Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz

The first half of the NBA season is like the scene in Avengers: Infinity War where Thanos explains that it cost him everything in order to execute the snap. Did the NBA complete the first half of the season? Yes. Am I ecstatic that it happened? Absolutely? Did the NBA also postpone over 30 games due to COVID protocols? Unfortunately, yes.

On the court, it’s been fun to watch the Lakers reestablish their dominance and the Nets piece together a new super team. Off the court, it’s concerning to see Adam Silver and the front office implement confusing COVID protocols. Plus, the league hosted an All-Star game that many deemed unnecessary. If the NBA can make it to the finish line in July without too many bumps in the road, then all is forgiven

The past is behind us, and the second half of the season is ready to begin. Will the Jazz secure the 1-seed? Who will win the MVP? Can the Knicks make the playoffs? Here are my second half predictions.

Milwaukee Bucks And Utah Jazz Will Be The Top Seeds In Each Conference

Before the second half of the season kicks off, here are the standings as of 3/9.

The battle for conference supremacy is beginning to take shape. In the East, the 76ers currently hold the top spot with the Nets less than a half-game behind them. In third place are the Bucks, who are winners in six of their last seven games. If Giannis didn’t win a second-straight MVP, he would be at the top of the MVP race this season with averages of 29.0 points, 11.7 rebounds, and 5.9 assists. The Sixers and Nets are better teams, but health concerns with their star players could derail their hopes for the top seed. Both of their mindsets will be to be as healthy as possible when it comes to the playoffs, even if that means sacrificing regular-season games to rest players. I think it’s quite the opposite for the Bucks. They want that 1-seed to avoid Philly and Brooklyn and will go all out to make sure they receive homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs.

In the first half, the Utah Jazz were the both best team in the Western Conference and the NBA. The Jazz boast a top-five offense, a top-five defense, and the best record in the NBA. This team is built that’s built to win a lot of games in the regular season thanks to their defense and depth. For my gamblers out there, the Jazz were the best team ATS in the first half with a record of 25-11. However, ask 100 people who will represent the West in the NBA Finals. You’d be hard-pressed to find 10 people who pick Utah. The disrespect is real, but they’ll have a chance to silence their critics if the road to the NBA Finals goes through Utah.

Team To Ascend – Miami Heat; Team To Descend – San Antonio Spurs

The Miami Heat were plagued with bad luck and injuries throughout most of the first half, which included their star, Jimmy Butler, who missed 10 games due to COVID-19. Despite a 7-14 start, the Heat battled back to 18-18 heading into the all-star break, which is sixth in the Eastern Conference. Things are about to get easier for the Heat with one of the four easiest second-half schedules. Butler, Bam Adebayo, and the rest of the Heat should climb to a top-4 seed before the season ends in May.

On the flip side, the San Antonio Spurs are like a cockroach; they never die. Somehow, the Spurs are in sole possession of the 7-seed with a record of 18-14. DeMar DeRozan consistently puts up 20-points per night, but his seven assists per night are paying huge dividends. Dejounte Murray and Keldon Johnson are a fun, young duo that continues to progress each game. However, the West is a gauntlet and with teams like the Mavericks, Warriors, Grizzlies, and Pelicans lurking in the standings, it will be hard for the Spurs to stay in the top-8. Plus, the Spurs face the second-toughest schedule from here on out, according to FiveThirtyEight.

The Knicks Will Make The Play-In Tournament 

I couldn’t go an entire article without mentioning the biggest surprise in the NBA, the New York Knicks. I can’t express how much I love this team. All-Star Julius Randle drank “Michael’s Secret Stuff” in the offseason with career highs in nearly every statistical category. Tom Thibodeau has instilled a toughness and tenacity that’s been missing for nearly a decade. Do the Knicks still frustrate the hell out of me? Absolutely. When Thibs is playing the starters in the last two minutes of a 20 point blowout against the Pistons, I want the suffering to end. However, it’s so refreshing to root for a competent basketball team again.

As great of a start it’s been, the Knicks will need to play even better in the second half to make the playoffs. The schedule makers did the Knicks no favors as New York faces the third toughest schedule in the second half. The Knicks are in dire need of shooting as they rank towards the bottom in team field goal percentage. At the beginning of the season, I said if the Knicks competed for the 10th seed all year, I’d be very happy. Expectations have changed. I expect the Knicks to make the Play-In tournament at the very least. Make it happen, boys.

Midseason Awards

  • MVP – Joel Embiid
  • ROY – LaMelo Ball
  • DPOY – Rudy Gobert
  • 6th Man – Jordan Clarkson
  • MIP – Jerami Grant
  • COY – Quin Snyder

Will these predictions stay the same at the end of the season? My predictions for how the races will turn out.

  • MVP – LeBron James
  • ROY – LaMelo Ball
  • DPOY – Ben Simmons
  • 6th Man – Jordan Clarkson
  • MIP – Julius Randle
  • COY – Quin Snyder

Playoff Predictions

East

  1. Bucks
  2. Sixers
  3. Nets
  4. Heat
  5. Celtics
  6. Raptors
  7. Hornets
  8. Knicks
  9. Pacers
  10. Hawks

West

  1. Jazz
  2. Lakers
  3. Clippers
  4. Suns
  5. Nuggets
  6. Blazers
  7. Mavericks
  8. Warriors
  9. Spurs
  10. Pelicans

NBA Finals – Lakers over Nets*

*If and only if Anthony Davis is healthy

What are your predictions for the second half of the NBA season? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet me, @danny_giro.

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