Around the NBA: A Playoff picture that excludes LeBron James?

We are in uncharted territory with the NBA season nearing its home stretch. An NBA Playoff picture without LeBron James is difficult to imagine.

Most team have around 20 games to go to wrap up their 2018-19 NBA seasons. 16 of 30 teams get to continue playing into the postseason, so most are fighting for seeding or just to make it in. A few of course are locked in the battle of futility, hoping for little more than improved draft odds.

In the East, there are five teams currently standing head-and-shoulders above the rest. The Bucks and Raptors appear to be all but locked into the one and two seeds. The Pacers are clinging to third, but surely the loss of star Victor Oladipo to injury will catch up to them eventually. Coach Nate McMillan and the Indiana role players still deserve a lot of credit.

One of the most talented rosters on paper, the 76ers will be a contender once the dust settles. The Boston Celtics have had a turbulent season despite maintaining about the same roster that led them near the top of the East last year.

The six seed on down currently have sub .500 records. The Brooklyn Nets have been a pleasant surprise with the Pistons, Hornets, Magic, and Heat in contention. The John Wall-less Wizards are looking like a long-shot.

Wild West as usual

As it often is, the Western Conference seeding race is a tight one. The Golden State Warriors are on top as expected, but have already dropped 19 games. That only puts them 1.5 games ahead of the talented Denver Nuggets. The Nugs have a four game lead over the OKC Thunder; that’s where it starts getting very close.

An underrated Trailblazers squad is clinging to fourth, just ahead of the Rockets, Jazz, Spurs and Clippers. Yes, the Spurs are back again after a slow start to their 2018-19 campaign. Conversely, the Clippers overachieved to start the year and initiated a rebuild despite their success. With LA being a desirable free agent destination, they are hoping they can land a star or two next year.

If the Clippers fall off, that leaves two squads that could possibly take their place. The young, surprisingly good Sacremento Kings or LeBron James’ Los Angeles Lakers.

The Lakers stumbled during LeBron’s longest injury absence of his career. Now that he’s back, he says that he has activated “playoff mode”. That didn’t seem to help them much, as they have suffered some of their ugliest losses of the season since.

LeBron doesn’t just have a playoff streak on the line. LeBron James has been to eight consecutive NBA Finals. Eight. Not having him in the playoff picture at all would be incredibly unusual in this era of NBA basketball. To an extent, he knew what he was signing up for with the young Lakers that added bigger personalities than stars over the offseason. Still wild.

The kicker in all this for the Lakers is there remaining schedule, which is one of the toughest in the Association down the stretch (below, from Basketball Reference).

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There are still five weeks to hammer out the final standings. The current playoff picture is an interesting one, with surprises both inside and outside the top eight squads from each conference.

Keep up with The Basketball Movement as we continue to fill you in on happenings around the NBA.

Team USA mini-camp

This week there has been a three-day Team USA mini-camp for 35 men players interested in competing in the 2020 Olympics.

The 2020 Olympics will be held in Tokyo, Japan and will feature some of the best athletes from around the world. Among those will be the reigning gold-medalist USA basketball team, poised for another gold medal run.

As there are most summers, there is a short camp for team USA basketball. This year's has been held in Las Vegas from July 25-27. Coach Gregg Popovich will be at the helm after Duke University's Mike Krzyzewski stepped down after a long, successful stretch coach team USA.

The roster of players at the camp is 35 strong. Team USA can still add or remove players as it chooses for next year's FIBA World Championship in China or the 2020 Olympics. This means that if they are still up for it, players like LeBron James or Chris Paul could still be added to the trimmed-down roster at a later time despite skipping camp. Given their comparatively advanced age, it could go either way.

A few players had to miss the camp despite being on the roster. Minnesota Timberwolves' Jimmy Butler, had offseason hand surgery and Washington's Bradley Beal had the birth of a child. One interesting absence is Kawhi Leonard, who may not feel like seeing Coach Pop after his falling out with and recent trade from the San Antonio Spurs.

Plenty of teammates are on the roster such as Detroit's Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, Indiana's Victor Oladipo and Myles Turner, OKC's Paul George and Russell Westbrook, and the Warriors' Steph Curry and Kevin Durant. Interesting ex-teammate situations such as Durant and Westbrook abound as well.

