Daily Predictions – Thursday February 22

NBA

Washington 110

Cleveland 118 《 (-5.5)

WIZARDS 110-103

———–

Los Angeles Clippers 109 《 (+11)

Golden State 117

WARRIORS 134-127

———

Record: 26-11 (17-6-1)

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NBA Records at the Break

Best of the Best

1. Rockets 44-13

2. Warriors 44-14

Golden State lost a tough game in Portland to allow Houston to claim the top spot going into the All-Star break, setting up a tight race down the stretch at the top. Opening night could come back to haunt the Warriors if this comes down to a Game 7–the Rockets beat the Warriors by one in Oakland and will own the tie-break after spliting two other games in Houston.

Top of the East

3. Raptors 41-16

4. Celtics 40-19

5. Cavaliers 34-22

LeBron James just confirmed his status as the best player in the world after winning All-Star Game MVP. The King’s team are still favorites to make the Finals from the East, even as the third seed, and will be rejuvenated by their deadline deals and the break. Toronto and Boston are not just battling for home-court but mostly to postpone a series with Cleveland and an easier path through the playoffs.

Home Cooking

6. Spurs 35-24

7. Timberwolves 36-25

The upstart T’Wolves have mixed young talent with veteran stability to challenge San Antonio for third position in the West. The Spurs have struggled to find consistency without Kawhi Leonard, going 10-12 in 2018 and 1-5 heading into the break.

Eastern Contenders

8. Wizards 33-24

9. Pacers 33-25

10. Bucks 32-25

John Wall is out for Washington as they try to hold off Indiana and Milwaukee for home-court in the first round. Meanwhile, the Bucks lost at home to the Nuggets in the last game before All-Star weekend, dropping them from four to six in the East, which would set them up with Cleveland in Round 1. This has yet to be settled with five games remaining between the three teams; Milwaukee host the Wizards before playing Indiana twice over the next fortnight, and the Pacers go to Washington twice after having lost to the Wizards at home.

NorthWest Parity

11. Thunder 33-26

12. Trail Blazers 32-26

13. Nuggets 32-26

It’s likely there will be four playoffs teams from this division and the Jazz are not completely out of the picture yet, currently on an eleven game winning streak. The Wolves seem to have separated from the pack, but every team here is capable of going on a long run and doing damage in the playoffs.

Upset Alert

14. 76ers 30-25

Philadelphia are a dangerous seventh seed and can push Toronto or Boston in a series, where the extra rest will play to their advantage. The 76ers are 27-17 when Embiid plays and 3-8 without him–more specifically, Philly split two games apiece against the Celtics and Raptors with Embiid, and 0-3 against those two opponents without him.

LIFO (Last In First Out)

15. Pelicans 31-26

16. Clippers 30-26

17. Jazz 30-28

18. Heat 30-28

New Orleans and Los Angeles both made moves at the trade deadline to make a playoff run–the Clips have won five out of the last six, while the Pels have so far struggled to find their form with DeMarcus Cousins out. Utah are the hottest team in the NBA and of their 24 games remaining, fourteen are at home and only eleven against playoff teams. The prize for this is probably getting swept by the Rockets or Warriors in the first round. Miami went 18-8 starting December 9, only to finish 1-7 in the last eight games and lose all momentum going into the last 24 games. The Pistons are unlikely to challenge, allowing the Heat to hold on to the eighth spot.

Purgatory

19. Pistons 28-29

20. Hornets 24-33

Detroit are 1-4 since the trade deadline, and have struggled to 9-17 on the road. With fifteen games away from home remaining, it will be nearly impossible to make the playoffs at this point and no chance at a top draft pick. Charlotte are 9-18 on the road and have fourteen road games left on their schedule, leading to a slow and painful end to their season.

Big Market Crash

21. Lakers 23-34

22. Knicks 23-36

23. Bulls 20-37

The three biggest NBA markets are watching their teams unravel as the season comes to a close, and not likely a top-5 pick for any of these teams to show for missing the playoffs.

