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Trades, Playoffs and MVPs: What to look for after the All-Star Break

After the NBA All-Star Weekend, we usually see the NBA rise in popularity. This is the glorious time between the Super Bowl and MLB Opening Day, where basketball is the only sport worth watching (sorry hockey fans). Of course people still enjoy watching NCAA basketball, but with March Madness a few weeks away, we can all focus our attention to the NBA. With so many intriguing stories this year in particular, it’s easy to see why so many people love the NBA. Today, I’ll discuss trades, playoffs, and the potential MVPs, and anything that is destined to steal our attention as the regular season winds down.

Image from hothothoops.com

  • Trades

Trades are what will ignite the most discussion in the next week. The trade deadline (at the time of writing) is 3 days 2 hours and 45 minutes away (thank you NBA.com!) and some big names are likely to be moved. Rumor has it, Carmelo Anthony isn’t exactly happy to be a Denver Nugget. Whether he joins the New York Knicks is yet to be seen, as the New Jersey Nets are still clinging to life in talks, but he will likely be playing for an Eastern Conference team next Friday.  The Knicks have reportedly offered a package of Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton, and Wilson Chandler. Timofey Mozgov and Eddy Curry would also be included for salary concerns. The Knicks would receive Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Shelden Williams and either Anthony Carter or Renaldo Balkman.

It appears as if the Knicks are ready to bet the farm to receive Melo, but consider a few things first. Although they are parting ways with Raymond Felton, this may be a wise move as it can pave the way for Deron Williams or Chris Paul playing with the Knicks after they become free agents. I don’t think this team can rise any higher than the sixth seed, where the Knicks currently sit, but I think they can make some noise in the playoffs.

Once Melo is traded, that could pave the way for many more trades out of Denver. Look for Nene, Al Harrington, and J.R. Smith to be moved as well. Also, you can bet that the Nuggets will trade Raymond Felton if they acquire him, as Ty Lawson appears to be the point guard of the future in Denver.

With all the focus on the Knicks, the Chicago Bulls might also make some trade noise this week. A shooting guard will likely make them a contender, so look for the Bulls to acquire a player like Anthony Parker, OJ Mayo, or even J.R. Smith.

Will the Suns finally “free” Steve Nash? With the trade deadline looming, you can expect teams to inquire about the talented point guard, but don’t expect a deal to be made. The Phoenix Suns are on the outside looking in on the playoffs, but still might have a playoff push left in them.

  • Playoffs

There isn’t much time left until the playoffs begin and there is likely to be a lot of excitement from teams looking to gain higher seeding, and teams on the outside looking in as well. In the East the seventh and eighth seeds are far from won. The Philadelphia 76ers and Indiana Pacers are far from good teams, and as a result, either can spiral into a losing streak. Both are playing strong now, but I’m not convinced they are locks for the playoffs. The Bobcats have been playing very well under Paul Silas, and might finally live up to preseason expectations and move up to the seventh or eighth seed.

Speaking of not living up to expectations, how about the Milwaukee Bucks? Many hoops bloggers had them not only making the playoffs, but some even thought they were better than the Bulls! Could this underachieving team finally live up to the hype? Do they have a playoff push (remember last season?) left in them? It’s unlikely, but it is possible, which is why the playoff race in the East should be entertaining to say the least.

The West should be even more exciting. If Melo is traded who takes the Nuggets spot in the playoffs? The Jazz have been uninspiring, while the Suns may finally have the opportunity they were hoping for. The Grizzlies are looking more and more, like a playoff team, so I would consider them a lock at this point. The Blazers on the other hand, I am not sold on. They have dealt with so many injuries, and I’m not sure if they can be good enough down the line. While I admire their perseverance, they might finally give in to the injury bug for good. Their success hinges on LaMarcus Aldridge’s stellar play, but how long until the team everyone is counting out, is finally out? This might be the Suns’ year yet again if everything goes their way.

  • MVPs

The MVP race has winded down to, in my opinion, two candidates. LeBron James, and Derrick Rose. LeBron has been playing as good as ever. His assists and points are both slightly down, but when he has players like Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on his team that is expected. Since he has to share the ball it is reasonable that his stats would suffer. While his numbers may not be as good as last year, they are still unbelievable. His team has lived up to expectations in their first year as well. When you consider that the team is essentially two superstars, a star, about two or three good role players (with two of them missing significant time due to injury), and then a ton of scrubs, this team has lived up to the hype. And LeBron deserves a ton of credit for it.

Derrick Rose has had a career year, and is largely responsible for the Chicago Bulls’ dominance. He has been downright incredible. I fully expect this MVP race to go down to the wire, and if the Bulls can gain even more ground in the standing, I would expect Rose to be a lock for the MVP.

So pay close attention to the rest of the season! This has been one of the most exciting seasons in recent memory, and I fully expect that to continue for the rest of the season.

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Matt Moore

Matt Moore is a Senior NBA Blogger for CBSSports.com's Eye on Basketball blog, weekend editor of Pro Basketball Talk on NBCSports.com, and co-editor of Voice on the Floor. He lives in Kansas City due to an unbelievably complex set of circumstances and enjoys mid-90's pop rock, long walks on the beach and the novels of Tim Sandlin.