2022-23 NBA Midseason Rundown

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Football’s almost at an end and professional pickleball is for the birds …

So it’s time to turn to the NBA, who’s approaching the mid-point of their season — bringing on intriguing storylines for all of us who have been consumed by the NFL and CFB.

Since its OutKick mission to not just cover sports but dominate the full spectrum of leagues, the NBA is next in line to get the OK treatment, via holiday recap.

We’ll be breaking down the best / worst of the NBA season as of Dec. 25.

For starters, the NBA made the savvy choice to name its MVP trophy the Michael Jordan Award.

That’s the perk of being the best of all time. Sorry, LeBron. 

Starting this season, the MVP will be crowned with the MJ award.

Other NBA awards announced for this year and onward included: 

Hakeem Olajuwon Award for Defensive Player of the Year 

Wilt Chamberlain Award for Rookie of the Year 

John Havlicek Award for Sixth Man of the Year

George Mikan for the Most Improved Player

And the most inane of the group, the Jerry West award for Clutchest Player in the League.

To encapsulate the 2022-23 NBA season in a comprehensible breakdown, we’re handing out some ‘mid-season’ awards.

Here we go.

MVP: Jayson Tatum

The Eastern Conference remains a three-team battle between the Milwaukee Bucks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics.

Fueling the Celts’ conference-leading play in what will likely result in a back-to-back trip to the NBA Finals is perennial All-Star Jayson Tatum, who’s averaging 30.5 points, 8.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists.

He’s probably the closest thing we have to the late, great Kobe Bryant in the NBA as far as a total hustler on both sides of the ball goes.

Count on Tatum to be the inaugural player for that ridiculous Clutch award.

Biggest Flop(s): Los Angeles Lakers, Atlanta Hawks

Is the 2022 NBA the same as your father’s NBA, where the Celtics and Lakers duke it out for supremacy of the Association?

Kinda. At least for the Celtics, whereas the Lakers struggle to maintain relevancy without their aging King and broken All-Star in Anthony Davis.

Think you’ve had enough of the Lakers?

This legacy team continues to fall down a seemingly eternal spiral as the King remains the centerpiece of a crumbling cast.

General manager Rob Pelinka’s roster still looks like a cheap version of the Cleveland teams that LeBron played with in the mid-aughts.

Russell Westbrook is a $40M player coming off the bench, and Anthony Davis continues to be an elite player with the durability of dollar-store batteries.

Los Angeles fans are also stuck in a perpetual cycle of being “in talks” with talent that would never pick the Lakers in their current state. Keep dreaming.

Atlanta Hawks

Acquiring Dejounte Murray in the offseason as a complementary All-Star to the puerile Trae Young boosted their odds at leading the East. Both early and late in the year.

Cast those expectations aside as the Hawks struggle to hold onto the seventh seed in the conference. Young is also beefing with head coach Nate McMillan over a nagging injury. 

The two got into a spat before a shootaround against the Denver Nuggets in early December, inspiring Young to simply sit out the game.

McMillan told reporters that today’s players are meant to be handled ‘differently’ than athletes of years past. True that.

Disgruntled Atlanta Hawks Star Trae Young Missed Game Over Spat With Coach Nate McMillan – OutKick

Team Most Likely To Win It All: Milwaukee Bucks

Don’t count on the Golden State Warriors to stay at 12th in the Western Conference with Steph Curry currently out of the lineup with a shoulder injury.

But if there’s ever a year for the Warriors not to return to the Finals amid their ongoing dynasty, it’s this year. 

This brings us to the East, where the aforementioned Celtics, Bucks and Cavs are duking it out. 

While the Celtics remain my top pick to make it out of the East, Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks have serious cache to win it all for the second time in three years.

Khris Middleton hasn’t been available for all but seven games, and the team has still managed to rise to a 22-10 record. Considering Middleton’s prowess as one of the premier 1B players in the NBA, bringing him back at full force to compound the Bucks’ dominant play may stand as the only team to challenge Boston for the East’s title. If that proves to be the case, bet on the Bucks to win it all.

Biggest Surprise: Sacramento Kings

Are you on board with the Sacramento Kings yet?

If not, you should be. 

In what may be their best group since the team employed Mike Bibby as point guard and Rick Adelman as coach, the 2022-23 Kings are playing balanced ball and causing an uprising with their Tower of Babel-like iconography in the Victory Beam.

They’ll probably let us hopefuls down in the second half of the season to continue their 16-year playoff-less streak, but out of all the delusional fanbases in sports, this one’s actually worth the ride.

With plenty of basketball left in the year, stay tuned with OutKick as we cover the top storylines.

Follow Alejandro Avila on Twitter: @AlejandroAveela
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Written by Alejandro Avila

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