Champaign Central Chronicle

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Champaign Central Chronicle

Champaign Central Chronicle

NBA Recap

NBA Recap

The NBA’s 2023-2024 regular season is wrapping up as teams either prepare for the playoffs or look ahead at free agents and high draft picks. Fans will start to fill up the stadiums to watch their favorite teams play. Now here is a recap of the playoff teams.


Boston Celtics


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The Celtics have the best record in the entire NBA by far being led by forward Jason Taytum and guard Jaylen Brown both having over 20 points per game (PPG). Center Kristaps Porzingas also has a 20.2 PPG season right now and guard Derrick White leads the team with 5.2 assists per game (APG). Outside of the starting 5, the team gets pretty weak with only forward Sam Hauser and guard Payton Pritchard contributing to the team’s offense off the bench, but when you have a starting 5 like the Celtics the depth isn’t much of a weakness.  


Denver Nuggets


The defending champions Nuggets are still atop of the Western Conference competing with the Timberwolves and Thunder. They are led by center Nikola Jokic who is averaging close to a triple-double, which is when a player has at least 10 of a certain statistic 3 times. For instance, in Jokic’s case, he averages 26.5 ppg, 12.4 rebounds per game (rpg) and 9 assists so he has a double-double. Although this team has some other key contributors like Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr, the Nuggets rely on how Jokic plays, which is usually amazing.


Milwaukee Bucks


The Bucks are competing for the second seed in the Eastern Conference being led by forward Giannis Antetokounmpo who has the second most ppg with 35.2 ppg with 11.5 rpg giving him a double-double. They also have guard Damian Lillard who was with the Trailblazers his entire career and has never been a real championship contender in his time with the team. But after being traded to the Bucks, he has shined brightly putting up 24.4 ppg. The biggest weakness of this team, however, has to be their mediocre road record and new coach Doc Rivers being infamous for not succeeding in the playoffs.


Minnesota Timberwolves


Not much was expected out of the Timberwolves this season. Many people had them just competing for the 4 seed at most, but now they are at the top of the Western Conference competing with the Nuggets and Thunder thanks to their best defense in the NBA and young star guard Anthony Edwards putting up 26.1 ppg. Other than Edwards, the Timberwolves employ 2 centers, Karl-Anthony Towns (or KAT) and Rudy Gobert which is pretty uncommon in today’s NBA, but it helps them with their defense. The bench is good too with their 6th man, Naz Reid, being a contender for 6th man of the year putting up 13.4 ppg. There are a couple of weaknesses with this team though, as KAT got injured in March and may or may not be ready by the time playoffs start. The offense may stall out at times, but the defense usually makes up for those moments.


Cleveland Cavaliers 


It has been five seasons since Lebron James left the Cavaliers and they are now once again contenders for a long run in the playoffs. Their starting rotation is very strong with hardly any weaknesses and guard Donovan Mitchell averaging 26.4 ppg. Their 6th man, Caris LeVert is also one of the best in the league averaging 13.9 ppg. The reason why they don’t have a better record is that they have been pretty injured down the stretch, but going into the playoffs they should be all healthy and dangerous.


Oklahoma City Thunder


The Thunder have finally exploded onto the scene being led by guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, or SGA, who averages 30.3 ppg with the rest of the starting rotation being really good. The Thunder were struck with some early concerns with guard Josh Giddey getting into trouble with the law, but they have fought through and could be favorites for the championship, but being the second youngest team in the NBA is not helping them out. 


New York Knicks


The Knicks have sneakily become a top-tier team led by guard Jalen Brunson averaging 28.4 ppg and Bogan Bogdanovic averaging 15.4 ppg coming off the bench. Outside of Brunson though there isn’t much firepower, but even still they are the 7th strongest offensive team. 


LA Clippers


The Clippers have built up a very good roster with many living legends on the team, although they are at the end of their primes being James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Russel Westbrook. Ironically those 4 players have been injured in the last games of the regular season which makes the lesser household name have to step up.


Orlando Magic


The Orlando Magic have been very good throughout the season being led by their forwards Franz Wagner and Paolo Banchero. Although being the 4th youngest team in the NBA, they have the 3rd best offense which really helps out their below-average offense. While defense does win championships it will be hard to trust this offense and a young team in the playoffs, but this team could get scary in the years to come. 


