With the way the NBA season is going, the regular season looks headed for strangely unforeseen grounds. It looks like there are now more new teams and new players standing out in the league. Gone are the days when the traditional dominance of certain teams was a foregone conclusion. Gone are the days when the scales were always tipped heavily in favor of teams stacked with veterans and all-stars. Today, more teams are challenging the big guns, and there are young turks showing absolutely no respect for their elders inside the court. Parity! At last!
In the West, the Phoenix Suns (54-14 as of this writing) lead the way, hoping for their first-ever championship. Chasing them are the Memphies Grizzlies (47-22), the league’s last dynasty Golden State Warriors (47-22), the Utah Jazz (42-26), the Dallas Mavs (42-26), and the Denver Nuggets (41-28). The early favorites LA Lakers (29-39) are languishing at 9th, while another dark-horse fave LA Clippers (36-35) are at 8th.
Over in the East, the Miami Heat (45-24) has taken the lead spot, with the defending champs Milwaukee Bucks (43-26), Philadelphia 76ers (41-26), Chicago Bulls (41-27) and the Boston Celtics (41-28) giving chase. The early faves Brooklyn Nets (35-33) are positioned precariously at 8th.
How do I see this panning out?
The battle for the West will depend on whose team/s are able to stay healthy for the tough playoff wars. Notable names in the injured list include: Chris Paul for the Suns, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George for the LA Clippers, Draymond Green and James Wiseman for the Warriors, Jamal Murray and Michael Porter for the Nuggets, Anthony Davis for the LA Lakers, Dillon Brooks for the Grizzlies and Bojan Bogdanovic for the Jazz. That said, if these players come back to the trenches in time for the playoff wars, the West will see a huge slugfest. And I see the Warriors likely to come out on top. Barely.
For the East, I see a possible 8th seed suddenly coming out alive, and mowing down the opposition. The Brooklyn Nets are starting to impress once again, after taking a huge nose-dive midway through the season. With the pandemic situation clearing up, New York is likely to lift the COVID restrictions, making Kyrie Irving eligible to play in the Nets’ home games. Recall that a Kevin Durant-Kyrie Irving dynamic duo had the eventual champs Milwaukee Bucks on the ropes in last year’s playoffs, before Irving was downed by an ankle injury. If Ben Simmons returns to play, the Nets will be a formidable team to match-up with. And we may just see an 8th-seed go all the way to the top.
But wait, the same could be said of the Western Division as well. The Lakers and the Clippers are sleeping juggernauts capable of clearing the streets with all guns blazing. Recall that the Clippers almost derailed this very same conference-leading Suns team in the playoffs without chief gunner Kawhi Leonard firing a single shot. And for that matter, that the Lakers were pummeling the same Suns to the ground in the first round, until Anthony Davis got injured. An 8th seed – or even a 9th seed – could suddenly re-emerge as the West’s playoff survivor here.
If that happens, we will see – for the first time ever – a battle of 8th seeds for all of NBA’s prized marbles!!! Clearly, the infusion of new, young blood, with new styles and new innovative moves; plus the reshuffle of top gunners across the board, are making the NBA wars a sight to see!
for a closer look, just click on the pics. Cover pic courtesy of Nets Daily. Other pics courtesy of NBA.com, Sports Illustrated, Welcome to Loud City, Sporting News, Open Court Basketball, Fadeaway World and Blog A Bull.