Things are not yet back to normal. That’s what makes the upcoming 72-game album so exciting.
It will be an NBA season like no other.
From a 72-game record we only know half of, to a backup in the same city, to games played without fans, to the chaos of a player around the league, we have little prior knowledge of what an NBA season like this one might look like.
That makes it harder to predict what will happen in the league this year – 2020 taught us to anticipate the unexpected, and here we set expectations. But, as tradition demands, we have to get on with our annual ritual of trying to make sense of the league before it even starts. Here are The Tribune’s predictions for the 2020-21 NBA season.
MVP: Giannis Antetokounmpo
I understand why you would be skeptical about Giannis Antetokounmpo ‘s NBA MVP chances – no one has won an MVP three seasons in a row since Larry Bird did it in the mid – 80s.
And yet, why would you bet against it? He only turned 26 last week. He plays for a coach who puts a lot of emphasis on winning every regular season game, with Giannis at the heart of it all. He remains the average man around a point last minute, and won the league’s defensive player of the year award.
And his competition may not take it. He still has a lot to prove – unlike LeBron James, who broadcasts his secrets to the coast throughout the year. It is clear that James Harden did not focus on basketball in the summer. Can Steph do without Klay? Dallas ‘surprise surprise Luka Doncic may be Giannis’ biggest rival, but can voters ignore the defensive gap? I say no: the Greek Freak wins MVP again.
Coach of the Year: Tom Thibodeau
The NBA Coach of the Year award is often given to the coach of the most outstanding team. So while Ty Lue, Steve Nash, Erik Spoelstra, and Monty Williams are at the top of the list of candidates in Vegas this year, would anyone wonder if the Clippers, Nets, Heat, or Suns would be better off -year?
So let’s think outside the box. What if the New York Knicks were even good this year? Oh, of course, it probably won’t. But if so? They are a media broadcast. Tom Thibodeau would get the COY vote in a snare.
Coach on the hot seat: Luke Walton
On the other hand, the first coach fired usually follows an expected pattern – this is the one that loses most games in an optimistic position. Sacramento is likely to be frustrated, and in fact, Luke Walton is not a very good coach, according to many accounts. I think he ‘s more likely to get fired first.
Team to beat: Los Angeles Lakers
It’s the Lakers, with a million miles. After a dominant playoff run, they improved, adding Wes Matthews, Marc Gasol, and Montrezl Harrell to the group. With depth to deal with COVID challenges and bogey, only injury could allow the title to slip out of the Lakers’ grip this year.
Don’t sleep on: Portland Trail Blazers
Remember two seasons ago, when the Portland Trail Blazers made the Western Conference finals behind a roster with Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, wing defenders, and Enes Kanter supporting Jusuf Nurkic? Well, after a bad season full of injuries and departures, they now have Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, their wing defenders (thanks in addition to Robert Covington), and Enes Kanter supporting Jusuf Nurkic. Maybe he will do well.
Team you don’t want to play: Denver Nuggets
I’ve already mentioned the Lakers, so let’s give the Denver Nuggets a shout out, which just makes the teams they play look silly. It may have been a 7-game series, but the Nuggets were embarrassed by the Nuggets – especially with Nikola Jokic at the helm with no last-minute view of Game 7 to the effect of the Nuggets. win the blowout series. With renowned trickster Facundo Campazzo added to the mix, Nuggets opponents will be aware: you catch ghosts.
Too many teams: Brooklyn Nets
While I have to congratulate the Nets for hiring a head coach – Steve Nash – who had his last job as a TV football presenter for Turner in their broadcast in the Champions League, I don’t think Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant (overcoming Achilles tears!) will provide the on-court team play needed to do much of anything in the playoffs . Like the Clippers of 2019-20, the quality of play to ratio headlines will be low.
Overrated player: Karl-Anthony Towns
It’s funny: I really like KAT as a player. He is one of the most skilled players in the league on the offensive end, and there is nothing that he cannot do. It’s a lot of fun to watch. And I’m still waiting for the day when he can lead his team on the defensive end – he’s really falling in and out. The love he showed for the game as a young player is harder to see now. I think he’ll get over it and find a way to earn his talent, but he’s not doing it right now.
The rarest player: Kyle Lowry
It’s Kyle Lowry. With Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors finished second in the Western Conference. Without Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors finished … second place in the Western Conference. And while Lowry is getting old and already losing speed, coming up with a sports bag to make up for it, skill league spectators sometimes call it “advanced BS.” Lowry is a master of the flop, the deception drawn, the sneaky theft, the unprecedented pass, and he has a complete knowledge of every play on the floor.
Future house name: Ja Morant
Ja Morant has already won the NBA’s attention last season by putting up the Rookie of the Year campaign, but he’s starting to show what he’s done with the Memphis offseason, and he’s a bit scary, with potential everywhere on the floor. An NBA fan already knows about Morant, but he’s going to get to the next series of near-NBA fame very soon.
Rookie of the year: LaMelo Ball
You won’t want to read too much into preseason play, but you’ll see who appears off-screen: Ball LaMelo. His passes and defensive handling in space demonstrate that special skill that only a few players have – the ability to make anyone on the floor believe anything. He has a bit of the energy of year-round rookie Ben Simmons, for sure.
Even with Lakers stars resting on games for much of the season, they have so much depth that they can be hard to beat – even one of LeBron James and Anthony Davis is at the same time full-handed. The Clippers figure comes in second, but don’t count the Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz from getting top-2 seed: both teams know who they are, and will implement it a- inside and out. Continuity could rise to the top in a complex year. After that, the Mavericks and Blazers additions get them to the 5th and 6th seed, while Golden State and Phoenix have two high-rise rosettes with real weaknesses coming in 7th and 8th. Houston falls apart; Harden seems to be trading.
There’s no reason to think the Milwaukee Bucks aren’t the No. 1 team in the Eastern Conference again, especially after they got Jrue Holiday in this offseason trade. After that, there are a litany of great team-mates: the Celtics (albeit without Gordon Hayward), the Sixers (with new head coach Doc Rivers and new GM Daryl Morey), the Heat (NBA Finals) last season), and the Nets (with champions Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant). The Raptors will not be able to keep up this season, and the Pacers will continue to reap more wins than losses. The resurgent Hawks, with Trae Young, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and John Collins leading the way, circle the group.