The first half of the NBA season gave us many surprises and storylines. The Brooklyn Nets were one of them. They have more wins this time of year than the entire season last year. Anthony Davis announced his wishes to leave New Orleans, and LeBron James may not be the savior in Los Angeles. There’s plenty more to look forward to following the all-star break. Here are three top storylines to look forward to during the second half of the NBA season.
Storylines to Watch for the Second Half of the NBA Season
Westbrook Vs. Embiid Round Two
This beef started in the ’17-’18 season. A game where Joel Embiid waved to Steven Adams as he fouled out of the game. Not too much later, Russell Westbrook, as petty as he is, waved Embiid out of the stadium as the Thunder came away with the win.
Most recently when they faced off in late January. A game in which Westbrook took a hard foul from Embiid going to the basket. He took exception to the 76ers star and was restrained by teammates. When asked if he and Embiid were cool after a postgame interview, Westbrook responded, “F**k no”. Embiid is a known fire starter in the NBA. He will call players out in interviews, and even on Twitter to troll. Westbrook, being as hot-headed as he can be, is the perfect target for Embiid’s childish antics. Fans held their breath when Westbrook and Embiid were selected for the NBA all-star game. Nothing happened between the two during the entire weekend putting any hope for a fight on pause. The Thunder and 76ers next play February 28th in Oklahoma City. Expect plenty of interaction between Embiid and Westbrook during this matchup.
The Playoff Push
One thing to keep track of as we edge towards the end of the season are the standings for both conferences. There are plenty of spots open and many seeds are not a guarantee for most teams.
Take the Golden State Warriors. The Denver Nuggets are only two games behind them for the number one seed. Oklahoma City is not far behind either being four games out of the top spot. Seeds four through eight are close to being separated by a game each. The Los Angeles Lakers barely have their foot in the door. They sit three and a half games out of the eight seed and could slide down further if LeBron James misses any more time due to injury. Some experts had the Lakers pegged to reach the Western Conference finals. This will be a disappointing season if they cannot at least reach a playoff berth. The Sacramento Kings sit a game and a half out of a playoff spot. They haven’t reached the playoffs in 13 years. If the Kings can secure a playoff spot, it’ll be huge for Sacramento and their fans.
The East has been associated as the weaker of the two conferences for plenty of years now. Very slowly this narrative has changed. Many stars have moved over to the East such as Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard. The top five seeds in the Eastern Conference all have better records than the top five seeds in the west. The Boston Celtics are hungry for another playoff run. The Philadelphia 76ers are loaded with tons of new talent and ready to show the world what they can do on the big stage. There’s so much talent spread throughout this Eastern Conference that it’s hard to say who will be a lock for what seed.
In the midst of all this competitive play where NBA teams are vying for a chance to win a championship, NBA teams are competing in a different kind of way too. Tanking as it’s more commonly known, has become a common NBA practice for many of the league bottom teams. The 76ers are most famous for executing this tactic. A tactic that led them to have a top three pick for four years in a row. This strategy allowed them to draft Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Two cornerstones of the franchise.
This year the New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Phoenix Suns, and Chicago Bulls are all trying to finish the regular season with the worst record. The rules used to be that teams with a lower win percentage had a high chance of getting the top pick. Those rules changed however this year. Now, the bottom three teams all have the same chance of getting the top pick. This was implemented to stop teams from “tanking” but it seems as though it hasn’t deterred teams from trying to lose.
Filled with amazing talent this years draft class is ready to make their mark on the NBA. The most talked about being Zion Williamson, however, there are tons of other great players too. Draft night is one of the most important aspects of the NBA because one good pick can change an entire franchise, take a look at the Utah Jazz. This last month of the season looks to be full of exciting matchups and headlines.
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