Mason could be making big shots in the Playoffs

Mason could be making big shots in the Playoffs

With All-Star weekend finished, we can now look ahead to the second half of the NBA Season.  As the trade deadline nears, many teams will be looking to make moves that will put them in better positions for the playoffs.  While the first half of the year showed us that the Celtics, Lakers, and Cavs are for real, we also learned that the Spurs may still have some fight left in them.  These last few months bring up even more questions.  Can the Celtics repeat with their current team, or will they have to add someone?  Who will be this season’s MVP?  Which underachieving first half teams will sneak up and join the elite group?  And, which majors players will be switching teams?

We start with the Boston Celtics, a team who came into the season hot, but has also showed some weakness and lost key games to the Lakers, Spurs, and Cavaliers.  Last year’s Celtics team was greatly improved by the signings of PJ Brown and Sam Cassell, which causes many to wonder whether this year’s team needs a similar boost.  Talk of Stephon Marbury has cooled down lately, but if Marbury can get out of New York, Boston could be an appealing destination.  Still, Danny Ainge has insisted he’s happy with the current team, and if nothing changes, they will still be the team to beat during the playoffs.

The Lakers, Cavs, and Spurs spent the first half of the season at the top of the power rankings, and all 3 teams have stayed consistent, winning big games.  The Spurs might be the biggest surprise, winning big games despite their age.  While the Spurs “Big 3” have not changed, the revolving cast of young role players has really made a difference.  Roger Mason Jr., has proved his worth as a player who can make big shots at the end of games.  He’s done it several times this year, and the Spurs hope he can do it come playoff time.  I’ve already wrote about the Lakers last week, which leaves the Cavs.  In previous years, they have depended heavily on Lebron, but with another all-star in Mo Williams, and improvements on the bench, the Cavs look like a dangerous team.  The key for them could be gaining homecourt advantage, since they were unbeaten at the Q until recently.

What the Cavs do have is a leading candidate in the MVP race.  It appears that this year will come down Lebron vs. Kobe, a debate that we’ve had previously on this blog.  To throw my opinion into the mix, I feel that the MVP is a regular season award, and I would have to go with the player who helps his team the most over the course of 82 games.  While I think that Kobe is the most clutch player in the game, I feel that Lebron is more valuable to his team over the course of an entire season.  This season is no different.  While there is still a lot of basketball to play, I think this is the year that Lebron James gets the MVP award.

While we’ve talked about those teams that got off to a good start, there are still a lot of teams who have underachieved.  Teams such as the Hornets, Jazz, and even the Sixers, had high expectations for the season, but injuries and mistakes have kept them out of the top tier.  Will the second half prove any different?  The Hornets do have the best point guard in the game, as well as another All-Star in David West.  The offseason signing of James Posey was supposed to put them over the top, but so far the Hornets have not proved that they are one of the elite teams.  The Jazz have battled injuries and may be the most dangerous second half sleeper.  A healthy Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer is a deadly combination, and Jerry Sloan is still one of the greatest coaches in the game.  The Jazz could easily be a threat in the playoffs.  The Sixers have also dissapointed, especially now that Elton Brand, their large offseason signing, has gone down for the year.  This may actually be a blessing though, since Brand never fit in, and last year’s Sixers team had a pretty impressive late season run.  Look for this team to do the same this year, but ultimately lose to one of the better teams in the playoffs.

Other teams will be looking to improve via trade, or dump players and wait for next year.  The Raptors and Heat have already swapped Jermaine O Neal for Shawn Marion, a move which helps both teams.  The other major trade talk surrounds Amare Stoudamire, who may be out of Phoenix.  Once one of the league’s premier franchises, The Suns have completely collapsed.  Trading Amare would probably be the final nail in the coffin for a team who has traded away great assets, and let an incredible coach leave for New York.  The team that gets Amare could see some immediate improvement and become a threat.  However, the other side to the story is the fact that Amare has never quite proved himself in big games.

Whether through trades or improved play, the second half of the season looks to be an exciting one, as I think the landscape of the league will change a bit.  While we’re used to discusses the same few teams, I think other teams, especially the Jazz, will step it up in these next few months and create even more questions for us when the playoffs hit.