We are mere days from an eventful regular season wrapping up. Here are 5 things to watch out for as the NBA universe gets ready for the post-season:
1.The Russell Westbrook Triple Double Coronation
It’s not a matter of if, but when Russell Westbrook hits this magical number. He is mere rebounds and assists away from matching the Big O as only the 2nd player ever to pull off the feat. It is almost a guarantee that we’ll see the Houston Rockets and the OKC Thunder do a Round 1 battle in a 3 versus 6 showdown. This brings me back to the classic 1995 showdown of The Admiral (MVP winner that year) vs The Dream (runner-up). Hakeem ate David’s lunch that series, and went on to win his 2nd title. With both spots essentially booked, look for both teams to push their stars for some good PR. James Harden should really rest and heal up his left wrist, but he’s put himself in the public spotlight by saying that playing all 82 games should be considered when voting for the MVP award.
2.The Shuffle For The Top 4 Spots In The East
The top two spots will go to either the Cleveland Cavaliers or the Boston Celtics. If the seeds are determined with a few games left, expect Cleveland to shut down their big 3 of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love until the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Toronto Raptors and the Washington Wizards will flip back and forth for the 3 and 4 spots while trying to avoid the Cavs in the second round. Expect a lot of posturing and skeptics claiming one of these two teams may drop a game to avoid a match-up with the champs.
3.The Clippers’ Last Dance
Never have the LA Clippers been more relevant in their history but…Lob City is coming to an end! With a player option for Chris Paul & Blake Griffin plus UFA status for J.J. Redick, some or all of these players, will be in different uniforms at the start of next season. This group has maxed out their potential but fortunately for all 6 of you Clippers fans out there, Steve Ballmer looks to be an owner who cares and is willing to spend to bring talent to California.
4.Who Sneaks In At The Bottom
The East has a giant slayer in waiting with the Miami Heat playing some amazing basketball over the last 2 months. At one point, this team looked like it was heading for a hefty-sized bag of lottery balls, but (possible Coach of the Year) Erik Spoelstra has turned the team around and Hassan Whiteside continues to terrorize front lines and rack up double doubles. In the West, Portland has (finally) been playing to a respectable level and look to have the inside track for the 8 seed. A 1st round date and 4 game sweep at the hands of the Golden State Warriors await the Trailblazers.
5.Which Coach Gets The Axe
It may not happen until the 1st day after the season is closed, but you can bet that at least a couple of coaches will be handed their walking papers. Alvin Gentry of the New Orleans Pelicans, Fred Hoiberg of the Chicago Bulls and Jeff Hornacek of the New York Knicks may all have a long summer off. Each has rosters where more was expected, but a common theme of inconsistent play and under-performance from their top stars typically leads to new openings.