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NBA Sunday: Bradley Beal Leads the Changing of the Shooting Guard

Bradley Beal is a rare shooting guard who’s making a major impact.

Moke Hamilton

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It was one of the more frigid January nights in the nation’s capital, but inside of Washington, D.C.’s Verizon Center ensued a battle that nary a paying customer believed they would witness.

It was 2013 and the 4-28 Washington Wizards were seen as nothing more than an undisciplined bunch being led by John Wall—another entitled pro athlete who was given too much, too soon.

Kevin Durant—the man whose homecoming this night was—was the opposite.

Durant was the quintessential stud. Hard working, dedicated to his craft and doing whatever was necessary to win. As a resident of the Western Conference, he was making his annual trip to the District of Columbia.

Unfortunately for him, a rookie shooting guard that few had ever heard of ruined it; some kid named Bradley Beal.

Out of necessity, Beal had become the alpha and omega of the Wizards’ offensive repertoire. He had the requisite skills: a quick first step, good ball handling ability, a dead-eye jumper and passing accuracy, but not the experience.

The problem? Wall, who would normally have ball-handling and play calling duties, was diagnosed with a stress injury to his left knee four months earlier. And to this point, for head coach Randy Wittman, the results weren’t reassuring. The Wizards sputtered out to a 4-28 record, were staring at the prospect of another lost season, and were now welcoming the defending Western Conference Champion Thunder into their building.

But on this night, Beal stole the show—especially when it mattered most.

After Durant tied the game on a 24-foot three-pointer, with 12.2 seconds remaining, it was Beal who coach Wittman entrusted with the game.

He was initially denied the ball when he cut diagonally from the three-point arc to the sideline, but would eventually receive at mid-court, isolated against Sefolosha. Kendrick Perkins—who was guarding Kevin Seraphin—attempted to trap Beal after Seraphin set a screen for him and rolled to the rim.

For a split second, Beal looked apprehensive. Dribbling to his right, then to his left. He stepped inside of the three-point line, picked up his dribble and pump-faked Perkins into next week.

Pivoting with his right foot, Beal stepped in and past Perkins’ outstretched arm and released an off-balanced, leaning 16-footer. Perkins nearly recovered in time, slightly bumping Beal as he released, but Beal’s introduction to the NBA would not be thwarted.

To this point, Beal had made some clutch shots for his Wizards, but none against this level of competition and under such difficult game conditions.

I remember on that night—as a rookie playing just his 33rd professional game—believing that Beal was special. Off the top of my head, the only other rookie shooting guards that I could recall exuding the same type of confidence and ability to control a game with such poise were Vince Carter and Dwyane Wade.

If Beal is lucky, he may one day be mentioned in a conversation along either of those two greats. One shot doesn’t make a career, but I have always been of the opinion that it could reveal something about a player.

One game doesn’t make you a Hall-of-Famer, but one game and one performance can show that you have the potential to get there one day.

This was Beal’s night.

The most difficult thing an NBA general manager has to do is make player personnel decisions. He determines which players he pays and which players he drafts. He rolls the dice, often having his correct decisions forgotten about and rarely credited and his mediocre or poor ones questioned. Fortunately, over the course of the previous two Collective Bargaining Agreements, the league has added mechanisms to protect against paying for a mistake for an inordinate amount of time.

No longer will a general manager have to pay the likes of Eddy Curry or Erick Dampier for six or seven years.

There is a similar protective mechanism against drafting the wrong player. Only the first two years of a player’s rookie contract is guaranteed, meaning that a general manager can cut bait after two seasons if he is willing to admit that he made a mistake. It rarely happens, but the Milwaukee Bucks did exactly that with Joe Alexander—the eighth overall pick of the 2010 draft.

However, although a general manager doesn’t necessarily pay for a mistake for as long as he did once upon a time, the price and regret of lost opportunity? It cuts deep.

Back in 2005, the Atlanta Hawks selected Marvin Williams with the second overall pick in the draft. Billy Knight, the general manager at the time, opted for Williams over both Chris Paul and Deron Williams, despite the fact that the club desperately needed a spry point guard prospect.

Similarly, the very next year, in 2006, the Chicago Bulls drafted LaMarcus Aldridge with the second overall pick. That was a good idea.

The Bulls then traded Aldridge to the Portland Trail Blazers for a package built around Tyrus Thomas, who was selected fourth overall.

