The best NBA storylines to follow throughout the season originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The NBA season is coming to an end.
With about six weeks left in the regular season, there are plenty of storylines in the league as marquee teams try to push the playoffs and star players adjust to new franchises.
NBC Sports’ Kurt Helin joined Michael Smith and Natalie on Peacock’s “Brother from Another” to discuss key storylines to watch throughout the regular season, including both the playoff and MVP races, Kevin Durant, LeBron James and more.
Here are some of the storylines to keep an eye on…
Will LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers miss the postseason again?
Less than a year ago, LeBron James vowed to never miss the NBA playoffs again.
James was stuck watching the playoffs from home last season after his star-studded Lakers failed to qualify for the postseason or even the play-in. On April 23, James tweeted, “I CAN/WON’T miss the postseason for my career anymore! That hurts. Ok, back to watching those games.”
This tweet has now deleted. And now, just 10 months later, James is in danger of missing the postseason again. He’s done so just four times in the first 19 years of his career, and only once in a row – in his first two seasons in the league. The Lakers are 1.5 games from last place in the play-in with 22 games remaining.
They have won back-to-back since trading Russell Westbrook for D’Angelo Russell (who sprained an ankle in Thursday’s game). They’ve added role players with the acquisitions of Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt and Mo Bamba and have a healthy Anthony Davis back in the herd. We’ll see if that’s enough to get LeBron and the Lakers back into the playoffs.
Who will be NBA MVP?
Only three players in NBA history have won three consecutive MVP awards: Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell and Larry Bird. Nikola Jokic knocks on the door that leads to this exclusive club.
The Denver Nuggets center is in position to win its third straight MVP this season. Jokic is on track to become the first center in NBA history to average a triple-double (24.7 points, 11.6 rebounds and 10.2 assists on Feb. 24) and he has the Nuggets led to the best record in the Western Conference.
In ESPN’s most recent NBA MVP Straw Poll, Jokic received 77 first-place votes and had 913 total points to sit comfortably ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo, who had 11 first-place votes and 552 points. They were followed by Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid (490 points), Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum (410 points) and Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic (218 points).
How will newly added star players affect the Western Conference?
Go west, young man.
That old phrase applied to some of the NBA’s biggest stars at the close of trading. These moves could shift the balance of power in the Western Conference and reverse the superteam trend after dismal failures in Los Angeles and Brooklyn.
Former Net Kevin Durant is reportedly expected to make his Phoenix Suns debut Sunday against the Milwaukee Bucks or Wednesday against the Charlotte Hornets. That leaves Durant and the Suns with less than 20 regular-season games to acclimate ahead of the playoffs, where anything but an NBA Finals appearance will be a disappointment.
Durant’s former Brooklyn teammate Kyrie Irving has gone 3-3 with the Dallas Mavericks since she was traded in early February. Irving and Luka Doncic earned their first win as a tandem on Thursday after losing their first three games side-by-side.
Russell Westbrook will play for his fifth team five years from now when he debuts with the Los Angeles Clippers. At the very least, on this trade, and after being enacted by the Utah Jazz, all he had to do was walk down the Crypto.com Arena floor. But will he help or hurt the Clippers?