NBA 2017/18: 5 things we learned last week

As the regular season comes to a close, we take a look at what we learned last week as some rookies stood up, stars saw the surgery table, and old faces were rehired

(Photo Credit: Erik Drost)

  1. 1 Ben Simmons superstar potential has – somehow – been understated

    There have been lingering doubts about Ben Simmons, despite his impressive numbers and flashy array of passing. Not a natural scorer outside the paint, thanks to the lack of a jump shot, many thought it’s Joel Embiid’s presence that’s been more crucial to the 76ers unexpected success. 

    However the Philly win streak sits at 14 games now, and that’s with Embiid missing the last 6 of those games, proving Simmons star talent. Since Embiid went under the knife for a fractured orbital bone in his face, Simmons has averaged 17.8 points, 10 rebounds and 10.2 rebounds and that streak’s putting the finishing touches on his Rookie of the Year candidacy.

  2. 2 It’s going to be a hectic finish to the regular season in the West

    As of Sunday night, there are five teams fighting for the last four playoff spots. The Pelicans, Spurs, and Thunder are on 46 wins, while the Timberwolves and Nuggets sit on 45 wins. It will come down to tiebreakers at the least as the last three days of the season will play host to some super tense basketball. 

    The current situation is thanks to some over-performing teams like the Nuggets and Pelicans turning it on, and some other teams like the Thunder under-performing. However we got here, it will be can’t miss television.

  3. 3 Second chances do exist in basketball

    It was hard to see a path for Mitch Kupchak in basketball again when he left (read: was fired from) the Los Angeles Lakers. While he oversaw a successful period with several championships early in his reign, his end was only spectacular for some hilariously poor GM decisions–overpaying Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng in 2016 was among the worst moves in a free agency period punctuated by poor decisions. 

    Michael Jordan has hired Kupchak as the new Hornets GM, and will hope for less of that; the Hornets’ books are enough of a mess already. Kupchak won’t have much salary to work with, and the only star on the books is Kemba Walker; from that perspective, he can’t really make things any worse at least.

  4. 4 Celtics running out of gas?

    Many had the Celtics pegged for a .500 record when Gordon Hayward went down with an injury on opening night. The fact they’ve been so successful this year is a testament to Brad Stevens’s coaching genius and Kyrie Irving’s leadership. 

    But Irving’s season-ending injury means they’re unlikely to last long in the playoffs. Playoff basketball is about having the best player on the court; while they have fantastic supplementary talent and future stars, they’re going to be sitting ducks for whichever team lucks into the seventh seed.

  5. 5 The regular season isn’t that fun; thank god the playoffs are here.

    Around halfway through an 82 game season the games, kind of, seem to… blur. It’s a long season, and in a league with an extraordinary amount of tanking, it’s hard to be excited about every single game. It’s nice to be on the cusp of the playoffs and have games with stakes attached coming up soon. 

    Sports are inherently more watchable when the games matter and this season has at times felt like it mattered less than others. We’re all waiting around for that blockbuster conference finals between the Rockets and Warriors, to see if the Raptors can finally turn it on in the playoffs, if LeBron can reach a record 8th straight NBA Finals; we’re all licking our lips at the idea that that time is finally here.

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