(Not such a good idea)

The Bulls only paid Thomas for three full years, opting to trade him during his fourth season.

Although the drafting of Williams by the Hawks and the acquiring of Thomas by the Bulls were not horrible basketball decisions based on the talent either player, they become atrocities when viewed in hindsight.

Would the Hawks have been better off with Chris Paul? Would the Bulls have fared better with LaMarcus Aldridge? Of course.

Years later, we now know, in each situation, what would have been the “better” decision.

As it relates to Beal, the theory is quite simple.

As a general manager, you are very likely to know whether you made a wise decision on a player during their first season as a professional. Obviously, the player needs to be given an opportunity to showcase his talents. Some coaches are simply not fond of giving youngsters copious amounts of playing time, often believing that it takes two to three years of riding pine to figure out the NBA game.

So occasionally, yes, you will run into examples like Jermaine O’Neal or Jeremy Lin—guys who legitimately had little opportunity to showcase their talents before proving themselves years after their careers began.

But for the most part—a promising younger player, especially one selected with a lottery pick—will get opportunities to go out there and show the world why he is in the league.

And if that player has the potential to be elite—if he has the potential to be an impact player who can one day lead a team and put it on his shoulders—that is something that will be seen quickly after the player has his opportunity.

What separates the players from the stars and the superstars is consistency. Superstars show up every single night and find ways to impact games, no matter what. That is a skill that takes time to develop. But from the very beginning, even in spurts or sporadic occasion, the flash should avail.

So on January 7, 2013, as the basketball world watched, I was not yet convinced that Beal had that trait, but by the end of the night, when his Wizards prevailed 101-99, I did.

Common, the acclaimed hip hop recording artist and actor who hails from Chicago, said it best in The Light, one of contemporary hip hop’s better love ballads.

Granted, we known each other for some time
it don’t take a whole day to recognize sunshine

In other words, I can look out my window and see whether the sun is shining, just like I can see how you conduct yourself, lead your team and handle the final possession and shot of a competitive game and know whether or not you belong in this league.

Today, if you ask Durant about his feelings on Beal, the first thing Durant will probably recall is that cold winter night in 2013. In the grand scheme, it was just one game, but when asked specifically about Beal, most who attended would remember it as the night when his discernible light began to glisten brightly enough for all to notice.

Over the next 15 months, Wall would return and Beal would continue to progress, improving on both his catch-and-shoot proficiency as well as his one-step dribble pull-up. Before our very eyes, the tandem has transformed into one of the top young backcourts in the entire league, right along the likes of the Golden State Warriors’ Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry.

In April 2014, with the ever-improving Beal and Wall’s marked improvements,  the Wizards qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2008. They would defeat the Chicago Bulls in the first round and win a playoff series for the first time since 2005.

In the playoffs, Beal led the team with 19.2 points per game on a blistering 41.5 percent three-point connection rate. He added five rebounds and 4.5 assists per game—nothing short of outstanding for a sophomore shooting guard making his first playoff appearance.

As Beal is set to begin his third season, recall that impact NBA players traditionally make leaps in their junior years. The eyes and expectations are firmly on the Wizards and especially Beal. Although he is expected to be sidelined for the first six-to-eight weeks of the season with a non-displaced fracture in his left wrist, he will eventually emerge as the team’s alpha-scorer, once again.

With Klay Thompson and James Harden, Beal is one of the three talented young shooting guards that are toiling and, maybe, ending the drought that the league has had there for what seems like a long, long time.

In 1996, Kobe Bryant and Ray Allen entered the NBA. Vince Carter (1998), Richard Hamilton and Manu Ginobili (both 1999) came shortly thereafter. Joe Johnson entered in 2001 and Dwyane Wade in 2003.

In 2004, Andre Iguodala emerged and the following year, in 2005, was Brandon Roy.

It wasn’t until 2009—when James Harden and DeMar DeRozan entered the league—that we began seeing newfound strength at the position. In 2011, Klay Thompson entered the league and in 2012 came Beal.

Looked at differently, since 1996, only three classes have featured more than one shooting guard who would become an All-Star. Bryant and Allen of 1996, Hamilton and Ginobili of 1998 and Harden and DeRozan of 2009.

In total, Bryant (16), Allen (10), Wade (10), Carter (8) and Johnson (7) combine for 51 NBA All-Star Game appearances. Wade is the only shooting guard on that list that was drafted within the past 12 years. The longevity and sustained greatness of this past generation of shooting guards is a major reason why, but the truth of the matter is that they haven’t exactly been pushed by the past decade’s incoming crop of shooting guards.

Today, the tide is turning.

The league may currently be in its golden age of the point guard, but the Beal is making his mark as a true shooting guard who has All-NBA potential. With him, the future of the Washington Wizards is far from bleak.

Like that cold January night back in 2013, eyes are on Beal, but for a different reason. With his flashes and his impressive all-around ability to control a game, the Wizards will build a better tomorrow upon the success of yesterday.

They will do so on the capable shoulders of one of the best third-year shooting guards this league has seen in quite some time.

They do so with Bradley Beal—a rare impact shooting guard whose star shines as brightly as any we have seen over, perhaps, the past decade.

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NBA Daily: The Lakers’ Path Back to the NBA Finals

In the wake of Jamal Murray’s season-ending knee injury, Bobby Krivitsky examines the Los Angeles Lakers’ path back to the NBA Finals.

Bobby Krivitsky

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It’s been 15 games since a high ankle sprain sidelined LeBron James. 

With the Western Conference standings congested and Anthony Davis already out due to a right calf strain and a re-aggravation of his right Achilles tendinosis, the Los Angeles Lakers faced the threat of a fall that would require their participation in the play-in tournament.

However, the Lakers have fought admirably in the absence of their two stars, going seven and eight. As a result, their fall in the standings has been painless, going from third at the time of James’ injury to now occupying fifth place in the West.

The primary reason the Lakers have been able to tread water without their two stars is they’ve remained stingy on defense. Since James’ injury, they have the fourth-best defensive rating in the league. That’s despite facing four teams who rank in the top five in offensive rating and six of the categories’ top-10 members.

Right now, the Lakers are 2.5 games ahead of the sixth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers, with a 4.5-game cushion between them and the Dallas Mavericks, who are seventh in the conference. That should be a large enough gap to keep Los Angeles out of the play-in tournament, but the two teams are going to converge for a two-game series starting Thursday. For the Lakers, getting swept would re-open the possibility of having to compete in the play-in tournament.

Fortunately for them, even splitting that series would make it unlikely the Mavericks finish ahead of the Lakers in the standings. And help might be on the way for the Lakers: Davis may soon rejoin the lineup, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, meaning there’s a distinct possibility he’s active for at least one of those two matchups. As for James, he’s on track to return in three weeks.

While Los Angeles’ stars are getting closer to making their returns, the Denver Nuggets got dealt a more severe blow when Jamal Murray tore his ACL in a recent game against the Golden State Warriors. Denver is 10-2 since acquiring Aaron Gordon at the trade deadline and looked the part of a legitimate title contender prior to Murray’s injury. 

Denver is fourth in the West, 1.5 games ahead of Los Angeles. But even if the Nuggets have home-court advantage, they’re the preferable opening-round opponent, not just for Los Angeles, but any team with a legitimate chance at the fourth or fifth seed.

Fortunately for the Lakers, that’s the place in the Western Conference pecking order where they’re most likely to finish this season. So long as the Nuggets don’t freefall in Murray’s absence, Los Angeles will likely start the playoffs against an opponent that’s gone from having the potential to present the greatest challenge to the defending champions’ quest to get back to the Finals to becoming a desirable first-round matchup.

After that, the Lakers may have to get past the Utah Jazz and or the Los Angeles Clippers to make a return trip to the NBA Finals. The former has the best record in the league this season, but locking horns with the defending champions in a best of seven series is a far more challenging and potentially rewarding proving ground.

The Jazz have a deep, reliable rotation, they have the best net rating in the NBA, they’re in the top five in points for and against per 100 possessions, and they’re attempting the most threes per game, but also rank in the top five in three-point shooting percentage. However, the Lakers would have the two best players in a series against Utah. Usually, an opponent doesn’t overcome that disadvantage.  

As for the Clippers, Rajon Rondo has quickly proven to be an impactful acquisition. Los Angeles is seven and one with him in the lineup, generating the highest net rating in the league during that span. Last season, the Lakers saw first-hand how impactful playoff Rondo can be. Now, the Clippers are hoping he can bring structure to their offense, something they sorely lacked last postseason and was at the forefront of them blowing a 3-1 series lead over the Nuggets. Doing so would go a long way towards maximizing the production of a team that has the talent to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy for the first time in franchise history.

