The bad news for NBA fans is there’s just one game left on the regular season slate. The great news is the playoffs are on the horizon. But before we focus on the postseason, there are few storylines worth reflecting on.
So, without further delay, here are the five biggest surprises from the 2018-19 campaign.
5. LeBron James posted a career low in games played
The Lakers hoped to be a playoff team when they signed LeBron James during the offseason. Through the first 34 games, that is exactly what they were. With a 20-14 record, the Lakers had the fourth-best mark in the Western Conference.
Unfortunately, everything went downhill as James suffered a groin injury on Dec. 25. On one hand, the Lakers easily defeated the Golden State Warriors 127-101. On the other hand, James would miss 17 straight games, with the Lakers managing to win only six of those contests. This all but negated the team’s decent start.
With the playoffs no longer an option, the Lakers decided to remove James from the rotation down the stretch. All in all, James only suited up in 55 games for the Lakers this season, marking the least amount of games he’s played in his 16-year career.
4. Indiana Pacers remain competitive despite losing Victor Oladipo
Back in late January, the Indiana Pacers had the third best record in the Eastern Conference. They were also one of the best defensive teams in the league. However, that all changed when Victor Oladipo was lost to a season-ending injury.
Initially, Indiana didn’t miss a beat, winning eight of their next 13 games. Down the stretch though, victories were hard to come by. In fact, the Pacers dropped nine of their last 12 games, locking them in the No. 5 spot. Yes, it is difficult to foresee them getting out of the first round of the postseason. At the same time, the Pacers deserve credit for remaining afloat despite the absence of their superstar.
3. Brooklyn Nets are back in the playoffs
Walk with me down memory lane for a moment. Three years ago, the Nets won just 21 games. Over the next two seasons, they produced just 20 and 28 wins, respectively. With that in mind, it appeared the Nets were at least a few years away from being a playoff contender.
Thanks to the breakout season of D’Angelo Russell, the Nets are in the playoffs for the first time since 2014-15. Russell set career highs in scoring (21.1 points per game) and assists (7.0 per contest). He also shot a
2. Denver Nuggets making some noise out West
The Nuggets kicked off the season with an impressive nine wins in their first 10 games. The question was would they would be able to sustain that hot start. In a word, Absolutely.
Yes, they missed out on having the top seed in the conference. Yes, they have had their fair share of struggles on the road. From a positive perspective, they currently have the second-best record in the Western Conference. They have seven players averaging in double figures. Big man Nikola Jokic is leading the way with averages of 20.2 points and 10.8 boards per outing. It should also be mentioned that he’s averaging 7.4 assists per game, making him one of the more talented centers in the NBA.
If all goes according to plan, the Nuggets could advance as far as the conference finals. Overall, this would be a huge accomplishment for a team that hasn’t been in the postseason since
1. Milwaukee Bucks finish with league’s best record
The Milwaukee Bucks have not had a ton of success over the past few seasons. Sure, they’ve reached the postseason five times over the last decade. The flip side is that they haven’t made it past the first round since 2000-01. This was also the last time the franchise posted 50 wins in a season.
This year though, a completely different narrative has emerged. For starters, thanks to new head coach, Mike Budenholzer, the Bucks are the highest scoring team in the NBA. Not only that, but they are also a top-5 team in offensive and defensive efficiency.
They’ve reached the 60-win plateau for the first time in franchise history. More importantly, they’ve earned homecourt advantage throughout the entire postseason. This is impressive, considering this ball club won just 15 games five seasons ago.
Let us also not forget about the team’s All-Star forward, Giannis Antetokounmpo. He is averaging career highs in points (27.7), rebounds (12.5) and assists (5.9). The Greek Freak is also shooting a career best 57.8 percent from the field. Additionally, Khris Middleton (18.2 points per game) and Eric Bledsoe (15.9 points per outing) have turned in solid seasons as well.
The Warriors are still the favorites to win it all. But if there is any team in the East that can give them a run for their money, it is the Bucks.