The coming and going of NBA All-Star weekend indicates the beginning of the final quarter of basketball in this NBA season. As the regular season starts to wrap up, we take a look at the teams looking to make moves in the standings.
Philadelphia 76ers : 37-21 – Racing for 3rd Place
The Philadelphia 76ers have built one of the most playoff ready rosters, but occupy the 5th place position in the east. If the playoffs started today, the 76ers would miss out on home court advantage. Philadelphia will be looking to climb all the way into the 3rd place position, passing the Pacers and Celtics on their way up. The 3rd place position will set them up for a longer playoff run, avoiding the #1 seed in the east in the second round.
With the weapons that the 76ers have stockpiled, there is no reason as to why they can’t climb two positions in the Eastern Conference. Led by MVP candidate Joel Embiid and mid-season acquisition Jimmy Butler, the 76ers have one of the most deadly starting five’s in the NBA. Tobias Harris has made an instant impact since being traded by the Clippers, averaging 17.8 points and 7 rebounds per game for the 76ers. Expect Philly to be one of the more consistent teams in the league from now until the end of the season, as they shoot for that 3rd place position.
Orlando Magic : 27-32 – Racing for Playoff Spot
Despite having an up and down season, the Magic find themselves on the cusp of making the playoffs in the east. After an embarrassing 25-57 season last year, Orlando is just 0.5 games behind the Miami Heat and Detroit Pistons for the 8th and final playoff spot.
The Magic have been led by Nikola Vucevic, who leads the Magic in scoring and rebounding, averaging 20.5 points and 12.1 rebounds per game. Vucevic leads a sharpshooting Magic squad averaging 11.1 made three pointers per game this season. The Magic are riding a five game win streak coming out of the All-Star weekend, and will look to continue this momentous streak going as they aim for the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference.
Lakers : 28-29 – Racing for Playoff Spot
It’s close to panic time for Laker fans as their team sits in 10th place in the west, 3.0 games behind the Clippers in 8th place. This year, the Western Conference has been extremely competitive, and the Lakers seem to have fallen out of the running. Lacking help around LeBron, the young Laker core has been unable to provide the support needed to string together consistent results for a majority of this season.
The Lakers were disappointed after missing out on Anthony Davis before the trade deadline, and it is easy to see why. LA needed more production from their frontcourt, as JaVale Mcgee and Tyson Chandler have not been enough. Kyle Kuzma has been one bright spot, averaging 19.1 points per game this season, but will have to produce more on the glass, as 5.6 rebounds per game is far to low for a power forward, especially in this Lakers team. LA will need huge contributions from Kuzma along with LeBron James, Brandon Ingram, and many more if the Lakers are going to make a legitimate run at the 8th seed in the west and an appearance in the 2019 playoffs.
Oklahoma City Thunder : 37-20 – Racing for 2nd place
The Oklahoma City Thunder have returned to being a bonafide competitor in the west this season. The OKC core of Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Steven Adams have the Thunder sitting comfortable in 3rd place in the west, but a second place finish is not out of reach, and should be pursued heavily by OKC. If the Thunder were able to obtain the 2nd place position, it would guarantee home court until the Western Conference finals, something that would be huge for a strong home team like Oklahoma City.
Thunder All-Stars Russell Westbrook and Paul George are each in the midst of historically great seasons. Westbrook is averaging 21.7 points, 11.2 rebounds, and 11.2 assists per game this season, on his way to a third consecutive season averaging a triple double. Teammate Paul George is averaging career high stats in points and rebounds, averaging 28.7 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. His performance has his name in the MVP conversation, as well as having the Thunder in 3rd place in the west, with their sights set on a 2nd place finish.
NBA MVP Race 2019
As the race for playoff positions heats up, so does the race for the MVP award.
James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Paul George, Joel Embiid, and many more have been in the conversation, but a frontrunner has yet to pull away from the crowd. For more in-depth coverage of the 2019 NBA MVP frontrunners, check out our MVP leaders article, linked here.