The debate between Kawhi Leonard and Ben Simmons as potentially elite dream stars is no laughing matter. 

What’s real and what’s not to date throughout the 2018 19 NBA season?

As we close in at the halfway point of the season, our pros examine 10 trends we’ve seen — and if they’re poised to continue while the calendar flips to 2019.

The chaos That’s the Western Conference standings

REAL. Appearance, a number of those 14 teams are going to deliver way due to either injuries or an ill-timed slump. But, the West play off movie doesn’t look more likely to get much clearer any time in the future. Both FiveThirtyEight’s projections and people predicated on ESPN’s Basketball Power Index (BPI) have 11 teams ending .500 or even better on average, along with BPI endeavors all 14 teams in the playoff race to acquire an average of 38 matches. With all these teams at the combination, every game will count in a wild 2nd half the growing season. The transaction deadline (and buyout market) may also be a vital differentiator in a setting where an additional win or two can possibly be the difference between making the playoffs having a realistic prospect of a first-round upset or going home early.

The departure of the traditional NBA big man

NOT REAL. The standard huge man isn’t extinct, but he’s currently a spot specialist who is no longer crucial — and also many times a liability — into his team’s victory. Rim protection is still a priority for NBA defense, that explains why players using elite defensive abilities including Rudy Gobert, DeAndre Jordan and Clint Capela can play 35 minutes for competitive teams, so long as they are willing to roll and run into the rim together with authority over the offensive end. Though he’s not as springy, Steven Adams‘ mastery of defensive bully-ball and creative goonery causes him crucial to the Thunder’s individuality, and also energy bigs such as Montrezl Harrell are invaluable within an abysmal game. And there’s always the occasional nights when a Jusuf Nurkic gets loose against a Smallball unit.

Teams may even find use to get a Tyson Chandler, that are able to stabilize a new defense, or perhaps a Boban Marjanovic, that are able to use his uncommon size to take control a game for 10 or 12 possessions. However, these guys are currently the exceptions rather than the rules.

Until further notice, a present-day NBA big man has to brandish offensive skills such as Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, Karl-Anthony Towns and Blake Griffin. They need to find a way to stretch the floor, function as fulcrums by which the half-court offense could operate, control double-teams — when those additional bodies come, be able to harness the shield with the pass. Since Jokic has demonstrated, it’s perhaps not really far the scope between deep (that the Nuggets’ big man is taking only 31 percent from beyond the arc this season). It has the versatility, the uncanny ability to morph one’s skills to whatever the conditions of the game demand.

Without those multiple arrows in their quiver, big men will have a challenging time staying on to the floor and drawing the big pay checks their smaller contemporaries earn free of agency.

— Kevin Arnovitz

The Lakers’ chances in a top-3 seed in the West Play Offs

NOT REAL. The Lakers came to this season needing time and energy to understand one another with a brand fresh cast surrounding the youthful prospects to proceed with LeBron James. And nearly as great as the Lakers have looked at times this season, they will have had to handle injuries and suspensions that have disrupted their ability to develop into a finished product. So while they are capable of winning big in Golden State, then they also can lose to Orlando twice. The recent injuries to James and Rajon Rondo, the Lakers’ two leaders, will help the players become a groove but still require more hours for Luke Walton’s team to attain its potential once everyone is healthy again.

The Lakers will eventually reach their stride, as Magic Johnson predicts. However, with all the margin of mistake so slim in the Western Conference, they could well not win enough matches to ultimately finish in the top three and even four beforehand of teams such as the Oklahoma City Thunder or the charging Houston Rockets.

The Raptors since the very dangerous team in the Eastern Conference

REAL. If the Raptors have been healthy this season, they’ve easily become the East’s most whole team. Kawhi Leonard has looked to be an MVP candidate again after last season’s injury problems, Kyle Lowry has been one of the league’s best ball distributors, Pascal Siakam has continued to progress toward a potential allstar berth and Serge Ibaka is having one of his best seasons in years. Toronto goes two-deep at every position, has length and athleticism to spare, and also may play just about any way against any team.

The Raptors do have any weaknesses: they’re a team full of streaky 3-point shooters, Lowry’s play off restart has its own share of disappearances on it and also the number of injuries they will have already had — and Leonard’s issues last season — keep tracking. However, in an Eastern Conference in which each of those contenders has flaws, that’s enough — for the time being — to tip the scales in their favor despite the latest conduct by the Milwaukee Bucks.

— Tim Bontemps

NOT REAL. George features a strong example, to make certain. He is having a career season, playing a Defensive Player of the Year amount, and has propelled the Thunder into the upper crust of the West despite injuries and irregular play for Russell Westbrook. However, the contest is strong — and statistically superior. George’s rise to an MVP would probably must feature the Thunder over-achieving and ending under the West while he continues to roll up onto a hot streak that gets him somewhere in the 27- or 28-point-per-game selection.

