This season seems to be the most balanced season we have seen in many years. Even the East is deeper than usual. For the first time in over a decade we as fans have no idea who’s going to the finals in either conference. The west has about seven teams (Clippers, Lakers, Warriors, Trailblazers, Nuggets, Rockets, and Jazz) that have a legitimate chance of going to the NBA finals. The East has about 6 teams that can contend (76ers, Bucks, Pacers, Celtics, Nets, and Raptors) for the Eastern Conference Championship. This is a product of the most powerful offseason since Lebron’s “The Decision” in the summer of 2010. Durant going to the East, and Kawhi going to the West did more than just shake the world, it divided the power. Some teams really stood out this offseason from players lost and/or gained.
Sort of New Look Boston Celtics
The Celtics losing Kyrie could end up being a blessing, and the FIBA world cup could make that blessing come to fruition with KembaWalker, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Marcus Smart already playing together and getting that chemistry down. Adding Enes Kanter, a true center, something they have been lacking for many years is a good look as well. Brad Stevens is one of the better coaches in the NBA, so this has the potential to be one of the most dangerous teams in the East.
Durant-Less Brooklyn Nets
Brooklyn Nets without Durant for an unknown length of time is going to be the biggest challenge in getting to the Finals, but with the push to get Carmelo Anthony, adding Kyrie and Deandre Jordan, and a young hungry team with great coaching you cannot count them out just yet.
The Down But Not Out Golden State Warriors
No Kevin Durant, No Klay Thompson, no worries. The Warriors might me the most disrespected team after this offseason. They still have one of the best defenders in the league, they still have the greatest shooter of all time, and they still have Steve Kerr as a coach. They added D’Angelo Russell, Klay will be back, and added Willie Cauley-Stein. This team isn’t the league dominating team of yesteryear, but they are far from bad or even out of contention of winning the finals.
The Kings of L.A.
The most anticipated matchup in the NBA is coming straight from Tinseltown. The two best teams on paper share the same arena. What most assume will be the Western Conference Finals matchup, comes with no home court advantage. Lebron and AD vs The Claw and PG. Clippers have some of the best defenders in the league, Lakers have two of the best scorers in the league. Clippers have the advantage at coaching. Last team standing wears the crown.
MVP: Steph Curry
With no Durant or Klay, Steph has to show up this year and look like Steph before the Durant era. I believe he puts the Warriors on his back and has an amazing year from behind the arc to carry the Warriors to a 2 or 3 seed in the West.
Defensive Player of the Year: Joel Embiid
When healthy and in shape he is one of the best players in the league on both sides of the ball. I am determined that the game 7 loss against the raptors last season will turn his mentality around, and make him play to his potential game in and game out. Embiid will win Defensive Player of the Year.
Rookie of the Year: DeAndre Hunter
All eyes will on Zion as he is the biggest rookie since Lebron, and the question remains will he live up to the hype. I believe he will have really good rookie campaign, but I believe Hunter is in a better situation for him to flourish. With Trey looking to have a huge sophomore here, Hunter can benefit from defenders zoning in on Trey and Cam’s shooting. Hunter is one of the most complete players in the draft on both sides of the ball. Zion has a really good chance of winning, but Hunter is the guy I see challenging him more than any other rookie.
Most Improved Player: Lonzo Ball
Nobody in the NBA outside of the elite players has a bigger chip on their shoulder than Lonzo Ball. The kid from Chino Hills, with the proud father who can be heard from wherever he stands, who dreamed of being a Laker, was traded from the Lakers this past season. Not only was he traded, but Kyle Kuzma, draft mate, was kept by the Lakers. From the moment he was injured the Lakers defense dropped dramatically. He was the best defender they had, and outside of Lebron the best playmaker they had. Lonzo was a jumpshot away from being dangerous. Who knows what he worked on this off season, but if it is his jumper, be on the lookout for this kid to finally play up to his potential.
Celtics 2 – Bucks 4
No matter how good the 76ers roster is Brett Brown is not a good enough coach to get them to the next level, and because of that the Celtics gets past them to see the Bucks in the Conference Championship. The bucks smothering defense is just too much for that young Celtics roster and they fall short in 6.
Warriors 3 – Clippers 4
The warriors get Klay back, Steph is still hot for the regular season, Draymond is Draymond, and Kerr coach circles around Frank Vogel in the 2nd round, which ultimately leads to him getting fired and Jason Kidd getting promoted. We get 7 amazing nail biting games of back and forth basketball, but the defense of the Clippers is just too much to overcome for the warriors as they lose game 7 in Los Angeles.
Clippers 2 – Bucks 4
The era of Giannis has begun! With a stellar performance in the finals averaging over 30 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 blocks, and 2 steals to lead the Bucks to their first championship in 49 years. In a matchup of the two best defensive teams in the league somebody is going to have to step up and put on an offensive show, and that somebody will be Giannis. We never got Kobe vs Lebron, but Kahwi vs Giannis can be a rivalry as big as Bird vs Magic. Giannis will capture his first finals MVP as the 2020 NBA season comes to an end.