UConn in the NBA: Home stretch and playoff hopefuls

Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker (15) is fouled by Toronto Raptors' Serge Ibaka during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, March 4, 2018, in Toronto. The Raptors beat the Hornets 103-98. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)

Alert! Alert! There are around 20 games left in the NBA season and I’m not sure how to handle the home stretch. The Rockets currently sit atop the West, while the Raptors control the East, but who will lead the conferences by the end? The Western Conference playoff race is a closely contested fight while the East is still not set in stone. A lot can and will change in the league in the next few weeks so instead of taking a look at how the pro-baller Huskies are doing right now, I’ll predict how they’ll end their seasons.

Andre Drummond:

Detroit went all in on Blake Griffin at the trade deadline, and for their big-time move they were rewarded with an immediate five-game win streak. The problem came after that streak and continues right now, as Detroit is 2-8 in its last 10 games and just lost its most recent game to Miami, the team they are competing with for the eighth playoff spot. I’m of the belief that Drummond and Griffin could still power the team to a playoff appearance. Although they beat the Pistons recently, Miami is also reeling and could slide further down the standings to give the Pistons a chance. As for Drummond’s end to this season, the big man will surely be lead the league in rebounding. I’d still bet my money on the Pistons potentially sneaking in as the eighth seed in the playoffs.

Kemba Walker:

Walker’s Hornets sit a spot below the Pistons in the standings and are only 1.5 games back, so technically, they’re not out of playoff contention yet either. What the Pistons have that the Hornets don’t, though, is another star to go along with their main man, Walker. They arguably have a better overall roster than the Pistons do, but things just haven’t clicked this year for Charlotte, and it will be interesting to see what they do in the offseason. My guess is they will miss the playoffs and end up towards the back end of the lottery, a place no team really wants to be. If this happens, I see the Hornets trading Walker and some of their more highly paid players for draft picks and young guys to actually start a rebuild.

Jeremy Lamb:

Lamb is in the same situation as Walker because he is on the same team, and it doesn’t look too likely that team will be playing in the postseason. It’s pretty unlikely Lamb will get traded as he’s a fairly young piece without much value, so the Hornets will probably hold onto him. If the Hornets do indeed trade away Walker and some other players this offseason, Lamb could be in for a totally different role next season and could perhaps shine even brighter than we all thought.

Shabazz Napier:

“Napier’s Trailblazers” isn’t really an accurate statement. Damian Lillard is the face of the franchise, but Napier is his efficient backup and should get his second taste of postseason basketball this spring. Portland currently sits in third in the West, but is only two games ahead of the eighth spot because of the logjam that is the Western Conference standings. There is a chance Portland could fall out, but they’re red hot right now so it doesn’t look very likely. My prediction is that Portland will miss the playoffs. Their hot streak right now will soon fade into a cold streak, and they’ll miss the playoffs by a game or two. They’ll head into the offseason with an expensive, mediocre roster which might force them to deal Damian Lillard and others. If Lillard is dealt and Napier sticks around as really the only point guard, Napier might find himself in a starting role for next season.

Rudy Gay:

Strangely, San Antonio sits at sixth in the Western Conference standings, but could end up somewhere between third and 10th very easily. What’s really strange though is there’s a legitimate chance San Antonio misses the playoffs this year. For the first time in over 20 years, the Spurs could miss out on postseason basketball, and it would be a shame due to the massive amount of injuries they’ve suffered this season. If the Spurs make it, this will be Rudy Gay’s second postseason appearance ever, which must have him gunning for the playoffs. I wouldn’t bet against Gregg Popovich, but this is a weak Spurs team that has a legit chance at falling into the lottery. What a truly sad day that would be for the NBA.


Zac Lane is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at zac.lane@uconn.edu.