We’re technically past the halfway point in the NBA season, but really, let’s be serious: Things don’t start to heat up until after the All-Star break. Now we’re on the cusp of the trade deadline, and soon teams will be fighting for playoff spots and lottery ping-pong balls.
Today, we’re throwing out all bets and making ten bold predictions for the second half of the season.
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1. The New York Knicks will make a trade at the deadline…but still not make the playoffs
The New York Knicks are desperate to hold onto Carmelo Anthony and are willing to do just about anything to convince him to stay. However, if the Knicks management decides to be smart and not force a deal or throw money at another problem, New York won’t make any moves at the deadline.
Carmelo Anthony is in the prime of his career and it’s sad that he is wasting away some of his best years on a team that has no chance of winning a championship. Anthony is following up his scoring title from last year with an even better year this year. He is averaging a career-high in rebounds, shooting .409 from 3-point range, the second highest in his career, and .836 from the free throw line, second highest in his career, and he’s still averaging 27.5 points per game, second in the league, while playing a career-high in minutes per game.
Anthony has done everything possible to make this team a winner and it is just not enough. The Knicks sit at (21-33), 11th in the Eastern Conference.
The Knicks are reportedly looking to acquire point guard Jeff Teague from the Atlanta Hawks. The Knicks have suffered from awful contracts that management has handed out over the past few years. Next year, the Knicks will still have to pay Amar’e Stoudemire $23 million, Tyson Chandler $14.5 million and Andrea Bargnani $11.5 million as well as close to $6 million to J.R Smith. Acquiring Teague would mean the Knicks would have to pay the remaining three years of his four-year, $32 million contact. This would mean the Knicks will have less money in the summer of 2015 when most of those horrific contracts mentioned above expire.
Teague is a solid point guard but is definitely overpaid. Teague is having his best season this year but has only averaged 10 points per game and 4.5 assists per game in his career. Current Knicks point guard Raymond Felton is ranked 16th in assists-to-turnover ratio while Teague ranks 37th. Teague doesn’t make the Knicks a contender this year nor is he the big name player that will convince Anthony to stay. The Knicks shouldn’t make a deal at the deadline but rather try and make the playoffs with the team they have, or try and unload contracts and convince Anthony that they will free cap space to acquire players in the offseason, or during next year when some of the expiring contracts they have are more desirable.
Wait a minute, though. We are talking about the Knicks and their horrific front office management. The Knicks will make a deal for Teague or another average-to-below-average player that has a difficult contract to deal with and will end up not making the playoffs anyway. The Eastern Conference is horrendous but the Knicks are a part of the mess. Why won’t the Knicks make the playoffs? It’s simple: the Knicks are full of selfish players that have lost that desire to compete night in and night out. With all the buzz surrounding the team with Anthony potentially leaving and Woodson being fired, along with management and Anthony making it clear that this roster can’t win, the Knicks have already come to the conclusion that this season is a waste. The Knicks will quit by mid March and will realize that Jeff Teague was just another contract they will be wishing they never acquired.
2. Rajon Rondo will be moved before Thursday
Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics are in rebuilding mode and looking to acquire draft picks and young talent for next year. I think that Ainge will be willing to give Rajon Rondo away for the right price but it will be costly for whichever team decides to acquire him. Rondo is a free agent in 2015 so he most likely will only be traded to a team that has a chance of re-signing him.
I personally think the Los Angeles Lakers will make a move for the four-time All-Star before Thursday’s deadline. With Kobe Bryant’s comments hinting toward him being close to concluding his NBA career, the Lakers are foolish to not make a move for Rondo. Rondo will most likely stay with the Lakers and if he opts to test free agency, the Lakers can also target Kevin Love in the summer of 2015. If Bryant retires it leaves the door open for the Lakers to sign both Rondo and Love in 2015. The Lakers have a lottery pick to give away this year and can give the Celtics expiring contracts to free cap space at the end of the season.
3. Los Angeles Clippers will make the NBA Finals
The Los Angeles Clippers have been flying under the radar since the beginning of this season, especially after the injury to Chris Paul. The Clippers sit at 37-19, 6.5 games back of the one seed in the West. The Clippers have been phenomenal at home (23-5) and have what it takes to win the West. The Clippers are second in points per game (107), third in assists per game and 15th in points allowed. Chris Paul has returned after missing 18 games but the Clippers were 12-6 without their star point guard.
Much of the reason why the Clippers survived without Paul was because of the elevated play from Blake Griffin. Many people don’t believe Griffin can do much more then leap into the air and throwdown some ridiculous dunks, but I believe Griffin is one of the most improved players in the NBA this year. Griffin is averaging a career-high in points (24.4 a game), and is shooting over 50 percent from the field as well as over 70 percent from the free throw line. He looks so much more comfortable and confident on the offensive end and his ability to knock down the midrange jumper gives defenders trouble. Play tight and he blows by you for a monstrous dunk, sag off and he now has the ability to hit his jumper when open. Add DeAndre Jordan, who is having his best career year, 10.0 points and 14.1 rebounds a game, and the Clippers have a great combination down low. Include shooters that help spread the floor for CP3, an efficient sixth man in Jamal Crawford, a deep bench and coach Doc Rivers and the Clippers are a scary out in the playoffs.