8 Things to Expect During the 2019 NBA Playoffs (VIDEO)

Bob DeChiara, USA TODAY Sports

The 2018-19 NBA season saw many different headlines this year: LeBron is now a Laker, it’s Dwayne Wade’s final season and the Warriors’ Klay Thompson set the record for most three-pointers made in a game with 14. An already exciting regular season means a thrilling playoff run, right?

The 2019 NBA playoffs begin Saturday, April 13, as 16 teams enter the long grind to the NBA Finals. ESPN and ABC combine to televise four conference quarterfinal games on April 13 beginning at 12:30pm ET. TNT coverage of the NBA playoffs begins Sunday, April 14, at 5:30pm ET with a triple-header of conference-quarterfinal games.

We laid out what to look out for during the NBA Playoffs from the MVP to off-court drama.

MVP Race: The Case for Giannis

Last season, the Milwaukee Bucks stood at seventh place in the Eastern Conference prior to the playoffs. They did not make it far either as they lost to the Celtics in the first round. However, the Bucks came into the 2018-19 season hungry. Giannis Antetokounmpo helped push this team to the best record in the NBA, and they were the first team to clinch a playoff spot. Talk about a redemption year! With a clinched division and All-Star captain added to his hefty resumé, Antetokounmpo—dubbed “the Greek Freak”—is seeking out his first NBA MVP.

MVP Race: The Case for Harden

This season had one motto: “Fear the Beard.” The Houston Rockets’ James Harden has been so good this season that it’s become commonplace. Where do we even begin with Harden’s MVP-candidate season? Well, there’s the 61 points that he dropped at Madison Square Garden, his 50-point triple-double against the Lakers and, of course, the streak. In case you missed it, Harden had at least 30 points in 32 straight games. There’s only one question that is left unanswered: could the reigning MVP go for a repeat?

Don’t expect to see LeBron

The world was quite a different place 14 years ago. For instance, the iPhone wasn’t created yet, and the teenage population had yet to be diagnosed with Bieber Fever a la Justin Bieber. 2005 was also the last time that LeBron James did not play in the NBA playoffs. Similarly, the 2019 playoffs will also be played sans LeBron.

This season, James took his talent to the Los Angeles Lakers after his second stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He delivered on his promise of bringing a championship to Cleveland back in 2016, and he seeks to do the same for LA. However, 2019 marks the sixth straight season that the Lakers won’t be in playoff contention. But, hey, there’s always next year!

The 76ers’ “Process” will be tested

Just a few years ago, the Philadelphia 76ers used to be bad, like really bad. Since then, the team has been undergoing what was dubbed as “The Process,” and you’ve probably heard both the fans and the players chanting, “Trust the Process!” Last season, the Sixers made it to the playoffs, but fell short in the second round to Boston.

Before the trade deadline, the Sixers acquired Tobias Harris from the Los Angeles Clippers and Jimmy Butler from the Minnesota Timberwolves to enhance their other three starters: JJ Redick and All-Stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Some even consider the Sixers’ starting five to be the best in the NBA. Prior to the playoffs, they are sitting in third in the Eastern Conference, ahead of the Celtics and the Pacers.

In the regular season, they beat the Bucks, the Celtics and Golden State, proving they have what it takes to beat the best of the best. The time is now for the Sixers to show their fans that they have what it takes to go all the way.

A new venue for the Finals

NBA fans will finally get a taste of something other than Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland for the first time in four years. It’s also a goodbye send-off to Oracle Arena, too, as the Warriors will be making the move to the Chase Center in San Francisco next season. Since 2015, the NBA Finals matchup had the same script: Cleveland versus Golden State. In their first season post-LeBron, the Cavs failed to make the playoffs, let alone come even close. Sure, the Warriors made the playoffs, but, thankfully, this year’s playoffs will have, at least, one new venue to host the Finals. Whenever the Finals are played, be ready for it to be loud!

The Warriors will have to work hard to defend their title

Back-to-back-to-back champions? It could happen! The defending champs definitely have some work to do if they plan on going for a three-peat, though. Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant will need to work overtime to try and beat teams like Milwaukee or Toronto— both beat them during the regular season. The once-dominant Warriors can’t just coast through the playoffs anymore, they’ll need to step it up to keep their crown.

The Boston and Kyrie Saga continues

Kyrie loves Boston, he loves them not. No one really knows Kyrie’s true feelings about Boston besides Kyrie himself. At first, he was fully committed to the city. Then, he was asked again and changed his tune. This time around, he said, “Ask me July 1,” which is when the NBA’s new seasonal year begins. With rumors swirling around his destination come the off-season, will a strong playoff run from Boston keep Irving in green? Or will Kyrie look to find another home? You’re going to want to watch how this one plays out both on and off the court.

Keep an eye out for Ben Simmons (possibly) hitting a three

Don’t exactly expect this one, but, it could happen. The Sixers point guard has been criticized for his high-percentage of shots in the paint, and his lack of a jump shot. He attempted a three-pointer this season during a game against the Lakers— he missed. The reigning Rookie of the Year will make a three one day, so why not during the playoffs? His teammate Boban Marjanović just made his first one this season, too. Maybe it’s a sign? Whenever he does make one, you can expect the city of Philadelphia to go absolutely wild.

2019 NBA playoff coverage begins Saturday, April 13. Games air on ABC, ESPN, NBA TV & TNT; check listings for specific details.