The NBA All-Superstar Recreation symbolically marks the midway level within the common season, however in truth groups have already performed greater than 70 p.c in their video games. The playoffs get started on April 16, which is solely seven weeks from the beginning of the post-All-Superstar agenda.
Whilst there may not be a lot of the common season left, there may be nonetheless a ton of significant basketball to be performed. There’s most effective 2.5 video games setting apart the highest seed from the No. 5 seed within the East. The No. 6 seed within the East (the primary seed out of the play-in event) could also be nonetheless up for grabs, with Toronto Raptors and Brooklyn Nets inside putting distance of the Boston Celtics. The seeding within the West is a bit more entrenched, however it’s going to be interesting to observe groups jockey for seeding place to near the season.
Listed here are 9 giant questions that can resolve what’s at stake for the remainder of the NBA common season.
Who emerges because the MVP front-runner?
Once we ranked the sector for MVP on Jan. 1, our order was once: 5) DeMar DeRozan, 4) Kevin Durant, 3) Giannis Antetokounmpo, 2) Nikola Jokic, and 1) Stephen Curry. Since that submit printed, Curry has shot most effective 34.3 p.c from three-point vary, Durant was once taken out of the lineup via a sprained MCL, and Joel Embiid has moved his title to in all probability the highest of the record.
Embiid, Jokic, and Antetokounmpo are most likely the one 3 applicants that may in reality win the award presently, save for a sizzling sizzling Curry stretch run. It doesn’t really feel like there’s a definitive front-runner. If I needed to make a select lately, I’d cross Jokic, who has been even higher than he was once throughout his MVP run ultimate season regardless of lacking his two excellent teammates in Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. all season. Likelihood is that any person will pull forward of the pack within the ultimate weeks to turn out to be the consensus select.
Can Joel Embiid and James Harden straight away mesh?
The Philadelphia 76ers swung the largest deal of the business cut-off date, obtaining James Harden for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, and Andre Drummond. Harden and Joel Embiid have a case because the league’s maximum gifted duo on paper, however Philly misplaced a pair key position avid gamers within the transfer and most effective have 24 video games to get this new roster buzzing sooner than the playoffs.
Integrating a participant as high-usage as Harden so temporarily most probably gained’t be simple. For all their skill, Embiid and Harden don’t look like a herbal have compatibility. Harden has spent his complete occupation taking part in at the ball offensively and loafing when he doesn’t have the rock. He’s going to wish to make himself a danger throughout possessions led via Embiid. Be expecting Document Rivers to benefit from staggering his two stars over the remainder of the season, however the actual level of intrigue is what the late-game offense seems like with each at the ground.
Are the Nets nonetheless a identify danger?
If the Nets had been going to lose Harden for not anything within the offseason, grabbing Ben Simmons and Seth Curry for him now counts as a big coup. Whilst Brooklyn most likely salvaged its long run with the the business, it does really feel like they’re some distance much less more likely to win the identify this 12 months after doing it.
If the Nets are going to re-establish themselves as a championship contender, 3 issues wish to occur: 1) Kevin Durant has to get wholesome and play like the most efficient participant on the planet, 2) Simmons must temporarily acclimate to the lineup and turn out to be the most efficient model of himself, 3) Kyrie Irving must make himself to be had for house video games. Whilst it’s indisputably conceivable all 3 play out, it’s honest to mention Brooklyn is a some distance cry clear of the identify favourite we concept they had been within the preseason.
Can the Warriors get again to being the identify favorites with a wholesome Draymond Inexperienced?
Golden State was once No. 1 in protection and No. 9 in offense when Draymond Inexperienced performed his ultimate recreation on Jan. 5. He’s been out with a again damage since, and the Warriors are No. 7 in protection and No. 17 in offense in video games with out him.
Inexperienced doesn’t even reasonable 8 issues according to recreation, however his presence assists in keeping the Warriors buzzing on each ends of the ground. We had Golden State put in because the identify favourite sooner than his damage, however now it feels just like the Phoenix Suns have ascended to that standing. If Inexperienced can totally get better from his damage and paintings his magic once more, the Warriors can nonetheless be horrifying within the postseason.
