It’s time to return to in-game dunks, hard fouls, instant replays, and defense, things we haven’t seen on the NBA floor in nearly a week, whether you liked All-Star weekend (Jayson Tatum, Mac McClung) or didn’t (Paul George, Mike Malone).
The following six weeks will decide which clubs will get an early start on the 2023–24 season and which ones go all-in on the playoffs, with the playoffs beginning in early April. The trade deadline (and its aftermath) gave rise to a plethora of narratives, particularly in the Western Conference when Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and the mysterious Russell Westbrook “left” and “joined” Los Angeles for the Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks, respectively.
Don’t worry; we won’t exclude the Eastern Conference from the celebration. Down the stretch, the top three teams, the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, and Philadelphia 76ers, will play five games together. All eyes will be on Trae Young for any clues as to how the Atlanta Hawks will go with a new head coach now that Nate McMillan has been fired. So here are 3 interesting things to watch now that the NBA has resumed.
Durant’s Compatibility With Phoenix
How will Devin Booker and Kevin Durant complement one another? Which Chris Paul will Phoenix receive? How will Deandre Ayton acclimatize to the presence of Durant? The defense for Phoenix without Mikal Bridges? How will the depth affect things? In only 22 games, the Suns will need to find answers to these problems. The Suns have the potential to win the championship this year, but there isn’t much time for them to gel. Phoenix quickly rises to the top of the list of championship favorites with the superstar skill of Durant, but just because this squad is designed to succeed now doesn’t ensure that it will.
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Lakers Want A Playoff Berth
LeBron James said that the Lakers’ remaining games are “23 of the most crucial games of my career for the regular season” during the All-Star break. A touch theatrical, but James is aware of how it would seem if the Lakers and he miss the playoffs for the second consecutive year. Based on their roster upgrades made at the trade deadline—chief among them the combination deal that saw Russell Westbrook sold and D’Angelo Russell come back—L.A. ought to secure a play-in position. Prior to the All-Star break, Russell, James, and Anthony Davis only appeared in one game together, a victory against the New Orleans Pelicans in which they scored a combined 70 points. It was a tiny sample, yes, but it showed that the Lakers can be forceful offensively.
The Doncic-Irving Experiment
You can’t deny that Luka Doncic helped the Mavericks at the trade deadline, but the price may have been too high if Kyrie Irving doesn’t re-sign in the summer. Yet, it is a subject for another day. Making the Irving-Doncic combination work is the primary concern right now. Before the All-Star festivities, Doncic and Irving combined for 69 points in a defeat to the Minnesota Timberwolves, giving us a little preview of what it can possibly entail. Those two may be the NBA’s scariest duo in terms of talent, but Dallas must find a way to use both of its star athletes.