Four storylines for the second half of the NBA season

February 18

John Wall and the Wizards are currently in playoff position in the Eastern Conference. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

The All-Star break is over, which means teams are gearing up for a playoff push. The Wizards are once again relevant, and in the weak Eastern Conference they seem like a lock to end their five-year postseason drought. Here’s what to look for from Washington and the rest of the league in the final couple months of the NBA season.

1. Trade Deadline

Will there be any deals that affect the playoff race by Thursday’s trade deadline? The Lakers could move Pau Gasol and his $19 million salary, but that’s a huge amount for any team to take on. Will the Celtics trade point guard Rajon Rondo to help their rebuilding efforts? The Knicks want a point guard, but they really have no assets to offer. As for the Wizards, don’t expect any major moves. Their young roster is starting to hit its stride.

2. MVP Race

Kevin Durant has overtaken LeBron James in the MVP race heading into the second half. The Thunder forward had a streak of 12 games with 30 points or more and has helped lead Oklahoma City to the best record in the league despite Russell Westbrook playing in just 25 games. But we often take LeBron James’ gaudy numbers for granted. The Heat forward is third in the NBA in scoring while shooting 57.1 percent from the field. He’ll make his MVP push in the final 30 games.

3. Playoff Position

In the West, four teams are vying for three spots. The Mavericks, Suns, Warriors and Grizzlies entered Tuesday within two games of one another. In the East, the race is for the No. 3 seed. There are only four East teams above .500 and the Raptors, who are in the No. 3 spot, entered Tuesday just 3½ games ahead of the seventh-seeded Nets. If John Wall and the Wizards (in sixth Tuesday) can avoid the No. 7 or No. 8 seed, they’ll have a very winnable first-round playoff matchup.

4. Tanking

With a highly anticipated upcoming NBA draft class, being in the lottery won’t be such a bad thing for a young team trying to rebuild. Currently, the Bucks are a runaway favorite to have the worst record and the most pingpong balls in the NBA draft lottery. There are plenty of viable options for the top pick (Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins). The Wizards won’t have a first-round pick if they make the playoffs, having traded a protected pick to the Suns for Marcin Gortat.

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