2020 has been one heck of a year, especially in the sports world. The COVID-19 pandemic took a hit on every major sporting league, which included the NBA. For a quick recap, the NBA suspended play on March 11 when Jazz center Rudy Gobert test positive for the virus just minutes before tipoff against their game with the Oklahoma City […]
2020 has been one heck of a year, especially in the sports world. The COVID-19 pandemic took a hit on every major sporting league, which included the NBA. For a quick recap, the NBA suspended play on March 11 when Jazz center Rudy Gobert test positive for the virus just minutes before tipoff against their game with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Many thought that the rest of the 2019-20 season would be canceled but that was not the case.
On May 23, the NBA was in negotiations with The Walt Disney Company about the possibility of finishing the season at Orlando’s Sports Complex at Walt Disney World. On June 4, Commissioner Adam Silver and the NBA Board of Governors approved a plan to restart the season on July 31, 2020, in Orlando.
So with the plan, the first eight Western and Eastern conference teams that were in the top eight for a playoff seed would take part. Also, five teams outside of the West and one team outside of the East would partake in the restart, due to those being within six games of a playoff spot. Before the playoffs would begin, the teams would play in eight “seeding” games to determine the final eight spots for both conferences. From there, the playoffs would continue as normal in the classic best of seven series in four rounds to determine the 2020 NBA Champion.
Like with the NHL, MLB, and MLS for example, it is good to see some sort of sports get back into the fold and it should be an interesting playoff in Orlando, Florida. In honor of the NBA restart, I decided to do an NBA Roundtable with the addition of some of the past members that have written for the blog (and some new members) to get some different opinions on the matter. All of us answered the same 12 questions we have for the restart. Here are the participants.
- Fonz De Falco (@FonzDeFalco)
- Joe Mitchell (@Mitchell_Joe3)
- Tom Scavetta (@thom72895)
- Mauricio Simms II
- Josh Svetz (@Svetz17)
- Alec Walt (@AlecWalt)
All the opinions are their own. Let’s get started
1. What were your thoughts on the NBA’s plans for the restart when it was announced?
- De Falco: I had a feeling that Commissioner Silver and the rest of the league wanted to finish out the season. Unlike the MLB, for example, they were in the middle of a competitive season and they were looking for a way to finish this year out before canceling it and making the season a lost cause. The bubble was a great idea for having every team under one umbrella to frequently test the players. It is a better case than for the teams to constantly travel across the country.
- Mitchell: With the NBA starting back up in an exclusive location for only players, you can’t help to think that this could go one of two ways; everyone gets sick and the 2019-2020 season is fully canceled, or everyone fully cooperates and we declare a winner at the end of September. For me, as not only a fan of the game but also a player I am fully excited to see the NBA season finish out and see who will be declared the winner. With this game being my first love it was tough to not see highlights or games going on during the spring/summertime.
- Scavetta: I was a little surprised when I heard about the plans regarding the restart, but I knew they were looking to play in Orlando. Having the players sequestered and frequently tested is a good strategy and I can understand why Commissioner Silver wanted to restart the season. The format is certainly intriguing and they came this far, so might as well finish the season.
- Simms: I was not in favor of the restart. This virus is a significant health crisis and the game of basketball and the lives of the players are not worth the risk. I understand there are obligations to sponsors and television contracts. Also, some players have financial reasons to play. They have bills just like the rest of us. However, money cannot be the driving force when the health and safety of the players are at risk. Then we add the social justice element into the mix and the games become a diversion tactic to take the focus off critical issues. Yes, the players can use their platform and voice for change, but how many people tune into basketball games for the postgame press conference?
- Svetz: In a perfect world, this season wouldn’t be happening. With the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement and the still prevalent Coronavirus: this season shouldn’t be a thing. What happens if Lebron gets the virus? Or Giannis? Are people going to actually count this season? Or will it be remembered as a bastardized Frankenstein experiment? We can’t answer any of these questions yet, but let’s keep it real here; the only reason the season is happening is money, bottom line. Of course, basketball has been severely missed, and admittedly it’ll be great to watch it again. However, it probably shouldn’t be happening, even with the advanced testing and bubble. Remember, it’s being played in Florida…FLORIDA.
- Walt: I liked the plan when it was announced and I still like it now. The NBA needed in some way to have a playoff race, so playing before the postseason for seeding purposes makes a ton of sense. They also formed a bubble to increase player safety. A lot of boxes were checked off. Great job by both the NBA and NBA Players Association.
