By Albert Luna
Just like that, it’s all over. By this time next week, the NBA will have had its regular season come to a close and already completed the first games of the 2016 playoffs. Crazy, especially considering how many storylines we had this season. On top of all that, we also have some legitimate intrigue as we head into the final three days of the season including whether or not the Warriors will win their final game and break the all-time wins record, as well as Kobe scheduled to play the final game of his career on Wednesday night. With that said, let’s get into three things I like and don’t like, plus power rankings.
Like: Farewell, Kobe
He won’t be making the playoffs this year, but he will surely have an impact on them nonetheless. For many of the current or up-and-coming NBA stars, Kobe Bryant was their Michael Jordan. So many grew up watching Kobe and Shaq dominate the league for five years straight and walk away with three championships to show for it. Not to mention another two championships for the “Black Mamba” in 2009 and 2010 as well as an MVP and the second highest scoring game in NBA history (81). Yes, Kobe is a top 10 player of all time, yes he was an usher into the current era of basketball as we know it now. Yes, he is the closest thing to Jordan (from a competitive spirit standpoint) since MJ left the game for good. And no, he will probably never return to the court after Wednesday, enjoy him one more time, NBA fans.
Don’t Like: The Bulls, a mess
The Chicago Bulls have missed the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons, dating back to the campaign before Derrick Rose got there. With essentially the same cast of characters coming out for this season and two legitimate all-star caliber players in Jimmy Butler and Pau Gasol, it is a wonder that a team that is that stacked with talent can’t beat out a team like the Pacers or the Pistons for a spot in the playoffs. With the Bulls obviously switching things up this past off season with the edition of Fred Hoiberg, it’s interesting to see if Chicago will stick with their new coach beyond this year.
Don’t Like: The Rockets possibly missing the playoffs
Talk about another team that is a major disappointment. The one thing that needs to be looked at here is that this Rockets team was on the brink of going to the Finals just one year ago. The other thing is that according to most, they were supposed to have gotten better this off season with the addition of Ty Lawson. Now that Lawson is no longer with the team, they have welcomed misfits Josh Smith and Michael Beasley. Simply put, James Harden might not be the kind of alpha dog player that would equate to wins each season that many believe him to be. Simply having him on the team should equate to at least playoff appearances, and that does not seem to be the case currently.
1) Golden State Warriors–A chance to put their name in the history books on Wednesday is the final piece for the Warriors’ puzzle, they have already clinched the conference.
2) San Antonio Spurs–With their loss to the Warriors on Sunday, there is still yet to be a team that goes completely undefeated at home in NBA history.
3) Cleveland Cavaliers–Two straight losses has made things interesting at the top of the Eastern Conference leaderboards as the Cavs still have yet to clinch the conference.
4) Oklahoma City Thunder–With the third seed in the conference being locked up for the last two weeks, the Thunder have been resting the majority of their players for the past weeks as they look ahead to a likely matchup with the Grizzlies in the first round.
5) Toronto Raptors–Winners of two straight, Toronto will likely finish as the second seed in the conference and the pressure of finally winning a playoff series will begin.
6) Los Angeles Clippers–Blake Griffin has looked a bit rusty but that has not stopped the Clippers from winning a league best five games in a row, after snapping the Mavs’ six-game win streak on Sunday.
7) Atlanta Hawks–With all the talk of the Cavs just walking their way into the Finals this year, the Hawks have been sorely underrated, especially considering this team has already been to the ECF last year.
8) Boston Celtics–The Celtics are hungry for home court advantage, they will more than likely be taking on the Heat in the post season, with the home team yet to be decided.
9) Miami Heat–Hassan Whiteside has found his way back into the starting lineup after being benched following a comeback from injury earlier this year.
10) Charlotte Hornets–The Hornets are a real sleeper, in my opinion, to get past the first round in the playoffs, especially is Kemba Walker is going to score at a clip like he is currently on right now.
Be sure to check next week, same time, and same place, for the next installment of the NBA Column.
Albert Luna may be reached at Aluna32@NMSU.edu
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