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We know a lot has happened since we’ve been gone, so here’s a quick recap of some of the most important headlines surrounding the basketball world prior to the NBA Playoffs:
1. NCAA SEASON
After becoming the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed in the NCAA tournament last season, the University of Virginia pulled off the perfect redemption story by defeating Texas Tech in overtime 85-77 to win the school’s first National Championship.
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Zion Williamson dominated much of the discussions throughout the season with his outstanding play and his ability to carry a poorly constructed Duke team to the Elite 8. Despite failing to make the Final 4, Zion will be the consensus number one pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.
Ja Morant burst onto the scene for Murray State, becoming the first player in NCAA history to average 20 points and 10 assists per game in a single season. Pair those eye-popping stats with his freakish athleticism and you have a guaranteed top five pick in this upcoming draft.
2. INDIVIDUAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS
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Houston Rockets star James Harden went on a 32-game streak of scoring 30 points or more this season. His historic run was the second longest streak in NBA history. Harden averaged an efficient 36.1 points, 7.5 assists and a career-high 2 steals per game. The reigning MVP was able to carry an 11-14 team to finish with a 53-29 record; good for 4th in the West. With all due to respect to Giannis Antetokounmp, we think Harden will be this season’s unanimous MVP.
Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook had another season for the history books by becoming the first player in NBA history to average a triple-double for the third consecutive season. He helped lead the Thunder to a 49-33 record; good for sixth in the West. Westbrook finished the season averaging a league-high 10.7 assists to go along with 22.9 points and 11 rebounds per game.
3. YEAR ONE OF THE LEBRON-LAKER ERA
With the combination of the injury bug, a poorly constructed roster and LeBron James putting basketball second to his business ventures, the Los Angeles Lakers are looking like the most dysfunctional franchise in the league. LeBron will miss the postseason for the first time in 14 years. He also missed a career-high stretch of 17 games due to a groin injury this season. During James’ 17-game absence, the Lakers only managed to win just six games.
To make matters worst, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram both suffered season-ending injuries. Failing to miss the playoffs for another season has basketball experts bewildered as to which direction the now Magic-less Lakers franchise will be heading into this off-season.
4. RETIREMENT LIFE
This season saw the final swan song of two of the greatest players of all-time; future Hall of Famers Dwyane Wade and Dirk Nowitzki.
Miami Heat legend Dwyane Wade ended his career with a triple-double, the fifth triple-double of Wade’s marvelous 16-season career. Miami didn’t make it to the postseason this year, but it definitely wasn’t D-Wade’s fault. The 37-year-old veteran still managed to average a respectable 15 points, 4.2 assists and 4 rebounds per game. The 3x NBA champion will finish 29th of all-time in scoring with 23,165 points. His other career accomplishments include one scoring championship, one NBA Finals MVP, 13 All-Star selections, one All-Star game MVP, eight All-NBA teams, and three All-NBA defensive teams.
After a record-breaking 21 seasons with the same team, the greatest Dallas Mavericks player of all-time finally hangs up his sneakers at sixth in all-time scoring with 31,560 points. Dubbed the “Original Stretch Four” Dirk Nowitzki is the reason why most big men today practiced their long-range jump shot. Nowitzki led the Mavs to their first NBA Finals appearance in 2006, as well as their only championship in 2011 in which he won Finals MVP. Dirk’s other achievements include 14 All-Star selections, 12 All-NBA teams and an MVP award. He is also one of only eight members of the prestigious 50-40-90 club.
5. SEASON-ENDING INJURIES
Indiana Pacers star Victor Oladipo ruptured his quadriceps tendon in his right knee on January 23rd. The Indiana Pacers still managed to clinch the 5th seed in the East with a record of 48-34.
Washington Wizards star John Wall underwent season-ending surgery on his left heel on January 8th. Unfortunately, Wall will miss approximately the next 12 months with a ruptured left Achilles tendon after slipping and falling in his home on February 5th. Wall says he isn’t sure if he’ll return next season. The 11th-placed Wizards failed to make the playoffs, finishing with a record of 32-50.
Los Angeles Lakers forward Brandon Ingram will miss the remainder of the season after being diagnosed with a deep venous thrombosis in his right arm on March 9th. The diagnosis will require Ingram to be on blood-thinning medication for several months.
Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic suffered a season-ending injury after sustaining compound fractures to his left tibia and fibula with 2:22 remaining in the second overtime of Portland’s win over Brooklyn on March 25th. The 4th-placed Trail Blazers are going to have a tough time competing for a championship without Nurkic’s presence in the paint.
6. MAJOR ACQUISITIONS AT THE TRADE DEADLINE
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Philadelphia 76ers trade for LA Clippers forward Tobias Harris – The Sixers also acquired Boban Marjanović and Mike Scott in a trade with the Clippers, sending L.A. Wilson Chandler, Mike Muscala and Landry Shamet to the Clippers in the deal.
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Dallas Mavericks trade for NY Knicks star Kristaps Porzingis – The Knicks seemingly out of nowhere traded their young cornerstone in return for Deandre Jordan, Wesley Mathews, Denis Smith Jr., and two future first round picks. In addition, the Mavs received Courtney Lee, Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr.
Toronto Raptors trade for Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol – The Raptors had to packaged Jonas Valaciunias, Delon Wright, C.J. Miles and a 2024 second rounder to the Grizzlies in order to acquire the former DPOY.