A week removed from the deadline, the storylines have shifted elsewhere as the playoffs loom.

5.) A Proposal for the Buyout Process 👀

After the news broke over the weekend that not only had the Brooklyn Nets retained Blake Griffin, but that they also added LaMarcus Aldridge, a lot of NBA (both players and fans alike) were up in arms.

YBy Wednesday, we got news from Woj that the NBA had been receiving calls from executives (mainly of small-market teams) clamoring for an overhaul of the buyout-free agency system.

There will be PLENTY hurdles in the way of making such a change as the one I suggested, or a change of any kind, that would compromise the freedom players have in decision-making as free agents.

This will be a very intriguing storyline to follow moving forward 🤔💭.

4.) Celtics Underwhelming 📉

One of the more or most disappointing teams in the league, their game trends are wildly inconsistent. They can’t sustain positive success for long enough vs true playoff-level competition.

Their offense has become much more iso-centric, which is a contrast to when Brad Stevens is able to make his teams produce at their peaks. They have multiple talents (Tatum, Walker, and Brown) who can work specific matchups when the game calls for that, but collectively they have been FAR too reliant upon that action (or lack there of) alone for my liking.

I’m growing past cautiously concerned for them. It’s certainly not out do the realm of possibility that they may be in the play-in tournament, not even grabbing a hold of a top-6 spot of their own to claim.

Teams like the Knicks, Hawks, and Hornets all being ahead of them by atleast a full game is not good.

When you consider what they were expected to be coming into this season, after reaching the conference finals last season, you begin to see the bigger picture of where their fate for this season is trending toward.

In the two seasons prior, they deployed both a top-10 offense and defense (4th on offense and 4th on defense in 2019-2020, then 10th on offense and 7th on defense in 18-19). They also sport their lowest point differential (+1.5) since the 2014-2015 season. This season, they are at 12th in offense and 16th in defense. These ranks are much more middling, speaking to their collective regression and the longing for their true potential to resurface.

Stevens and company will have their hands full, and then some, down the stretch here. They’ll certainly be under a microscope from me as well, namely Tatum and Brown.

This is undoubtedly their team, and both have experience in the postseason. How they step up in response to the challenge at hand will be a great indicator of their synergy as well as their growth as leaders.

3.) Porter Jr’s Ascension🔥

16.6 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.0 APG, 53.6/45.0/74.4, 64.1 eFG%

Porter Jr. was one of the players I planned to watch closely this season, one I thought could viably contend for most improved based on his statitics. It’s safe to say he’s somewhat quietly done just that as his raw numbers (points, rebounds, assists, fg%, 3pt%) are all up from last season.

His well-publicized prowess for scoring, especially via his jumper, was highly-touted coming into the NBA.

Before he even stepped foot on the NBA hardwood, or even walked across the stage and shook the Commissioners hand, he drew comparisons to Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony.

His ability to make contested jumpers off the dribble or from the triple-threat is where the thoughts derived from. He has great lift on his jumper and is releasing from around 7ft, making for a tough shot to contest regardless of the situation.

This most recent run 21-game run, potentially his best (rivaled by his post all-star game ascension of last season) has served as reassurance of just how great his potential is.

You can just see his confidence now, less thinking and much more hooping

He is a tough shot maker 🔥

Over the aforementioned run, he’s shooting 57.7/50.9/72.0 while averaging 19 PPG. He’s been absolutely lights out.

His rebounding has gone up, much to the liking of Mike Malone who publicly challenged him a few times last season. MPJs also been more aggressive in hunting for his own shot within the offense, making the Nuggets that much more formidable offensively.

There are some nights where he seeming takes over the role of the teams second best scorer, and for stretches he grows pyrotechnic-like and takes overhead the entire game.

Regarding his efficiency ranks:

  • 73% at the rim (91st percentile)
  • 52% with corner three’s (93rd percentile)
  • 42% on non-corner three’s (88th percentile)
  • 45% from three overall (96th percentile)

Now having Aaron Gordon in rotation (which I like a lot for them both now and long-term), the Nuggets have amassed four viable scorers capable of detonating for 25+ on any given night.

Porter Jr. continues to inch closer to his true potential as he grows more comfortable with the NBA. As he grows, so will the Nuggets hopes for a championship run.

2.) Portland 3-0 with Norman Powell 📈

Since Powell first took the floor for Portland, they’ve now won three-straight.

Not only is he a fit, but their offense is humming at a different frequency as well. His threat in off-ball movement (in tandem with how well CJ flourishes in the same action) takes attention away from Dame, and makes their already elite offense that much more dynamic.

They’re averaging 119.3 PPG while allowing just 107.7 in said run, and he’s affecting both sides of the ball.

As his ingratiation continues, along with Nurkic’s return, expect for the Blazers to be as formidable as ever before come playoff time.

1.) Conference Tiers 📈📉

As the finish line nears, there is distance being established within the ranks of each respective conference.

The top-two of each conference have atleast a 2.5 game lead of separation between themselves and the third seeded teams.

After that, in the East, Milwaukee stands alone as the middle tier squad. While in the West, those middle tiered teams spam from 3-6 (Clippers, Lakers, Nuggets, Blazers).

In the East, 4-7 are separated by a half game at most.

The play-in teams from each conference seem to be set, though their order could potentially fluctuate before the end of the season.

This is where teams can begin to scout specific teams more frequently in planning for their postseason matchup possibilities.

How each conference shapes up down the homestretch, especially considering the play-in tournament will provide a brand new dynamic, will make for great parity.

Recommended Reads of the Week

Miscellaneous Occurrences

  • In their game at home Monday vs the Pelicans, the ball ended up flying into the stands. In typical fashion, the fans touched the ball and helped to pass the ball back to the court for play to resume. I’m doing so, the Celtics PA announcer promptly reminded those in attendance to not touch the ball should it near them, which is apparently protocol for those who do attend games under these pandemic constraints. Something I was not aware of, this was intriguing to me. Another sign of the times we’re living through.

*All stats come from NBA.com, basketball-reference, or cleaningtheglass unless stated otherwise and are accurate entering play on 4.2.21*

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