SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
I'm glad to know it's time for sports.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
SIMON: Are the Warriors finally a little weary three months into the NBA season? Golden State isn't even in first place - whatever that means - when it comes to the playoffs. Howard Bryant of ESPN The Magazine and espn.com joins us. Howard, thanks so much for being with us.
HOWARD BRYANT, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott.
SIMON: Howard, 14 out of the 15 teams in the Western Conference have a real chance to make the postseason. So does B.J. Leiderman, who writes our theme music...
SIMON: I wouldn't rule him out. Any event, the Denver Nuggets are on top. They have 28 wins. Is this what they call parity?
BRYANT: It is. This is one of the most even seasons that I've seen in a very long time. Obviously, since 2015, the NBA season has broken down to one question, which is, can anybody beat the Golden State Warriors four times? We saw it happen once. Lebron James did it, and that was it. Everything else...
BRYANT: ...Has been Golden State, Golden State and especially - and the fact that the Warriors lost that championship the year they won 73 games. So even that year, they controlled everything. This year, it's totally different. This year, the Kawhi Leonard-led Toronto Raptors have 32 wins, the most wins in basketball. The Warriors have 14 losses, which is - now I think it's the fourth-best record in the league. So, at the end of the day, do I still think when we get down to April that the Warriors are going to find a way to turn it on? I still think they're the best team, but this is really interesting stuff. This is not - if it goes the way it's going so far, I don't think you can start the playoffs and just expect anyone to win.
SIMON: Let's talk about parity at the top of the East. You mentioned Toronto. I will drag in Milwaukee. Fear...
BRYANT: Milwaukee, exactly...
SIMON: Fear the deer...
BRYANT: Milwaukee may be the best team. They may be the best team. And they've got Giannis Antetokounmpo, and he may be the best player in the NBA. He's been - could win the MVP the way things are going this year. And don't be...
SIMON: And Indy, Boston, Philly.
BRYANT: And exactly right, exactly right. And the Celtics were supposed to run away with the thing, and they're in fifth place. So, once again, there's nobody out there. And San Antonio was playing great in the West. And so...
BRYANT: ...This is what it's supposed to be. We say we want this. We say we want - we don't want there to be this one team that goes out and crushes everybody. And what I really enjoy about the NBA this year is that it's not forced. It's not fake. You've got really good teams out there that are playing great basketball.
SIMON: Yeah. I want to ask you about the Cleveland Cavaliers.
BRYANT: Why? Why do you want to ask me about the Cleveland Cavaliers?
SIMON: Well, they've won eight games, darn it - eight games. They've lost 35. It's a rebuilding year along...
SIMON: ...You know, along Lake Erie. So I've got an idea I want to try on you, OK?
SIMON: Why not let the NBA - why not have the NBA let the Cavs have seven players on court just...
BRYANT: When everybody else has five.
SIMON: Yeah. Exactly. What do you think?
BRYANT: I think the reason why they wouldn't do that is because they know deep down in their heart of hearts it wouldn't make any difference.
SIMON: You have a pick for...
SIMON: You know, you're sadly right. Anyone to watch for MVP in particular?
BRYANT: Well, I think Giannis is the MVP, but James Harden is having, once again, another great statistical year. I think that Kawhi Leonard is the leader of the Toronto Raptors. It would not surprise me at all. If they go anywhere deep into the playoffs, I think he's going to be the MVP. Or I think there are a lot of good players. I'm a Kawhi Leonard guy, but Giannis is probably the guy.
SIMON: OK. Howard Bryant of ESPN The Magazine and espn.com, thanks so much for being with us.
BRYANT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.