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).

content%3A%2F%2Fmedia%2Fexternal%2Fimages%2Fmedia%2F427.jpeg

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.

Golden State Warriors: 2018 NBA Champions

The Golden State Warriors are back-to-back NBA Champions, with Kevin Durant winning his second Finals MVP award.

There was little doubt coming into these Finals that the Golden State Warriors were a better team than the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Dubs swept the Cavs, celebrating their victory after game four in Cleveland last night.

Kevin Durant was a monster in the Finals averaging 29 points, 11 boards, 7.5 assists, and 2.3 blocks while shooting 53 percent from the field. His game three propelled his selection for the award, as he shouldered the load in the victory with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson struggling with their shots.

Former Finals MVP Andre Iguodala provided a spark off the bench in his two games back from injury. For the Playoffs, Steph Curry average 25 per game, Thompson about 20, and Durant 29. Draymond Green nearly average a Playoff triple-double with (approximately) a 11/11/8 line to go with 2 steals and 1.5 blocks.

The is Head Coach Steve Kerr's third championship coaching after winning five as a player.

The Cavaliers' side of things

In this series, LeBron James averaged 34/8.5/10 to go with a steal and a block while shooting 53 percent from the field and 84 percent from the stripe.

Interestingly, LeBron had a brace on his shooting hand in his last interview. Reports say that he injured it punching something after the frustrating game one loss. If true, this is a very disappointing move by James. Emotion cannot come before team success.

The extent of the injury is unknown, but it is tough to deny how banged up he was. The apparent hand injury, a few pokes in the eye, an ankle tweak, and the most minutes played in the NBA this season takes their toll.

Kevin Love was the only other Cavalier to average double-digit points in the series, averaging 19 and 11. The rest of the Cavs either were not used properly or just, well, stunk.

End of an interesting NBA season

It was assumed by most that the winner from the Western Conference would handle any team out of the East. The Warriors and Houston Rockets were on a different level than any other teams this year.

A fourth installment of Warriors vs. Cavaliers was not what many fans might have wished for. Really though, that just shows how spoiled we are by today's stars. The Finals gave us one of the best teams of all-time facing off against one of the best players of all-time.

This season was filled with interesting new squad compilations and a new crop of future stars. The NBA is still going very, very strong.

Now begins the offseason. The draft, free agency (that includes LeBron James), Olympics prep, and then Summer League await. Stay tuned to The Basketball Movement for all of the continued coverage!

All stats from BasketballReference.com