2. How do you feel about the extra eight games played and a potential play-in game to determine the final seedings?
- De Falco: I was a little surprised, to be honest. If anything, I assumed that the restart would just start up the playoffs, with a scrimmage game or two to shake off the rust. This does give a few teams like the Sacramento Kings or San Antonio Spurs for example to make a last-minute push for a playoff appearance. The potential “play-in” game for the final 8th spot if both teams have the same record is a nice twist as it gives both teams a fair shot to make the playoffs if they have the same record. The NBA should look into this full-term if teams tied for the last playoff spot happens again in future seasons.
- Mitchell: I believe this is a smart move by the commissioner, this allows players to get back in shape, work the new players into their system, and to build more chemistry before the start of the playoffs. This also allows teams like the Phoenix Suns and Washington Wizards, the low seeded teams, to prove to not only the league but fans around the world on why they deserve to be in Florida for this bizarre end of the season.
- Scavetta: I think having the eight seeding games is a fine idea because you are basically starting a new and abbreviated season. You want to make sure the teams are seeded accurately through these games, in addition to their record prior to the pandemic. For example, the Bucks were 53-12, but many people forget they were on a three-game losing streak before the pandemic. Which Bucks team will show up? The play-in game is a sweet touch as I think it adds excitement and even more competition to the format.
- Simms: The NBA has consistently been a league to try new things and think outside the box. This is definitely another example of them having a goal in mind to play as many games as possible and create intrigue around their product.
- Svetz: It makes sense. There’s still some seeding battles, and the West 8th seed is up for grabs. I love the idea of a play-in game and hope it sticks; anything that’s new and makes the end of the season more exciting is welcomed.
- Walt: I’m a fan of the eight extra games. It had to be done. There were too many teams out West who had the chance to get in. This gives everyone that opportunity they would’ve had if the season was never cut short. It also gives players a few weeks to get their bodies in playoff shape. Playing eight games gives players a solid window to do that.
3. Were you surprised to see the NBA add teams like the Washington Wizards and Phoenix Suns being invited into the bubble despite their low record and chance to even make a playoff appearance?
- De Falco: Like I said earlier, I assumed that just the 16 teams that were in the top eight for both conferences were invited down to play but it overall makes sense. That being said, the Wizards are 5.5 games back for the final spot and need a miracle to make a playoff spot.
- Mitchell: I was shocked to see that the NBA was allowing teams with such bad records to be part of this new “second half” of the season. To me, when thinking about the NBA restart I thought, along with many other fans that we would pick up right at playoff time and play from there. Giving players only a little time to get their rhythm back and get back in shape.
- Scavetta: I am not surprised because 22 was the number the NBA had in mind, as far as teams. The Wizards are 5.5 games behind Orlando and 6 games behind Brooklyn. We saw what happened to Brooklyn during the break, so you really don’t know what could happen. Washington has a very difficult schedule over these eight games, and the only win they could squeak out on paper might be against Brooklyn. Washington might not have a chance to catch anybody, but you have to include them in this format, considering this was before guys like Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans opted out. I’m not surprised to see Phoenix included either because when looking at the standings, they are right there behind teams like the Spurs and the Trailblazers. Not having Aron Baynes for the start will hurt their chances as far as defending the rim.
- Simms: I was not shocked simply because the NBA can be a volume business at times. The more games to air the happier the stakeholders will be along with the fans of the two teams that normally would be tanking or developing young talent late in the season.
- Svetz: The Suns no, but the Wizards yes. Not having Davis Bertans or Bradley Beal means the Wizards have zero chance of making the playoffs and may only win three games at most. It seems stupid to have them come to play. Same with the Kings, as they don’t have most of their squad. You could say the same for the zombie Nets, but they’re the 7th seed, so it at least makes some sense.
- Walt: I was surprised the Suns and Wizards made it. Expanding made a ton of sense, but they are not playoff teams. The Grizzlies, Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Kings, and Spurs are the only teams in my opinion who had the real chance to get in over an 82 game season. I wish the NBA did a round-robin with those teams, but I’m just happy basketball is coming back.