The roster at the camp is as follows, per Bleacher Report:

Team USA Roster

Harrison Barnes (Dallas Mavericks)

Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards)

Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns)

Jimmy Butler (Minnesota Timberwolves)

Mike Conley Jr. (Memphis Grizzlies)

DeMarcus Cousins (Golden State Warriors)

Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)

Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans)

DeMar DeRozan (San Antonio Spurs)

Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons)

Kevin Durant (Golden State Warriors)

Paul George (Oklahoma City Thunder)

Eric Gordon (Houston Rockets)

Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors)

Blake Griffin (Detroit Pistons)

James Harden (Houston Rockets)

Tobias Harris (Los Angeles Clippers)

Gordon Hayward (Boston Celtics)

Kyrie Irving (Boston Celtics)

LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers)

DeAndre Jordan (Dallas Mavericks)

Kawhi Leonard (Toronto Raptors)

Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers)

Kevin Love (Cleveland Cavaliers)

Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors)

CJ McCollum (Portland Trail Blazers)

Khris Middleton(Milwaukee Bucks)

Victor Oladipo (Indiana Pacers)

Chris Paul (Houston Rockets)

Isaiah Thomas (Denver Nuggets)

Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors)

Myles Turner (Indiana Pacers)

Kemba Walker (Charlotte Hornets)

John Wall (Washington Wizards)

Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder)

For now, fans will have to wait until the FIBA World Championships next year to see these guys in action together. The closest we'll get until then will be the 2019 All-Star game in which many of these stars will mingle with fellow NBA players from around the globe.

Stick with The Basketball Movement as we follow this and other noteworthy teams, keeping you up-to-date on basketball movement around the world.

Looking ahead at LeBron "Bronny" James Jr. and others

Already in the headlines for obvious reasons, Bronny James Jr. is going to be hyped for many years.

Only 13 years old, LeBron James' son, Bronny James Jr. already has an impressive highlight reel to his name. He is also fresh off a USBA (United States Basketball Association) national title with his AAU team, the Blue Chips. The young phenom raises some questions that likely his Father could best answer; could Bronny and LeBron play in the NBA at the same time?

Before we get ahead of ourselves, not many players make it to the NBA. It is not a given that LeBron's son will make it either. He has good genes, every facility imaginable, and one of the best teachers in the sport available nearly 24/7 though, so his odds are better than most. Especially if he keeps growing (he is 5'10"), his odds are decent. Also, he is only 13. Maybe he will decide he's more into NASCAR... alright, maybe not.

Bronny is a minimum of about 5 years away from being able to be employed by the NBA. In five years, LeBron will be closing in on 39 years old. No player has been playing the amount of minutes LeBron has over the last multiple seasons. If he has any tread left on the tires, you have to think he would love the chance to player either with or against his son.

LeBron's other son, Bryce Maximus is just 11 years old, but shaping up to be an impressive young player as well. It will be interesting as the years go by to see if these kids stick with it and make it to the top.

Some other noteworthy young ballers

A few years older than Bronny, Zaire Wade is a player to watch for as well. Zaire Blessing Dwyane Wade is the son of Kobe Bryant. Wait... alright, maybe not. Dwyane Wade's son, Zaire is 16 years old and already throwing down some impressive jams.

A more recognizable name may be Shareef O'neil. The great Shaquille O'neil's son does not quite have the size of his father. Many colleges would certainly still leave their doors open to the 6'9" 205 lb. forward. Shareef is 18 years old and has shown impressive range on the offensive end of the floor. 

There are of course many current and former noteworthy father-son basketball duos. The above are just a few of the bigger names out there right now. Good genes certainly help, but hard work will be a big determining factor for these (and all) players.

There are more players for basketball fans to keep an eye on than is probably possible. The Basketball Movement will continue to do its best to let you know about big names at every level of the sport, so keep coming back for more!

NBA free agency season

Basketball never sleeps - especially at the pro level. The Finals are over, the draft is done, but the business is still in full swing.

You may have heard that LeBron James has a new home. Well, technically he already had a home in L.A., but you know what I mean. The biggest deal of the Summer came and went with James signing a 4-year, $154M deal with the Lakers.

This is not the first time we have seen LeBron jump ship from Cleveland, though the circumstances are much different. Instead of leaving his hometown via hour-long TV special to create a super team, he quietly joined a young squad. He has also accomplished his goal of brining a championship to the city of Cleveland.

