The second half of the NBA season is about to be underway and there are many questions that have yet to be answered. The first half of the season gave us jut a glimpse of what’s to come, but the games have yet to be played. The various scenarios that could occur during the final stretch of the season brings a lot of intrigue.
1. Who will win the Eastern Conference?
The Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat are on a head-on collision course to meet for the second consecutive year in the Eastern Conference Finals. Currently, the Pacers sit atop the standings with a 2.5 game lead over the Heat. Home-court advantage will be crucial, especially since Indiana had to go on the road for Game 7 last year, something they don’t want to do again. The Pacers are 25-3 at home opposed to 15-9 on the road, while the Heat are 20-4 at home and 17-10 away from South Beach. The two biggest questions will be whether or not the Pacers can take the next step and can Dwyane Wade stay healthy and be the player we all know him to be?
2. Who will win the Western Conference?
The Western Conference is just as wild, if not more, than those old western movies. Five teams have a legitimate shot at claiming the crown of the Western Conference. The Oklahoma City Thunder are sitting pretty in first place in the West with a four-game lead over the reigning defending Western Conference champion, San Antonio Spurs. The Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers, and Portland Trailblazers all trail the Thunder by six games. Each team has a legitimate shot at making the NBA Finals, with the Thunder arguably having the best chance of making it to the biggest stage in basketball once they get point guard Russell Westbrook back. The Western Conference matchups, regardless of what they are, will provide some entertaining basketball throughout the playoffs
3. How will the return of Russell Westbrook affect the Thunder moving forward?
Russell Westbrook will be making a return to the Thunder lineup during the second half of the season and that is great news for Oklahoma City. His return is the equivalent of getting a great player at the trade deadline, only without giving up anything. Oklahoma City is 21-4 with Westbrook and 20-8 without him. The big question in this equation is not only how this will affect the Thunder as a whole, but Kevin Durant. Durant has been on an absolute scoring binge since his partner-in-crime went down. Will Westbrook take ill-advised shots, taking them away for Durant or will he look to get KD the ball just as much? Or, will Durant look to get Westbrook going more so he can get right back into the thick of things?
4. Who will win MVP: Kevin Durant or LeBron James?
LeBron James and Kevin Durant are the two best basketball players in the game today. Both players possess special abilities that allow them to flourish on a basketball floor. The first half of the season saw Durant and James put up outstanding numbers. If the season ended today, the MPV award would likely go to Durant as he has put up scorching numbers, including leading the league in scoring (31.5 point per game) and leading his team to the best record in the West without Westbrook for half the season. James, on the other hand, has had a typical LeBron James season. He averages 26.5 points per game, 6.9 rebounds per game, and 7.2 assists per game, while shooting 57% from the field. James felt some type of way after people were declaring Durant the first half MVP, so LeBron will look to make his case even more for MVP over the next 31 games.
5. Will the Knicks move Carmelo Anthony before Thursday’s trade deadline?
The New York Knicks are in a dilemma in regards to Carmelo Anthony. Melo has expressed that he would like to test free agency this summer, which raises a few eyebrows in the Knicks’ front office. Anthony is having a sensational season while doing all he can to keep the Knicks somewhat afloat, but his supporting cast around him hinders the team’s chance at success. The Knicks currently sit 2.5 games behind the Charlotte Bobcats for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. Anthony said over the weekend that he would be willing to take less money from the Knicks and help attract big-name free agents. If Carmelo does decide to test the free agent market and go to another team, the Knicks will get nothing in return. If New York doesn’t feel they can retain Melo, they should consider the option of trading him before the deadline, so they get at least something rather than nothing.