4. If you were in the NBA, would you side with Kyrie Irving to not play or LeBron James on playing?
- De Falco: Looking at it from a playing perspective, I would side with LeBron on this topic. I get the point Kyrie is trying to make but you got to remember that majority (if not all) these players are competitors at the end of the day and want a chance to compete for a Championship because you never know if they’ll get a chance to be in that situation. All sports fans will no doubt tune in to this so it is a good chance for players to have their voices heard, rather than not being seen.
- Mitchell: As a person who plays and watches the game religiously, it’s hard for me to decide. Half of me would side with LeBron ESPECIALLY if I was on a team like the Bucks or Clippers who knew they had the potential to capture a ring this year. Even if I was on one of the lower teams it would just be exciting and grateful to even run and play competitive sports again after a long break, because as you see the layout you don’t see every team in this situation. They are all “fishing” if you ever heard that reference before. But with Kyrie, he makes some good points, making it look like the NBA is only resuming to help bring back the revenue that is lost and that as a player we have the right to sit out and not play, especially during this tough time with the Virus. A lot of players made sacrifices while going into the bubble and that’s the cost especially if you want to not only keep other players safe but also allow the season to continue for the remainder of the season.
- Scavetta: I try to stay out of the controversial topics around the league these days. It’s all about money in hindsight, but it’s ultimately the player’s decision. I think LeBron has a lot on his shoulders and is on a mission, considering the whole team is extremely committed to winning for Kobe Bryant and his family. A perfect example here is how Alex Caruso missed his own sister’s wedding to keep the team safe and prepare. The Lakers are committed and this is their job. Imagine opting out and saying I don’t want to go to work, especially when your team needs you. It makes more sense if a player on the Wizards opts out compared to a player on the Bucks or Lakers. I think you have to want to play, considering this is a job and the season is still hanging in the balance with no clear-cut favorite for the first time in a while.
- Simms: LeBron and Kyrie were two sides of the same coin and always had the best interest of the players in mind. Kyrie is probably one of the most intellectually bright players in the game and realized he was not able to play due to injury. Therefore, he took the stance not to play and LeBron took the stance to play I believe in part when the salary cap number is being calculated for next season the players can go to the NBA governors with the upper hand for the salary cap to not dip too far below what it could due to massive losses in revenue because of the virus. I think ultimately I would have sided with Kyrie, there is just no way I would have sacrificed as much as the players in the bubble have to complete the season. Leaving my family, quality of life significantly diminished, and being monitored like I am on a reality TV show, which this bubble in a lot of ways is, would not appeal to me personally.
- Svetz: Definitely Kyrie. Not even for his reasons, necessarily. But think of it like this: what happens if Alvin Gentry or Gregg Popovich catch the virus? The NBA could have blood on their hands in that case. Lebron – as good of a guy as he is – ultimately is a businessman. And as a businessman (as we saw with his stance on China) he’s going to do what lines his, and his friends’, pockets.
- Walt: If I was in the NBA, I’d side with LeBron James. If the goal is to win a championship, playing is what it takes to do that. The NBA is also in a position to pass along a positive message through basketball. Playing while passing along a message checks off a lot of boxes. The return of the NBA will be great for a world craving its return. Kyrie Irving has done great things this offseason giving back, but I still think playing would be the move.
5. How do you think the TV viewing experience will be in addition to no fans in attendance?
- De Falco: At the end of the day, the NBA wants to make their money from TV viewership. The NBA has done a good job thus far from the scrimmage games they have done. The on-screen commentators do make it seem like a legit game and having the bench players sitting courtside (socially distancing of course) will add some sort of atmosphere to this weird time. It does not replace the fans of course, but give credit to the NBA for making this work. I do like the fact that they add certain noises (adding the “YEET” sound effect when Wizards’ Jerome Robinson missed his free throw was funny not going to lie).
- Mitchell: I believe the TV experience will be a little different to start because for me when watching a game at home I feed off the crowd and the announcers when some great is happening in the game. Now with it only being players and coaching staff we only can feed off of them. To me, it would be like watching high school basketball all over again but with professional athletes.
- Scavetta: To be honest, I think it depends on how you look at things. Having no fans will definitely present a challenge because the league wants to have their viewers engaged. The NBA has decided to go down a controversial route, which could impact ratings and viewership. I think it’s best to keep the viewing experience and features of the court neutral and appealing for everybody, but the NBA along with its reporters and players, have been more vocal with recent news and events over the past couple of months. Unlike typical NBA games, announcers and reporters will probably be placed further away, and I’m interested to read more into the crowd noise. However, I saw a few clips of the scrimmage games and I like how they have the players sitting a little distant from each other. I think the league has done a good job as far as making it feel exciting for those who want to watch.
