NBA First Half Awards
With the season just over halfway done, let's look at the major awards. Feel free to disagree but it's James Hardens world right now and we're just living in it.
After watching the Toronto Raptors for about two months, it is safe to say that they are the favorites to make it to the NBA Finals.
The Raptors have the best record in the NBA (19-4) and have looked great offensively and defensively this season. They also are one of the deepest teams in the league and have blown out teams without Kawhi Leonard. We are witnessing a dynasty rising who may end up dethroning the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals in 2019.
It all started when the Raptors lost to LeBron James and he Cleveland Cavaliers once again in the playoffs last year. After that loss, the Raptors fired their head coach and hired Nick Nurse. The amazing thing about that decision is that the Raptors head coach Dwane Casey went on to win the Coach of the Year award.
I was shocked that Casey was fired. Yes, he lost to the Cavs in the playoffs for the third straight year but he was great in the regular season. Looking back at that decision, I would say the Raptors made the right call. Casey was the first coach (and most likely the last) to get fired and win the Coach of thee Year award.
The Raptors were not done changing making changes to the team. They traded forward DeMar DeRozan to the San Antonio Spurs for forward Kawhi Leonard. Trading DeRozon, who has been loyal to the team hurt many players and fans but it was the next step needed for the Raptors to become great.
As great as DeRozan had been for the Raptors, he couldn't help them win in the playoffs. He isn't to blame too much because LeBron James has prevented many players from winning the Eastern Conference in his career. However, the Raptors had to make changes and they couldn't pass up on trading for Kawhi Leonard.
That trade came with a lot of risk because Leonard was coming back from a right quad injury. He is also on the last year of his contract and may not resign with the Raptors. The Raptors deserve a lot of credit for going after Leonard even though there were a lot of risks because it payed off tenfold.
Leonard is one of the reasons why the Raptors are playing great. He is their leading scorer with over 24 points per game and he plays great defense. He is the best two-way player in the league and that is a rare quality. Many great players are susceptible on defense and give up the points they have scored.
Besides Leonard's great play this season, the Raptors have also looked great. They are playing great even when Leonard isn't playing. I think Nurse deserves a lot of credit because whatever he is doing is making his players very confident. Last year, this team would not have blown out teams without their star player.
There are few teams that can beat the Raptors four times in a series. And none of them are in the Eastern Conference. At the moment, the Philadelphia 76ers may come the closest to that but they have no depth and Leonard's defense will be the deference in that series.
Maybe the Milwaukee Bucks will give them trouble with their length but the Raptors also big and won't be out-rebounded by much. It will come down to which team has the better offense and the Raptors are much better on that end.
It is still early and teams are still getting used to playing with each other. From what I have seen so far, the Raptors are the scariest team in the NBA because they have a bunch of players that can score 20 for them. And with the intense defense that they play, it will be hard to beat them. Even for the Golden State Warriors.