The 2020 NBA trade deadline offered us plenty of action with multiple All-Stars being dealt. To an extent, it has helped shake up the Association heading into the final two months of the regular season.
Though, there’s a whole heck of a lot to look at outside of that.
From a grief-stricken Los Angeles Lakers team looking to win one for the late Kobe Bryant to struggles in Philadelphia, let’s check in on the top post-deadline storylines around the NBA.
Win one for Kobe
We have learned first-hand over the past few weeks just how precious life is. Just how unimportant the game of basketball can be, even for the players. Kobe Bryant’s tragic passing at the age of 41 will forever be linked to the Lakers’ 2019-’20 season and the broader NBA.
As LeBron James and Co. look to pick up the pieces, his Lakers are the unquestioned best team in the Western Conference. It might seem like destiny. An all-time great bringing a 17th championship to this organization. The story writes itself. It will be something we’re talking about throughout the end of the regular season and in the playoffs. Just imagine if this happens.
The Sixers’ defining moment
Currently the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, these Sixers have fallen on hard times recently. No one would have envisioned that Brett Brown’s squad would enter the post-deadline NBA schedule behind the likes of the Indiana Pacers. But that’s where we are at.
This is not only a defining stretch for Brown on the bench. The same thing can be said about stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Specifically, Simmons has received a lot of criticism thus far this season. If the Sixers are not able to get a top-three seed and make a deep run into the postseason, there will be a lot of talk about blowing this thing up during the summer.
Clippers looking to mesh
It’s crazy to think about it. Los Angeles currently sits at 36-15 heading into the post-deadline slate. This is despite the fact that recent acquisitions Kawhi Leonard and Paul George have missed a combined 33 games and have played together in less than half of the Clippers’ outings this season.
The final two-plus months will be all about these two coexisting better on the court. In a vacuum, each one is a dominant figure. Finding a way to mesh better as a duo could lead to these Clippers challenging their in-city rivals for the Western Conference championship. That’s only magnified by the acquisition of Marcus Morris, who will act as a major reinforcement.
Bucks chasing history
Currently sitting 44-7 on the season, Milwaukee would have to go 30-1 over the final 31 games to best the 2015-16 Warriors for the most wins in single-season NBA history. That’s not happening. However, there’s a darn good chance Giannis Antetokounmpo and Co. could become just the third team in Association history with 70-plus wins. That would required a 26-5 record from here on out.
It’s not like this team has not been dominant. It has scored 100-plus points in its first 51 games. The Bucks are also defeating opponents by an average of 12-plus points per game. With nearly half their remaining games against teams that are currently under .500, it will be fun to watch this squad chase history moving forward on the season.
Luka Doncic’s health
Two separate ankle injuries have pretty much ended any hope that Doncic could be a surprise MVP winner. When on the court this season, the sophomore has been absolutely dazzling. He’s joined LeBron James in exclusive company and continues to dominate. Here’s a dude that’s averaging 28.8 points, 9.5 rebounds and 8.7 assists per game.
Doncic’s health over the final two months of the season is going to be a major storyline, both in Dallas and around the Western Conference. The Mavericks are on pace to win 50-plus games. Kristaps Porzingis has upped his game big time. A healthy Doncic could lead to this team to make major noise once the playoffs come calling.
More drama in Brooklyn?
We’ve read the reports. Kyrie Irving is already having issues meshing with his new Brooklyn Nets squad. Multiple injuries to the former NBA MVP has not helped matters here. To say that it has been a disastrous first season for Irving in the Big Apple would be an understatement.
It’s not helping that Brooklyn currently sits at 23-27 on the season and is on pace to be throttled by either Milwaukee or Toronto in the first round of the playoffs. Given Irving’s enigmatic personality and the bright lights of NYC, one has to wonder if the drama we’ve seen thus far is only the start.
The beginning of the end in the Pacific Northwest
It would not be an absolute shock if general manager Neil Olshey was fired late in the season should the Blazers find themselves out of playoff contention. That’s how far the once mighty have fallen. One season after earning a spot in the Western Conference Finals, Portland sits at 24-28 and is on the outside looking in out west.
More so than a potential front-office shakeup, struggles down the stretch could ultimately lead to Portland breaking up the star-studded backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. With these two leading the charge, these Blazers continue to be largely irrelevant on the broader NBA stage. If that doesn’t change in the final two months of the season, expect major changes in the Pacific Northwest. That would start with McCollum.
South Beach partying like the 2000s
Pat Riley. We can’t rave enough about just how darn well the front office head did for Miami this past summer. These Heat added to a questionable core by bringing in rookies Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn. The trade for Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo‘s emergence into a star center have been huge, too.
Miami currently sits at 34-16 and is battling for a top-two seed in the Eastern Conference. It has the depth to go up against the conference’s best, especially after adding Andre Iguodala to the mix. We’re highly intrigued to see how the final two months of the regular season and the playoffs are going to play out in South Beach.
It’s Zion Williamson’s world
Could the 21-31 New Orleans Pelicans earn a surprise playoff appearance? Given Williamson’s performance coming off an injury and the emergence of Brandon Ingram, it’s possible. However, the focus in the Bayou throughout the remainder of the regular season is going to be the progression of this rookie No. 1 pick.
A true freak of nature, Williamson is averaging 19.8 points and 7.5 rebounds on 57% shooting from the field. Those are otherworldly numbers for a teenager. They will also see a major uptick as Williamson gets his legs under him and starts playing more minutes. It’s going to be fun to watch this youngster star as the season concludes.
North of the border domination
If you’re not surprised and impressed by the Toronto Raptors’ 37-14 start to the season, we’re not too sure what to tell you. Without reigning NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, the defending champs look every bit as good as we saw last season.
Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet have taken on starring roles. Kyle Lowry is playing great basketball. Nick Nurse is a top Coach of the Year candidate. Can Toronto bully its way to a No. 2 seed and threaten Milwaukee’s domination once the playoffs come calling? It’s a major storyline for the next couple of months.
Fall out from D’Angelo Russell blockbuster
One of the bigger midseason trades in recent NBA history saw the struggling Golden State Warriors trade Russell to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Andrew Wiggins and what will be a valuable future first-round pick.
We’re highly intrigued to see how Russell meshes with best bud Karl-Anthony Towns in Minneapolis. Could the two finally form that dynamic duo the Wolves have been missing? In San Francisco, the Warriors are in the midst of a gap year. Once Stephen Curry returns from injury, how is he going to look with Wiggins as his running mate? Despite these being two of the worst teams in the NBA, it’s still an interesting storyline.