This past week NBA teams reached the midway point in the season by surpassing 41 games played. The all-star game and trade deadline are coming in the next couple weeks and the push for the playoffs begins for a handful of teams. It appears that both the Eastern and Western conferences will have some tight races to finish off the season. There will be teams that come on strong, and some that will fade to the finish line.
So which team will make the push? Which team will fade in the sunset?
Let’s start with who I believe will make a push.
We all know that Indiana and Miami will occupy the top two seeds come playoff time. The rest of the east will consist of sub-par teams that would probably be counting ping pong balls come draft night if they played in the Western Conference.
However, the Brooklyn Nets are the team to watch.
Current Record: 19-22 (as of Jan 25, 2013)
Remaining Games against non-playoff teams = 23
Projected record in remaining games: 26-15
Projected record at end of season: 45-37
Why they will make the push:
I give you one number, 613. That number represents the total number of playoff games played by members of the Brooklyn Nets. A lineup consisting of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Kevin Garnett & Paul Pierce knows what’s at stake. Garnett and Pierce are on their last legs and will be determined to not let this chance pass them by. This team has veterans who have been there before and are comfortable playing in important games to close out a season.
The fact that 23 of their remaining 41 games will be against teams that are currently not in a playoff position only helps them as they head down the stretch, as their schedule is not too daunting.
What could derail them?
The same reason they can make the push, could also be the same reason they falter. The Brooklyn Nets are an old team with a lot of mileage. Deron Williams’ ankles are in rough shape and with Brook Lopez done for the year they can’t afford any further injuries to Williams, Pierce or Garnett. If that happens, the team with the highest payroll in the league may still squeak into the playoffs, but even if they do, it will not be a long run once they get there.
- Memphis Grizzlies – They have had playoff success in recent years and a front line of Zach Randolph and a healthy Marc Gasol could do some damage in the second half of the season.
In the valley of the sun is where you will find my pick for which team will falter in the second half.
Current Record: 24-18 (as of Jan 25, 2013)
Remaining Games against non-playoff teams = 18
Projected record in remaining games: 16-24
Projected record at end of season: 40-42
Why they will fade:
One of the greatest mid-season stories in the league this year has been the surprising play of the Phoenix Suns. Lead by new coach Jeff Hornacek, the Phoenix Suns are in the thick of the playoff race and as of today are the 7th seed in the west. Over their shoulders sit Dallas, Memphis and Denver in what looks to quite the battle for the last few playoff spots. The problem the Suns have is that their best player is injured. Since Eric Bledsoe went down, the Suns have lost 9 of their past 16 games. Whenever you lose your best player, the side effect is losing.
I just don’t have faith in a starting line-up of Goran Dragic, Gerald Green, Miles Plumlee, P.J Tucker and Channing Frye. They also turned back the clock and signed Leandro Barbosa…
A couple other tidbits that aren’t in their favour.
- 22 of their remaining 40 regular games are against playoff teams.
- Currently they are 30th in the NBA in assists. When you start playing meaningful games, defenses will tighten up and teams will need to be able to move the ball.
What could keep them on track?
The recovery of Eric Bledsoe is key. If he is able to get back into the line-up while Phoenix is still in the mix he may be able to keep them afloat and help them hold on to one of the final two spots.
Pay attention to Phoenix at the trade deadline, they could be buyers. Phoenix has four first round draft picks in the upcoming NBA draft and may be able to use a couple of them to swing a deal and get some help for the playoff push.
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