Can the Bulls and Warmth get and keep totally wholesome sufficient to be actual contenders?
The Warmth and Bulls were on the most sensible of the Jap Convention all 12 months regardless of virtually by no means having their complete roster to be had. The Warmth’s giant 4 of Jimmy Butler, Kyle Lowry, Bam Adebayo, and Tyler Herro have most effective performed 80 possessions in combination at the season, according to Cleansing the Glass. They’re all after all wholesome presently.
The Bulls could have to live on for some other month with out Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso after the All-Superstar spoil. Chicago’s five-best lineup of Ball, Caruso, Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic has performed 189 possessions in combination and are a whopping +20.6 in web ranking. The Warmth and Bulls are each respectable threats to make it out of the East if they are able to get totally wholesome.
Will the Lakers make it out of the play-in event?
This Lakers had been a well-liked preseason select to return out of the West, however this 12 months has been all dangerous vibes from the beginning. LeBron James remains to be taking part in like he’s in a position to being the most efficient participant on a identify group, however Anthony Davis hasn’t been ready to stick wholesome and the Russell Westbrook experiment has been a failure. Upload within the intensity misplaced over the offseason, and the Lakers are simply hoping to qualify for the playoffs by the use of the play-in event.
The Lakers will get started the symbolic 2nd part because the No. 9 seed within the West, this means that they’d must win two immediately video games simply to qualify for the playoffs. Are you able to believe a postseason with out LeBron when he’s taking part in like this? The Lakers’ possession staff and entrance place of business must be not anything however disgrace.
Are the Celtics an actual East contender?
The Celtics have the most efficient protection within the league for the reason that calendar flipped to 2022, and no person else is even shut. The business cut-off date addition to Derrick White provides Boston some other ferocious perimeter defender and succesful backcourt scorer. After a sluggish get started, the Celtics are all of sudden out of play-in event place and into the No. 6 seed within the convention.
It positive feels just like the Celtics are beginning to emerge as probably the most scarier groups within the East. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown is one hell of a 1-2 punch on each ends, Robert Williams is proving himself to be probably the most excellent younger bigs within the recreation, and White has equipped a pleasant injection of two-way spunk. No group must desire a collection towards Boston within the East presently.
Are the Suns nonetheless the favorites after Chris Paul’s thumb damage?
Chris Paul is slated to leave out 6-8 weeks after fracturing his proper thumb within the ultimate recreation sooner than the All-Superstar spoil. The Suns were the NBA’s excellent group for nearly all of the season, overcoming a 1-3 get started to go into the spoil at 48-10. Phoenix is heading in the right direction for 68 wins and the highest seed within the West playoffs, but it surely’s any person’s wager how they’ll glance with out CP3 on the controls till the playoffs get started.
The Suns aren’t going to be as dominant with out Paul within the lineup, however perhaps there’s some way this damage is usually a blessing in hide. Paul is ready to show 37 years outdated throughout the postseason, and he has a historical past of dressed in down within the playoffs. Possibly this thumb damage will lend a hand save his legs for when the video games in point of fact depend. If not anything else, it’s a pleasant concept to have for Suns lovers throughout an in a different way bummer state of affairs.
How wholesome will Brook Lopez be?
The Dollars should be the referred to as the favorites within the East as a result of they’re the reigning champs and they’ve arguably the most efficient participant alive in Antetokounmpo. On the similar time, the truth is the Dollars don’t really feel as horrifying as they had been ultimate season. Along with shedding PJ Tucker to the Warmth in loose company, the Dollars have additionally been with out beginning middle Brook Lopez all 12 months as he recovers from a again damage. Lopez is anticipated to go back for the playoffs, however a 7-footer in his mid-30s with a again damage is at all times a horrifying proposition. Milwaukee might be looking to repeat as champions with out their beginning entrance court docket from ultimate season.
If Lopez can go back at complete drive to anchor the protection, the Dollars all of sudden seem like the group to overcome. With out him, they’ll be depending closely on Bobby Portis, Serge Ibaka, and a skinny bench.