For the first time since 2004-05, LeBron James will not be in the playoffs. Things will be different.
For the first time since 2004-05, LeBron James will not be part of the NBA playoff conversation.
His Lakers missed the postseason after posting a 37-45 record in his first year with the team and now some new discussions will open up.
With James not playing in the postseason, new stars have a chance to make it to the NBA Finals.
So how does the conversation change with him being left out?
3 reasons the NBA playoffs will be different without LeBron James
1. Other players in the East will get some much-deserved recognition
We’ve already seen this throughout the season as Giannis Antetokounmpo has emerged as an MVP favorite after leading the Bucks (60-22) to the best record in the NBA. But with James out of the playoffs, the conversation should now be about the stars in the Eastern Conference.
And there are absolutely stars. We already mentioned Antetokounmpo, but Joel Embiid with the 76ers — as long as he’s healthy — will be front and center in the national spotlight and not overshadowed by James. Jimmy Butler will make waves in the playoffs, as well, for Philadelphia, but then other lesser-known players like Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic of the Magic will get some looks, and Raptors forward Pascal Siakam will show everyone just how good he has become.
Then players whose names you know will get a little more airtime, like Andre Drummond with the Pistons, D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie with the Nets and Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis with the Pacers.
2. There’s intrigue in the East
Watching greatness is a wonderful thing. No one complained about seeing Magic Johnson and Larry Bird face each other year after year. Watching Michael Jordan get to six of eight finals in the ’90s was also great, but in all honesty, it’s nice to see something new.
James went to eight straight NBA Finals with the Heat and Cavaliers. This will be the first time since 2010 we won’t be seeing LBJ play for a championship.
In some ways, that’s sad, while in others, it’s exciting. We could see Antetokounmpo go up against the Warriors for a seven-game series, or Brad Stevens and the Celtics facing off with Steve Kerr and the Warriors.
Kawhi Leonard helped the Spurs win a championship over James and could very well lead the Raptors to the finals. Butler may be the catalyst to get the 76ers over the top.
Even the Pacers seem just scrappy enough to fight their way to the final series despite losing their best player, Victor Oladipo. It will be incredibly tough, but Nate McMillan has kept his team playing well, so it wouldn’t be absolutely crazy to see them advance.
Sure, none of these teams has James, but everyone likes to see something new. We are guaranteed to get that out of the East this year.
3. We actually get to talk about basketball
Drama follows James. There is no way around it. Is that his fault? Well, to an extent yes, but, that’s just what happens in the current NBA landscape.
Think about all of the storylines surrounding the Lakers this year. How many can you name that were centered around basketball?
It’s not many. But you absolutely remember the Anthony Davis trade fiasco, Magic Johnson stepping down as president and rumors James didn’t want Luke Walton to be his coach. As much as that might be intriguing to get you through an 82-game regular season, it’s barely about basketball.
Now that the playoffs have rolled around we can talk about Mike Budenholzer changing the Bucks’ game to make them one of the best shooting teams in the league, we can discuss how the Warriors’ weakness may be DeMarcus Cousins’ pick-and-roll defense, we can find out how a Russell Westbrook-Paul George combination works without Carmelo Anthony attached to it in the playoffs and we can see how Denver’s home-court advantage in the Mile High City will affect the postseason as a whole.
And that’s just the surface stuff. This postseason can and should be about basketball — that is a great thing.