By: Nathan Bush
As the NBA season is past the halfway point and now back after the all star break, there are questions that need answered. We are nearing the playoffs and both conferences are beginning to take shape in terms of the top teams as well as those teams who could possibly sneak into the playoffs via the back door. As we gear up for the final stretch, these are some questions that need answered heading forward for the NBA.
- Are the Milwaukee Bucks Good Enough to Get to the NBA Finals?
This is a tricky question to try and answer. Are the Bucks talented enough to get to the finals? sure. Behind the MVP season on Giannis Antetokounmpo (averaging 27 points and nearly 13 rebounds per game) the Bucks sit at the #1 seed in the east as of this writing. The Bucks also have Khris Middleton (17 ppg), Malcom Brogdon and Eric Bledsoe (15 ppg) and a preseason addition of Brook Lopez (12 ppg). The balanced scoring plus the addition of Nikola Mirotic at the trade deadline make this team a tough out for anyone. Do I see the Bucks in the NBA finals? No. The reason why I don’t see the Bucks making that NBA Finals run is the lack of postseason experience. The only player on the team that has seen the NBA finals is George Hill and I don’t believe that will be enough to prepare this young group for the grind that is the post season. Winning a series is different from winning a game and the Bucks may be a year away from getting to the promised land.
2. Do the Los Angeles Lakers Make the Playoffs?
To sum it all up in a word, no. The Lakers will miss the playoffs yet again this season and end the streak of 13 straight times Lebron James getting into the post season and the end of the 8 straight NBA finals appearances. The main reason being, he’s not in the East anymore. Even if he was this season, I don’t see Lebron getting back to the finals with the Cavs team he had, but the West is a different animal. With the East gaining some big names this season, such as Kwahi Leonard and Jimmy Butler, the West still seems to be just as good as it has been in years. Lebrons young Lakers core seems to be on edge especially since it was clear that all of them were considered expendable at the trade deadline and that will effect how this team functions. The addition of Reggie Bullock helps some, but at the end of the day, everyone knows Lebron is calling the shots in LA. Everyone can go including the coach if King James says so. Honestly, if I’m a Lakers fan, I would be hoping this team doesn’t get into the playoffs. With Lebron playing 15 seasons in the league plus 239 playoff games, a year without the playoffs may help save his legs for the eventual run that will come from the Lakers next season.
3. Are the Denver Nuggets Legit?
This one a lot of people did not see coming, but yes the Nuggets are very legit. The emergence of Nikola Jokic this season has sent the Nuggets over the top. The Joker has been the constant for Denver this season as the Nuggets have battled injuries to most of their main players, but have still been able to keep a hold of a #2 seed in a very tough western conference. Jokic is averaging 20 and 10 this season and is coming off an all star appearance. He is establishing himself as one of the top centers in the league with his play this season. With the emergence of Jamal Murray as a legit starting PG, the constant play of Paul Milsap and the addition of a now healthy Isaiah Thomas, on top of the role players for this team, Denver is poised to make a run. The Nuggets boast a fantastic home record of 25-4 making anyone in the playoffs coming to Denver nervous, while they are just barely above .500 on the road. If the Nuggets can solve winning on the road, they could very easily be in the Western Conference Finals for the first time since the Carmelo Anthony days, and be set up to be a contender for years to come.
4. Have the 76ers Made Enough Moves to Get Out of the 2nd Round?
The Philadelphia 76ers were the clear winners of the trade deadline moves. Elton Brand has put an end to any mumblings of the “process” and has said the time to win is now. The only problem is do the 76ers have enough to win now. The 76ers added Tobias Harris to their squad of starters, who was having a fantastic year for the Clippers and made them arguably the 2nd best starting 5 in the league behind the Golden State Warriors and they go rid of the Markelle Fultz distraction as well. The major problem in Philly is the lack of major bench production. Boban Marjanovic is leading Philly in bench scoring averaging 9.4 ppg on the season. T.J. McConnell is a favorite but is only averaging 6.6 per game this season. Shake Milton, Jonah Bolden, and Furkan Korkmaz are also bench players who get time but aren’t paying dividends for the 76ers in terms of scoring. Another major issue for the 76ers, is the lack of outside shooting from Ben Simmons. While Simmons fills the stat sheet, teams are allowing him the option to shoot long shots. On defense, the defenders are running underneath screens and trying to defend the pick and roll with Embiid. This is hurt the 76ers more than it helps. Simmons is great with his first step and can finish at the rim and is a good passer, but against .500 teams and above the 76ers are only 14-15. That’s not a record for a team that is looking to get to the Eastern Conference finals and possibly the NBA finals.
5. Can Anyone Beat the Golden State Warriors in a Best of 7 Series This Season?
No. This title already has been decided.