Diehlman at Halftime: An NBA Weekly Column

An NBA logo. - Photo / Wikimedia Commons.

It’s February, so of course that means love is in the air. Giving flowers to someone is thoughtful. Receiving chocolate is nice (call me insane: I’m not a chocolate lover).

But, what’s better than keeping up with the NBA and watching some games? Now that’s a truly beautiful gift!

As we hit the one-third mark in the season, we’re starting to get a clearer picture of who the contenders are and who the pretenders are.

The Orlando Magic is a nice example of this. They started off 4-0, but they’ve been 6-18 since, which began with a stomping at home by the 76ers on New Year’s Eve. Oh my.

In better news, it doesn’t seem that COVID has been as bad in the league as it was recently. Healthier teams equal less stress on the players, coaches and fans.

It’s also more exciting, since it’s way more fun to beat a team at full-strength, rather than losing to them with bench-warmers and guys called up from the G-League the previous day.

Staying healthy will remain crucial when the playoffs arrive. No organization wants to deal with protocol while fighting for a title. However, I think vaccinations for players will start very soon!

So, who’s raising eyebrows at the moment?

1 Highlight, 1 Lowlight, 1 Random Stat

Highlight: Although All-Star voting concluded yesterday, we saw some interesting names in the second batch of returns last week.

To no one’s surprise, LeBron James got the most love in the Western Conference (and overall) with 4,369,533 votes.

Meanwhile, Kevin Durant is in the lead in the Eastern Conference with 4,234,433 votes.

In terms of the 76ers, Joel Embiid is basically a lock to be a starter because he’s racked up 3,022,105 votes. That’s good for third most in the entire Eastern conference, behind Milwaukee Bucks’ superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo and the aforementioned Durant.

Philadelphia fans have questioned why Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris aren’t getting enough support, given that they hold the best record in the conference.

In addition, there are some new faces on the lists: Jerami Grant of the Detroit Pistons is in tenth for the Eastern frontcourt, while Julius Randle of the New York Knicks is in eighth.

For the West, Zion Williamson for the New Orleans Pelicans holds the sixth spot in the frontcourt, while Christian Wood for the Houston Rockets holds the eighth spot. These are a few examples of players who deserve to be in the running. This leads to my next point…

Lowlight: If you find yourself going back and forth with someone about why Simmons and Harris may or may not deserve All-Star status, please note that at least they have good cases.

The Western Conference backcourt voting is a joke. Klay Thompson, who makes up half of the “Splash Brothers” for the Golden State Warriors, alongside fellow sniper Stephen Curry, hasn’t played in two years due to injury. Yet, he’s in eighth place.

Also, Alex Caruso of the Lakers is in tenth place for the Western backcourt…even though he’s a role player! He averages 5.5 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists in roughly 19 minutes per night. Although L.A. fans love him, he does not deserve All-Star status unless he starts playing like we’ve never seen anyone play before.

How do you think the players that are barely missing the cut feel that their hard work is going unnoticed? Now I know why the fans only make up 50% of the votes (players and media members make up the other 50%).

Random Stat: I don’t understand this at all, but why do the Detroit Pistons only beat good teams? They’re abysmal this season, sitting nicely at 8-19.

Yet somehow, they’ve defeated Boston (twice), Phoenix, Miami, Philadelphia, Los Angeles (Lakers), New Orleans and Brooklyn. Does the team realize that if they did this more consistently against terrible and “okay” teams, they’d be playoff contenders?

To put this unusual situation in perspective, Indiana is sitting at fifth in the East with a 14-14 record! Even Boston is still floating in fourth with a 14-13 record!

With the way things are going in the Motor City, playoffs don’t appear to be in the plans this year. Besides, the Pistons’ playoff game losing streak stands at 14, which is an NBA record.

Detroit is making headlines for impressive wins, but it’ll be a while before they make headlines about impressive playoff wins.

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