- Simms: I enjoy watching European soccer and did not realize how critical fans are to the sporting experience. The crowd is an added element I took for granted that makes the whole live sports experience unique. I think basketball has the advantage of a smaller playing surface and enough digital firepower to make the experience an engaging one for tv viewers.
- Svetz: To be honest, It’s going to feel like watching a scrimmage. Fan reactions in the NBA add excitement to every moment. They will be sorely missed. I feel like there will be more emphasis on commentary, interviews, and features to spruce up the production, for better or worse.
- Walt: I don’t think it’ll be an issue from a viewership standpoint. We’re still watching the best basketball players in the world go against each other. Sports are better without a crowd than no sports at all. It took me less than one inning to get over it watching Spring Training 2.0 and opening weekend in the MLB. We will get over it after the first quarter.
6. Will close proximity of teams bring out the best or worst in players?
- De Falco: We know a lot of the NBA players are friends despite what team they are on. Like I said before, players are ultimately competitive and they want to win the 2020 NBA Finals. They know at the end of the day, the players have a job to do in bringing a title to their respective city.
- Mitchell: This will absolutely bring the best out of players! When you have nothing else to worry about such as; family drama or actions or friends making sure they are all okay when it comes to coming to a game or even just hanging out, this will allow players to focus more on the present and be ready for what’s ahead, which is the next game.
- Scavetta: I like the way the NBA orchestrated who stays at which hotel. They put a lot of the top tier teams in The Gran Destino Tower, which is connected to the Coronado Springs. This is a large resort, and these teams are there for business. I don’t think players will get too friendly or paranoid about the competition. Teams in the middle of the pack are staying at The Grand Floridian, which is very fancy. I know Boban Marjanovic and Tobias Harris shared a laugh one day, so players are definitely more likely to bump into each other here, but I don’t personally think this will be an issue. The lowest tier of teams is staying at the Yacht Club, which is a little smaller, so they are very likely to run into each other daily. If anything, proximity could be a slight issue here, but I don’t see any significant issues in the forecast.
- Simms: A criticism of the NBA is the players are too friendly and the ability for players to travel far distances at young ages for AAU super teams is to blame. I think there is some merit to that and the existence of an MJ vs Isiah or Bird vs Magic rivalry is taking in the NBA. All it takes is one minor incident in the bubble for some animosity to brew and we would see the resolution on the court, which I think would be good for the game. No one is hoping for a Malice in the Palace situation but some healthy competition would be nice.
- Svetz: The days of fighting and overt beef are done in the NBA. You will never see the level of vitriol teams in the 80s or 90s showed each other. If anything, due to the circumstances, we could be seeing full solidarity and brotherhood, especially if some players and coaches test positive for COVID in the bubble.
- Walt: I think the proximity will be more of a positive than negative in 2020. This season has more competitive playoff teams than in years past. With potential first-round playoff series of Celtics vs. 76ers, Rockets vs. Nuggets, and Clippers vs. Mavericks, there’s potential for a long playoff series in the first round. Winning and competition bring teams together and I think there will be more of that earlier than in past seasons.
7. With guys like Zion Williamson and Montrezl Harrell, for example, leaving the bubble. Do you think the rest of the 19-20 season will be played?
- De Falco: I very positive that the season will be fully played. Some players like Harrell have a legit reason for leaving and the NBA is very cautious when players return to the bubble. As long as they continue the process of quarantining players when they return and test them when they leave/come back, I’m confident that the rest of the season/playoffs will go through.
- Mitchell: I think nothing is stopping this season from coming to an end unless a major player gets the virus or if someone breaks protocol and doesn’t come back and properly quarantine before playing their game. With the resume of the season, there’s only plan A and nothing else, its either finish the season or we wait until the 2020-2021 season to start back up. Players who leave the bubble have to understand when returning they have to miss out on a few games, luckily with these players in particular they are only missing the scrimmages that are happening now until this upcoming Thursday.