If this is the year the battle of LA takes place in the postseason, it figures to be a slugfest. Still, the Clippers have their doubters after last year’s meltdown in the playoffs. There’s also a large contingency who are skeptical about how far the Jazz can go in the postseason, given their lack of a top-tier superstar. Despite the validity of those concerns, both teams can beat the Lakers in a best of seven series. That no longer appears to be the case for the Nuggets, which is a shame for them and people who want to see the best possible matchups in the playoffs. But Murray’s injury, as unfortunate an occurrence as it is, makes it easier for the Lakers to get through the gauntlet that is the Western Conference and have a chance to claim an 18th championship, which would break their tie with the Boston Celtics for the most titles in NBA history.

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NBA AM: The Play-In Game – West

With the season winding down, Ariel Pacheco takes a look at how the play-in tournament is shaping up in the Western Conference.

Ariel Pacheco

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With the regular season’s end in sight, teams are making their last push to make the playoffs in what has been a condensed season. But the new play-in tournament is providing more teams than ever a chance at a coveted playoff spot.

Here is what the new play-in tournament will look like: Teams that finish with the Nos 7 and 8 seeds will face off against each other. The winner of this game will be No. 7. The Nos. 9 and 10 seeds will also play and the winner will play the loser of the first game. The winner of this game will be the No. 8 seed. 

The play-in tournament provides intrigue and adds pressure on teams in both conferences to finish in the top six and avoid the play-in altogether. The Western Conference, in particular, is shaping up to have a rather exciting finish. There are a number of teams who could find themselves fighting for their playoff lives in this year’s tournament – all below in tiers.

Teams Likely To Avoid Play-In

Portland Trail Blazers (32-24)
Games Left: 16
Home Games Left: 8
Games Against Teams Over .500: 12
Games Against West: 11

The Trail Blazers are currently the sixth seed in the West meaning, for now, they are safe from the play-in tournament. However, they are just two games above the Mavericks from possibly dropping down a place. They’re the team most likely to secure that sixth seed because they have more talent than the teams below them – hello, Dame – and they also have an elite offense. However, the defensive concerns are very real and if they were to slip, it would likely be because of their struggles on that side of the ball.

Likely Play-In Teams

Dallas Mavericks

Games Left: 16
Home Games Left: 9
Games Against Teams Over .500: 5
Games Against West: 8

On paper, the Mavs have a really easy schedule as the season winds down. They have just five games against teams over .500 and two against the Los Angeles Lakers, who may be without their two stars for those games. However, they are just 10-12 this season against sub .500 teams and are coming off a disappointing loss to the Sacramento Kings. There’s still a pretty good chance they get the sixth seed and avoid the play-in, but it also wouldn’t be surprising to see them in it as well.

Memphis Grizzlies
Games Left: 17
Home Games Left: 7
Games Against Teams Over .500: 8
Games Against West: 12

The Grizzlies are often overlooked, but they are about as well-coached as any other team in the NBA. It is likely they will be in the play-in game, but don’t be surprised if they are able to sneak into the sixth seed. They lost last year’s play-in game in the Bubble to the Blazers, so they do have experience in this type of setting. They may be getting Jaren Jackson Jr. back soon which should help. 

Golden State Warriors
Games Left: 15
Home Games Left: 9
Games Against Teams Over .500: 6
Games Against West: 13

The Warriors are getting just other-worldly performances from Stephen Curry on an almost nightly basis at this point. However, they continue to struggle to win games, in large part due to the struggles when he sits on the bench. Their schedule is pretty light to close the season, which bolsters their chances. The talent on this team isn’t great, but Curry’s play should be enough to get them in the play-in tournament. 

San Antonio Spurs
Games Left: 17
Home Games Left: 6
Games Against Teams Over .500: 12
Games Against West: 7

The Spurs have struggled of late, especially after the All-Star break. Their defense has dropped off badly, but if there’s any reason to be positive, it’s that they are still coached by Gregg Popovich and their young guys continue to show improvement. They have been really good on the road this season and a majority of their games are on the road. It won’t be easy, but the Spurs should find themselves in the play-in tournament.

