The NBA season has been a wild one so far, complete with monster trades at the deadline. With football season, the All-Star game and trade talks all complete, the stretch run of the season is set to begin. Here are the four best storylines as the NBA takes top billing until the middle of June (save for March Madness):
- Who will win the MVP race?
James Harden. Giannis Antetokounmpo. Paul George. Right now, all three of them have a strong case to become the next NBA MVP. The Milwaukee Bucks are currently the best team in the league and have been for much of the season. Giannis’ numbers are off the charts, as he’s averaging 27.2 PPG (58.1% from the field!), 12.7 RPG, 6.0 APG, 1.4 SPG and 1.4 BPG in only 33.2 minutes per game. He easily dominated Kawhi Leonard a couple of weeks ago and has taken the throne from LeBron James as King of the East. He is unreal.
Hate him or love him, Harden aka The Beard is one of the most talented offensive players in the history of the game. Harden drops 36.6 PPG right now and is currently enjoying the longest 30-point streak of anyone in NBA history not named Wilt Chamberlain. With Clint Capela, Eric Gordon, and Chris Paul all missing significant time, the fact that Harden has kept the Houston Rockets in the playoff hunt is pretty remarkable. If you are a top five team in the West and your second best scoring option is Austin Rivers or Gerald Green, you should be in the MVP talks. It’s written in the Rulebook.
PG13 is averaging career-highs in points (28.7), rebounds (8.0) and assists (4.1) while shooting 40.6% from 3-point land. Read that sentence again. George has come up clutch for the Oklahoma City Thunder Cyndi Lauper style, Time after Time. His skillset blends perfectly with Russell Westbrook’s, dare I say, even better than Kevin Durant. And, if that wasn’t enough, he is a favorite for the Defensive Player of the Year award as well.
As an NBA fan, I am loving it, and would not be upset if any one of these three win. This MVP race will be a photo finish. Buckle up.
- How will the top of the East shake out?
The Bucks, Boston Celtics, Philadelphia Sixers and Toronto Raptors are the four best teams in the East. Yes, I know the Indiana Pacers are currently the No. 3 seed, but those aforementioned teams should meet in the conference semifinals when it is all said and done.
With LeBron now out of the East, these teams have legitimate chances of reaching the Finals, and their front offices have gone all-in as well, from the Raptors acquiring Leonard, to the recent trade by the Sixers to get Tobias Harris.
The other big reason this matters is that these teams know the time is now or never, considering their potential team defections. If the Celtics have an early exit, will Kyrie Irving re-sign with Boston? Will Jimmy Butler and/or Harris leave Philly if the same happens to them? If Toronto chokes, as they have in years past, does Leonard decide to cut it all off with a new pair of “Clippers”? (Bad pun, I know, insert Kawhi laugh). Each of these four teams can beat anyone on any given night, so home-court advantage will be huge.