Heading out of the All-Star break, there will be a ton of developing NBA storylines. With an exciting trade deadline over, teams may not be done making moves. Many of the early pretenders have come down to earth and we will see what some teams are made of. Playoff races will go down to the last weeks. There will be plenty of other topics for discussion as well. Let’s look at five NBA storylines to look forward to post All-Star break.
Top NBA Storylines To Watch
Rookie of the Year Race
So far this season, two rookies have separated themselves from all others: Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers and Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz. Simmons was No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft but only made his NBA debut this season.
Mitchell was selected with the 13th pick in this year’s draft. Both Mitchell and Simmons are having better years than many players on their respective teams. Mitchell leads all rookies in points per game, averaging 20 through the All-Star break. Simmons isn’t far behind Mitchell, averaging 16 points. He also leads all rookies in assists and rebounds. Los Angeles Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma may be able to squeeze into the discussion if he finishes the season strong; he’s averaging 16 points as well.
Fight for the Top Seed in the East
After trading many of their off-season acquisitions away, the Cleveland Cavaliers have put themselves in a great position to take control of the Eastern Conference. The Toronto Raptors lead the East, with the Boston Celtics two games back. The Cavaliers came into the break on a four-game winning streak. It’s the first time they’ve won four consecutive games since they won five in a row in the middle of December. Cleveland has had many setbacks this season but looks primed to make a late-season push, with young, talented players at the core of its rotation. The Cavaliers are 4.5 games behind the Celtics for the second seed.
Western Conference Playoff Push
Four and a half games separate eight teams from one another in the Western Conference. With the rise of players like Donovan Mitchell, the Utah Jazz have gone on an 11-game winning streak to put them just outside the playoff picture. The San Antonio Spurs haven’t been as dominant as they have been in years past due to injuries. Also, with a season-ending to DeMarcus Cousins, the New Orleans Pelicans may struggle to hold onto that eighth playoff seed. After trading Blake Griffin, the Los Angeles Clippers didn’t seem to get the memo that they are rebuilding, as they continue to win. Many playoff spots are not guaranteed, and seeds three through eight look like they can be occupied by any team by the end of the season.
Lakers’ Coaching Situation
Luke Walton replaced Steve Kerr at the beginning of the 2015-16 season while Kerr was away for medical reasons. Walton led the Golden State Warriors to a 19-0 start. Kerr returned and Walton resumed his usual position as an assistant coach. The Warriors went on to win 24 straight games to start the season, breaking a previous record. The Lakers hired Walton after the 2016 Finals. Since taking over the head coaching job, Walton has a 49-90 record with the Lakers. L.A. has been in a rebuild mode for a couple of seasons and now with Magic Johnson running the show, patience is running thin with the team’s lackluster growth. If the Lakers finish the season without any improvement, it’s possible that ownership may move on from Walton. The team is looking to compete for a championship next season and beyond.
The MVP Race
With the final stretch of the season coming up, that means the validity of the MVP candidates become more legitimate. This season, James Harden seems to be the odds-on favorite for the award. He leads all players in scoring, averaging 31 points per game. That’s three points higher than the second place scorer. Harden is also second in the league in assists with nine per night. Russell Westbrook, who’s a candidate again this year, is close to averaging a triple-double for the second consecutive season. LeBron James is in the discussion, as he is in most years. With James’ roster infused with new players, his gaudy stats will only look to improve. This appears to be an exciting race that may last until the very end of the season.
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