Outside Looking In

New Orleans Pelicans
Games Left: 15
Home Games Left: 6
Games Against Teams Over .500: 9
Games Against West: 11

The Pelicans have been hit with the injury bug of late, but their inconsistent play this season continues to be a huge problem. Their defense continues to bleed three-pointers and while point Zion Williamson has worked, there just isn’t enough shooting to maximize him just yet. It seems unlikely the Pelicans make a late-season run to the play-in game.

Sacramento Kings

Games Left: 15
Home Games Left: 8
Games Against Teams Over .500: 8
Games Against West: 14

The Kings are the least likely team to make the play-in tournament. Their defense is still problematic and they just recently ended their 9-game losing streak. It’ll take a huge late-season push and the Kings just haven’t shown that they are capable of putting it all together for a long enough stretch. 

The play-in tournament adds a new layer of competition that will bring excitement at the end of the season. Be sure to check out how the play-in tournament is shaping up in the Eastern Conference.

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NBA

NBA Daily: The Play-In Game — East

With the play-in tournament just around the corner, Matt John previews who in the Eastern Conference might qualify for it.

Matt John

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It’s official: we’re entering the regular season’s endgame. Every game from here on out will have much bigger consequences, a statement even truer in 2021 than perhaps any other season thanks to the NBA’s new play-in tournament.

If you’re not familiar, the play-in tournament will consist of two matchups within each conference. The seventh and eighth seeds of both conferences will face off against one another, while the ninth and 10th seeds shall do the same. The winner of the seven-eight matchup will take their conference’s seventh seed, while the winner of the nine-10 game will face the aforementioned match’s loser for the eighth and final spot in the postseason. It’ll serve as a nice appetizer before the playoffs get underway.

So, now that we have 15 games left give or take, it’s time to get a full scope of who we’re most likely to see in this year’s play-in, starting with the Eastern Conference. There’s really no need to go over teams that have all but clinched their playoff spots like Philadelphia, Brooklyn, or Milwaukee. Just like there’s no need to mention teams that are way too out of a reach for a playoff spot like Detroit and Orlando.

But that does leave ten teams in the Eastern Conference that we could potentially see in the play-in. At first glance, it would sound ridiculous to say that Boston and Cleveland could be in the play-in seeing how they are separated by ten and a half games, but Boston is only two and a half games ahead of Miami for that seventh seed while Cleveland is only three games behind Chicago for the tenth seed.

The best way to evaluate is to divide these into tiers. One for playoff teams who are likely to avoid the play-in, one for teams that are most likely to be in the play-in, and those that are likely to miss out on the play-in.

Likely to Avoid

Atlanta Hawks (30-26)
Games Left: 16
Home Games Left: 11
Games Against Teams Over .500: Six
Games Against East: 13

Replacing Lloyd Pierce with Nate McMillan proved to be a genius move by Atlanta’s front office, as the Hawks have won 16 of their last 23 games. They may have had that stretch where they lost four of five, but that was on a West Coast Trip. Seeing how almost 75 percent of their remaining games will be at home, it’s hard to see Atlanta collapsing. They may be decimated by injuries right now, but the schedule seems a little too easy for them to blow this.

Boston Celtics (31-26)
Games Left: 15
Home Games Left: Eight
Games Against Teams Over .500: Four
Games Against East: 10

Much like Atlanta, Boston’s really hit their stride over the past few weeks. Getting healthy and making a few roster changes have helped them rediscover the team that started out so well at the beginning of the season. It’s hard seeing Boston folding down the stretch primarily because they won’t be facing too many strong opponents from here until the regular season’s end. Given their recent strong play, don’t expect an appearance at the play-in tournament.

Likely Play-In Teams

New York Knicks (30-27)
Games Left: 15
Home Games Left: Nine
Games Against Teams Over .500: Eight
Games Against East: Six

Give credit where credit is due. The Knickerbockers are not going away. They’ve stayed the course when many thought this was going to be another wasted year for them. They’ve given no reason to indicate that they’re stopping now. The reason they’re not as sure of a thing as Atlanta or Boston is because, over this last stretch, they’re going to face off against several Western Conference contenders looking for the highest seeding possible. As tough as that’s going to be, the Knicks are going to make each one of them earn those wins, guaranteed.

