Westbrook leads MVP race at All-star break approaches

As the NBA season approaches its midway point, I plan to discuss the biggest storylines of the season thus far.

From dominant teams such as the Warriors and Cavs, to surprise teams like the Milwaukee Bucks, all the way to bottom feeders like Philadelphia, I will cover as many corners of the league as I can.

With that, let’s start with some teams sitting at the bottom of the standings hoping to land a top pick in the 2017 draft.

While the 76ers have by no means become a competitive team in the NBA, they have some bright spots on their team. First, they have the clear-cut 2016-2017 NBA Rookie of the Year on their roster, and it is not who most people thought it would be entering the season.

The draft’s first pick, Ben Simmons, was the projected Rookie of the Year, but he has yet to step on the floor this year due to injury.

Joel Embiid, however, is blossoming into an absolute star after sitting out his first two years after being drafted out of Kansas.

Also, after years spent tanking, the 76ers have accumulated many valuable young trade assets that could bring them established veterans to balance out their young core.

There are a few teams that have been very pleasant surprises as contenders in this year’s NBA.

First, the Houston Rockets, led by Point-God James Harden have jumped from a fringe playoff team to probably the third best team in the league.

After hiring head coach Mike D’Antoni, shifting Harden from shooting guard to point guard and letting Dwight Howard walk in free agency, the Rockets’ offense has been unstoppable due to a barrage of three pointers’ and dunks.

The Utah Jazz, who I predicted to compete in the West this season, currently hold the six-seed in the West despite having one of the least star-studded teams in the league.

The Jazz are built around phenomenal defense and a deep team with almost no bad players. In the East, the Milwaukee Bucks have finally emerged as a contender.

The Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo, is putting on a must watch show on a nightly basis due to his freakish athleticism and remarkable versatility as a 6’10” point-forward.

Led by Giannis, Jabari Parker, and surprise rookie Malcolm Brogdon, the Bucks’ combination of length, athleticism, talent and defense makes them a dark-horse contender in the East coming into the second half of the season.

Finally, it is on to the real contenders. If you ask me there’s only two, the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Sure there are plenty of great and competitive teams throughout the NBA like the aforementioned Rockets, the Celtics, the Spurs, and a healthy Clippers squad, but none of them stack up to these two. Ever since the buzzer sounded in Golden State as the Cavs won game seven last June, it has seemed the two teams have been on a collision course for a third straight Finals meeting.

Both teams have undoubtedly been the most dominant teams in their respective conferences up to this point, and it does not even seem as if either team has reached its potential yet.

In their first meeting of the season, the Cavs won on a remarkable game-winning shot by Kyrie Irving with just seconds left to cap a remarkable fourth-quarter comeback for Cleveland.

Fans did get to see the Warriors at their absolute best Monday night, however, when they absolutely dismantled the Cavaliers in Oakland by thirty-five points for their second and final meeting of the regular season.

I can’t wait for the inevitable meeting of these two again in the Finals five months from now.

To wrap up this midseason recap, I want to include my midseason awards for the league:

Rookie of the Year: Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers

Sixth Man of the Year: Louis Williams, Los Angeles Lakers

Coach of the Year: Mike D’Antoni, Houston Rockets

Most Valuable Player: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder (Runner up: James Harden, Houston Rockets)