Here’s just how tough the competition is, only from the West: George might possibly be DPOY and finish inside the top three or four of the MVP race, but maybe perhaps not make first- or – even second-team All-NBA. It ain’t easy being a forwards in the modern NBA.

Serious trouble for the Spurs’ 21-season playoff streak

REAL. The Spurs no more possess what coach Gregg Popovich calls the”corporate wisdom” to lean on that they once had throughout the Big Three age with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Think about this San Antonio lost three All-NBA defenders before the year even flew off in Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Dejounte Murray, that suffered a season-ending torn ACL during the pre season. And for a Spurs franchise which believes lock down defense must be the foundation to everything it will to the court, which is a catastrophic blow.

Throw from the affluent West and also that the Spurs are trying to maintain their ordinary high standards with eight players (10 in the event you count two-way players), and it’s really a recipe to get the potential end of a postseason streak that started with a team which included David Robinson, Avery Johnson, Vinny Del Negro,” Will Perdue and Chuck Person — who’re currently all in their 50s!

— Michael C. Wright

REAL. Did it create that the Sixers better this year old? Not fundamentally (more about this below). However, from the NBA, the goal is to collect star gift and work out the rest later.

In the brief term, however, the trade only exacerbated a thickness issue that the Sixers were dealing with once the season began. Outside their star trio and JJ Redick, trainer Brett Brown is in a continuing struggle to find players he could count on. The Sixers would love to obtain a couple more thickness pieces on the buyout market this winter just they did last year, if they landed Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova — moves which helped transform them into a juggernaut down the stretch and lift them into the second round of the game.

Even when adding thickness does not happen until summer time, however, the accession of Butler raised Philadelphia’s long-term ceiling. That alone is sufficient to justify the movement.

— Tim Bontemps

De’Aaron Fox‘s situation for the Best player from the 2017 draft

REAL. Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum and Lauri Markkanen may beg to disagree, but you certainly can make a case for the Sacramento Kings‘ electric point protector as being the best player thus far from the Class of 2017. Why? Fox is the most important reason behind that using his scoring, departure, steals, quickness and improved 3-point shooting. The former University of Kentucky star also deserves Western Conference All-Star reserve consideration. Fox has turned into the Kings from a laughingstock to a legitimate playoff competition, and he still has room to improve. If Fox were in a larger economy, he would get more recognition for his stellar 2nd season. But game recognizes game, and also he will eventually get his esteem if he continues to play with on this elite level.

Zion Williamson as the best college prospect as Anthony Davis

NOT REAL (YET). While it’s premature to dub Williamson the finest collegiate potential since Davis before the beginning of conference play, he’s on the perfect track to claiming the esteemed honor. Through 12 games, Williamson has a player efficacy rating of 42.3 while observing per-40-minute averages of 30.2 points, 14.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 3.2 steals and 2.9 blocks with an unbelievable 68.9 true shooting percentage. He is an unparalleled physical specimen, his productivity and efficacy are unparalleled, and he’s an ideal fit as a Smallball big in today’s NBA.

So whois Williamson’s rivalry? The 3 main names which spring into mind would be Karl-Anthony Towns (2015), Ben Simmons (20-16 ) and Joel Embiid (2014). Williamson gets the advantage over Towns because he’s better off, plays with a more revved-up engine, and may create for themself as well as others. I favor Williamson to Simmons as well. Without exactly as talented by a passer, Williamson shows more potential as a perimeter shooter, is always aggressive as a driver, which makes winning plays has similar potential defensively even though his burden reduction.

Embiid is the toughest call. Take out the injury flags and Embiid would have become the sure fire No. 1 choice and, in my experience, a far much better prospect than Williamson given his yearlong, insideout dominance and rapid ascension. However, when you take Embiid’s injury questions into account, Williamson, so long as he stays healthy and creates strides as a shooter, has a opportunity to surpass one of the best bigs in the NBA. He is not the same as his counter parts, has got the ability to catch and proceed in transition, can finish above the rim together using ferocity, can create offense from the perimeter and also will fly around defensively — every one of that make him arguably the very intriguing potential we’ve seen since The Brow.

The Knicks’ plans to get a Kristaps Porzingis reunite… in October

REAL. Nevertheless they are undoubtedly prepared for him to miss the whole season — an outcome which makes sense for both the player and the team. From a Knicks perspective, the club can put itself in the best place to land a premier lottery pick from keeping Porzingis onto the sideline and losing as many matches as possible. By Porzingis’ perspective, he’s entering this summer like a restricted free agent, so risking injury and putting a potential $150-plus million contract in danger doesn’t seem worthwhile.

The allstar enormous man’s rehabilitation, by all accounts, is proceeding well. Knicks president Steve Mills said last month which Porzingis has begun to focus with the court with trainers and certainly you will be reevaluated in mid-February. But even if he’s emotionally ready to reunite at a certain time after that test, it’s best for both Porzingis and the Knicks in the surface of the franchise stays out for your whole season.

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