At the halfway mark of the 2016/2017 NBA season, there’s a clear divide between who’s considered a contender and who’s just there to make up the numbers.
1 - Golden State Warriors
Leading the league seemed like a formality when the Warriors signed superstar Kevin Durant. Durant’s play with Curry has made Durant one of the most efficient players the league has ever seen. Golden State’s unselfish brand of basketball really allows them to utilize all the pieces they have, from Thompson, Green, Curry whilst still keeping Durant as the focal point.
The Warriors’ recent dominating performances against contenders in the Cavaliers and the Rockets have sent clear messages to the rest of the league. They are a scary, scary team for anyone to be facing in the playoffs.
2 – San Antonio Spurs
It’s crazy how uber successful the Spurs are year in and year out. Yet because of their seemingly dull style of play hardly grab any attention. That’s how the Spurs want it. Probably the epitome of professionalism in the NBA, Popovich and his Spurs have found a blend of young talent, experienced veterans and some superstars inserted in between.
Leonard and Aldridge are leading this team with 25 and 18 points per game each respectively. Add in 12 points per game from Gasol and Mills and this squad can score with the best of them. Murray and Dedmon as youngsters are really coming into their own and adding an extra dimension for this Spurs squad.
3 – Houston Rockets
Houston arguably has the first half MVP in James Harden. The move to point guard and unselfish play in the D’Antoni system has elevated Harden’s game where he’s legitimately being discussed as one of the best in the league. This squad also has, in my opinion, the 6th man of the year in Eric Gordon. Gordon is averaging 23.3 points per game on 50% shooting. Massive stats for a benchy.
Houston need to focus on the defensive end. They’re in the top two offensive powers in the league but for them to really make a difference in the finals, they’ll need to learn how to stop their opponents finding that bucket as regularly.
4 – Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavaliers will be coming out of the East, we’ve known this since… well… Lebron signed for them. Unfortunately the last week has seen the Cavs lose to the Warriors in an embarrassing fashion and the Spurs in a close one.
This team is just too top heavy for their own good. Lebron needs to keep mentoring Kyrie to mature into a consistent out and out assassin and Tyron Lue needs to find himself a playmaker in the second unit. Lebron can’t be on the field for all 48 minutes of all 7 games, which if he could, I’d choose the Cavs in a heartbeat.