Observations on teams in the East and West as the regular season comes to an end.
Washington’s collapse was really bad, should have at least got the #10 seed (last play-in spot)
The Wizards looked like an exciting and improved team back in November when they started off the season 10-4 (1st place in the East). However, I never thought it would get this ugly. Washington is now 35-46 (12th place in the East) and quite a bit has happened since their collapse with the two biggest headlines being Bradley Beal injuring his left wrist and the lack of continuity in the locker room leading to trades (One being for Kristaps Porzingis). Beal going down certainly made it harder to win games after January, but this club had a deep team to start the year and just couldn’t get on the same page as a group. Personally, I think the biggest mistake this club made was not welcoming what Spencer Dinwiddie had to say in the locker room. When your point guard isn’t getting the respect to the voice how he feels, it let me know right there that this team had/has players with self-centered/ego/dominance problems when it comes to what matters most, winning.
The Timberwolves made a nice jump this year, but need to realize next season will be a lot harder
Minnesota jumped from the #13 to #7 seed this season thanks to their Big 3 and head coach Chris Finch’s deep rotations. You got to give Finch the credit he deserves. We know Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards, & D’Angelo Russell can fill it up, but this club started the season with a below .500 record and had to find a way to make everyone else fit. That’s where Finch came in and added the defensive minded Patrick Beverley & Jarred Vanderbilt to the starting lineup while also giving a bunch of bench guys meaningful minutes. The team has completed their first 40 plus win season since 2017-18, but the real test starts next season. Teams that finished below the Timberwolves in the standings this year like the Clippers, Pelicans, Lakers, & Trail Blazers were not fully healthy and should look a lot different in 2023.
Changes likely coming for Utah with another 1st or 2nd round playoff exit, just need to figure who will be gone
Unlike last year, the Jazz are far from a 1st place finish this season, and that may cause some pressure to finally make moves. Since the team drafted Donovan Mitchell back in 2017, Utah hasn’t made it past the second round and probably still won’t this postseason. You can definitely say that the supporting cast Utah had/still has certainly made/makes a difference, but aren’t players that can get you over the top as two way players with the age they’re at now. Rudy Gobert (Turns 30 in June), Mike Conley Jr. (Turns 35 in October), Jordan Clarkson (Turns 30 in June), Bojan Bogdanovic (Turns 33 this month), & Royce O’Neale (Turns 29 in June), & Hassan Whiteside (Turns 33 in June) are all getting older . Not to mention, Quin Snyder could move on to a different club as well. So, the rest of the team being moved besides Mitchell could be a possibility, but the Jazz superstar also has gone through his share of trade rumors this season and is a name to keep an eye on this summer. Between coaching, the overall roster, and their superstar, Utah has some important decisions to make.
Jayson Tatum & Jaylen Brown’s offense, team defense, Robert Williams’ health, and Marcus Smart’s playmaking will be keys for Celtics in the playoffs
The Boston Celtics were able to get healthy and make a few impactful trades (Acquired Derrick White & Daniel Theis) at the deadline resulting in nothing but great basketball with Jayson Tatum & Jaylen Brown leading the way. First off, I think the biggest factor to the Celtics huge turnaround has been Jayson Tatum’s improved shooting numbers (41.7% FG & 32.7% 3-PT in his first 40 games, 48.9% FG & 37.1% 3-PT since). Boston’s star duo scoring the ball efficacy on offense makes the team go, as their team defense is already solid and other Celtics that aren’t highly consistent scorers don’t have to take too many shots. Lastly, Marcus Smart’s passing & Robert Williams’ health will be much needed this postseason to bring point guard play and rim protection. Smart is averaging a career high 5.9 APG and Williams (2.2 BPG) still hasn’t returned from his meniscus injury.