The most excitement in the next few weeks will be NBA teams juggling for the playoffs and particular seedlings. Pay attention to teams that made recent moves and those that didn’t.
With just over 20-ish games to go before the 2022-23 regular season comes to an end, there's plenty to keep an eye on with so much activity at the trade deadline and some extremely close playoff races.
A ton of talent has hit the buyout market following the trade deadline, with names like Reggie Jackson, John Wall, Patrick Beverley, Terrence Ross, Danny Green and others all becoming free agents. Russell Westbrook will join the LA Clippers. I’m certainly not a Westbrick fan. Why did the Clippers even trade Utah for him?
And then there’s Kevin Love. While his almost nine years in Cleveland ended poorly, there's a tremendous opportunity for Love to thrive now in Miami. He should really make an impact with his rebounding as he remains one of the best glass-cleaners the league has ever seen. Now almost an exclusive three-point shooter on offense, Love is making 35.4 percent of his threes this season despite playing through a hairline fracture in his right thumb.
As for the Lakers, LeBron James said the next 20 or so games are the most important of his career. Thanks to a brilliant performance by Rob Pelinka leading up to the trade deadline, this is the best Lakers roster since the one that spent three months at Disney World. Still below-.500 at 27-32 and sitting at 13th in the West, time is running out to make a late playoff push, however. We’re excited to see if he can back up his statement and will look for opportunities to bet them. Los Angeles is just two games out of the play-in tournament, needing to leapfrog both the Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz and at least one of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Golden State Warriors, Minnesota Timberwolves and New Orleans Pelicans. They open up today playing Golden State. With so much help now surrounding James and Anthony Davis, both superstars can save some energy for the play-in tournament, one where they'd be one of the most talented teams to ever take part. The Lakers will make the play-in tournament, win and eventually reach the playoffs.
Portland’s Damian Lillard is forced to watch as those competing for the same eight playoff spots in the West get better. The Phoenix Suns with Kevin Durant. The Dallas Mavericks with Kyrie Irving (LOL). The Los Angeles Lakers with D'Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, mJarred Vanderbilt, Mo Bamba and Rui Hachimura. For 11 years and under the eye of multiple general managers, this Blazers roster simply hasn't been good enough to win a title. So many other teams are better built to win now, while franchises like the Oklahoma City Thunder, Utah Jazz, Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs may soon pass Portland up with their collection of young talent, future draft picks or both.
As for the Detroit Pistons, they made a big trade but they’re not going anywhere anyway. With the Warriors in championship-or-bust mode with knee surgery limiting James Wiseman to just 60 total games in his first three seasons, the 21-year-old simply needed more time on the court to avoid a bust label. The Detroit Pistons, dead last in the East at 15-44 overall, will provide James Wiseman with the opportunity that he needs. A strong debut in Detroit (11 points and five rebounds on 5-of-9 shooting in 24 minutes) is just the beginning of his career revival. The court time already represented Wiseman's second-highest of the season, time that should only go up as he gets more comfortable in Dwane Casey's system. Wiseman has always tantalized us with his size (7'0", 240 pounds) and skill set. He's got elite defensive potential with an ability to protect the rim. They can upset other team’s playoff dreams.
While the NY Knicks didn't land a superstar at the trade deadline, swapping Cam Reddish and a protected first-round pick for Josh Hart was a smart move, one that's already paying dividends. Besides being a friend and former college teammate of starting point guard Jalen Brunson, Hart is an ideal player to plug into a playoff rotation with everything he brings to the table. Beyond being one of the best rebounding wings in the NBA, Hart is a talented scorer from all three levels and a capable playmaker. While the Knicks may not catch the Cleveland Cavaliers for the fourth seed (currently 4.5 games behind), New York should overtake the Brooklyn Nets to settle at No. 5 overall.
I feel sorry for Luka and his playoff hopes for the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks added one of the most talented players in the NBA next to Luka Dončić and actually get worse. The Mavs have given up 133 and 124 points in the two losses, showing that the team desperately misses Dorian Finney-Smith. They needed defense desperately. Dallas sits just two games above .500 at 31-29 overall, hanging on to the sixth seed by a half game over the New Orleans Pelicans. (The Pelicans are going anywhere without Zion). No one can fault the Mavs for gambling on a talent like Irving, but their lack of moves to put the right pieces around him and Dončić will ultimately be the team's downfall.
The Denver Nuggets have opened up a five-game lead on the No. 2 seed Memphis Grizzlies, with the top star, Jokić leading the way. He’ll continue to lead his team in his attempt to win the NBA MVP award. With that being said, no one should be ruling out Joel Embiid's or Giannis Antetokounmpo's chances just yet as they also will work hard to better their team and seed.
The next five weeks should be fun. Be sure to pay attention to seeding changes. The one game play in will also have the bottom feeders getting involved without so much “tanking”. Good Luck as we head towards the playoffs. The playoff’s picture is considerably much clearer to our staff and myself.