The NBA season so far: what you need to know


The current NBA League MVP frontrunners: (left to right) Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Photos licensed under Creative Commons

With the 2021-2022 NBA season reaching its halfway point, it’s a good time to look back on the season so far in preparation for the upcoming NBA playoffs. Here’s all the recent news around the league and some things you may have missed.

All-Star Weekend

This year’s All-Star weekend made for an interesting one, featuring new formats to the Clorox Rising Stars Event and the Taco Bell Skills Challenge. The festivities took place in Cleveland, celebrating both the rich history of the city and the league’s 75th anniversary. The NBA 75 Team, a selection of the league’s 75 greatest players of all time, was present as well.

The events began on Friday the 18th with the Ruffles Celebrity Game. Headed by popular rappers Quavo and Jack Harlow, celebrities from a variety of places faced off on the court. Peloton instructor and influencer Alex Toussaint won the MVP award for the game, scoring 18 points for his team in a 65-51 win.

The Clorox Rising Stars Event took place later that same night. In this year’s format, a selection of the league’s top young talent, along with players for the NBA G League Ignite team, were split into four teams of seven. Each team, coached by members of the NBA 75, faced off in a tournament bracket. Team Barry (Rick Barry) and Team Isiah (Isiah Thomas) played in the championship game, ending in a 25-20 win for Team Barry. Cade Cunningham, a rookie guard for the Detroit Pistons, won the MVP award with 18 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds.

On Saturday the 19th, there were the State Farm All-Star Saturday Night events: the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, the Mountain Dew 3-Point Contest, and the AT&T Slam Dunk Contest. In the Skills Challenge’s new format, three teams of three faced off in four events (as opposed to the one-versus-one format of previous years). The events were Team Shooting, Team Passing, Team Relay, and Half-Court Shot. Team Cavs, consisting of Cleveland Cavaliers teammates Darius Garland, Jarrett Allen, and Evan Mobley, took the win in their home city.

The 3-Point Contest came next, where players compete in multiple rounds to see how many 3-pointers they can make in a limited time frame. The winner was Karl Anthony Towns, center for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Towns’ win was unexpected for some. Regarding his underdog position, he later said, “This is for all the tall kids who were told they can’t succeed unless they play with their back to the basket.”

The last event of the night was the much-beloved Slam Dunk Contest. This year’s participants were Orlando Magic guard Cole Anthony, Houston Rockets guard Jalen Green, Golden State Warriors forward Juan Toscano-Anderson, and New York Knicks forward Obi Toppin. Toppin snagged the win, beating out Toscano-Anderson with 46 points in the final round.

On Sunday the 20th, the final day, the All-Star Game took place. Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James and Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant were the team captains, a repeat from last year’s All-Star Game. The game came down to the wire, but James hit a fadeaway to seal the win. Warriors guard Stephen Curry, who played on Team LeBron, won the new Kobe Bryant All-Star MVP Trophy (named after the late Lakers star, who had won four All-Star MVP awards in his career). Curry made a record-breaking 16 three-pointers—a fitting achievement, only three months after he broke Ray Allen’s record for most three-pointers made.

Trade Deadline News and Rumors

As the trade deadline was fast approaching, we lacked the significant trading information we’ve seen in previous years. However, on February 10th, the day of the deadline, there was an explosion in sudden major trades.

For starters, Portland Trailblazers guard CJ McCollum was sent to the New Orleans Pelicans. In return, the Pelicans gave up a first-round draft pick this coming draft and two second-round picks in the future. McCollum was drafted tenth overall by the Blazers in 2013, and he has played with them for the past nine seasons since. The Blazers seem to be prepared for a rebuild focused on keeping star guard Damian Lillard in Portland, so trading McCollum for what may become some useful draft picks is not necessarily a crazy idea.

Next was a major trade between the Indiana Pacers and the Sacramento Kings. From the Pacers, star forward Domantas Sabonis, along with players Justin Holiday and Jeremy Lamb, was traded for the Kings’ Buddy Hield, Tristan Thompson, and Tyrese Haliburton, a stand-out player now in his sophomore season. The trade came as a surprise to some. The Pacers and the Kings are two teams working towards a rebuild, so swapping one of their top players may seem like a strange move. In their time so far on their new teams, Sabonis and Haliburton have played excellently, so only time will tell if this trade was worthwhile for those involved.

As the deadline grew near, Dallas Mavericks center Kristaps Porzingis was suddenly traded to the Washington Wizards. Porzingis, previously an important asset for the Mavs, has come under fire in recent years for poor performances in the playoffs. The Mavs are likely hoping to build a new core centered around star guard/forward Luka Doncic. Porzingis has yet to suit up for the Wizards where his skills will certainly be tested as one of their top players.

Most importantly, however, the Nets guard James Harden was traded for Philadelphia 76ers guard/forward Ben Simmons. As of writing, Simmons has yet to play a game this season after a rough falling out with the Sixers players and staff. He had refused to play until he got traded, and it seems like he’s finally gotten his wish. Harden, amidst rumors of arguments off the court, is also likely happy with the trade. 

Daryl Morey, general manager of the Sixers, is a good friend of Harden’s from back when both of them were with the Rockets. Harden has performed well in his first few games as a Sixer, while Simmons is preparing to start sometime soon.

Current Standings and Playoff Picture

As of writing this article, the Miami Heat are leading the Eastern Conference, followed by the Chicago Bulls and the 76ers. The Heat seem ready to go all the way this season, having lost in the NBA Finals in 2020. The Bulls, coming off of disappointing seasons for the past few years, also seem prepared for a significant playoff push. 

Newly-acquired Bulls forward Demar Derozan is considered by many to be a top MVP candidate. The Sixers have come close to playoff success for a couple of years now, and with center Joel Embiid continuing to have MVP-caliber seasons, it seems like it’s now or never for the team.

In the West, the Phoenix Suns hold a decisive lead. Trailing behind are the Warriors and the Memphis Grizzlies. The Suns reached the NBA Finals last year, losing to the Milwaukee Bucks in six games. This year, they’ve got a lot to prove, and they seem ready to exceed those expectations. The Warriors are no strangers to the NBA Finals. 

However, they missed the playoffs last year, losing in the NBA Play-In. The last time they made the Finals was in 2019, when they lost to the Toronto Raptors, so the Warriors also have a lot to make up for. The Grizzlies are a team with no titles to their name. Despite that, All-Star guard Ja Morant has led the team to incredible success this season, so the Grizzlies might be able to pull off something big in the postseason.

In the MVP race, Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic is in the lead, followed by the Sixers’ Joel Embiid, and Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo after him. Jokic may be able to secure the award in back-to-back seasons, while Antetokounmpo has a chance to reclaim the award from when he last won it in 2019. Embiid has yet to win an MVP award, although he has been considered a top candidate in multiple years.

Now that you’re all caught up, be sure to tune in to some of the upcoming NBA games before the playoffs. A season like this is one you surely won’t want to miss.