A Recap of the Regular NBA Season

What to expect for playoffs

On+Halloween%2C+Alexander+Basquial+%2720+attends+class+in+Laker%E2%80%99s+Forward+LeBron+James%E2%80%99+uniform.

Taylor Chapman

On Halloween, Alexander Basquial ’20 attends class in Laker’s Forward LeBron James’ uniform.

After a season full of record-breaking players, the NBA is set for the playoffs, where the top eight teams in both the Eastern and Western conferences fight for a championship title. In the East, the Raptors, Bucks, and Sixers continue to dominate as expected. Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks to the best record in the League, and he will be playing to dominate the Pistons, who were carried into the playoffs by the now-injured Blake Griffin. There will be no miracle story as the Bucks hold firepower behind Antetokounmpo: Eric Bledsoe, Nikola Mirotic, Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez, who all averaged double digits against the Pistons this season. It wouldn’t be surprising to see a sweep. With a healthy starting lineup, the Bucks will find their way up the playoffs ladder. The Sixers acquired Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, fully complimenting Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Now an even more solid title-contending team, the Sixers will hold out against the Brooklyn Nets, who have caught fire since the All-Star break. Led by vengeful D’Angelo Russell, the Nets will make a statement with their playoff run, especially after prior seasons of utter disappointment. They emerged victorious in the race for a spot in the playoffs, despite having the hardest schedule in terms of the records of the teams they faced. Russell and company made light of this statement, beating out the Bucks and Pacers on their road to the first round. They are 2-2 against the Sixers in the regular season, and Russell is expected to excel in his performance in order to complete the Cinderella story he’s had this year. Even if they are a first round exit, the Nets’ corps is very young, with talents like Russell and Joe Harris being sure to attract solid free agents and bringing them back in the 2020 playoffs.  

“Despite Oklahoma’s assets and talent, they never fail to showcase lackluster playoff runs. They cannot progress with Westbrook as their guard, and they need a new head coach to display their full potential. Right now, their biggest challenge is themselves,” Anas Mozzaim ’20 said.

The Raptors acquired Marc Gasol to aid the recent DeRozan replacement Kawhi Leonard. Both Leonard and Derozan are players who have had a productive season so far, but when it comes to playoffs, it is Kawhi Leonard who has displayed far more outstanding performances, like in his 2014 championship run. Most Improved Player candidate Pascal Siakam has displayed a terrific season campaign, averaging seventeen points per game and seven rebounds, making him a solid role player to elevate the Raptors odds of winning and thriving into the Finals. The Orlando Magic sneakily secured a spot in the East as Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier, and Aaron Gordon make a case for an underestimated team. This playoff round will most likely go down to the wire with the Raptors taking the series. The Raptors will reach the Eastern Conference Finals ready to face the Bucks, but be beaten in seven games to the Bucks. Lastly, the Celtics and Pacers have each had mediocre seasons, but with the absence of Oladipo, Kyrie Irving and the Celtics will take advantage and easily move on to the second round, where they will likely be eliminated by the Bucks as well.

To the Western Conference, the healthy Warriors have dominated yet again thanks to the likes of Stephen Curry and company. Despite the Clippers’ gritty talents of Lou Williams and Patrick Beverly, and an injured Warrior’s Center Demarcus Cousins, the Warriors are expected to have no problem getting into the NBA Finals. They have four healthy all-stars ready to take over in any series game. The Thunder, led by Paul George and Russell Westbrook face another tough playoff road. They hope to not succumb to the playoff pressure for another postseason; after losing in the first round in the previous two years. “Despite Oklahoma’s assets and talent, they never fail to showcase lackluster playoff runs. They cannot progress with Westbrook as their guard, and they need a new head coach to display their full potential. Right now, their biggest challenge is themselves,” Anas Mozzaim ’20 said. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum will make the Thunder’s challenge even harder as they both have limitless range and tend to come through in clutch situations.

In the long run, the Blazers have a chance to make it past the Thunder, but they will struggle in the second round. This does not mean that McCollum and Lillard will give in, as they have potential to reach the Western Conference Finals and take on the reigning champions. In Houston, fans pray that James Harden is consistent, as the Beard had no trouble taking over games and scoring beyond fifty points. Capella and Chris Paul also need to remain consistent as the West is packed with fierce competition, leaving no room for dismaying performances. Unlike their last match-up against the Thunder, Donovan Mitchell and the splash uncles prove to be no match to the scoring ability of the Rockets’ corps. Greg Popovich and the Spurs seal another playoff spot, making it twenty-one years in a row where the Spurs and Popovich play beyond the regular season. The DeRozan-Leonard trade failed to show signs of detrimental impact to the successful Spurs franchise. The tactical mid-range menaces, DeRozan and Aldridge, stand a chance against Jokic and Murray, and the series will be close. However, the Spurs lack solid scoring talent, so if they are not eliminated by the Nuggets, they will fall to the Blazers in the second round.

However, the most speculated issue this season the Lakers’ disappointing performance. Lakers star LeBron James’ absence from the playoffs, the first time in eight years, will really change out the dynamic, especially in the East. After a decent start to the season, injuries and disputes plagued the potential playoff team. Riddled with injuries and player-coach tensions, it was no surprise that this team performed as they did. Alex Basquial ’20 said, “I think that this year the Lakers got very unlucky with multiple injuries to their star players. Lebron, Lonzo, Ingram, Kuzma, and Stephenson all sat out a significant amount of the season, and these injuries made it harder for the team to get used to playing with each other, let alone win games.” To add insult to the injury, the Lakers lost head coach Luke Walton and General Manager Magic Johnson. With a dynamic potential 2019 draft class and free agent acquisitions, all eyes fall on the Lakers this off-season.

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