Time to see how many things Raheel was right OR wrong about in his preseason predictions

Evaluating NBA preseason predictions at the midway point

Composite photo by Brandon Strange.

With the All-Star game right around the corner and teams officially beyond the halfway point of the season, I wanted to go back and look at some of my preseason predictions. My preseason predictions will be in black text and my updated thoughts will be in italics. Here we go...

  • Will Carmelo Anthony have a positive impact on the Rockets after the All-Star game? I think Carmelo is going to look pretty good to start the season, but father time is undefeated when it comes to everybody but LeBron James. How is Melo going to look shooting with tired legs? If he can overcome his spotty defense with some good shooting nights late in the season and the playoffs, it will be worth it for the Rockets.
  • Well, I was wrong on this one because Melo never made it past the All-Star break with the Rockets. Even with the big miss on Melo, the Rockets addressed some major concerns by adding Austin Rivers and Kenneth Faried in the buyout market. I think Austin Rivers will help in keeping CP3's minutes down until the playoffs and Faried does a lot of things that Capela does so you won't take a huge step back when he's on the bench in terms of what they like to do on the offensive side with the pick and roll.
  • Will Russell Westbrook get to the second round? It's only been two years since Durant left, but those two years have been brutal in terms of team success for the Thunder. Last year's disappointing loss to the Jazz in the first round was the cherry on top, but will it get better now that Paul George is all in with the Thunder? I love watching Russ play, but it's time to add some team awards to his mantle in addition to the triple doubles.
  • Still to be decided on this one, but if they do make it to the second round, it'll be because of how deep they are as a roster and Paul George's brilliant play. OKC is still a disaster in late-game situations with Westbrook.
  • Can the Raptors make the East fun again? LeBron has finally left the East and now all signs point to a new dynasty rising in the Celtics, but can Kawhi Leonard make this a bit more fun and entertaining? This Raptors team was the No. 1 seed last year and only got better with the addition of Kawhi and Danny Green. I think they win the East. I know I'm crazy.
  • I've been loving the Raptors for three years now and I still feel really good about this pick since Boston hasn't really run away with anything yet in the East. Of course the 76ers will be there in the end making a run with Butler, but I still think this will be the Raptors conference.
  • All signs point to Giannis winning the MVP this year, BUT BUT BUT...indulge me for a second because I think Victor Oladipo has a shot to win it out of nowhere. Oladipo has been progressing every single year and I think has a legit shot to crack 29 ppg this year. While the league scoring leader isn't guaranteed to win the MVP, it does put him in the conversation and if his team is top 2 in the East, why not?
  • Even before the season-ending knee injury, Oladipo wasn't in the running for MVP. He was super clutch early in the season, but it's all about James Harden right now with his scoring wave. I was wrong on all fronts with this pick.
  • Where will Kemba Walker end the season? I'm thinking San Antonio. I don't know how, but for some reason I have a feeling something like this will happen.
  • He will be a Hornet. No real rumors out there for Kemba.
  • Two storylines for the New York City readers: the Nets will make the playoffs AND Kevin Knox will be a monster for the Knicks.
  • I'm feeling good about the Nets pick still, but they need Caris LaVert back like right now. Russell has played great ball and should get some love for the All-Star team. Props to Kenny Atkinson for keeping this team together and winning. I was wrong about Kevin Knox because Luca happened. Knox has played better of late and I still think he's going to be a beast.

Other thoughts from the first half of the season:

  • The Kevin Durant non-call out bounds of in the Rockets game is my moment of the season so far because it still doesn't make sense how two officials missed such an obvious call while looking at the play. I'll never understand it.
  • Anthony Davis wants to be traded? No way. Oh, the Lakers said most of their young guys are available? No way.
  • It's OK to say you don't like watching James Harden play, but it's not OK to downplay his scoring tear. That was ridiculous. Some nights he could've hit 70 if he drove to the hoop in the fourth.

Breaking down the loss

How the Rockets lost their chance at the sweep

Tim Warren/Getty Images

Monday night the Houston Rockets took on the Utah Jazz with every intention of completing the sweep against their first round opponent. The Jazz had other plans, however, and despite a third quarter run by the Rockets to retake the lead, it was the Jazz who would ultimately battle back and take game four. Utah's hopes remain alive in the 2019 playoffs, yet in spite of their victory they still trail Houston three games to one.

Out muscled

The Rockets came out flat from the get go and that tempo seemed to carry with them throughout the match up. They were out-assisted 14-24, out-rebounded 48-62 (16 of which were offensive), and brutalized in points in the paint, 22-52. It was a lackluster effort, and yet the Rockets remained competitive until the final seconds.

Donovan Mitchell Explodes

Despite poor play all around the Rockets were still hanging around late into the fourth. Their chances of a come from behind victory were quickly dashed when 2nd year guard Donovan Mitchell turned on the jets. Mitchell fired 6-12 for 19 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter alone, including two back to back three-pointers to put the game away late. Mitchell's outburst was perfectly timed and integral in staving off Houston's comeback.

No backup

James Harden shook off his unusual game three performance with a solid 30 point outing, matched closely by 23 points from Chris Paul. Aside from them, however, Houston received little assistance from their supporting cast. The Rockets bench fired a collective 2-16 and accounted for 5 points. The Jazz bench in contrast went 9-22 for 28 points. Harden and Paul can do whatever they want on the court, but if this is the support they can expect moving forward, Houston won't last too much longer this postseason. It's highly unlikely the bench remains that ineffective moving forward, but it's worth keeping an eye on.

Rockets player of the game

Chris Paul: 23 points, 7 assists, 8 rebounds, 5 steals, 2 blocks

Jazz player of the game

Donovan Mitchell: 31 points, 4 assists, 7 rebounds

Next up

The Rockets return to Houston for game 5 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals on Wednesday at 7:00 pm, central.

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