Chase for #1 Pick

24. Nets 19-40

25. Grizzlies 18-38

26. Kings 18-39

27. Magic 18-39

28. Mavericks 18-40

29. Suns 18-41

30. Hawks 18-41

Six teams with eighteen wins and the Nets right off the pace at 19-40, only one game away from the worst record–we have a deep race for NBA futility.

2018 NBA All-Star Game Scores

LeBron James 25.7

DeMar DeRozen 19.2

Kevin Durant 18.9

Kyle Lowry 18.7

Joel Embiid 18.5

Damien Lillard 17.3

Karl Anthony-Towns 15.7

Paul George 14.4

Kyrie Irving 12.6

Andre Drummond 12.1

Russell Westbrook 11.7

Klay Thompson 11.1

Giannis Antetokounmpo 10.1

Draymond Green 9.9

Victor Oladipo 9.1

Brasdley Beal 8.6

Anthony Davis 8.0

Al Horford 7.9

Kemba Walker 7.7

James Harden 7.1

Stephen Curry 3.9

Goran Dragic 2.0

LaMarcus Aldridge 0.0

Jimmy Butler DNP

Trade Deadline Possibilities

With less than 24 hours until the trade deadline, we take a look at what could happen:

Who wouldn’t trade for LeBron?

Cleveland send LeBron James to San Antonio, who send Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker to New Orleans, who send Anthony Davis and Ian Clark to the Cavaliers and Rajon Rondo to the Spurs.

Why Cleveland does it: Dan Gilbert and his front office have been tip-toeing around LeBron his entire Cavs career and won’t want to see James leave again in free agency while getting nothing back. This time they can get the fourth-most productive player (8.1 Win Shares) and the stability of a long-term contract the front office couldn’t get James to agree with. James needs to waive his no-trade clause, which he says he won’t, but maybe he can be enticed to work with Gregg Popovich and the only organization that can match James in rings since he entered the League.

Why San Antonio does it: uncertainty surrounding Leonard’s quad injury and whether he can return to past form would lead the Spurs to make a deal for the best player in the world. Rondo is still an elite point guard in the right circumstances, and this environment would be ripe for him to thrive like he did in Boston. Pop can charm James into signing with the Spurs long-term and hope the Pels waive Parker so he can retire with the Spurs.

Why New Orleans does it: five seasons led by Davis and zero playoff wins to show for it. The Pels are currently hanging on to the eighth playoff spot with DeMarcus Cousins out and coming off the books. AD’s extension could pay him more than $80 million over the next three years while Leonard has next year and a player option in 2019-20 for $20.1 million that he may want to explore on the open market. This gives the front office a shorter timeline and major upside if Leonard comes back to Finals MVP form next year.

Cavaliers should trade for DeAndre Jordan

All reports out of Cleveland indicate the Cavs are desperately in need of a major change since their offseason moves are not working out leading up to the trade deadline. So much has been put on Isaiah Thomas not playing up to the standard Kyrie Irving set at the point guard position, maybe it is time for Cleveland to cut their losses on the short-lived (14-game) IT Experiment and send both pieces from the Celtics trade, Thomas and Jae Crowder, plus Channing Frye (an expiring $7.4 million contract) and a lower cost salary in Cedi Osman (2-years, $5.7 million) to the Los Angeles Clippers for Jordan and Patrick Beverley and not disrupt their championship core further.

Jordan answers a question at center and allows Love to play off the block when he is back from injury. Tristan Thompson can start at power forward until then on a strong defensive frontcourt and then backup Jordan at center when Love returns. Beverley gives the Cavs a gritty point guard with playoff experience and has outplayed Thomas so far this season–and with Thomas looking for a big raise this summer, Beverley offers a more stable option under contract through next season at $5.0 million. The scoring load would increase for James, Smith, Wade and especially Love on his return to fitness unless they move for another scoring option meanwhile, but Jordan seems like a nice fit alongside the two “non-conventional” bigs in Love and Thompson.