By Albert Luna
The all-star break has officially come and gone, and there is a landscape in the NBA unlike anything else this season. With Kobe Bryant suiting up for his last game over the weekend against Toronto and a nice reminder that defense is never of the essence in an NBA exhibition game, we must now focus on the second stretch of the NBA. One thing that’s very interesting of the all-star break is the trade deadline, which will be coming up later on in the middle of this week. We have a lot to get to, so let’s get right to it with three things I like and don’t like, plus power rankings.
Like: Quiet before the storm
At this point in prior seasons, two or three trades have occurred. However, this season, perhaps in line with its unprecedented field of competition, there was no trade chatter over the all-star break. If we look back just one year ago, we see trades such as Rajon Rondo going to Dallas, Rudy Gay going to Sacramento, and Josh Smith going for his first tenure in Houston. But no big trades have occurred yet, other than the occasional 15th man on the roster being sent for tax purposes, such as Joe Harris for the Cavaliers. With the new salary cap going into effect this summer, expect a crazy trade deadline.
Don’t like: Lack of consistency with all-star weekend.
The all-star game has unchanged for the last 60 plus years. However, the events around it have been in constant fluidity for far too long. A perfect example of this is the slam dunk contest, which in my opinion had one of their better showings in almost 15 years with Zach Lavine taking home the title. Other changes were the bracket format in the Skills Challenge along with the Shooting Stars Challenge being left out this year. For a marketing standpoint, this makes absolutely no sense for the NBA. Fans are not able to connect with a certain event they may like since it may change from year to year. Although it’s just exhibition and for fun, there should be some type of committee that decides when and where these events will take place.
Like: Karl Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis
Both Towns and Porzingis where in the top three in this past year’s draft, and for good reason. Both are tied for first in scoring among rookies at 17.1 points per game. Granted, both of their teams have losing records, but both have bright futures of being franchise cornerstones. The all-star break was a great national introduction for them, especially with both having decent games on Friday night’s Rising Stars Challenge. In Towns’ case, he also took home the Skills Challenge Trophy, being the first rookie ever to do so. With a budding Ben Simmons coming into the NBA next year, the league is looking more than well stocked with young talent for the foreseeable future.
- Golden State Warriors—The Warriors are 48-4, the best start in NBA history.
- San Antonio Spurs—With two all-stars joining, the Spurs have the highest number of players who are current or former all-stars on any team since the 2004 Los Angeles Lakers.
- Oklahoma City Thunder—Kevin Durant and company have 40 wins after going 8-2 in their last 10 games. Defense will have to be their biggest focus going forward.
- Cleveland Cavaliers—At 96.9 points per game for opponents, the Cavs are second in the conference in points allowed, a stark contrast considering the beginning of their season.
- Toronto Raptors—Losing to the Timberwolves to close the first half of the season left the Raptors with a bad taste in their mouth after winning nine of their previous 10 game. Expect them to come out with some extra momentum after the all-star weekend.
- Los Angeles Clippers—Despite Blake Griffin missing almost half the season so far, the Clippers are playing their best basketball of the campaign. It might make some wonder if the power forward was holding the offense back the whole time.
- Boston Celtics—The Celtics won eight of their final 10 games heading into the break. Now they face a difficult March looming in the distance, currently still hold the third seed.
- Memphis Grizzlies—Consistency is the biggest thing for Memphis going forward after losing to teams they were beating easily at this time last year.
- Atlanta Hawks—For all the talk that Atlanta has dipped this season, they still hold the fourth seed in the East and look prime for home court advantage heading into the playoffs. That still has not kept most of their core players free of trade talks.
- Miami Heat—Chris Bosh’s calf injury poses a threat for the Heat going forward, but with a three-game lead over the eighth spot in the playoff race and Dwyane Wade playing at an all-star level, Miami should find a way to weather the storm.
Be sure to check back next week, same time, for the latest installment of the NBA column.
Albert Luna may be reached at ALuna32@NMSU.edu
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