Nine NBA stars we wish were in the Playoffs
ABS-CBN Sports on Apr 12, 2019 02:48 PM
NBAE via Getty Images
The 2018-19 NBA regular season is in the books. We know who the 16 teams that are vying for the Larry O'Brien trophy are, and we know which clubs are waiting for the draft lottery.
While the results are now set in stone, that doesn't stop us from wondering "what if." What if a couple of breaks went one team's way instead of another's? What if the basketball gods were nicer when it came to injuries? What if you surrounded your superstar with shooters instead of a meme team? Etc. etc. etc.
So with all that in mind, here are the nine NBA stars we'll have in the back of our minds when the Playoffs begin on Sunday (PHL time). While we'll certainly enjoy all the drama that comes with the postseason, it's a shame these guys won't be involved.
The Young Guns
De'Aaron Fox (Sacramento Kings)
17.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, 7.3 assists
De'Aaron Fox made a leap after his rookie season, and brought the Sacramento Kings along with him. The speedy floor general got his squad to play at a blitz-like pace, and suddenly, the purple-clad of California's capital became must-see on NBA League Pass.
For a while, it even looked like the Kings finally end their lengthy postseason drought, which reaches back all the way to 2007. However, despite adding Harrison Barnes at the trade deadline, Fox and Co. ran out of steam. Things are up in the air now, following the firing of head coach Dave Joerger, but here's hoping we get the Kings in the postseason again sometime soon.
Trae Young (Atlanta Hawks)
19.1 points, 3.7 rebounds, 8.1 assists
Sometimes, first-year players hit the rookie wall, as the grind of the 82-game regular season sinks in. For Hawks rookie point guard Trae Young, it actually was the opposite. Young struggled with his shot early on, highlighted by 35.5% shooting from the field, 19.8 percent from three in the month of November, but found his footing around February.
Post All-Star break, Young posted averages of 24.7 points (44.2% FG, 34.8% 3FG) and 9.2 assists. Perhaps more importantly, he turned the Rookie of the Year contest into an actual race against the guy he was traded for, Mavericks forward Luka Doncic. If Young and the Hawks continue to gel, and with the addition of maybe one or two more high lottery picks, we should see Atlanta back in the postseason soon.
Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks)
21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 6.0 assists
Speaking of Doncic, there were some doubts that his game would translate well to the NBA, despite plenty of Euroleague accolades, during the draft. Those fears were quickly dispelled though, as Halleluka went wild in the NBA.
As outstanding as Doncic's performances were though, he couldn't quite sustain it for the entire season. He had several shooting slumps, especially from long-range, a few nagging injuries, plus, a potential push for a Playoffs spot was derailed after the team dealt for Kristaps Porzingis. Sure it would have been fun to see if he would have added to his already gaudy eight triple-doubles, but with Dirk Nowitzki passing the torch to him with his retirement, the Mavericks will 100 percent be his team next season.
Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards)
25.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.5 assists
Entering this season, the Wizards were looking at another run in the East, only for everything to come crashing down. Dwight Howard, their big offseason acquisition, barely played, and their marquee guy, John Wall, suffered a catastrophic injury that not only ended his season prematurely, it could very well hold him out of their 2019-2020 campaign as well. That led to the team becoming sellers at the trade deadline, and after that was done, they went and fired their team president too.
The one positive in all this? The team can at least feel comfortable in the fact that Bradley Beal is capable of carrying this team on his shoulders. Formerly penciled in as Wall's running-mate, Beal showed that he can succeed as the main guy too. His production was even recognized with a second straight All-Star nod. Now granted, it's unclear if the Wizards have the resources (the cap space, especially) to surround Beal with more talent, but having him on their squad means the cabinet isn't bare.
Kemba Walker (Charlotte Hornets)
25.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, 5.9 assists
The Hornets were right there, fighting for the eighth seed in the East, up until the very last day, but the breaks just weren't in their favor. One thing you can say definitively though? Kemba went down guns blazing. The host of this year's All-Star Game set a new career-best in points per game, which is no easy thing considering how he's options A, B, and C for his squad (with apologies to Jeremy Lamb).
In fact, Walker's final outing of the season just captures him so well. While Charlotte got decent numbers from the aforementioned Lamb (22 points), rookie Miles Bridges (18), and Dwayne Bacon (12), Walker was doing the bulk of the heavy lifting, tallying a massive 43 markers on 16-of-25 shooting. Now though, things get interesting. He's set to be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, giving him quite the choice - stay in Buzz City, or try his luck somewhere else?
Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota Timberwolves)
24.4 points, 12.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists
It was a pretty eventful season for the Timberwolves. After finally returning to the Playoffs last year, Jimmy Butler demanded a trade in extremely explosive fashion and didn't see that request granted for quite some time, as Tom Thibodeau stubbornly dug his heels in. Of course, eventually Butler was dealt, and then Thibodeau was axed, leaving Towns unquestionably as the face of this franchise.
With that said, it took a major car accident, Towns said that he was "blessed to be alive" after a semi truck rear-ended the vehicle he and a team trainer rode in, back in February, to really jump-start things for him. After missing two games while in the league's concussion protocol, the very first missed games of his career, Towns went on a mad stretch where he averaged 35 points over seven outings. Unfortunately, with the postseason no longer in sight, Towns dialed it back a bit, but just imagine that KAT in the postseason. It'd be a sight to behold.
LeBron James (LA Lakers)
27.4 points, 8.5 rebounds, 8.3 assists
There's a really, really good basketball player named LeBron James that plays for a team called the Lakers? You may have heard of him or the team. Anyway, a lot of things happened during said team's season, including the worst injury James ever suffered, a groin issue that forced him out for 17 games. Long story short, James missed the postseason for the first time since 2005 and the Lakers? Well, you're going to be reading a lot about them this offseason. Whether it's good or bad news for them and King James, we'll just have to wait and see.
Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks)
7.3 points, 3.1 rebounds, 0.7 assists
Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat)
15.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.2 assists
If this were a sports movie, we'd get Mavericks versus Heat again in the Finals, for one last epic showdown between these two. Actual reality isn't too bad though. Both failed to make the Playoffs, but these two future Hall of Famers get the sendoffs they so richly deserved.
Nowitzki and Wade are icons of Dallas and Miami, respectively, playing pivotal roles in bringing at least one championship to each city. So after long, splendid careers, they're getting to hang up their sneakers and ride out into the sunset.
But boy would it have been amazing to see them in the postseason one last time, right?
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