- Scavetta: I am not entirely sure. Players who will come and go from the bubble will eventually poise a safety issue. I think at this point, anyone who leaves the bubble should not be allowed back once the season officially restarts. I heard that Lou Williams recently left as well, so now three Clippers have left since arriving. Rockets guard Austin Rivers, and Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis also left. If players are still doing this after the seeding games begin, then the season will probably not be fully completed.
- Simms: This is not called a bubble for nothing and one thing I know about bubbles is, they can easily pop. The NBA has done a tremendous job so far keeping everyone safe and the players, league, and teams deserve a ton of credit. 90 days for a large area to stay virus-free is a difficult task especially with so many people that come in and out. Let’s hope the pages of the protocol in place are up to the task against this deadly disease.
- Svetz: Yes, only because it’s short enough where they can probably get it done before the second wave of COVID hits the country hard. But it depends who tests positive. If Lebron gets COVID – goodbye season. Outside of him, it probably goes on due to TV rights deals and fulfilling contracts.
- Walt: I think the NBA will be played and an eventual champion will be crowned. Players have to go through the proper protocols if they return so I’m not too worried about players returning from leaving the bubble. I also think with a championship on the line, rules will be followed. The NBA is doing everything they can to increase player safety and those steps will allow them to play.
8. Is there a surprise team that is not being mentioned as a playoff threat?
- De Falco: Something about the Oklahoma City Thunder has me thinking that they can make a deep playoff run. Before the season started, I was one of the many critics of how the team will use Chris Paul (and even if they kept him around) and they have exceeded a lot of expectations they had when the season started. CP3 has been a facilitator in this offense and the likes of Steven Adams and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander have really improved this team. Keep an eye on the Thunder.
- Mitchell: Every team that has made it to Florida deserves to be there. There isn’t a team that hasn’t been mentioned that has the right to be there. To be honest you could replace any of the bottom teams and the outcome for them will still be the same. No offense. But you never know one of those teams can surprise you and make it very deep into the playoffs.
- Scavetta: I think the Dallas Mavericks are a team that could turn some heads. They have a veteran Head Coach in Rick Carlisle who has an NBA title under his belt. Luka Doncic is emerging as a top-five player in this league if he’s not there already and can efficiently facilitate an offense. They have a good core of veterans in Kristaps Porzingis, Seth Curry, and Tim Hardaway that could step up if Doncic is struggling one night. Realistically, you need two stars on your team in the modern NBA to win a championship and I think Dallas is one of the few teams not only has that, but they also have the youngest star combo with Doncic being 20 and Porzingis who will hit 25 right around the time the seeding games start. They won’t win it this year, but they will continue to get better over the next couple of years.
- Simms: I think all the teams will have a surprise or two. We are in uncharted waters and unprecedented time in league history as far as the season stopping for so long and then continuing. Will the best teams pull farther away from the pack, will a team that battled injuries be healthy and get on a wave that rides them to the title? All of these scenarios are possible. A lot will depend on what leadership teams had in place during this break. I worry about the Clippers right now, it seems like they are leaking oil with the players exiting and re-entering. It has been such a tumultuous time people also forget the Raptors are still the champions and will be until a team knocks them out. I like Toronto as a playoff threat and as I recall they were one of the first teams to arrive in Florida.
- Svetz: I want to say the Heat, but they’ve been pegged as everyone’s dark horse, so I’ll go with the Raptors. Losing Kawhi hurts, there’s no doubt about it. But they are a battle-tested and deep team. I wouldn’t be surprised if they make it to the conference finals. By that point, the team with the least cases wins, and it helps that the Raptors can afford to lose a player or two and still be dangerous. I hate thinking like that, but it’s real.
- Walt: I think the Miami Heat deserves more love. They have a star in Jimmy Butler who can win games late and an up and coming star in Bam Adebayo. Miami is also loaded with shooters and added veterans like Jae Crowder and Andre Igoudala to add versatility to the wing. This team is talented, deep, versatile, and experienced. No series will be easy against the Heat this postseason.
9. We know guys like LeBron, Giannis, and James Harden will ball out but is there a player that fans should keep an eye on?
- De Falco: I can say Damian Lillard but I feel like that is an easy answer because we all know he is a walking bucket. I’m gonna go back to my previous answer with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of the Thunder. I am a HUGE fan of SGA and I think his 14.5 points and 3.3 assists per game should not go unnoticed. Chris Paul will take the heat a little away from Alexander but after his impressive showing from his sophomore season (with more opportunities on this new team) before the shutdown, this guy has a chance to be a huge star down the line and this could be the first showing of that.
