LeBron James goes down; NBA title up for grabs

The NBA title is officially up for grabs.

With the news that Los Angeles Lakers‘ linchpin LeBron James could miss up to six weeks after he sustained a high right ankle sprain vs. the Atlanta Hawks in L.A. on Saturday.

Champs in trouble?

Lakers’ star forward Anthony Davis has been out since February as well. When Davis suffered a calf strain and aggravated the Achilles tendinosis in his right leg. The prevailing word is that AD probably won’t return until some time in April.

But help may be on the way. Ex-all star big Andre Drummond is anticipated to join the Lakers soon. Sources expect a buyout of his contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers. This would allow Drummond to determine his next stop.

There is sure to be a shakeup in the NBA’s pecking order with precious playoff seeds at stake. Here we take a look around the league at current championship contenders and where they sit in the standings.

Eastern Conference

Milwaukee Bucks (29-14, 2nd East)

The Bucks are surging on an eight game winning streak. They’ve won 11 of 12. Two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is on fire. As Antetokounmpo averages a triple double every night during this run. Which is remarkable with nearly 30 points per campaign. Former all-star guard Jrue Holiday plays a huge role in Milwaukee adding almost 16 points & 5 assists per contest.

Brooklyn Nets (30-15, 3rd East)

Even though Kevin Durant has missed over a month with a lingering hamstring injury the Nets are holding strong. Brooklyn has won 8 of 10 in March. Blake Griffin should get ample time to secure a spot in the rotation. Will he make an impact? Does a reunion with DeAndre Jordan spell success for them?

Philadelphia 76ers (31-13, 1st East)

Franchise center and MVP candidate Joel Embiid looks to return from a bone bruise on his left knee. Wing threat Tobias Harris has become a steady, stabilizing force for the Sixers. Third year off-guard Shake Milton appears to be a major part of the plan. Can they count on him? Also Dwight Howard chips in 8 rebounds a game. Do they have enough depth to win?

Western Conference

Utah Jazz (32-11, 1st West)

The Jazz are in prime position with the best overall record. Utah started 24-5 then stumbled a bit. They bounced back but haven’t separated themselves from the pack.  All-Star pair Donovan Mitchell & Rudy Gobert make a potent one-two punch.

Combo guard Jordan Clarkson is an essential ingredient of Utah’s winning formula. Add the other vital assets acquired in July 2019. First Jazz point man Mike Conley being traded from Memphis. Second free agent sniper Bojan Bogdanovic, who signed with Utah the same month, following a stint with Indiana. Do they stay healthy and focused down the stretch?

L.A. Clippers (29-16, 3rd West)

Team rebounding remains an issue for the Clippers. Forward Marcus Morris has given them a boost lately. Yet only adds 4 boards a game. Beyond that, Paul George’s seasonal average is down 25% since 2019. The Clippers need more on that end.

Denver Nuggets (26-18, 5th West)

Denver must adjust to the losses of Jerami Grant, Malik Beasley and Mason Plumlee. The Nuggets made a splash at the trade deadline by acquiring Aaron Gordon. Michael Porter Jr. and Will Barton are both key for Denver, who is keeping pace at 7-3 the last 10 games. To ask of Denver’s defense, particularly in the paint — who protects the rim come playoff time? Is JaVale McGee the answer?

Phoenix Suns (29-14, 2nd West)

The Suns are now surging. Sharpshooter Devin Booker is blazing hot so far this year, scoring 25 points a game. 35-year-old floor leader Chris Paul has lifted the offense to greater heights. Paul is putting up his best assist numbers since 2017. Can the Suns rise and shine in the postseason?

Under 8 weeks left

We are just eight weeks from the NBA playoffs. The 2021 championship chase is anybody’s race.

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