Miami HEAT (28-28)
Games Left: 16
Home Games Left: Eight
Games Against Teams Over .500: Seven
Games Against East: 11

It’s been difficult to get a read on the reigning Eastern Conference champions. They go on stretches that basically even out each other. After starting out 11-17, they win 12 of their next 13, then follow that up by losing their next six games, then win six of their next seven, then finally and most recently, they lose their next three games. No one really knows what Miami’s ceiling is right now. Odds are, the HEAT will probably be in the play-in. It’s just a matter of where. Also, why have we still not gotten any updates on Victor Oladipo?

Charlotte Hornets (27-28)
Games Left: 17
Home Games Left: 11
Games Against Teams Over .500: Eight
Games Against East: 13

What’s happened to the Hornets over the past few weeks is just straight up not fair. If LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward were playing, they’d solidly be in the same tier as Boston and Atlanta. With their squad fully healthy, Charlotte’s a playoff team, but being down their two best players definitely takes them down a peg. They deserve props that they haven’t rolled over since losing those two, but sadly they’re nowhere near as good as they were with their whole squad. Their schedule is easy enough that it shouldn’t knock them out of the play-in. If LaMelo and Hayward are back by then, then it’s hard not seeing the Hornets get into the postseason.

Indiana Pacers (26-29)
Games Left: 17
Home Games Left: 11
Games Against Teams Over .500: Seven
Games Against East Teams: 11

It hasn’t been talked about enough how injuries have really shaken up Indiana’s season. TJ Warren’s foot injury was a substantial season-long setback and Caris Levert’s cancer, as miraculous of a story as that was, was another prolonged absence. Overall, Indiana’s injuries have led to a rather underachieving season compared to past results. Luckily their schedule for the rest of the season shouldn’t be too tough, so making the play-in seems realistic.

Outside Looking In

*One of these teams will get the play-in as the 10th seed.

Toronto Raptors (23-34)
Games Left: 15
Home Games Left: Eight
Games Against Teams Over .500: Nine
Games Against East Teams: Seven

That’s right, the same Raptors, who only weeks ago were in serious talks to trade Kyle Lowry to the highest bidder, have suddenly found themselves in the fight for the final spot for the play-in. It’s not that they’ve suddenly turned it all around. It’s that the competition is too weak for them to bow out completely. Their schedule may allow them to go all-in on the tank, but maybe one last hurrah with the franchise’s greatest player isn’t the worst way to go.

Chicago Bulls (23-33)
Games Left: 16
Home Games Left: Seven
Games Against Teams Over .500: Nine
Games Against East Teams: 16

Good news: Nikola Vucevic looks like he’s fitting in splendidly. Bad news: The team has been on a downward spiral since his (and others) acquisition. Chicago has only won four of their last 13 games since the trade deadline and their remaining schedule is not going to be a breeze. On paper, they should be a shoo-in for the 10th seed, but the roster holes right now appear to be too glaring for Chicago to take the next step. If they don’t at the very least make the play-in, that’s not going to be a good look after all the moves they made.

Washington Wizards (23-33)
Games Left: 16
Home Games Left: Eight
Games Against Teams Over .500: Five
Games Against East Teams: 10

Remember when Washington was one of the worst teams in the league record-wise? And how they managed to only slightly improve themselves over the course of the season? Well, apparently that was enough to get them into the conversation for the play-in because, lo and behold, they’re now tied with Chicago for that 10th seed. It gets better too. They only face two tough challenges from here on out – Lakers and Bucks – but after that, it’s honestly easy enough that they might be the favorite to get that last play-in spot.

Cleveland Cavaliers (20-36)
Games Left: 16
Home Games Left: Nine
Games Against Teams over .500: Six
Games Against East Teams: 12

This sounds the most ludicrous seeing how the Cavs are currently the East’s 13th seed, but being three games behind Chicago while facing only six teams over .500 gives them a fighting chance. If the Cavaliers are actually able to get the play-in, that’s a big stepping stone for their future. It’s an accomplishment to build off of in an era with no LeBron James to speak of, which they haven’t been able to do since Friends was on the air.

As you can see, the play-in has, in a way, brought a new dimension to the NBA season. In any previous season (excluding the last one) no one would bat an eye at the 10 through 13 seeds. Their season at this point would be all but done and no one would care, but because of the possibility of going to a play-in tournament, teams suddenly have the chance to make something of what usually would have been a lost season.

Some teams may get annoyed by it because their time is coming to a close and there’s no need to delay the inevitable. For others, the play-in signifies that it could just be the beginning.

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