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NBA News and Notes: March 25, 2019

Thinking Ahead to the Draft

While the NBA regular season is not quite over yet, there are certainly some general managers around the league that are less concerned with how their teams do over the course of the next several games (in fact, they probably hope they lose) and more concerned with what player they may end up with at the next NBA draft. Players like Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, and Ja Morant are certainly not disappointing.

While Williamson and Barrett’s Duke Blue Devils just hung on against UCF on Sunday, Ja Moran’t Murray State Racers are done. Still, Morant has shown a lot during this NCAA tournament and has quite a buzz around him as the NBA draft approaches. Some have argued he could surpass Zion for number one, and while that is highly unlikely, it is not unlikely that he could overtake RJ Barrett for the second overall pick. Regardless, for teams like the New York Knicks, Phoenix Suns, and Cleveland Cavaliers, there is a lot to be excited about by what they are seeing in the NCAA March Madness tournament.

Looking At The Playoffs Ahead

With NBA teams having 10 games or less left in the regular season, the playoffs are starting to take form. Still, as we approach the final stretch, there are still several teams that are fighting to be one of the top eight in the conference when it is all said and done.

As of this writing, in the Western Conference, only three teams have clinched playoff spots. The Golden State Warriors, Denver Nuggets, and Houston Rockets are all in, although none of them have clinched their own divisions yet. Even though they have not clinched, the Portland Trail Blazers, LA Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Utah Jazz, and San Antonio Spurs all seem like shoe-ins. Sacramento is the first team on the outside looking in, but even they sit six games out from the eighth-place Spurs. What is interesting though is that there is only one game separating the fifth through the eighth seeds, so these final games could have huge implications on postseason matchups in the West.

In the East, there are four teams that have clinched a playoff spot (Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Philadelphia 76ers, and Indiana Pacers), with the Bucks having clinched their division as well. Boston seems safe to make the playoffs, but the next three (Brooklyn Nets, Detroit Pistons, and Miami Heat) have competition. The Orlando Magic sit only one game back of the Heat for the eighth seed, and the Charlotte Hornets sit just two games out. Like the West, a lot could change over the next week or so.

A Lebron-less Playoffs

While there are several teams in contention for playoff spots, one team that has officially been eliminated is the Los Angeles Lakers. For the first time since 2005, Lebron James will not be gracing the NBA playoffs. The Lakers were eliminated after they lost to the Brooklyn Nets Friday. At 31-41, the first season for Lebron in Los Angeles has been a disaster. There have been injuries, inconsistency, the inability to land a big star (Anthony Davis) at the trade deadline, turmoil with the coach, lazy play at times by Lebron and just an overall frustrating season for Lebron, Magic Johnson, and the Lakers’ organization. There are a lot of questions as the Lakers move into the offseason. What will their draft positioning be? Will they be able to get one of the premier free agents this offseason (hello, KD?)? One other question they will have is…

Who Will Be Coach For The Lakers Next Season?

The criticism that coach Luke Walton has received this season has been well publicized. While some of it might not be warranted, it still seems inevitable that the Lakers will look to go in a different direction next season. With that in mind, the question becomes, who will be the next coach? While there have been several possibilities speculated, one name that has recently surfaced has been Jason Kidd. The former Milwaukee Bucks coach has also received some consideration in the college ranks by the Cal Golden Bears, but it appears that the Lakers may take a look at him as well. His tenure in the NBA has not been the best in a coaching position, given that most recently the Milwaukee Bucks really surged AFTER he was let go, but the Lakers might see something they like. One thing that is for sure, after a frustrating first season with Lebron, the Lakers are going to hope that whoever comes in can turn it around quickly.

Harden Continues MVP Season

James Harden tied his own personal record on Friday when the Houston Rockets’ shooting guard was able to post 61 points in a win over the San Antonio Spurs. Harden has been simply amazing this season. He is averaging 36.5 points on 43.8% shooting, including 36.3% from behind the arc. He is also averaging 6.5 rebounds and 7.6 assists per game. In terms of his huge scoring night, that is actually the eighth time that he has surpassed the 50-point mark. At 47-27, the Rockets currently sit in third place, 3 games behind the Denver Nuggets and 3.5 games behind the Golden State Warriors. The Rockets have already clinched a playoff spot, but regardless of what seed they end up, James Harden has certainly put himself in the conversation of league MVP once again and games like he had Friday night certainly show why.

Big Baller Brand Without Lonzo?

It appears that while Big Baller Brand, the brand made famous by the Ball family including outspoken father LaVar Ball, has lost one of its members. After concern over missing finances (upwards of $1.5 million) centered around co-founder Alan Foster, Lonzo Ball appears to be cutting ties not only with Foster but possibly with the brand altogether. Even though Lonzo is a majority owner, there are rumors that Lonzo may be heading to the Nike brand. While nothing has been solidified, it could be the end of an era for at least one of the Ball family members.

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