NBA Notebook: Nuggets are thriving without Jamal Murray
The 2020-21 NBA season is rapidly coming to a close, but there's still plenty to play for as teams jockey for playoff positioning.
Let’s take a look at the top stories from around the league this week in our latest edition of the NBA Notebook.
The Nuggets are Surging
The Denver Nuggets lost All-Star point guard Jamal Murray to a torn ACL in mid-April. It was a devastating loss, and most pundits expected Denver would go into a tailspin. However, the opposite has been true.
The Nuggets have now won 10 of their 12 games since the injury, and while their odds may not reflect it, Denver is still a championship contender.
NBA Championship 2020/2021
Mon, August 30 2021, 11:57 PM
Los Angeles Lakers
Los Angeles Clippers
The Nuggets have the best player in the league today with Nikola Jokic, a bona fide emerging star in Michael Porter Jr., and a stellar third option in midseason acquisition Aaron Gordon. Guards Monte Morris and Will Barton should also return to the court soon. Add it all up and you have a team equipped to make a deep postseason run.
LeBron is Back... sort of
LeBron James is back on the court and while he is already making LeBron-esque impacts on the stat line, he has admitted he is likely never going to be 100% again. While intuitively every basketball fan knew this was likely, it will be something to watch as the Los Angeles Lakers attempt to defend their championship.
LeBron James on coming back: "Getting back to 100 percent is impossible. I don't think I'll get back to 100 percent in my career."— Ryan Ward (@RyanWardLA) May 1, 2021
The Lakers hold a tenuous lead on the critical sixth-seed, and with the Portland Trail Blazers streaking they may not sustain it. James will undoubtedly be eased back into full rotation minutes for the conclusion of the regular season to give him ample time to get back into postseason playing shape, but the Lakers also don’t want to be forced into a play-in tournament.
As Frank Vogel also juggles the return of Anthony Davis and the dynamics of his two stars’ playing styles in conjunction with Andre Drummond, the Lakers have more questions than answers here in early May.
The Lakers are still the second favorites to win the 2021 NBA Championship at +375, but it might be time to start fading L.A. given the team's many concerns.
Where do the Pelicans turn next?
The New Orleans Pelicans have, without a doubt, the NBA's sophomore of the year in Zion Williamson. The high-flying North Carolina native was a high school star, then a college star, and now an NBA star, and he brings a unique, powerful style of play unlike anyone else in the Association. He is averaging 27.0 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game, and scores his points in the paint at a rate not seen since prime 2001 Shaquille O’Neal.
The Pelicans have some solid complimentary pieces in Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram as well, but at 30-36, and 11th in the Western Conference, it's unlikely they'll even make the postseason play-in tournament.
Is it time for the Pelicans to blow up the rock on which they sit and rebuild things, or can they add a piece or two through free agency and the draft? New Orleans has one of the most truly special players in the league in Williamson, but it's become abundantly clear that they're wasting his talent.
Is the Eastern Conference actually Good Again?
It has been a long time since the Eastern Conference playoffs were really entertaining and competitive from start to finish, but that could change in 2021. The Brooklyn Nets are the deserved favorites, but the Philadelphia 76ers currently hold the top seed and may be ready to take the next step. The Milwaukee Bucks have the league's reigning two-time MVP, while the Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, and Washington Wizards are surging. The Atlanta Hawks are even playing well, and sit at 20-11 since Nate McMillan took over.
Eastern Conference Winner 2020/2021
Mon, August 30 2021, 11:58 PM
New York Knicks
The Eastern Conference is playing good basketball, and is arguably just as deep - if not deeper - than the West. It's a long overdue development, and one that has to make all NBA fans excited as we accelerate towards the playoffs.