The pieces have likely yet to all fall into place in L.A. Look for DeMarcus Cousins or even Kawhi Leonard to head there to join James. Hilariously, Javale McGee and Lance Stephenson are headed to the Lakeshow as well, already being called the "Meme Team".

All-NBA center Deandre Jordan is headed for a new destination too. He has signed with his hometown Dallas Mavericks after verbally committing a few years back, only to stay put with the Clippers. No hard feelings, apparently.

The next biggest name to move on is Trevor Ariza taking a one-year deal with the Suns, leaving the contending Rockets. Beyond that, most of the other big names are staying put for now.

Players staying put

LeBron is on the move and Kawhi Leonard and DeMarcus Cousins are undecided. Likely the biggest star that is staying put so far is Paul George. Apparently all-in on OKC and Russell Westbrook, George somewhat surprisingly has turned down a chance to move to his hometown of L.A. to play with Bron.

Paul George made the announcement himself at Westbrook's party. (via @GabeIkard) pic.twitter.com/2sxXOK3epA

— SportsCenter(@SportsCenter) July 1, 2018

Kevin Durant and Chris Paul both signed deals to remain with their teams, though it was expected. Nikola Jokic will return to the Nuggets on a five-year, $146M contract.

Enes Kanter, Aaron Gordon, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, J.J. Redick, Jerami Grant, and others have already opted to stay put also.

The landscape of the NBA has changed dramatically already with more excitement coming. With top-five-player potential, Kawhi Leonard would elevate any squad instantly, as would Cousins. Better check in again soon to stay on top of the basketball movement!

The NBA 2K19 cover athlete has been announced

As an athlete, there are opportunities to earn numerous awards. One unofficial accolade is making it on the cover of a video game.

Over the years, it has become difficult to deny that NBA 2K games have lapped the NBA Live series. 2K is the ultimate video game basketball experience, especially with the lack of a NCAA title, NBA Street, or NBA Jam in recent years.

Congratulations to LeBron James for being selected to grace to cover of the next game, NBA 2K19.

James has been on the cover once before - on NBA 2K14 when he was with the Miami Heat. Kevin Durant has also been on twice (2013, 2015), along with Michael Jordan (2011-2012). Allen Iverson was on the first four covers from 2000-2004.

LeBron's age 33 seasons has already proved to be one of his personal best, though his team is currently on the ropes in the NBA Finals.

The cover is different than usual, taking a lot from LeBron's personal brand and the material he often writes on his shoes before games.

When you aren't getting work in with The Basketball Movement, the 2K series is a fun distraction and way to learn about some of the best players in the world. They even have plenty of throwback teams so you can play as some of the greats.

To see the real deal, LeBron and Co. will be back in action Wednesday (6/5/18) for game 3 of the NBA Finals. The game starts at 8:00 PM (CT) on ABC.

NBA Conference Finals will feature two game sevens

Basketball fans are in for a treat as both the Western and Eastern Conference Finals go to game seven.

The NBA regular season has 82 games and each playoff series is best of seven. There has been a lot of basketball played, but it all comes down to one game for the four remaining teams to stay alive.

Last night, the Houston Rockets held their own in Golden State through the first half despite the loss of Chris Paul to injury. The Warriors turned it on in the 3rd quarter and wound up winning easily. Chris Paul's availability for game seven in Houston has been reported as doubtful at best.

In the East, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers have come to life. Turnovers by the young Boston Celtic squad and dominant performances by King James have now led to the game seven showdown in Boston.

When and what to watch for

The Cavs and Celtics face off tonight at 7:30 Central time in the Celtics gym. The Cavaliers appear to have to momentum, as Boston has not looked as sharp in the last few contests.

The defensive and offensive sets that Coach Brad Stevens and the Celtics blitzed the Cavs with early in the series are becoming more predictable. It is difficult to argue the LeBron is a great basketball mind, capable of adjusting to any strategy given a little time.

A win for Cleveland would be LeBron's eighth consecutive trip to the NBA Finals. The Celtics have not made it since the Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett/Ray Allen big three.

Game seven of the Western Conference Finals will be tomorrow night at 8:00 PM Central time in Houston.

The Rockets will have home court advantage, but with Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, and Klay Thompson all looking sharp in game six, it could be a tall task. If Chris Paul cannot go, it will take a herculian effort from James Harden and the Rockets to advance.

