Week 21 NBA Storylines

Do the Cavs have what it takes to repeat?

The 2017 NBA playoffs are officially less than a month away. On April 15th the postseason will begin, so teams are in an all-out pursuit for the best seed they can get. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the top stories around the NBA from this past week.

First Few Playoff Spots Clinched

The Golden State Warriors became the first team to clinch a playoff berth this season, with the Spurs clinching a spot in the West shortly after. The Warriors haven’t clinched the top spot in the West though, San Antonio is just two games back from Golden State.

Last night, the Cavaliers officially clinched a playoff berth with a win over the Lakers.

If the playoffs were to start today, these are what the matchups would look like.

In the West:

  1. Warriors vs. 8. Nuggets

2. Spurs vs. 7. Grizzlies

3. Rockets vs. 6. Thunder

4. Jazz vs. 5. Clippers

In the East:

  1. Cavaliers vs. 8. Pistons

2. Celtics vs. 7. Bucks

3. Wizards vs. 6. Pacers

4. Raptors vs. 5. Hawks

Race for the 8th seed

The Denver Nuggets had a sizable lead on the 8th spot in the West for a while, but the Portland Trail Blazers are beginning to close the gap. The main reason behind Portland’s recent playoff push is Lillard’s dominance after the All-Star break. You can see his pre and post All-Star splits below.

Damian Lillard Splits via ESPN

After winning eight of their last 10 games, the Blazers are just one game behind the Nuggets in the West.

The Mavs and Pelicans have each won six of their last 10 games, and still have a fighting chance to steal the eighth seed.

In the East, the Miami Heat have charged up the standings in the past few weeks. After starting the season 11–30, the Heat are now 34–36 and seem like a strong contender to take the 7th or 8th seed. If there was ever a doubt Erik Spoelstra was a good coach, you can put that to rest now.

With Dwyane Wade out for the season, it seems the Bulls will probably miss the playoffs now. But the Bucks, Pistons, Heat and Bulls will all be fighting for the final two spots in the East.

The DNP-Rest Issue

For the second week in a row, ABC’s prime-time Saturday night game turned into a controversy rather than a playoff preview.

Two weeks ago, the Warriors sat all of their All-Stars against the Spurs, and this Saturday the Cavs sat their big three against the Clippers.

This is becoming a major issue for the NBA, so much that Cavs GM David Griffin heard from the league soon after it went public that the team would be sitting their stars.

The issue with this is that the NBA is a star-driven league. If the stars continue to sit during the marquee matchups, it damages the league’s appeal in a major way. On another note, fans are paying top dollar for seats far in advance, all to find out the day of the game that their money went to waste.

So, who is to blame for this? Is it the coaches fault? Not entirely. Their job is to make sure their team is healthy for the playoffs.

Personally, I think this is an issue with the NBA schedule. The league is trying to pack too many games into a short period of time, and as a result the coaches are forced to give their guys some rest.

The NBA needs to eliminate back-to-back’s — it’s that simple. The regular season will reportedly start 7–10 days earlier next season, and perhaps this could help solve this issue. On top of that, the NBA needs to make sure the schedules leading up to the marquee games don’t create a scenario in which the coaches would want to rest their players. Until this is addressed, the excessive DNP-Rest’s are becoming a major problem.

Injuries + Rumors

  • Dwyane Wade has been ruled out for the remainder of the season with a fractured elbow. Chicago is one game back from the 8th seed in the East, but with Wade gone the playoffs seem like a long shot now. Another thing to wonder is whether Wade has played his final game as a Chicago Bull — he can become a free agent this summer and his future with the team is uncertain after what must have been a frustrating season. Wade finished the season with his lowest points per game average since his rookie season, and career lows in assists and field goal percentage.
  • Chandler Parsons is set to have surgery on his left knee and will miss the rest of the season. Parsons inked a four-year, $94 million deal last summer and the early returns suggest his inability to stay on the court will be a cause for concern moving forward. Parsons appeared in a career low 34 games this season, averaging career lows in nearly every statistical category.
  • Timberwolves forward Nemanja Bjelica will miss the rest of the season with a left foot injury. To make up for Bjelica’s absence, the Wolves will likely sign Omri Casspi to a deal to help their playoff push.
  • Carlos Boozer and Jimmer Fredette are both playing in China right now, but have reportedly received interest from NBA teams. The Clippers and Heat have apparently expressed interest in Boozer.
  • Larry Sanders has officially returned to the NBA after agreeing to a deal with the Cavs.
  • Despite speculation after a disappointing season, Jeff Hornacek’s job in New York is reportedly safe for now.
  • Prior to being traded, DeMarcus Cousins told John Wall that he was willing to come to DC to play for the Wizards.
  • If the Pelicans don’t make the playoffs, the team will reportedly need to show significant improvement for Alvin Gentry to keep his job next season.
  • The Lakers have shut down Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov for the remainder of the season.
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