Michael | OPINION |
Last Year’s Champions
The Toronto Raptors won last year’s championship by beating the injured Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. The Raptors stayed the same for the most part but two essential pieces, Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard, left for Los Angeles. Green joined the Lakers and Kawhi joined the Clippers.
These were some tough losses for the Raptors but their record doesn’t really show it. They still have the second seed in the Eastern Conference and they are still considered one of the best teams in the East. Players like Siakam and Anunoby stepped up and other role players received a bigger role because of all the injuries this season. Their main question for the play-offs is if they have the star power to compete with teams like the Bucks, led by Antetokounmpo or Boston. They have a good all-round team but they need someone to finish games.
Another advantage for the Raptors is their coaching. Nick Nurse has proven himself after the firing of Dwayne Casey last year and this season he is getting considered to win Coach of the Year. This coaching could make the difference in a seven game series. They have a good shot to get to the finals because of their experience but then they still have to go through one of the West powerhouses. It’s a longshot but they have a chance to win it again this season.
The impact of Covid-19
The NBA season was suspended on March 11 after Rudy Gobert tested positive for the Coronavirus. The season got stopped right before Utah Jazz faced Oklahoma City Thunder. It was kind of ironic that Gobert was the first player to get infected as he was being skeptical about the virus a few days before.
His infection led to Donovan Mitchell getting the virus which put a strain on their relationship. This interruption is the second longest in NBA history after the 2011 lockout. This season’s suspension caused a ripple effect throughout the sports world as other major sports leagues such as the NHL, MLB and NCAA also suspended or cancelled their season. The NBA decided on June 4 to restart the competition in the Orlando bubble at Walt Disney World. They restarted on July 9 but players were able to opt-out. Some notable players who opted out are Avery Bradley, Spencer Dinwiddie and Deandre Jordan.
There weren’t a lot of controversies this season as everyone stood together because of the Coronavirus. Almost all teams wanted a restart and there was an adequate solution for the players who wanted to opt-out of the season.
But after the Black Lives Matter protests, there were a lot of NBA players who wanted to support the BLM organization. The NBA came to an agreement with the players about wearing messages to promote social justice. Every NBA player could choose a phrase from an approved list to put on their shirt.
Because of the well-handled COVID-19 and BLM situations, there weren’t a lot of opt-outs. We have to give credit to Adam Silver who understood what players needed and for finding a solution.
A league of duo’s
The Golden State Warriors dominated the league in the past few years, this dominance was broken a few times by LeBron James and finally by Kawhi Leonard.
After Kevin Durant left and Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry injuries the Warrior stumbled to the bottom of the standings. This means the competition this year is as high as ever. The best teams in the league are led by star player duos.
LA Lakers: Lebron James and Anthony Davis
The Lakers paid a lot for Anthony Davis after a disappointing 2018-2019 season in which they didn’t even make the play-offs so they had to make a move as Lebron is getting up there in age. Even though Lebron’s performances didn’t show his age this year. He was a top candidate for the MVP with Giannis Antetokounmpo and he led them to the number one seed in the Western Conference. Davis also had a good season and is considered for the Defensive Player of the Year award. They are now looking to win the championship with a solid supporting cast.
LA Clippers: Paul George and Kawhi Leonard
The Clippers also made a blockbuster trade in which they got Paul George, because of this trade Kawhi Leonard decided to leave the Toronto Raptors after winning the NBA Championship. The Clippers have had a solid season but because of injury troubles and load management, the team didn’t really have a chance to play together. We don’t yet know how the chemistry between George and Leonard will be in the play-offs, they are both talented players and have a very solid supporting cast led by Lou Williams. If the Clippers chemistry is on point, they have a very good chance to get through the Lakers and win the championship.
Milwaukee Bucks: Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton
Khris Middleton got a max extension last season and had to prove himself. He played a very good season and averaged 21 points, 6 rebounds and 4.3 assists a game. He improved his scoring this year but we have to ask is he just playing so well because Antetokounmpo draws so much attention. Antetokounmpo himself continued playing like an MVP after winning the award last year. He is the main candidate to win MVP again this year even if there are some people who think Lebron James deserves it more. This year will be championship or bust and if they don’t win this could have serious implications on Antetokounmpo’s free agency decision in 2021. If the Bucks don’t win a championship this or next season there is a real possibility that Antetokounmpo leaves.
Houston Rockets: James Harden and Russel Westbrook
Nobody knew if these ball-dominant stars would be able to coexist this season. They proved the doubters wrong as they thrived in the microball experiment from Mike D’Antoni. They both put up amazing statistics but the question remains how will they match up against teams with dominant centers such as Anthony Davis, Nikola Jokic or Rudy Gobert? This season will be the season of truth for the Rockets after some years with play-off disappointments. Especially with Chris Paul having an amazing season for Oklahoma City thunder.
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