Just past the halfway mark of the 82-game regular season, the Boston Celtics are the clear leader in the Eastern Conference, but the West is a tossup, with five teams all within five games vying for the Conference’s top spot. Pictured is Canadian R.J. Barrett, now a Toronto Raptor. Photo Credit: CP/Chris Young.
The National Basketball Association (NBA) season has been an interesting one thus far.
We’ve seen 73-point and 70-point performances in the past week alone. LeBron James has also been named an NBA All-Star for a record 20th time and the Toronto Raptors’ full rebuild is underway.
Just past the halfway mark of the 82-game regular season, the Boston Celtics are the clear leader in the Eastern Conference, but the West is a tossup, with five teams all within five games vying for the Conference’s top spot.
NBA reporter and Niagara Falls native Doug Smith recently joined the Niagara Sports Report on Newstalk 610 CKTB with his thoughts on the season thus far.
Let’s start with the team he’s covered since their arrival into the league back in 1995: the Toronto Raptors.
On Dec. 30, Toronto dealt O.G. Anunoby and Precious Achiuwa to the New York Knicks, receiving Canadian R.J. Barrett and Immanuel Quickley back. They then unloaded Pascal Siakam to Indiana for a package that included three first-round draft picks.
“I was kind of surprised in the order, I thought Siakam would be the first guy to go, and I thought they would try to do something to keep O.G. Anunoby, but you’ve got to strike when the iron’s hot,” Smith said. “They got a couple of young players in Immanuel Quickley and R.J. Barrett, and a bunch of draft picks in the Siakam trade. As one veteran [Toronto] player on the team told me, it was inevitable.”
The NBA Trade Deadline is Feb. 8, and Smith feels the Raptors could make further moves.
Smith’s surprise of the NBA season thus far has been the performance of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
“We knew they were good – they got a lot of talent,” Smith said. “But I don’t think anybody had them leading the Western Conference halfway through the year. They have the best defense in the NBA, and they score in bunches. On the court they have to be my biggest surprise.”
Smith feels the Phoenix Suns are the biggest disappointment thus far.
Speaking of the NBA Western Conference, a Canadian is the most consistent player this season, as Hamilton’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging over 31 points per game.
Yes, Luka Doncic dropped 73 points last week (the fourth highest single game total in league history) and in the same week reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Joel Embiid poured in 70 points – plus there’s Mr. Triple-Double Nikola Jokic – but in terms of consistency, Gilgeous-Alexander has to be in the MVP chatter.
“It will probably come down to Embiid and Jokic again, but I think Shay should be tied for first with those two guys,” Smith explained. “Thirty games with 30 points, he leads the NBA in steals, he certainly should be top three no question about it.”
So, as the unofficial second half of the NBA season continues, Boston is the beast of the East while we await who will be best in the West.
“There’s never a dull moment around the NBA, it doesn’t matter what time of year it is, there’s never a dull moment,” Smith added.
Rod Mawhood is a lifelong Niagara native who has had the pleasure of working in all three mediums – Radio, Print and TV – for over 20 years. His first announcing gig was with the then St. Catharines Stompers. Since then he’s worked in radio and TV in Toronto, and currently is the announcer for the Niagara IceDogs and Niagara River Lions.
Rod also covers the Buffalo Bills for FOX Sports and the Buffalo Sabres for NBC Sports.