- Mitchell: Jayson Tatum, Devin Booker, Damion Lillard, and CJ McCullum are probably the most underrated players in the bubble thus far. Even though Tatum is on a fully stacked team his name isn’t mentioned as much as you would hear about Jimmy Butler or any of the other names in the question Devin Booker is way more underrated the Tatum and that’s because he’s on a team that’s having a tough time not only bringing in players to play with him but also landing a gem in the draft so they can have a great one-two punch to do some quality damage in a very tough Western Conference. Damian and CJ are one of if not is the best backcourt in the bubble hands down. Don’t get too mad at my opinion, just hear me out. When you have two pure scorers who can do it offensively and defensively while also able to close games out in high-pressure situations is very hard to find in the league today. Each one of them can sit out for five minutes and let the other one be a dominant scorer for either five on the court.
- Scavetta: Jayson Tatum is a guy people need to look out for. He improved a lot this year and he is a top 15 player at this point. His ability to create separation and lockdown forwards bigger than him is key to Boston’s success, but Milwaukee will still be a hurdle. I think the biggest name is Damian Lillard though. In my opinion, he is the most complete point guard in the NBA and brought the Trailblazers all the way to the Conference Finals last year. Now that Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins are back, I think the frontcourt will be dominant to take attention off Lillard and Portland could unseat a team like Memphis.
- Simms: (Nikola) Jokic clearly went home to Serbia and underwent a serious training regiment to change his body. He was already a triple-double threat any time he stepped on the court but now with extra mobility and agility, there is a chance he could take the Nuggets deeper into the playoff than people think.
- Svetz: Don’t sleep on Bam Adebayo or Pascal Siakam. Both are poised for incredible playoff performances. Take the over.
- Walt: I think a star NBA fans should keep their eye on is Jayson Tatum. He’s been electric this year for the Celtics. Tatum is averaging nearly 7.9 more points per game than last season and averaged 29.9 since after the All-Star break. His assists, rebounds, blocks, and steals averages were also career highs. The young wing took the step into stardom in 2020.
10. Who do you have winning each regular-season award?
- De Falco
- MVP: Giannis Antetokounmpo. Easy pick but LeBron James is right behind him. His numbers improved this season and have led the Bucks as one of (if not the best) team in the NBA.
- Rookie of the Year: Ja Morant. This one is easy. Morant has taken the crown as the King of Memphis, surprising everyone and making the Grizzlies a playoff team this quickly. He should easily run away with this award. Yes, if Zion played most of the season he would get the nod but 19 games are not enough to earn the award.
- Defensive Player of the Year: Giannis Antetokounmpo. Yes, I have the Greek Freak winning TWO regular-season awards. One of the best two-way players improved his defense so much this season.
- Sixth Man of the Year: Montrezl Harrell. A career-high in points this season (18.6) while only starting two of the 63 games he played before the suspension (remember these awards only reflect on the season played before the shutdown). His teammate Lou Williams will also be in the running as well as Dennis Schroder of the Thunder. Harrell has been a huge part of the success of LA’s non-Laker team and it great to see that revive of his career after being an afterthought when he was in Houston.
- Most Improved Player of the Year: Pascal Siakam. He won the same award last year so technically can he win it again? Absolutely! Going from 16.9 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 3.1 assists to 23.6 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 3.6 assists in one season (including his first All-Star appearance) should give him some consideration. On top of that, he proved that he can be the top guy for any team. No one has ever won the award twice but I think there is a case for Spicy P to earn that unique honor.
- Coach of the Year: Nick Nurse. Remember when Kawhi Leonard left and many thought that the Raptors would take a step back? Well, that is not the case. Credit to Coach Nurse for re-tooling the offense and making guys like the previously mentioned Siakam a household name. He also gets credit for developing guys like Fred Van Vleet and OG Anunoby (who basically replaced Kawhi) into legit players in the NBA.
- MVP: Giannis Antetokounmpo. No brainer seems like every year he adds a special feature to his game. And I’ve said this numerous times on every social media platform, once he gets a good mid-range to a three-point shot he will be the most dominant player to ever grace the basketball court.
