Every team has now crossed that 41-game threshold which means we're officially into the second half of the regular season.
Before moving forward, here's a quick look back at our biggest disappointments of the first half of the season. Is there hope moving forward for our early underachievers?
The Trail Blazers front office
I'm starting to think this was a test by the Trail Blazers front office to see if they could surround Damian Lillard with legitimately anybody and still make the playoffs.
Lillard has brought Portland to the postseason the past six consecutive seasons but in years past, he's had a solid supporting cast to help him get there. This offseason, the Blazers front office let their All-NBA guard down, failing to bring back much of any of the core role players that helped the franchise reach their first Conference Finals since 2000.
Al-Farouq Aminu, Mo Harkless, Enes Kanter, Seth Curry and Jake Layman all walked away in free agency. They traded Meyers Leonard for Hassan Whiteside - which has been one of their more profitable moves - and they've been dealt a tough hand with injuries to players like Rodney Hood, Skal Labissiere and Zach Collins, as well as the already injured Jusuf Nurkic, but that doesn't excuse the players they surrounded Lillard and C.J. McCollum with.
Kent Bazemore and Anthony Tolliver did not work out and have just recently been traded because of that and the Mario Hezonja experiment has not worked either. Who would've guessed that signing Carmelo Anthony would've been their best move of the season?
Lillard is having another All-NBA calibre season but he needs help. You can't control injuries, but even the players that were around him that weren't injured weren't going to suffice to get this team back to the Conference Finals and beyond.
Barring another trade, it seems unlikely that Portland turns things around to get to the playoffs for the seventh-straight season, which is too bad because there are few things in the NBA more enjoyable than watching Damian Lillard in the postseason.
- Kyle Irving ( @KyleIrv_ )
The Philadelphia 76ers
Yes, they've dealt with injuries. Yes, they're currently 13 games above-.500. And yes, they've gotten some big wins this year.
I'm still disappointed by Philly at this point.
Leading into the season, I picked the Sixers to win the NBA title. To say that I'm disappointed that they're currently fifth in the East's standings would be an understatement, to say the least.
The disappointment largely stems from not knowing which team you're going to get; some nights they look like the title contender I expect them to be while others they struggle to look like a playoff team and my biggest concern might be their performance away from home.
The Sixers are an elite 20-2 at the Wells Fargo Center but outside of Philadelphia are an underwhelming 9-14. That's a record comparable to East teams seeded seven through 10.
That's not the mark of a contender.
You can't go on a title run without winning on the road. That the Sixers may not get home court at all this postseason is a major concern.
I'm disappointed, yet I still believe this team is talented enough to figure it out. Better luck with health and a string of consecutive wins could drastically change their outlook for the second half of the season. It helps that they match up well with the Bucks, too.
I just have to see it to believe it first.
- Gilbert McGregor ( @GMcGregor21 )
The Next Dirk Nowitzki
The entire Chicago Bulls could have qualified for this spot. I entered this season a big believer in Chicago. I thought the youth was ready to blossom, I thought the veteran offseason additions would fit seamlessly and I even thought that would all add up to a coach of the year nod for Jim Boylen.
Look... there are plenty of ways in which this has all gone south in Chicago but perhaps none bigger than the stagnation of Lauri Markkanen. By every statistical marker, the Finnish stretch four/five was off to a better start to his career than young Dirk Nowitzki. No, seriously.
But instead of continuing that upwards trajectory, Markkanen has regressed and while its still far too early to write off his long-term potential, any sentence that contains his name along with the words "next Dirk Nowitzki" should be forever cast aside. Though still capable of the prolific nights where his sweet stroke and off the bounce game resembles that player who shall no longer be named, they serve the purpose of fan-crazed mirages moreso than the indelible mark of a future MVP candidate.
More common are those nights where he simply floats around the perimeter, imposing his will on the collective groans of Bulls fans rather than the action on the floor itself.
It's about managing expectations. Markkanen is a fine player with a skill set that will lead to a long career, but it's becoming harder to envision the type of star trajectory that many around the league felt possible prior to the start of this season.
- Micah Adams ( @MicahAdams13 )
Mike Conley Jr.'s fit with the Jazz
Hailed as one of the biggest off-season acquisitions, Mike Conley Jr. was primed to take the Utah Jazz to the next level and make a genuine push towards the top of the Western Conference.
While the Jazz currently sit third in the West standings, Conley Jr. has struggled to make the impact many expected in the backcourt alongside Donovan Mitchell as the team's primary playmaker.
Appearing in just 24 games this season, he is averaging 13.2 points and 4.5 assists per game, shooting a career-low 37.6 percent from the field.
It's not all on Conley Jr. here, with the 32-year-old in an out of the lineup with injuries, which has made it tough to build on-court chemistry with his new teammates. But the night and day difference in the Jazz's play with Conley out of the lineup has been hard to ignore.
In his recent 14-game absence with a hamstring injury, the Jazz went 12-2, with Joe Ingles taking charge of the offence, re-discovering their free-flowing ball movement, with the Aussie looking like the best playmaker on the roster.
We're only halfway through the season and there's still plenty of time for Conley Jr. and the Jazz to figure out how he best fits into their offence, but if he can re-discover his shooting touch and carve out his role, the Jazz will become an even bigger threat once the playoffs roll around.
- Benyam Kidane ( @BenyamKidane )
The Kings and Suns
There was a lot of optimism for both these teams in the offseason, with many expecting them to be strong contenders for the final couple of playoff spots in the West.
Just over halfway through the season, they aren't officially out of the race for the post-season - the Suns are two games out and the Kings are five games behind - but it's their records (Suns: 18-25; Kings 15-28) that have been disappointing.
Yes, both teams have dealt with their fair share of roster absentees - injuries to key players (De'Aaron Fox, Marvin Bagley III, and Bogdan Bogdanovic) for the Kings and Deandre Ayton's 25-game suspension - but I believed they had the roster depth and talent to win those games against teams in the lower half of the Western Conference.
I also believed that both teams had hired smart capable coaches over the summer - Monty Williams (Suns) and Luke Walton (Kings) - who would put their team's roster depth to good use.
Instead, this season looks to be on track with years past for both teams, as they currently sit among the non-playoff teams in the West. The Kings (13) and the Suns (9) have the two longest postseason droughts in the NBA right now.
Both teams have shown potential and competitiveness against good teams, but too often fallen short closing out games.
- Yash Matange ( @yashmatange2694 )
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