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This has been one of the most busiest seasons for the NBA with many teams making moves to strengthen their rosters. This season will have you waiting to find out what next’s like one of your favorite TV shows. Here are six questions to ask yourself as we head down the home stretch of the NBA season:
1. Is Phoenix Now Considered a Contender?
Of course, we all know that the biggest news during the trade deadline was the trade that sent Kevin Durant to the Phoenix Suns. Durant may be able to make his Suns’ debut this Friday against the Thunder.
This move automatically gives Phoenix one of the best odds to win the 2023 NBA Finals. I’m pretty sure you would think the same with two of the best scorers in Kevin Durant and Devin Booker, and a playmaker and facilitator in Chris Paul.
My biggest concern is how is this going to affect Deandre Ayton? The Suns gained one of the greatest pure scorers in the history of the league, but this does not mean others can take a backseat and just coast.
What we also have to look at is how does this move affect the Suns defensively? This team may put up a ton of points, but who is that one person that can get a stop on the other end of the floor?
The Suns no longer have Mikal Bridges since he was traded to Brooklyn, and Bridges he was their lead defender and second in votes for the Defensive Player of the Year Award in the 2021-22 season.
The addition of Terrence Ross gives the Suns a true shooter who can also defend. Josh Okogie would most likely be the Suns’ go-to defender. He has also been putting up solid numbers over the last couple of games before the All-Star break. The Suns may have gotten better, but this will not be some type of cakewalk.
2. Can The Sixers Get Over The Hump?
The Philadelphia 76ers have been a top three team in the East for the majority of the season and has shown the league that they have what it takes to make it to the next level. James Harden’s pledge to take a step back in order to help Joel Embiid and an exciting young player like Tyrese Maxey has been the main reasons for this team’s success.
Philadelphia has the potential to make it to the big stage while Embiid is trying to prove the doubters wrong by winning it all. But could this be enough to win the East over teams like the Celtics, Bucks or Cavaliers?
We should wonder what 76ers’ head coach Doc Rivers will do with Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris for the rest of the season leading into the playoffs. Maxey started the season off as a starter until he came off the bench after being out at least a month dealing with an ankle injury.
For Harris, he has been in sort of a slump as of late. Are they expecting 25 to 30 points from him? Of course not, but he has to be consistent enough to help the 76ers out.
It’s been decades since the 76ers brought home a championship to Philadelphia, but there is another thing that the 76ers haven’t accomplished in over 20 years: making an appearance to the Eastern Conference Finals. They were literally a shot away from going back to the Conference Finals back in 2019 when they faced the Toronto Raptors.
They’ve tried several times with roster adjustments, but it led nowhere. If this team can’t fulfill their dreams in becoming a title contender, would this be the time for them to start over again?
3. Can The Lakers Turn It Around For The Remainder Of The Season?
The Lakers have made several changes with the additions of D’Angelo Russell, Rui Hachimura, Malik Beasley, Jared Vanderbilt and Mo Bamba. They’ve added shooters as well as players who have the ability to defend. The way how the roster in structured, the Lakers without a doubt easily could have been a top-five team if this was the roster from the beginning. However, the Lakers are currently 13th in the Western Conference.
Even though this sounds like a bad thing, the Lakers are only three games behind in terms of qualifying for the play-in tournament coming up in April. They are also four games behind the Clippers, who are currently the fourth seed in the West. With 23 games left for this new Lakers squad, there is little time for any errors.
The Lakers will have their hands full for the next set of games before the season ends as they will be facing the Warriors, Grizzlies and Mavericks. For the entire season after a Lakers victory, fans would use the phrase, “This is the game that turns the Lakers’ season around,” while in reality, it is more like a rollercoaster ride.
Their longest winning streak has only been a total of five straight wins in a row. If the Lakers want to turn it around, it has to start now. Even though this roster looks good on paper, is this enough for the Lakers to make a solid run?
4. Can Luka Doncic Convince Kyrie Irving To Stay In Dallas?
Last season, Luka Doncic carried Dallas to the Western Conference Finals, but there may have been something missing after the loss to the Golden State Warriors. This past summer, Dallas acquired Christian Wood, but there was still something that wasn’t clicking for the Mavericks.
They acquired Irving at the trade deadline and so far he has not disappointed Dallas. The only problem is Irving has an expiring contract this upcoming offseason.
If Dallas was able to make a run at the title, would this be enough for Irving to stay in Dallas? We’ve seen it before with Kawhi Leonard after being traded to Toronto, winning a championship with them and leaving to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Irving also has a history of claiming to stay with a team then ends up leaving. This is Doncic’s first time playing with another star player making them one of the best duos in the league. They seem to also have a great relationship off the court and if they can mesh on the court to make a playoff run, Doncic is not going to want to let him go.
5. What Can We Expect From Russell Westbrook’s New Situation?
After being part of a three-team trade that sent him to Utah, Russell Westbrook is expected to take a buyout on his contract and sign with the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers have constructed a talented roster by also acquiring Bones Hyland, Eric Gordon and Miles Plumlee. This new start for Westbrook could be what he needed most, but how exactly does he fit and what would be his role for the Clippers?
It was a bit rocky for Westbrook playing for the Lakers – from getting booed by fans for taking bad shots, to being demoted to a player who comes off the bench. Westbrook managed to do all he could with his new role, but as time went by, it seemed as if he did not feel comfortable in the environment that he was in.
Many believe that he is on his last leg, but I believe he still holds value to a team like the Clippers.
Something that can give Westbrook a bit of a breather is the fact that he may feel welcomed and valuable to the Clippers with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George being very vocal in making the move to get him. This type of feeling could result into Westbrook fitting very well with this team.
All I can say is that the upcoming matchup between the Lakers and the Clippers will be something to look out for. Westbrook would have a story to tell if he is able to help this team win a championship.
6. Is Everyone Sleeping On The Defending Champs?
The Golden State Warriors have one of the lowest odds to win a back-to-back title this year. Could this be a good thing? The West is so star heavy now that anything can happen and you don’t exactly know who to come out of the West. Even though the conference is very deep, I would advise you all to not sleep on the Warriors.
Golden State is the ninth seed in the Western Conference, so this means they have a chance of making the playoffs by participating in the play-in tournament. Stephen Curry has been in and out of the lineup due to his injuries, but we are now starting to see Klay Thompson back to 100% as he has been able to play back-to-back games since his major injury.
The biggest advantage the Warriors over the majority of the Western Conference is their team chemistry. Meanwhile, we don’t know exactly how teams like the Suns, Lakers or Clippers will be cohesive even with their stacked teams. If healthy, let’s not count out this Warriors squad out of the picture.
Will we crown a new champion? Is this the end of a dynasty? Will I ever stop asking questions? Maybe not, but it will be interesting to see what’s in store for the rest of the season.