NBA and playoff picture previews

Ben Koepsell, Staff Reporter
March 7, 2012

The shortened NBA season has reached the half-way point. As the standings are now, there will be a few matchups in the playoffs sure to draw a lot of national attention. Namely these three:

3. Heat vs. Celtics – The Heat are the reigning Eastern Conference Champions, and the Celtics players may be at the end of their ropes, as they are all old veterans. The battle between the “big three” for both teams will be a huge factor in the outcome of this series. LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh against Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen will never disappoint.

2. Mavericks vs. Lakers – The Mavericks are trying to repeat as NBA Champions, and the      Lakers, led by Kobe Bryant, are trying to win yet another championship. The Mavericks have flown under the radar this season, but the match-up between Dirk Nowitzki and Bryant would be exciting and high-scoring, to say the least.

1. Bulls vs. Knicks – The number one game to watch features the hottest topic in the NBA this season, Jeremy Lin. The match-up between one of the NBA’s top defenses, the Chicago Bulls, against the combination of Carmelo Anthony, Jeremy Lin, and Amare Stoudemire would be intriguing. It also features the NBA’s reigning MVP, Derrick Rose, who is always exciting to watch and always puts on a good show.

The MVP this season will be very hard to pick. There are many very deserving candidates: Derrick Rose, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Love, and Tony Parker. But only these three have set themselves apart:

3. Kevin Durant – Since Durant came into the league, he has been one of the most prolific scorers in the NBA. He is the reigning two-time scoring champion and is currently second in the NBA in scoring, with 27.9 points per game. The Oklahoma City Thunder is currently the best team in the West and is tied for the best record in the NBA, with the Heat and Bulls, at 27-7.

2. Chris Paul – Paul is fourth and third in the league in assists (8.6) and steals (2.27) per game, respectively. He was traded at the beginning of the season from the New Orleans Hornets to the Los Angeles Clippers, and was an instant spark to the Clips. The Clippers finished 32-50 last season and missed the playoffs. This season, Paul has led the Clippers to a 20-11 record – currently the third best in the Western Conference, and better than the record of their crosstown rivals, the Lakers. Going off of the impact he has had on his team over the first half of this season and the turnaround the Clippers have made, Paul would be a very likely MVP this season.

1. LeBron James – James is averaging 27.4 points per game, third in the league behind Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant. He is putting up fewer shots than both Bryant and Durant and shooting 55 percent from the field, which is fifth in the league. He is also on pace to break the record for Player Efficiency Rating (PER). The PER is a rating that scores the player’s per minute productivity. The NBA all-time record is held by Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain, who had a PER of 31.84 in the 1962-1963 season. As of now, James has a PER of 32.42. He is doing this while playing on a team with two other superstars. Some people may see that as a reason why his numbers aren’t impressive, but I see it as more impressive. He is playing with Dwayne Wade, who is averaging 17 shots-per-game, and Chris Bosh, who also needs 14 shots-per-game to be effective. James is still able to lead his team in scoring while maintaining a high field goal percentage. Those things, coupled with the Heat being the best team in the Eastern conference, is reason enough for him to be my mid-season MVP.

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