The NBA has seen plenty of surprises in another action-full regular season, but there are a few teams that have left their mark in one way or another. On the verge of completing an arduous run of 82 games over the course of a six-month campaign, ClutchPoints is proud to bring you the end-of-season awards: team edition, part three.
The Mind Over Matter award: Indiana Pacers & L.A. Clippers
NBA teams are often faced with adversity throughout a long 82-game season and not many get to overcome the cruel nature of injuries, especially to a star player. The Pacers brilliantly navigated Victor Oladipo’s crushing knee injury that ruled him out for the season, rallying for their guy and putting together a solid effort to notch the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Indiana will face the Boston Celtics in the first round and they are well-equipped to do so, despite lacking the star power and a 1-3 season series record.
The Clippers managed to go above the .500 mark for the second straight season after trading their best player in Tobias Harris after doing the same in 2017-18 with Blake Griffin. This time around, the Clippers mustered a total of 48 wins, just like the Pacers, notching the last spot in the West.
L.A. will have its hands full playing the two-time defending champions in the first round of the playoffs, but if there is one thing this team has over many others is heart and a never-ending motor, tools they could use to steal games on the road and make this a much more interesting series than most expect.
The Forever Doomed award: Phoenix Suns
The Suns seemed poised to make a leap this season after drafting Deandre Ayton with the top-overall pick and signing veteran Trevor Ariza for some direction among this young core of players. However, any hopes of bursting through the Western Conference quickly went to rest after a rousing season-opening win over the Dallas Mavericks on Oct. 17, quickly falling to 1-7 by the start of November.
Phoenix showed its systemic ineptitude quickly into the season, when they fired GM Ryan McDonough a week before the start of the opener, leaving James Jones to the interim position, one that now has been made permanent after a year under his trial period.
Jones has made a couple of decent acquisitions, trading Trevor Ariza for a younger Kelly Oubre Jr. while bringing in combo guard Tyler Johnson from the Miami Heat right before the trade deadline expired.
Yet star Devin Booker is still sitting at 23, 24, 21, and 19 wins through each of his four seasons in Phoenix, each coming with a new man at the helm (Jeff Hornacek, Earl Watson, Jay Triano, Igor Kokoskov).
There’s still no signs of a turnaround for the Suns, even with a 14% possibility to notch the No. 1 pick again — likely inconsequent at this point with a perennial lack of direction from the top down.
The Detonation award: New Orleans Pelicans & Memphis Grizzlies
Nothing spells boom! like having having to blow up the entire roster mid-season. This was the case for the Pelicans, who found out two weeks before the trade deadline that Anthony Davis wouldn’t be re-signing with them.
We all saw that coming, right?
Despite holding onto him through the trade deadline, the team traded away Nikola Mirotic to a championship contender in the Milwaukee Bucks — the first of many steps of a complete blow-up of this roster as it starts to rebuild.
The Memphis Grizzlies at one point shared a lead for first place in the Western Conference (no joke), but soon after an exciting 12-5 start, the wheels starter to fall off this wagon, quickly dropping six of the next 10 games.
It won’t be long before the Grizzlies have to weigh the possibility of trading Conley as well, though his hefty contract could present problems due to the lack of demand for an aging point guard.
Both of this team will go kaboom! over the course of this offseason, hoping to rebuild through their young talent.
The Oh-you-almost-had-it, you-gotta-be-quicker-than-that award: Charlotte Hornets
Much like this beloved State Farm commercial, the playoffs slipped away from the Charlotte Hornets in a crushing way.
The Hornets lost a decisive 122-114 duel against the playoff-bound Magic, already disheartened as a Blake Griffin-less Pistons team was already dismantling the league-worst Knicks by a whopping 30 points by the third quarter.
Making the playoffs was likely one of the very few reasons Charlotte could offer star point guard Kemba Walker for staying in The Queen City — and now they risk him leaving after the best season of his eight-year career.
The Hornets’ best pitch will be familiarity and $50 million more that they can offer than any other team in the league, but if Walker is determined to play for a winning team, it’s likely his days as Michael Jordan’s treasure are over.
The Farewell award: Dallas Mavericks & Miami Heat
Both of these teams handled the retirement of their respective franchise players masterfully, as Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade had the best of farewell tours during their last season in the NBA.
Nowitzki missed the last four games of the 2017-18 season to go under the knife and remove debris from his previously-operated ankle, hoping to maximize the time of recovery for what could be his last-ever season in the league. The recovery took longer than anticipated, but the 7-footer returned, in a limited role — yet just as formidably with his feathery-soft jumper and signature leg-up fadeaway.
Wade made it clear this would be his last season, and he made the most of it, playing in 72 games and missing 10, seven of which were due to the birth of his daughter.
The man formerly know as “Flash” went off for a 30-point outing in his last home game and dropped a 25-point, 11-rebound, 10-assist triple-double in his last-ever game with the Heat — only the fifth of his entire 16-year NBA career.
Neither of these two legends made the playoffs in their last season in the league, but they sure went out with a bang, including one hell of a farewell tour for each of them.