NBA Playoffs- For the first time in a few years, the NBA landscape is as open as ever. We did not come into the season knowing who was going to win each conference. Instead, we named off anywhere from six to ten contenders that we could legitimately see having a chance to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy. While teams like the Trailblazers and the Jazz, who many had as some of the aforementioned contenders, have gotten off to disappointing starts; there are still plenty of teams that are making a case for why they will be the last standing team. The Lakers and Bucks are leading their respective conferences after going through double-digit winning streaks. The Clippers have beaten the Lakers twice and even with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George missing multiple games, they have put together a nice resume. The James Harden-led Rockets keep winning games despite the doubters, the Celtics have despite losing Kyrie and not having Gordon Hayward consistently. The Raptors lost two of their starters from last year, including the Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, and have had numerous injuries to Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, and Marc Gasol. But they too have persevered. Nikola Jokic looks a step slower, but the Nuggets depth has them second in the west, and the Miami Heat have looked like a top-three NBA team at times this year. The Sixers, while sixth in the east right now, are still built for the playoffs and have the size and now the veteran leadership of Al Horford to possibly make a run as well. Even the Pacers, who are somehow 5th in the east without Victor Oladipo will be a tough out in the playoffs. That is 10 teams in the NBA that we can say could possibly make it to the conference finals. Something we could not say in 2019.
Giannis Antetokounmpo’s rise- We saw Antetokounmpo took huge leaps the last few years in his scoring, physique, and passing, but the one trend with his game and criticism has been his jump shot. While he is not Ray Allen, Steph Curry, or even Peja Stojakovic (if you don’t know him, look him up), Antetokounmpo has become a willing and capable shooter from 3. That is still the shot you want to make him take, but he is showing that he can actually make them now. He is taking 5.1 three-pointers this year which is nearly double his attempts from last year and is shooting a respectable %32.7 this year. If he can keep this up and even bring that percentage up a bit more, Antetokounmpo could be on his way to getting his face up on the Mt. Rushmore of the NBA.
NBA Trade Deadline- With so many players changing teams this past offseason, not many players could be dealt before December 15th. That led to there only being one trade since the Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook swap. For fans of bad teams or just casual NBA fans, trades can be an exciting plot twist to the season. With so many teams on the cusp of competing and getting over the hump, it will be interesting to see if the likes of Kevin Love, Marcus Morris, Andre Iguodala, and even Karl-Anthony Towns will be moved.
Zion Williamson- The number one pick, and possibly the most hyped-up college basketball player since LeBron James has not played a single NBA regular-season game yet and while the Pelicans have every reason to play it safe and take their time bringing him back, the fans all over the league are salivating to see the former Duke star. There are reports that the Pelicans will roll out their prized rookie in January.
The 2020 NBA draft- Unlike last year, there is no consensus number 1 pick right now. James Wiseman was a hot name but he has withdrawn from Memphis University, which could possibly impact his draft position. LeMelo Ball has gained a lot of praise for maturing and playing very well in a professional league in Australia. Cole Anthony, another point guard, started the season with a lot of hype at UNC but his recent knee injury may also be a concern to teams come draft time. It will be interesting to see these players fighting for that number one spot.