NBA playoff picture solid after deadline

DeMarcus Cousins was recently traded to the Pelicans. (Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia)

Mike Eshleman
Staff Writer

The NBA landscape remained mostly unchanged after the NBA trade deadline passed last Thursday at 3:00 pm. Many big names like Paul George, Jimmy Butler and Jahlil Okafor that were rumored to be traded, ended up staying put.

However, there were still a few noteworthy trades that went through before time expired at 3:00 pm.

The Dallas Mavericks and Philadelphia 76ers agreed to a trade early in the day on Thursday. The 76ers sent center Nerlens Noel to Dallas for defensive specialist Justin Anderson, center Andrew Bogut and a 2017 first round pick, protected through picks 1-18.

For many, this was deemed a lost trade for the 76ers. Noel had become a face for “The Process” and was loved by almost all 76ers fans for his defensive prowess.

If the Mavericks first round pick does not convey this year, then it turns into two second round picks in 2018. After an Andrew Bogut buyout, the trade will likely become Justin Anderson and two second round picks for Nerlens Noel.

Hardly a fair trade, but it will all hinge on if Anderson can realize the potential he displayed in college at Virginia where he was named ACC Sixth Man of the Year in his junior year.

One of the biggest trades that flew under the radar was the Lakers sending guard Lou Williams to the Houston Rockets for forward Corey Brewer and a first round pick.

This makes the Houston Rockets more dangerous than ever. Lou Williams and current sixth man for the Rockets Eric Bledsoe were considered the two top candidates to win the Sixth Man of the Year award.

Having the elite scoring of Bledsoe and Williams coming off the bench behind superstar James Harden will cause problems for a lot of the teams.

Look for the Rockets to make a lot of noise in the playoffs and challenge the current top team in the West, the Golden State Warriors.

The Oklahoma City Thunder finally got some help for Russell Westbrook. The Thunder acquired forwards Doug McDermott and Taj Gibson who can both provide a spark on both ends of the court. The Thunder will hope this move could push them to the level of the top teams in the West.

The playoff outlook for the NBA is looking pretty tight, but still includes many of the same teams. In the Western Conference, the Golden State Warriors are still the cream of the crop, but the Rockets are right on their heels after the moves they made.

Look for the San Antonio Spurs to make a run at dethroning the Warriors in the West. But, for now, the Warriors are the team to beat and could likely match up with the Rockets in the Western Conference Finals.

As far as things go in the Eastern Conference, it basically looks like the Cavaliers conference to lose. The Celtics, Wizards and Raptors look to be the Cavaliers biggest threats in the East.

The Raptors made a few moves, acquiring rim protector Serge Ibaka and lockdown perimeter defender PJ Tucker.

Don’t be surprised to see an Eastern Conference Finals rematch of Toronto vs Cleveland this year, with the Cavaliers likely making the Finals for the third year in a row.

There is still a lot of season left, but many fans are anticipating yet another Cavaliers – Warriors final. Given the quality of last season’s matchup which went to game seven, not too many NBA fans will be upset with this matchup.

There are many teams ready to challenge those two, but the Cavaliers and the Warriors remain the class of the NBA.