The NBA playoffs are fast approaching and I am so excited to be here again talking hoops!! Here is what I have for you this week!!
Best Games to Watch This Week
Monday March 12: San Antonio Spurs at the Houston Rockets. The Rockets and the Spurs. Two playoff teams squaring off in March. Great way to begin the week!!
Tuesday March 13: Indiana Pacers at the Philadelphia 76ers. Two young, surprising playoff teams in a game with Eastern Conference seeding implications and possible first-round playoff preview.
Wednesday March 14: Washington Wizards at the Boston Celtics. Washington would like home court advantage in the first round and beating the Celtics would be very helpful in making that happen.
Thursday March 15: Cleveland Cavaliers at the Portland Trail Blazers. The Trail Blazers have a great chance of winning the Northwest Division. A win over the Cavaliers would maybe put some distance between them and the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Friday March 16: Los Angeles Clippers at the Oklahoma City Thunder. Western conference rivals with maybe the Clippers playing spoiler and knocking the Thunder out of the top eight? Too good to pass up!
Saturday March 17: Minnesota Timberwolves at the Spurs. Depending on where they are at in the standings, this might be a must-win game for both teams and a great way to spend a Saturday night.
Sunday March 18: Thunder at the Toronto Raptors. This is a 1 pm start and the Thunder might need a win to stay in the playoff hunt, whereas the Raptors would LOVE to be the top seed in the East.
Playoff Bubble Teams with the Best Schedules
As we enter week 22, there are four teams outside of the top eight seeds with a realistic chance at reaching the playoffs.
As you can see, the Detroit Pistons, Charlotte Hornets and Utah Jazz each have more games against below .500 teams than above .500 teams.
Detroit is a horrible team on the road. Going 9-22 on the road this season makes what should be an encouraging finish to the schedule that much more difficult as six of their nine remaining nine games against losing teams are on the road.
The Hornets have been great against losing teams (16-6) but abysmal against teams with a winning record (12-31). The Hornets are barely above .500 at home (18-16) and considerably worse on the road (10-21). With six of their eight remaining games on the road against losing teams, it will take some work and a bit of luck for the Hornets to make the playoffs.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers are just 11-23 against teams with winning records. With 15 of their remaining 18 games against above-.500 teams, it would take a monumental effort for the Clippers to reach the playoffs. Sorry, Clips fans, but it ain’t happening this season.
The Jazz have a nice schedule with nine of their last 15 games at home and seven of those home games against losing teams. The Jazz are 21-11 at home and 14-7 against losing teams. If there is a team in the West able to break through and reach a playoff berth, I think it might be the Jazz.
NBA Coaches on the Hot Seat
Last offseason, not one single NBA coach lost their job. This season, we’ve already seen three NBA coaches fired during the season and maybe more to follow this summer. Here are five head coaches I see possibly getting the ax at season’s end.
Clifford has compiled a less than impressive 188-207 record with just two playoff appearances (2014, 2016) during his five seasons as head coach of the Charlotte Hornets. Clifford still has one more season left on his contract. Even though Hornets vice chairman Curtis Polk claims to expect Clifford back next season, the Hornets are too darn talented to play so poorly. Someone has to take the fall for this. I think it will be Clifford.
Stan Van Gundy
Van Gundy claims he isn’t worried at all about his job. Detroit Pistons Owner Tom Gores calls the losing “unacceptable” but he claims “he’s not giving up on Stan.” Either way, after nearly four complete seasons, Van Gundy is 143-169 with just one playoff berth and it is unacceptable for a winning organization like the Pistons. As President of Basketball Operations, Van Gundy has given a large contract to Reggie Jackson that didn’t exactly work out, not to mention the trade he made for Blake Griffin that also hasn’t exactly worked out either. I think beginning in April, he will have plenty of time to enjoy the financial fruits of coaching in the NBA.
Being the head coach of the New York Knicks has to be the most difficult job in the NBA. They have a dimwit for an owner, set the organization back 20 years by hiring basketball legend Isiah Thomas and Phil Jackson, and have had six head coaches in 12 seasons. Hornacek is number 13, in his second season as head coach, and I suspect this season will be his last. As a Knicks fan, I consider this a mercy killing as none of the Knicks failures can or should be attributed to Hornacek.
The Oklahoma City Thunder have the third highest payroll in the League. This is also the third different roster Donovan has tried to win within his three seasons as head coach. The poorly constructed Thunder roster has nothing whatsoever to do with Donovan, but in the world of the NBA, it’s easier to replace the coach than it is to fire the GM or trade away their star PG Russell Westbrook. Especially now that they have a “big three” who could easily miss the playoffs. Either way you slice it, the Thunder have underachieved and when that happens the coach usually gets the ax.
The Orlando Magic have been a mess the four seasons prior to hiring Vogel; now make that six as to date the Magic are 49-99 during the Vogel era. To be fair, the Magic have had their share of injuries this season with both Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon each missing a third of the season, so it hasn’t been very easy to succeed in Orlando. There haven’t been any concrete rumors, but when a President of Basketball Operations says he is going to look at the entire roster and he has close ties to a rumored coach, don’t be surprised if the Magic cut ties with Vogel this offseason.
NBA Most Improved Award
The NBA Most Improved Player Award is one of the most difficult to gauge; how the voters measure improvement is a mystery to me. With that being said, this season seems to be different, and there appear to be three players who have dramatically improved from last season.
The Orlando Magic had high hopes when they made Oladipo the second overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. Actually, the player they envisioned Oladipo being arrived five seasons later wearing an Indiana Pacers uniform. Oladipo is currently outproducing his career numbers in every scoring category, INCLUDING on the defensive end. Oladipo should be the frontrunner for the award this season.
Not many NBA players can say they’ve had a dramatic improvement in their 13th season but Williams can. Williams is also having the year of his life and has outproduced his career numbers straight across the board and that includes on the defensive end of the court. Okay, he’s not going to be confused with Kawhi Leonard but he is trying. If Williams doesn’t win the 6th Man of the Year Award, he can make a serious claim as the most improved.
When you talk about most improved, Boston Celtics shooting guard Jaylen Brown had better come up. He has raised his level of play exponentially and is a big reason why the Celtics didn’t fold after Gordon Hayward was lost for the season. His current production is ahead of his career numbers, including on the defensive end. While he probably won’t win the award, he should at least garner plenty of votes!
Who would you vote for Most Improved Player?
This poll is closed
Enjoy the NBA this week!