Going Into the Final Quarter of the NBA Season…

With a little more than 20 games left to go before the NBA regular season is over it is time to take a look at the stories that are sure to dominate the speculative headlines, features, and blogs.

Who will finish with the best record in the NBA?

The candidates are the Los Angeles Lakers, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Boston Celtics. The Orlando Magic deserve an honorable mention, but now that Jameer Nelson is out for the rest of the season it is just a matter of which round this number three seed in the East loses. Similarly, the addition of Stephon Marbury is sure to ruin the Boston Celtics chance of competing.

That leaves the Cavs and the Lakers. You would think that the Cavs would have the advantage because they have an Eastern Conference-heavy schedule, but the Lakers have a few games with mediocre foes in the Eastern Conference and the dreadful bottom crust of the Western Conference. Pick heads or tails and flip a coin.

Who will win the MVP?

While the Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavs are playing for home court advantage in the NBA Finals, Kobe Bryant and LeBon James will be playing for the MVP. I would put Dwayne Wade, Dwight Howard, and Chris Paul in this conversation, but the reality is that the award is as much dependent on the team’s record as the players’ statistical dominance.

Bryant won last season and the NBA is in a rush to officially crown James king, so this is really LeBron’s to lose. Personally, I think Wade deserves it. He is in the process of taking a lottery-bound team to the playoffs. He is the leading scorer and pretty much the only player on the floor for the Heat worth paying attention to.

On a side note, the Cavs-Heat game on Monday was freaking amazing. LeBron and Wade go for 40 plus each and James seals the game down the stretch. This is comparably to the Jordan-Wilkins games in the 1980s. Don’t know who originally posted it, but this looks like a retrospective of the 1988 slam dunk contest between the two from TNT

Who will make the playoffs, the Phoenix Suns or the Dallas Mavericks?

This is a great story. Dirk and Nash used to be teammates and both teams shut the championship window on themselves. The Mavs did it by trading for Jason Kidd and the Suns by trading for Shaq. The battle for the eighth seed in the Western Conference is between these two broken down teams.

Both teams are fighters though. They are throwing punches instead of pulling them and trying to get into the lottery. I think the loss of Amare for the rest of the season has finally sealed the Suns fate. Without him the Suns are another star short and Nash lost his running, flying power forward.

The Final Standings in the West

The Lakers are going to finish first and the Mavs are going to finish eighth. The rest of the seeds are up for grabs. Right now only two and a half separate the second seed and the seventh seed.

Every one of these teams has fatal flaws. The Spurs are old, the Nuggets have a shoddy interior defense, the Hornets can’t rebound, The Rockets lost McGrady, the Jazz have been battling injuries and poor defense all season, and the Trail Blazers are just young.

I say it ends like this:

2. Denver Nuggets
3. San Antonio Spurs
4. Utah Jazz
5. New Orleans Hornets
6. Houston Rockets
7. Portland Trail Blazers

How Far Can Dwayne Wade Carry the Heat?

Like I said, this guy has been playing out of his mind. Given the weakness outside of the top three teams who knows what he could do. I see him taking Miami to the fourth seed and then perhaps shocking LeBron in the second round.

I think that would have to go down as one of the great upsets of all time and would set up a rivalry for the league to market years into the future. Checkout these highlights from NBATV

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