Interesting times await Ben Simmons and his Philadelphia 76ers as they emerge from the All-Star weekend and enter the final phase of the NBA regular season.
The 76ers have the talent to dominate the final 24 games before playoffs, cut a path to the eastern conference finals and play for an NBA title against the western conference kingpins.
Stacked with talent: Ben Simmons’ 76ers are primed for a playoff run.Credit:AP
But with a volatile mix of egos in their locker room, they could also implode and make an early exit.
Queenslander Aron Baynes and his Boston Celtics face a similar powder-keg situation while in the west, Joe Ingles, Dante Exum and the Utah Jazz are seeking revenge and Patty Mills, master coach Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs are gearing up for another playoff run.
Here's how Australia's NBA contingent and their teams look ahead of the playoffs.
Australians: Ben Simmons; Jonah Bolden.
Record: 37 wins, 21 losses (equal fourth in east)
Last year they were the hottest team heading into the playoffs, with rookie Simmons leading the team on a 16-win streak without injured All-Star Joel Embiid.
The 76ers announced on Wednesday Embiid is out for at least a week with left knee soreness but this year Simmons has Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris as elite wingmen after the 76ers went shopping for stars.
Despite impressive performances, Bolden has been squeezed out of coach Brett Brown's new loaded rotation.
What makes Simmons' crew look vulnerable to an early playoff exit is their poor record against the east's elite trio of the Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors so far this season.
Embiid and Butler also have oversized personalities that could disrupt team harmony during a rough stretch.
Aron Baynes; Kyrie Irving
37 wins, 21 losses (equal fourth in east)
Aron Baynes’ absence has been notable.Credit:USA Today
The Celtics look more vulnerable to playoff disappointment than last year when they were without injured All-Stars Irving and Gordon Hayward but went within a whisker of making the championship series.
Irving's alpha personality and comments to the media about teammates have been disruptive for a Celtics team that at the start of the season appeared most likely to win the east.
Baynes has been hit by injuries and his absence has proved the importance of his big body and team-first mentality.
26 wins, 30 losses (equal eighth in east)
Maker was so unhappy with his lack of court time at the league-leading Bucks he reportedly asked to be traded and earlier this month ended up at the mediocre Pistons.
After just three games with them he is averaging a little more than13 minutes a game – two minutes more than with the Bucks.
Ironically, if the Pistons hold on to eighth position in the east he will likely face the Bucks in the first round of the playoffs.
Matthew Dellavedova; Deng Adel
12 wins, 46 losses (second last in east)
Delly, Adel and the Cavs should start planning their summer holidays.
Delly and the Cavs can get ready for their holidays.Credit:AP
Their playoff hopes vanished the second LeBron James fled to the Los Angeles Lakers in the off-season.
Joe Ingles; Dante Exum
32 wins, 25 losses (sixth in west)
Beware of the jilted Jazz.
Utah were furious their centre Rudy Gobert was snubbed for the All-Star game and the big Frenchman was so upset he burst into tears.
Expect the Jazz to make a move up the crowded west standings.
SAN ANTONIO SPURS
33 wins, 26 losses (seventh in west)
History says the Spurs will make the playoffs despite a logjam in a desperate playoff fight in the west.
The Spurs have made the playoffs the past 21 seasons but are navigating this season after stalwarts Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green left the team.
26 wins, 31 losses (12th in west)
Broekhoff has had sporadic minutes during his first season as part of an inconsistent Dallas squad but when given an opportunity usually showed his value.
Earlier this month he dropped 12 points on 4-9 shooting in 29 minutes against the Cavs.
The Mavs, however, are expected to miss the playoffs.
The team is in transition with veteran Dirk Nowitzki retiring and rookie sensation Luka Doncic taking the reins.
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