Now that March Madness is officially over, all eyes on the basketball world turn to the ensuing NBA playoffs. With only 10 days left in the dwindling regular season, it’s important to look ahead and acknowledge which postseason developments are most exciting for NBA fanatics.
First, many wonder who will win the coveted NBA MVP award. As a four-time winner of the award, LeBron James has pieced together another outstanding NBA campaign by averaging 27.1 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 6.4 assists per contest this year. Despite James’s stellar statistics, Kevin Durant is currently the front-runner for the award. Durant has played strong offense all year long, averaging a league-leading 32 points per game along with 7.4 rebounds and 5.5 assists. James and Durant headline the MVP race, but Blake Griffin and James Harden have also demonstrated MVP-caliber play all season and deserve consideration.
Looking to the Eastern Conference final, the Heat-Pacers matchup is not such a sure thing anymore. Early in the NBA season the Indiana Pacers had 20 wins and three losses and possessed the NBA’s best record. In a season where Eastern Conference teams have been exceptionally unsuccessful, it seemed obvious that the Pacers would meet the two-time defending champion Miami Heat in the conference finals. However, since the All-Star break, the Pacers have regressed significantly and have lost seven of 10 games. The Miami Heat has also endured their fair share of difficulties throughout the season, specifically injuries. With improved play from Eastern Conference teams Brooklyn, Chicago, and Toronto as of late, it doesn’t seem so set in stone that the Heat and Pacers will meet in the conference finals. The idea of Indiana or Miami losing in an earlier round is not as far-fetched as it used to be.
In the Western Conference, it is even less certain which teams will prevail. The conference has five teams with 50 or more wins this season; the East only has two. Each of these top five Western Conference teams thinks they should win, but they have to get through each other first. The ageless San Antonio Spurs lead the conference and had a 19-game winning streak earlier this season. No. 2 seed Oklahoma City Thunder boasts the game’s leading scorer and leading MVP candidate Kevin Durant. At No. 3, the Los Angeles Clippers have played their best season in franchise history, led by superstars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Coming in at the No. 4 spot, the Houston Rockets have won eight of their last 10 games and shoot more free throws than any other team in the NBA. The Portland Trail Blazers recently won their 50th game of the season, and can become a lethal playoff team if they capitalize on three-point shots. These top five squads, along with three other Western Conference contenders, will compete for a spot in the NBA finals.
The postseason will ultimately show which team has the most longevity to withstand the fatigue of an 82-game season and continue on. It only takes 16 more wins from any playoff team to go home with the highly prestigious NBA championship trophy.