Dallas Mavericks


The Mavericks live and die by their guards Luka Donic, who is considered one of, if not, the best players in the NBA right now, and Kyrie Irving, who is having a great season with Donic. The rest of the starting rotation and roster are decent but are primarily role players who benefit with the defense being focused on Doncic. While I would say the Mavericks don’t have the best chance for a run in the playoffs, anything is possible with Doncic. 


Indianapolis Pacers


The Pacers are the ultimate glass cannon team having the second-best offense, but the 24th-ranked defense. Guard Tyrese Haliburton runs the offense having 20.3 ppg and 10.9 apg, but at the trade deadline, the Pacers made a big move to get forward Pascal Siakam to improve their offense which it evidently did. I asked Pacers fan, Anthony Williams, how he has felt about his team this year and he said, “We’ve done better than we did last year, Haliburton has been amazing, (Myles) Turner is great and I loved getting Siakam.”


New Orleans Pelicans


The Pelicans have been good this year led by forward Zion Williamson who is really living up to his expectations now. Don’t forget guard CJ McCollum who has been very consistent over the past few years with the team. They also have a top-10 defense with an offense that is so close to being top 10, this team could be a sleeper for an upset or two in the playoffs. 


Philadelphia 76ers


The 76ers have had a stressful year with their superstar center, Joel Embiid, went down with a knee injury in February and needed surgery which threw away many hopes and dreams of 76er fans for playoffs. But young star Tyrese Maxey stepped up while Embiid was away keeping the hopes alive and those hopes got stronger when Embiid came back from injury. The 76ers have been hot at the end of the season and you can expect that to continue into the playoffs.


Phoenix Suns


The Suns have one of the scariest trio of players in the NBA with guards Devin Booker and Bradley Beal, and superstar forward Kevin Durant, but Booker and Beal have been dealing with injuries throughout the year hindering their success. The rest of the team has been decent, but overall a pretty disappointing season which they can turn around entirely with some wins in the playoffs. 


Miami Heat


The Heat are a very confusing team playing a little bit above average and getting a low seed in the playoffs, but once it’s time for playoffs they make a huge run. This year has been no different so far, but the starting rotation has been pretty strong and are looking to make a splash in the playoffs. 


Sacramento Kings


The Kings are a very average team who have made their way into the playoffs thanks to guard De’Aaron Fox with 26.5 ppg and center Damantas Sabonis who is almost averaging a triple double with 19.4 ppg, 13.7 rbg and 8.2 apg. The rest of the team has been decent, but if Fox and Sabonis get hot, they light the league on fire.


Chicago Bulls


The Bulls and Atlanta Hawks benefit from being in the eastern conference and having the play-in because if it weren’t for either of those conditions happening, they wouldn’t have had a chance for playoffs for a long time. Both teams are far below a .500 winning percentage, but besides that forward Demar DeRozan has had a really good year along with guard Coby White so those 2 could get this team farther than a play-in loss. 


LA Lakers


The Lakers have a really strong starting rotation being led by arguably the greatest player of all time, Lebron James and star Anthony Davis, but it’s not only them, guards D’Angelo Russel and Austin Reaves having good years too. Despite this star power, the Lakers haven’t been able to be all that great with an average offense and defense, but when playoffs start, this team could make some upsets through sheer experience alone.


Atlanta Hawks


I briefly touched on the Hawks in the Bulls section, but this team is another bad team in the playoffs. Although I would say they are better than the Bulls because of their star guard, Trae Young, was out for a little bit of the season with an injury. This gave them some losses that maybe could’ve been wins with Young. With that said, I do not expect them to make a deep run, but anything can happen in the playoffs. 


Golden State Warriors


The Warriors are similar to the Mavericks where their superstar guard is one of the best players in the league, but what makes the two teams different is that Doncic has Irving, while Warriors guard, Stephen Curry, doesn’t have a top tier right hand man. Guard Klay Thompson and forward Andrew Wiggins are having a down year, so unless either Curry takes over the whole league or the rest of the team steps up and helps Curry, the Warriors may not make it out of the play-ins. 

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