Don’t believe everything you hear ought to be a recurring theme in the NBA season for as bad as the Golden State Warriors have been reported, the defending champions are in the same position they were at this point last season en route to a successful defense of its title.
The Warriors trailed Houston Rockets all season in the Western Conference but managed to topple Houston in the playoffs. Currently with 24 wins and 13 losses, Golden State sits second in the Conference behind surprise leader Denver Nuggets.
As excellent as Jimmy Butler’s trade from Minnesota Timberwolves to Philadelphia was a great pickup, the Sixers are not close to scaling a semifinal conference appearance in the fast approaching postseason.
The Sixers don’t have a deep bench to call on when Butler scores two of 12 field goal attempts and JJ Redick scores two of seven three point attempts in a 95-129 loss to Portland Trailblazers while Ben Simmons continues to avoid shooting from three point range.
With 19 wins and 17 losses Sacramento Kings have a winning record this season for the first time since November 2014 but the Kings are very likely to miss the playoffs again. Sacramento has not made the playoffs since 2006. In the same manner, don’t be sold too much on reports of Charlotte Hornets amazing season just yet in the Eastern Conference.
Despite ranking sixth in the conference standings and on pace to make a third playoff appearance in eight seasons.
On both occasions, the Hornets have been eliminated in the first round and from the looks of it, that streak is likely to be extended to three.
While Hornets rank behind Boston Celtics in the standings, the team has a losing record of 17 wins and 18 losses ahead of its matchup against Orlando Magic tonight. Its previous game was a 126-130 losing effort to Washington Wizards who played its first game after star Point Guard John Wall was ruled out for the rest of the season to surgery on his ailing heel.
Losing to a disappointing Wizards team is one thing but falling to a Washington side that lacks bodies due to injuries to Markieff Morris, Dwight Howard and Ian Mahinmi on top of Wall’s absence is not to be overlooked. More so, it shows Hornets have a lot to do to win games especially down the stretch. Coming into this season, the Eastern Conference was unanimously picked to be extremely tough but the opposite is panning out.
A few seasons back, the NBA’s Eastern Conference was beyond weak as teams including Boston-during its rebuilding years- made the postseason with losing records. That went extinct for a while but has apparently returned despite the conference receiving a boost in quality following player movement from the West. Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Gordon Hayward, Blake Griffin and Trevor Ariza moved from the Western Conference to the East recently and the continued development of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid has toughened out the conference.
Rather than a whole sale improvement in quality, the conference is segregated with the top five teams wielding winning records and the remaining members of the roster floundering in mediocrity. Unfortunately for Charlotte fans, the Hornets is located in the bottom half of the pile with a very low ceiling.
However, what has been trumpeted for a while and is a reality is Kemba Walker’s stellar play this season. Walker has consistently improved since entering the league in 2011 especially after signing a modest four year, $48 million contract to extend his stay in Charlotte.
The ex University of Connecticut Point Guard is averaging 25.9 points and six assists this season as he gears for his third straight All Star nomination but this time in what will surely be his first as a starter. Against the Wizards, Walker played his part well scoring 47 points in 38 minutes but watched his amazing night go waste as Washington got the win.
Aside his brilliance as a player, what is real is Charlotte Hornets lack help for Walker; a point hammered home by the Wizards. Unfortunately, the team doesn’t possess enough assets to trade for a star player like the Sixers did to get Butler. Compounding the problem is Charlotte is one of the least desired destinations by free agent players.
That means Hornets management has to go all in to persuade Khris Middleton to sign with them if Milwaukee Bucks hesitates on giving him a max contract considering Antetokounmpo is just a couple of seasons from signing a contract worth 35% of the salary cap. Swinging for the fences in a trade for Bradley Beal isn’t a far fetched idea even if Beal has two years on his contract after this season.
The Hornets are in wonderland housing an All Star and on track for a playoff appearance but matching or topping its best season since the 2015-2016 season of 48 wins is a fallacy without help for Kemba Walker.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter