With just about 25-ish games left in the NBA season, it’s important to be on the right side of history as the regular season turns to the playoffs. So who should you start to follow and who should you ignored? Here’s a handy guide that should help you decide whether you’re on or off the bandwagon.
Jump On The Bandwagon: Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder have snuck into the eighth seed in the West after starting the season without both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. They made out like bandits at the trade deadline, trading discontented back-up Reggie Jackson and shipping the much-maligned Kendrick Perkins to Cleveland for Enes Kanter, so they have interior scoring off the bench and added some solid wing production from Detroit with the addition of DJ Augustin, Kyle Singler and Steve Novak. They now have the one thing that has kept them from getting further in the playoffs for years: legitimate bench depth.
It also appears that Russell Westbrook is a Terminator.
Jump Off The Bandwagon: Washington Wizards
The Wizards went 3-9 in February and lost six in a row (with one mercy win against the Pistons) to end the month. They’ve squandered their hot start and appear to have tuned out Randy Wittman and his near-invisible offensive system. Bradley Beal has been on and off the court with injuries and Marcin Gortat can’t seem to get on the court in the fourth quarter. They’ll still make the playoffs, but no way will they go past the first round.
Jump On: Milwaukee Bucks
One of the surprising moves was the Bucks trading point guard Brandon Knight to Phoenix for reigning Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams (in one of those three team roundabout ways). Knight had done a good job holding down the fort in Milwaukee, but Jason Kidd saw something in himself in MCW and wanted him badly. The Bucks also nabbed a young big in Miles Plumlee, a decent young scorer in Tyler Ennis and possibly most important, severed ties with Larry Sanders. So the albatross is no longer around their neck, Sanders is seeking the mental health he deserves and Jason Kidd adds another piece to a team he’s turned into a legitimate playoff threat in the East.
Jump Off: Chicago Bulls
Yes, Derrick Rose tore his meniscus again. Yes, it was the same meniscus he tore last year. Yes, the Bulls expect him to recover in time to join them for the playoffs. The fate of the offense now rests in the hands of the great Jimmy Butler, whose point average has dropped off five points a game since December, Pau Gasol in his 13th year and Tony Snell, who averages 5.2 ppg off the bench. It doesn’t help that their first game after the Rose injury they were kept to 86 points by the Charlotte Hornets. Look for another early playoff exit.
Jump On: Memphis Grizzlies
The Beale Street Bears are for real. The best defense in the league, top ten in assists and an offensive resurrection from Jeff Green who has only scored in single-digits three times since joining the Grizz. Marc Gasol is averaging 18.2 points and eight rebounds per game in the midst of the best season of his career. And with Zach Randolph being able to do his thing in the post-season, the Grizzlies will be sure to go deep against the competitive West.
Jump Off: Toronto Raptors
The Drakes ended February with three straight loses and went five up and five down in their last ten games. Terrance Ross was removed as a starter, DeMar DeRozen missed 22 games with injury and they’re 21st in assists per game and 24th in rebounds. So they don’t get good movement and can be stopped from second chance points. They’ll probably still hang onto the second seed in the East, but once the playoffs start and defenses tighten up, the Raps half-court set will vanish.
Also, this happened: