It’s Christmas time in the NBA! As many of us know, this is where the season really starts to get going.
For the first time this season, LeBron James will be facing the Golden State Warriors as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. We also have other interesting games taking place throughout Christmas.
Here’s the Christmas Schedule (Eastern Time)
Before we jump ahead to those games, let’s take a look at where each team stands in the playoff race compared to last time. We also have another trade to announce in case you missed it.The trade has finally been done after the wrong people were involved. It was a trade sending Trevor Ariza from the Suns, where he had signed in the offseason, to the Washington Wizards. The final trade included the Wizards sending Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers to the Suns.
There has also been a lot of talk about whether LeBron James and Anthony Davis will team up. The Pelicans have openly refused to trade Davis, but James is focused on the summer where Davis and several other NBA stars will be available. After their game against each other this past Friday, James and Davis went for dinner. Maybe something is already in the works. As a Lakers fan, I can’t wait! Fourth Quarter Sports’ Jon Geib has broken down what might happen for the Lakers and Davis here.
Let’s focus on the standings now. As you will see in the previous article, the top five teams from each conference have remained the same. The bottom three spots in the Western Conference have moved around frequently. We should expect to see it like this all season long.
1. Raptors (25-10) 1. Nuggets (21-10)
2. Bucks (22-10) 2. Warriors (23-11)
3. Pacers (22-12) 3. Thunders (21-11)
4. 76ers (22-12) 4. Lakers (19-14)
5. Celtics (19-13) 5. Blazers (19-14)
6. Hornets (16-16) 6. Clippers (19-14)
7. Heat (16-16) 7. Kings (18-15)
8. Pistons (15-16) 8. Rockets (17-15)
9. Nets (16-19) 9. Spurs (18-16)
10. Magic (14-18) 10. Grizzlies (17-16)
First, we have the cold teams, all of which have taken a huge drop with consecutive losses.
The Pistons were once a top three team in the East, but have since dropped to the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference. The Pistons went from being 13-5 to 15-16 in the last ten games. We could only hope the Pistons find a way to turn things back around into their favor. Like maybe find help for Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond. Clearly, this isn’t going anywhere.
The Mavericks have been able to find their way into the Western Conference playoff picture. They were briefly in the playoffs, but have since lost six of their last 10 games. What we all thought was a good thing, looks even worse now! Since the return of Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavericks haven’t been the same. The potential rookie of the year, Luka Doncic, will look to continue to improve himself and help this Mavericks team make it back to the playoffs after missing out the past two seasons.
The Wizards have traded away Kelly Oubre Jr. for Trevor Ariza in hopes that Ariza will help them turn the season around. They are currently 13-21 and in 11th place in the East standings after taking another loss to the Indiana Pacers. The Wizards have lost seven of their last 10 games. Fortunately, they are only 3.5 games out of the 8th spot right now. Hopefully, they can start to win games. Or maybe the Wizards organization should listen to what everyone wants. That is to break up the duo of John Wall and Bradley Beal because it’s not working!
The Grizzlies found themselves on the bad side of things in the month of December, as they have gone 4-8 thus far. They have also lost five of their last six games, which has pushed them from the 5th seed all the way down to the 10th spot. As players start to get healthier and their schedule gets more favorable, the Grizzlies will be fighting for one of the last playoff spots, but they need to find ways to win themselves back in.
The Heat are currently on a five-game winning streak and in the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference. The last time the Heat lost was when they got blown out of Utah by the Jazz. That game came after the Heat and Dwyane Wade faced the Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron James for the last time ever. Read about it here! The Heat have been lighting it up lately. They could continue to put a run of wins together, even if they do lose their next game against the Toronto Raptors on the day after Christmas. I mean, I wouldn’t mind winning 10 out of the last 11 games. They have already won seven of the last 10 games and are looking to do more.
San Antonio Spurs:
The Spurs are still fighting their way into the playoffs. We will see them, along with several teams in this season-long battle, but they were fortunate enough to have been able to win seven of their last 10 games. This isn’t a big surprise though. Let’s not forget the Spurs’ head coach is still Gregg Popovich. They will be a tough team to keep out of the playoffs.
The Nuggets continued to be one of the top teams in the league. Yes, that’s right, the Nuggets team that was a win away from the playoffs last year are now the top team in the Western Conference as the standings sit heading into Christmas break. How long do we expect to see the Nuggets as the top in the West? I mean, they are playing great basketball under Nikola Jokic. Let’s not forget that guard Jamal Murray has been having a great season, which makes him a candidate for the most improved player.
Speaking of most improved player, let’s talk about the Pacers and guard Victor Oladipo. The Pacers managed to keep themselves in the race at the top of the Eastern Conference, some of which was without Oladipo. The Pacers have won eight of the last 10 games and have climbed their way up to No. 3 in standings. Can the Pacers turn out to be the best team in the East? They are certainly looking like a team that can be the best, especially if they can remain healthy. Watch out world, Oladipo and the Pacers are coming!
As we continue to see all these teams improve over the next few weeks, let’s take a look at teams who should be in the playoff picture next time around.
Teams to Watch:
The Jazz are having a really tough time repeating what they were able to do last year, but they have shown from flashes for brighter things to come. If C Ruby Gobert and G Donovan Mitchell can continue to find ways to win games, we could very well see the Jazz get into the playoff picture instead of hoping for a chance.
Don’t look now, but the Nets could surprise us all and make the playoffs. Yes, a team that has been one of the worst in the last three seasons can see themselves in the playoffs. They don’t have the record they want, but winning seven of their last eight games is a huge step in the right direction. Can they continue finding ways to win games and sneak their way into the Eastern playoff standings?
Houston, we have a problem! As soon as they fight their way back into the playoffs, they get hit by the injury bug again. That’s what’s been holding them back all season long. They are currently in the playoffs, but let’s see how this Chris Paul injury impacts them this time. We saw what it did in the Western Conference Finals last year, but I’m not sure if they can make it that far this year. Let’s watch and see this one play out.
Magic, oh mighty Magic! What once looked like a team that could be a lock for the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, now looks like a team that may be missing out on a great season. Not sure if they are to confident in themselves yet, but they could get themselves back into playoff position soon.
And with that, I wanted to remind everyone that we are now at the most wonderful time of the year, which means we are making a list and checking it twice! Santa Claus is coming to town!
Or to your favorite teams’ town. We at Fourth Quarter Sports have taken time out of our holiday to give you all a list of “naughty or nice” things from each NBA team. We have also decided to do the same for the NFL and hope that you all can enjoy them on Christmas day. Also, don’t forget to leave out the milk and cookies for Santa and his reindeers, because he knows when you’ve been bad or good!