


Those days are now gone, as the Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee Bucks, Chicago Bulls, and Philadelphia 76ers are all legitimate title contenders.


(Image via NBC Sports)


Even though they were able to ensemble one of the more talented lineups in basketball, many questioned how the new-look Chicago Bulls would mesh well together.


The starting lineup was strong together, but with key players such as Zach LaVine, Lonzo Ball, and Alex Caruso missing time, the doubt crept in. Luckily, the Bulls shut that down with the MVP-level play from DeMar DeRozan, keeping them atop the East.


(Image via NBA.com)


The biggest surprise to most has been the success of the Cleveland Cavaliers. First-time all-stars Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen have led them to currently sitting at No. 4 in the Eastern Conference, right behind the reigning champion Milwaukee Bucks.


Rookie Evan Mobley is also looking like a future two-way star and front runner for the Rookie of the Year award. Cleveland's future is bright and has unexpectedly become one of the most exciting young teams to watch.


(Image via Bleacher Report)


On the flip side, there's been a lot of equally surprising disappointments, with the Los Angeles Lakers being the biggest.


The trio of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook was set to dominate the league, along with veteran additions of Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard. However, the Lakers have failed to meet expectations.


Frequent injuries to their stars, shooting struggles, and prone to turnovers have hindered their success. Even with the high-level play from LeBron in Year 19, it's hard to see Los Angeles making much noise in the playoffs - if they manage to find their way in.


MVP Level Play


Out west, players such as Steph Curry, Ja Morant, and the reigning MVP Nikola Jokić can't be overlooked either, but to most this season, the MVP is a two-man race in the Eastern Conference.


(Image via SI.com)


As mentioned before, DeRozan has been on fire, as he's averaging around 28 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists, coupled with currently having one of the best records in the East entering the All-Star break. In addition, he is showing that, even in an era where everyone is shooting 3’s, you can still get it done in the mid-range.


Joel Embiid, on the other hand, is shooting almost 38% from this season while also putting up 29 points and 11 rebounds per contest. Embiid's dominance is only made bigger when you consider he’s been without a true star by his side until James Harden's arrival. The opposition's whole game plan is centered around stopping him, and they still can't.


Blockbuster Trade


One of the biggest stories heading into the second half of the NBA season is seeing how the James Harden-Ben Simmons trade will play out. Both Simmons and Harden were subject to much criticism for how they forced themselves off of their respective teams.


(Image via NY Post)


When healthy, the trio of James Harden, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving looked unstoppable. In the 16 games together, they went 13-3. Unfortunately, Irving's vaccine stance has limited his ability to play, and both Harden and Durant were victims of missing time due to injury.


The world never got to truly see them at their full power, and because of this, Harden wanted out. Sadly, one of the greatest ensembles of talent has failed to succeed.


The 76ers-Ben Simmons drama ended after months away from the game, and Ben's refusal to play for the team has landed him in Brooklyn. With many under the impression that he was too “afraid” to show up in front of Philly fans, it’ll be quite a sight to see when Simmons makes his eventual return.


Both teams improved on major flaws, as the Nets got an elite, versatile defender and rebounder, and Philly got a playmaker who can score with ease. With Embiid playing at an elite level, Harden may be the missing piece Philly needed to make a title run. With the vaccine mandates rumored to be lifted soon, and with KD and Simmons returning to action, the Nets may bounce back and become the title favorites once again.


Title Contenders


While both the 76ers and Nets are stacked, the road to the Eastern Conference Finals might still have to go through Miami, who sit atop the East. Led by stars Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Kyle Lowry, and potential Six Man of the Year Tyler Herro, the Heat are looking scary. Let's also not forget about the looming return of Victor Oladipo.


(Image via Sporting News)


Even though they’ve been hit with the injury bug, Chicago has also been able to see continued success, and with the return of Ball and Caruso coming soon, the Bulls are a team that could be in the finals come June.


Out west, the big 3 of Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson are back and are ready to make noise. Their veteran experience, coupled with the improvements of Andrew Wiggins and help off the bench from young guys like Jordan Poole and Jonathan Kuminga, have the Warriors back in elite status.


(Image via Bleacher Report)


The reigning conference champions are teams that have experience and skill, with a rematch of last year's NBA Finals being a huge possibility.


Chris Paul and Devin Booker have the Phoenix Suns as the No. 1 seed in the West again and look determined to make it back to the Finals to finish the job. Giannis Antetokounmpo is also still his usual dominating self, helping propel the Milwaukee Bucks up the rankings.


To win a chip, you will need talent, teamwork, and a little bit of luck. Whichever of these teams can get that extra hit of luck might be the one to take it all.

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