*a 5 minute read*
Aanddd, we are back. The NBA season is right around the corner and this off-season has been just as wild as the year 2020. I mean John Wall plays basketball again (and he is still ridiculously quick), Steph Curry is back to rain down threes once again and Giannis signed the largest deal in NBA history (should have come to the Raptors but hey, secure your bag bro). Did we really expect anything less from the NBA?
With the season starting on December 22nd, the expectations are that what we are going to see will be nothing short of spectacular. The Miami Heat showed us last year that anything is possible. I expect nothing but the same this season. We move.
Free agency has been an absolute madness which has again shown that loyalty means something different to everyone all across the world.
Montrezl Harrell switched from the Clippers to the Lakers, showing he knows the team that can actually give him the best opportunity of winning a championship (ha).
Giannis Ante… (yeah you already know his name) resigned with the Bucks for a 5 year 228 million dollar deal (if you see his contract breakdown your jaw will drop to your toes), choosing to remain loyal to the franchise that took a chance on him. If you look at it from a business perspective, the move makes sense. They paid him the big boy bucks (ha, you see that?) to ensure he is tied down for his best years and there was no way in Giannis’s great-great-great-grandchildren’s lifetimes that the Bucks were going to trade him.
But for winning a championship wise, the decision is a bit… eh. Giannis knows deeps down his best chances were in the North with the Raptors (biased at its finest). But the league is ever-changing so maybe an opportunity will open in the future for him to… get knocked out in the second round again by the Raptors :).
The Lakers reloaded naturally as a championship team should, restructuring contracts to put themselves in a position to win multiple championships. But this was not a regular reload. You know how in the game Call of Duty you start with the original magazine clip? The Lakers came with the extended mag and added FMJ with the free agency signings they made. Unbelievable scenes.
Losing Dwight Howard, Javale McGee and Rondo were the noticeable losses the Lakers had from their roster. But restocking their squad with Dennis the menace (Mr. Schröder) Montrezl Harrell, Marc Gasol, and Wesley Matthews. I mean relax guys, give everybody else a fair chance of beating you in a 7 game series. It’s one of those rare instances where the team who won the championship became an even bigger threat than they were last year. It’s always been crazy in Los Angeles, to be honest. These guys don’t play by everyone else’s rules.
The Newest Talent
Ah, the new rookies. The fresh batch of talent ready to see if they belong in the league. Without march madness, it was difficult to see many of the new rookies up close and personal, but the NBA preseason has provided viewers with a makeshift spectrum of who’s absolutely trash and who can become a decent player in this league.
With Lamelo Ball, you can see it. You can feel it. And you can understand his foundation is there — it’s just about building the right blocks to make him great. His feel for the game looks amazing and Lamelo being drafted by the Hornets is the ideal spot for him to grow and play useful minutes, without having any immediate pressure to average 30 points a game in his first NBA season. He’ll find his footing with more game time throughout the season. He is definitely one to watch out for. I mean what can I say, the guy can ball (ha, ha).
But the steal of the draft, you already know where I am looking and it’s in the direction of the Toronto Raptors. The steal of this year’s draft is Malachi Flynn. That’s right, the Raptors did it again (completely biased).
That’s right, we might have another gem. I’ve nicknamed him baby Freddy with his baby face but tough demeanour on the court and the sense that when the ball is in his hands, everything is calm. There are no frantic movements in his steps, and although we have only seen him in the preseason, the things he has shown prove once again the amount of depth the Raptors seem to always create. I will be overhyping Flynn for the rest of the season (so get used to it now).
Flynn is a solid and composed player who looks like he can get some very valuable minutes this season. Masai Ujiri does it again. What a guy, man. What a guy.
So, Who Runs The Eastern Conference Now?
Well, the East coast has added some powerhouse players with real talent across the teams in the eastern conference. The majority of the rosters are evenly balanced and it will be exciting to see who will make the playoffs this year. I mean, Cleveland is still horrendous but are we surprised by this?