Game sevens are as good as it gets for sports fans. These will both be must-see games, so make sure that you do not miss the action!

 

Let's talk about LeBron James

One of the greatest basketball players of all time, LeBron James just keeps doing his thing.

James came into the league out of high school, bringing a ridiculous amount of hype with him. The expectations for LeBron were through the roof, yet somehow, he delivered. Great things were anticipated, but going down as one of the top players of all-time is never a reasonable expectation for any individual.

A one-of-a-kind physical specimen, the league had not seen anything like him since Magic Johnson. For all Johnson's skill, not even he had James' speed and strength.

The ball-handling, passing, athleticism, leadership, defense, basketball I.Q., and improved shooting in a 6-8, 250lb man; his place among the best of all-time is not really up for debate. Where exactly he falls may be, but not his overall basketball greatness.

He isn't done yet

LeBron James entered in the league in 2003, so it feels like he has been around forever. This year is his 15th season. That totals 1,143 regular season games, not to mention 225 playoff contests. How is there still tread on his basketball tires?

The sustained greatness is certainly one of the things that propels the "greatness" conversation. His Cleveland Cavaliers had an up-and-down season, yet are still hanging around in the playoffs. If they go all the way, it will be LeBron's 8th consecutive NBA Finals appearance.

LeBron has owned the Eastern Conference for almost a decade.

Last night, his Cavs, fresh off a seven game series with Indy, beat the 1 seed Raptors in Toronto. It took overtime to do it; 46 minutes and a triple-double from James.

Can he keep it up?

Even with a less-familiar host of teammates than in recent seasons, LeBron is finding a way to get it done. In his age-33 season, he played all 82 games for the first time in his career.

Getting to the Finals will be tougher this year than in any of the previous seven seasons. Once the Eastern team gets there, they will likely earn a date with the Houston Rockets or Golden State Warriors. Maybe not as fun when you think of it that way.

Regardless of how it all shakes out, one thing is certain: LeBron James is a constant, dependable force in the NBA.

He won't be going anywhere for a few years (well, aside from his pending free agency). Appreciate his basketball mastery while you can. He is physically gifted, but there are parts of his game that any player can work to emulate.

Keep a close eye on King James and stay involved with The Basketball Movement to get the most out of your hoops experience.

First round of NBA Playoffs nears its conclusion

The first round of the NBA Playoffs are almost over, save for a pair of exciting game sevens.

All of the first round matchups in the NBA have been decided but two, which will make for some must-see TV. The Western Conference is ready to go, while the matches in the East have yet to be determined. That will change in about 24 hours.

In the West, the 1 and 2 seed teams predictably handled their competition. The Houston Rockets beat the Timberwolves 4-1 and the Golden State Warriors defeated the Spurs 4-0. The rest of the West, who all finished with similar records, had a couple of upsets.

The 4 seeded OKC Thunder fell to the 5 seed Jazz last night to lose the series 4-2. The 6 seed Pelicans had a much more surprising start to their playoffs, sweeping the 3 seed Trailblazers. The New Orleans Pelicans could be an interesting foe for the potentially Steph Curry-less Warriors in the second round.

The beasts of the East

The 1 seed Raptors handled the Wizards 4-2 and the young 3 seed Philly team defeated the Heat 4-1. The other matchups are yet to be decided, coming down to one of the best parts of playoff ball: game sevens.

Tonight, the 2-seed Celtics will try to remain near the top of the food chain despite losing Kyrie Irving to injury. They will face of with Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks at 7:00 PM central on TNT.

LeBron James is looking for his (ridiculous) 8th consecutive Finals appearance. That is in jeopardy as his Cavaliers have been pushed to game 7 by potential Most Improved Player, Victor Oladipo and the Pacers. That game will be on tomorrow at noon central on ABC.

Sit back and enjoy the show.

The Celtics/Bucks game tonight should be a lot of fun. The second round actually tips off tonight as well as Anthony Davis and the Pelicans open their series with the Warriors.

Tomorrow's tilt between the Cavs and Pacers should also be very entertaining as one of the greatest players ever will attempt to build on his legacy. That will conclude the first round of the 2017-18 NBA Playoffs.

A shake-up is always nice, but it also seems a little silly to bet against LeBron James. Enjoy the show and as always, check out the rest of The Basketball Movement blog while you're here!