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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Rockets get another much-needed win. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets went on a redemption tour by beating the Detroit Pistons and Dallas Mavericks. But the most pivotal win was against the Mavericks as the Rockets finally showed their true potential. John Wall finally made his return from his injury hiatus and played with a lot of energy. DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Gordon combined for 61 points. It was great to see Stephan Silas crack a smile as he was able to beat his former team.

The Rockets clearly missed Wall during his eight-game absense. This season, the Rockets are a .500 team with Wall on the court. Wall is the Rockets' floor general that leads, constructs, and also pushes his teammates to become better.

Wall only played 21 minutes in the 133-108 win over the Mavericks but still had eight assists. Even though Wall only had 7 points, his presence was still felt by finding his teammates for open looks beyond the perimeter. Wall made sure Cousins and Gordon got a plethora of touches. He called multiple actions, so they got open looks from three, which was mainly Gordon. Gordon and Cousins' struggles have been similar but with Wall on the court, they were successful against the Mavericks. According to NBA Stats, Wall posted a 111 offensive rating with the starters versus the Mavericks, which included Gordon and Cousins.

"He's the engine to this team. He gets everybody going. He makes the game easy," Cousins told a reporter after the game. "The pressure that he constantly puts on the defense is a tough thing to deal with."

Gordon has struggled all season long with three-point shooting and relied on his slashing abilities. Saturday night, Gordon made six three pointers against the Mavericks, which was 66 percent from beyond the perimeter. Gordon increased his three-point percentage from 31 percent to 34.5 percent after Saturday night's game. Gordon's 33 points came from being able to attack the entire Mavericks' defense. Willy Cauley-Stein didn't stand a chance against Gordon as he was burned multiple times. Gordon's been a lifesaver for the Rockets in the last two games, and hopefully he maintains his play.

Cousins played fantastic against the Mavericks scoring 28 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. This is Cousins' first double-double with the Rockets this season. Cousins became the vintage player from the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings. It was extremely fun watching Cousins push the ball up the court and aggressively snatch rebounds. Boogie shot 50 percent from behind the arc by making four three-pointers. He was dominant inside the paint as Cousins went 7/8 from the restricted area versus the Mavericks. This was the game Cousins needed after having a poor performance against the Pistons Friday night.

"It was really, really good. He did it all. He's a physical presence on both ends of the floor," as Silas said on Cousins' performance.

David Nwaba and Mason Jones were big factors off the Rockets' bench by having a combined total of 34 points together. Nwaba has been great in transition for the Rockets the entire season. Keep in mind that Nwaba is returning from an Achilles injury he suffered with his former team, the Brooklyn Nets. Nwaba has became a great defender, slasher, and is averaging a career-high nine points per game with the Rockets. He finished with 18 points on Saturday night versus the Mavericks.

Mason Jones has become a fan favorite of the Rockets because of his confidence. Silas is loving the usage of Jones off the bench but wants to find more minutes for him. Jones had a breakout performance versus the San Antonio Spurs with 24 points off 66 percent shooting from the field. He continues to get better with his reads from the point guard position. Jones' knowledge of running the offense has helped his efficiency on the court. He is never afraid to take clutch shots in pivotal moments of the game.

"To have a young kid who can come in and not be afraid of the moment, that's big. That's a tough position to be in as an undrafted rookie. I trust him. It's a good problem to have," Silas mentioned after the game. "He's showing me he's ready. He's a confident kid, and he should be. That's why he's good. He's not afraid of the moment, at all. He can get us organized, run plays, and score the basketball."

Hopefully, the Rockets can sustain their level of play when Victor Oladipo returns against the Washington Wizards, Tuesday. It will be interesting to watch Oladipo and Wall play in the same backcourt.

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