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.

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One more win and they're in. Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

As they were at the start of the 60 game season, the Astros are a virtual lock to make the expanded postseason field. Unexpectedly, the only reason the Astros have a shot in October is because the field is expanded. Still, all they need is one win in three shots at the Rangers or one Angels loss as they play three at the Dodgers and the Astros are in and an absolute threat to win another American League pennant. This Astros squad is an average squad. The losses of Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, and Yordan Alvarez combined with all their key hitters dropping off from 2019 make Astros' mediocrity a simple fact of life. A mediocre but potent team can beat any better team in a best of three, best of five, or best of seven series. Heck, a bad team can beat a great team two out of three. The format is such that the Astros will be the sixth seed among the eight AL playoff teams, so they will be the road team in each game of a best of three series at the number three seed. They could be headed to Oakland, Minnesota, or Chicago.

A couple of peripheral bummers of the Astros to this point disappointing 2020…

One, Justin Verlander's dream of 300 career wins pretty much died with the ulna collateral ligament in his right arm. Verlander's one win this year combined with zero next year will have him at 226 career wins when he turns 39 in February of 2022. That Verlander can then average 15 wins per season through age 43 isn't utterly impossible but is extremely unlikely. While cementing his Hall of Fame credentials, Verlander didn't average 15 wins per season from 2015 through '19.

Two, Jose Altuve's collision course with the 3000 hit club has hit a major detour. I'm not declaring Altuve washed up, though only apologists and homers would describe his short season performance as better than feeble. He's been among the worst regulars in all of Major League Baseball this season. Altuve's best baseball is behind him. If he can get back to 2018 or 2019 Altuve that's plenty good, though not close to 2016 and 2017 Altuve. Well, Altuve failed to reach 170 hits in either 2018 or '19. Giving him 170 hits per season for each of the next eight seasons (bet the under), Altuve would be within about 30 hits of 3000 when approaching his 39th birthday at the start of the 2029 season. Craig Biggio remained a lineup regular at age 40 only so he could get to 3000.

Texans face another tough test against Steelers

It's no shocking upset if they win but the Texans probably come home from Pittsburgh Sunday night with an 0-3 record. As only four point underdogs they should have a much better shot than they did against the Chiefs and Ravens. Not that that is saying much. The Texans were pretty pitifully overmatched by the Chiefs and Ravens, the faint silver lining is that they're the two best teams in the AFC. It's possible the Steelers are the third best team (I'll take the Bills but it's possible). So even at 0-3 the Texans' season wouldn't be dead. Just two years ago they opened 0-3 before ripping off nine straight wins and finishing 11-5. But just as the 2018 Texans wound up, this season's team would be a total pretender.

All five starters back on the offensive line was supposed to be a boon to the Texans' offense. The pass protection has been porous and now has to deal with a top tier pass rushing Steeler defense. Deshaun Watson has been his usual terrifically elusive self, but merely okay throwing the ball. Offensively, 38-year-old Ben Roethlisberger has looked all right at quarterback after missing all but the opener last season with a blown out throwing elbow. Big Ben is not close to the mobility threat Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson are, but the Texan D which has thus far been sieve-like against running backs will see two backs each over five yards per carry thus far in James Conner and Benny Snell.

At least the Texans will have no crowd noise to deal with at Heinz Field. The Steelers are 2-0 but have only beaten the awful Giants and the injury-battered Broncos.


Buzzer Beaters:

1. One game is one game but Bregman, Altuve, and Springer all homering Thursday night had to create some warm feelings for any Astros fan.

2. The Lakers-Nuggets series has been outstanding. Number of Rockets you think are watching any of it: over/under 2 1/2.

3. Greatest Bennys: Bronze-the one with the Jets Silver-Jack Gold-Goodman

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