The NBA games after the All-Star break are something to look out for because teams and players know it’s time to hit the gas. They’re more aware that there are less than 30 games left to make a final push and finish out the year strong.
Some teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets hope to get out of the play-in tournament, while the Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat, and Chicago Bulls fight for that first seed in the competitive Eastern Conference. No matter which team it is, each has a goal they want to achieve in the last few weeks of the season.
That said, the last few weeks of the regular season offer quite a few entertaining storylines to follow. From all the drama in Hollywood to the race for the league’s Most Valuable Player award in the East and perhaps the top spot of the standings for each conference, here’s what every NBA fan should be looking forward to.
The Klutch Sports and Lakers front office feud
It’s not Los Angeles if there’s no drama. It seems like Rich Paul, LeBron James, and Klutch Sports have wasted no time to express their disdain for the Lakers’ front office this season. Sorry Lakers fans, this is just what happens when your team has been the most disappointing one this season.
If James and the Lakers continue to lose, expect more finger-pointing around the organization and for the drama to intensify. Since LeBron has made it clear that a return to Cleveland is not out of the question, there’s now more pressure on the Lakers to keep their superstar satisfied.
The new-look Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia Sixers
It’s been two weeks since the trade deadline has passed, but unfortunately, the league hasn’t seen the new-look Nets and Sixers in action. Both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons said their new teams promise to be a whole lot of “scary hours,” but so far, both of them are yet to play a single minute for their new teams. This will change in the next few weeks.
It’s going to be interesting to see how Embiid and Harden figure out their chemistry on the fly this late in the season and see if they can go farther than the second-round in the Playoffs. The same goes for the Nets and Simmons, who will be getting Kevin Durant back from injury soon. Note that the Sixers and Nets play each other on March 10 as Simmons goes back to what will probably be a hostile environment in Philadelphia.
Who wins MVP?
The race for the NBA’s most prestigious individual award continues. According to NBA.com’s latest MVP ladder, Nikola Jokic is ahead of the race as he is averaging 25.8 points, 13.6 rebounds, and 7.9 assists per game. Not too far after Jokic are Joel Embiid (29.4 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (29.0 points, 11.2 rebounds, and 6.0 assists per game), who are averaging almost identical stats but have an overall better team record compared to Jokic.
The MVP race featuring all the big men will only heat up in the upcoming weeks. Which one will the NBA decide to crown? The player with the best stats but the worst overall team record or the ones with the better record but fewer stats? Any of these three superstars are well-deserving of the award just because they’ve been stellar all season long.
Who takes the first seed in the East?
The first seed in the Eastern Conference (Heat) and the fifth seed (Bucks) are only separated by 2.5 games. That’s how competitive the East is with the Bulls, Sixers, and Cleveland Cavaliers between the first and fifth seed. The race for home-court advantage will only intensify as these teams want to do their best to claim home court and matchup advantage for the Playoffs.
Will the Phoenix Suns lose their spot on top of the West?
With Chris Paul set to be sidelined for six to eight weeks, the Suns have to do everything they can to tread water without their veteran superstar. The good news is that they’re five games above the second seed in the mediocre Western Conference, so they have a margin for error. The pressure will be on Devin Booker to prove that he can lead his team to victories without his running mate.