The NBA All-Star break is now in the rear-view mirror. Teams are fully loaded for the home stretch of the season as the regular season is back underway. The last 20+ games will determine teams’ playoff or lottery hopes. Jobs are also on the line for the next months as teams set out to prepare for the postseason and beyond.
Three NBA Storylines Post-All-Star Break
NBA Award Races Heating Up
The NBA award races are gaining steam as we kick off the second half of the NBA season. Giannis Antetokounmpo and LeBron James lead the MVP race being atop of their conferences with their teams. Luka Doncic, James Harden, and Pascal Siakam are also dark horses in the race especially once Playoff seedings start to get wrapped up. Expect to see a vintage MVP performance from a candidate to cement their spot with the trophy similar to previous years. Russell Westbrook had his in Denver, James Harden in Golden State, and Giannis Antetokounmpo in Philadelphia.
Ja Morant continues to lead the Rookie of the Year race this season. He has won all the Rookie of the Month in the Western Conference award this season and shows no signs of slowing down. A close contender, Zion Williamson, enters the party averaging 22 points and 7.5 rebounds a game on 53.8 percent shooting. Morant has to keep up the momentum in order to win the award. The Sixth Man of the Year award is a debate between Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, Derrick Rose, and Spencer Dinwiddie. Calls for Comeback Player of the Year are heard with Rose, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, and Markelle Fultz being great options.
The Most Improved Player and Defensive Player of the Year are the most heated discussion today. Brandon Ingram, Devonte’ Graham, and Bam Adebayo are great shouts for the award. The favorites could definitely change especially as rotations start to get healthy again. Rudy Gobert, Anthony Davis, and Marcus Smart fill in as favorites for the DPOY award. As Gobert’s “screen assists” carries him, Davis’ interior presence helps him, and Smart’s perimeter disruptiveness helps their cases for the award.
Playoff Hunts Getting Messier Per Game
Playoff seeding at the top and bottom of the standings are shuffling more than ever. In the Western Conference, the Los Angeles Lakers, Denver Nuggets, and Los Angeles Clippers fight it out for the top spot. The Memphis Grizzlies, Portland Trail Blazers, and San Antonio Spurs are separated by only five games for the last spot of the playoffs.
In the Eastern Conference, the Milwaukee Bucks essentially lock up the top spot even with the Toronto Raptors playing excellent basketball at number two amidst all their injuries. The return of Kyrie Irving and Victor Oladipo make their teams contenders for their teams to rise in the standings again. Teams that look like they have no business in the Playoffs like the Orlando Magic, Washington Wizards, Chicago Bulls, and Charlotte Hornets also have a shot if they can string out wins consecutively.
Trade Deadline Signings Working Out Post-NBA All-Star Break
In the trade deadline, many notable deals happened—impacting the landscape of the NBA. The Houston Rockets went ultra-small ball with Robert Covington. The Atlanta Hawks look to make a late Playoff push with Clint Capela. The Minnesota Timberwolves finally have another star to pair with Karl Anthony Towns. These teams look to find the extra push they needed to make deeper runs in the Playoffs this year.
For others, the trade deadline saw a change in the vision for the front offices around the NBA. Most notably, Andre Drummond to the Cleveland Cavaliers shocked many but the Cavs have two solid bigs to fill their frontcourt. If they are to shape up their roster correctly, they have a shot to be a contender again next season. The Golden State Warriors prepare for next season as well with scooping up Andrew Wiggins. He pairs well with the other Warrior veterans next season once in full health. These teams are looking to see what value their assets have a explore their options come offseason.
Embed from Getty Images