With the Heat, Raptors, Nets, Bucks, Pacers, Philly, Boston, and Atlanta (these are my eastern conference playoff predictions in no particular order), we can see there is a lot of competition here. Making the playoffs looks a lot harder than it used to be in this conference. But this year, home-court advantage won’t be much of a factor due to the pandemic and fans situation right now. Therefore, the seeding will not matter to a lot of these teams this season, it’s all about just being there once the playoffs start. Which raises the question: does it even matter who has the best record here?
Take the Brooklyn Nets for example. Sure, many fans won’t expect them to finish in the 8th seed this year as they will be expected to be near the top of the NBA standings. But do you think Kevin Durant and Kyrie care if they finish with the best record in the East?
The Brooklyn Nets have two superstars that pretty much ranks their team above everyone else in the conference except… the Miami Heat. I told y’all about Miami last year, remember? This organization does not play around. This team does not play around. And although I do expect to see the Nets in the finals, Miami making it once again will not leave me shocked this time around (if Adebayo can average 25+, it’s very possible).
The Battle of the Western Conference
Who’s ready for another western conference bloodbath? The conference is loaded with talent and teams that will make this year very interesting. But at the same time, we can also be realistic and we can determine who is a real threat to the Los Angeles Lakers and their shot at repeating this season (it’s not the Clippers, they still don’t have a point guard for goodness sake).
The only answer that comes to mind is the Denver Nuggets. It’s all about what Michael Porter Jr can do this year. He will be the difference in taking Denver to that next level. And if Bol Bol can gain meaningful minutes and contribute something extra also, the sky is the limit for them (cause it’s already not a limit for Bol Bol).
But these playoff spots are a whole other story. I honestly have no idea who is guaranteed a spot in the playoffs this year. Forget the seeding completely. Look. At. These. Teams. Closely.
First, think of Denver, Portland, Dallas, Houston, Golden State, and the Clippers (bums). These seven names make sense right? But there is only one spot left after them. You are telling me Utah, the Pelicans and Phoenix have to battle it out also?
The Utah Jazz is building something nice and they have shown in the past few years that they are a worthy playoff team. With Phoenix adding Chris Paul, you can’t count them out entirely, especially when he’s paired with a gifted scorer like Devin Booker and a reliable big man option in Deandre Ayton.
And the New Orleans Pelicans. I like them this year. I do believe with Zion taking a big step in his production, Lonzo finding his feet (and jumpshot) and Ingram continuing the elevation of his game, they can be a scary team to play against. They have enough veterans to keep them grounded and a young core that has everything it needs to be successful. But honestly, even these guys might not make the playoffs (like how?).
The West is ridiculous but the entertainment this will bring to viewers will be amazing. Every single game can’t be taken for granted for some of these teams. And keep an eye out for that play-in tournament once again this year also. It could see a team you may not expect sneak their way into the playoff picture through winning the right games at the right time.
Who’s Winning This Year?
I wanted to give another answer. It doesn’t sit right with me that this is as clear cut as it is. But, the Lakers will be repeating this season. It makes the most sense.
Defensively, they still have enough length and defensive guys who can cause problems to any team in the league. The ability to play big with Gasol at the 5 gives them another playmaker on the floor, freeing up Lebron to dominate somewhere else on the court. And ultimately, having someone like Anthony Davis (the ultimate small-ball center) makes them difficult to guard on a nightly basis, especially in the playoffs.
I don’t see how you can beat the Lakers four times before they have done it to you first. They are far too versatile and with a championship presence already around the majority of their team, they know what it takes to get the job done.
As for their opponent, I think if the Nets are strong enough defensively they can make it through. Even though Kyrie and KD are very special offensive talents, Miami’s defense has shown me in the playoffs that they can put up a good fight with anyone in the East. But, Brooklyn’s two superstars are so great that they should be able to knock off Miami in a seven-game series. But I will never doubt Jimmy Butler in my life. Ever.
A lot has been going on in the NBA and condensing it into one article was tough. But I am happy with the result. I hope you are also, feel free to tell me what you think. Thanks for reading, share with a friend, and answer the question below!
Who Will Win The NBA MVP This Season?