- Rookie of the Year: Ja Morant. Ja is just a freak of nature and has proven it over and over again on the court. After the Grizzlies have given up Mike Conley to the Jazz, it seems like Ja has picked up right where he left off and dominated the game since entering the league. My true pick would be Zion Williamson if he didn’t miss the first half of the season. He has the chance to be another Shaq if he can stay healthy throughout his career.
- Defensive Player of the Year: Giannis Antetokounmpo. Nobody else really stands out when it comes that Giannis has been dominant at ever since joining the league. Even though he is phenomenal on the offensive end of the floor, he can still get it done on the defensive end as well; rebounds, steals, and even block shots have been the key to why he has been a successful two-way stretch big in the league.
- Sixth Man of the Year: Montrezl Harrell. Been a dog since entering the league, but really came out when he found a home with the Los Angeles Clippers. He and Lou Williams (a former sixth-man multi-winner) have become one of the best one-two punch to ever come off the bench. I call him a dog because he is the one sticking his head into everything that comes his way. He has a chance to be another Dennis Rodman but with a more scoring feature.
- Most Improved Player of the Year: Brandon Ingram. He was part of the trade deal to get Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers. Ever since moving to NOLA he has come into his own, worked on every aspect of his game, and became a pure dominant scorer in the league. Let’s just hope he improves from here and goes down in history as one of the best
- Coach of the Year: Erik Spoelstra. Talk about a man that was patient with his players. After losing the Flash aka Dwyane Wade, he gained my personal favorite player and one of the best two-way guards in the league in Jimmy “G” Buckets, the G stands for….well you know. And having Bam Adebayo come out of his shell and make his first all-star appearance and having I think two steals in the draft in Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro and a pure shooter in Duncan Robinson. He has put the Heat back on the map as one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference and a top-five team in the league.
- MVP: Giannis Antetokounmpo. His numbers improved from last year and are in the beginning stages of developing a better jump shot. Not to mention, the guy barely plays more than 30 minutes a game. Imagine if he was in the game longer.
- Rookie of the Year: Ja Morant. Memphis shouldn’t be in the mix right now, but he and Taylor Jenkins deserve a ton of credit. Freakish athlete too!
- Defensive Player of the Year: Giannis Antetokounmpo. I don’t think Rudy Gobert will get a three-peat here. Giannis has led Milwaukee to one of the most dominant defenses in NBA history. People need to watch how Giannis communicates with Eric Bledsoe and Brook Lopez on pick and rolls, two guys that are top five defenders at their positions.
- Sixth Man of the Year: Montrezl Harrell. One of the “Bad News Bears.” There’s an argument here for Dennis Schroeder, but I think Harrell deserves it for his energy and consistent play, averaging nearly 19 points and 7 rebounds in 28 minutes.
- Most Improved Player of the Year: Brandon Ingram. A first-time All-Star averaging 24 PPG, and he is being more aggressive on offense. 68 to 86 percent from the foul line in the span of a year doesn’t just happen. He’s worked extra hard.
- Coach of the Year: Brad Stevens. Look at how well Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have developed. There’s a reason why Gordon Hayward chose to reunite with his Stevens. Buds come in as a close second
- MVP: LeBron James
- Rookie of the Year: Ja Morant
- Defensive Player of the Year: Anthony Davis
- Sixth Man of the Year: Montrezl Harrell
- Most Improved Player of the Year: Jayson Tatum
- Coach of the Year: Frank Vogel
- MVP: You can’t pick anyone but Giannis. Luka is also in play, but not as a 7th seed. Giannis’ dominance combined with the Bucks’ first seed standing and historically good defense makes this the easiest vote of all.
- Rookie of the Year: Ja Morant probably deserves it, but these are awards. And guess what? Most of the time, the best in each category doesn’t win unless there’s hype; have you watched the Oscars?! Anyway, Zion takes it because the NBA likes money, and writers are already planning their cover stories.
- Defensive Player of the Year: Giannis anchored one of the greatest regular-season defensive teams in NBA history; there’s no other choice but him.
- Sixth Man of the Year: When Lou Williams wins the award again, they should probably just rename it in his honor.
- Most Improved Player of the Year: I guess you could pick Luka, but he was already primed for a great season. Instead, let’s go with a brand-new budding star that some didn’t think would ever reach his current level. Bam Adebayo has been a revelation for the Heat. He’s doubled his scorer, become a double-double machine, became a playmaking threat, and added a three-point shot. If anyone fits the bill for what the award is supposed to be for, it’s him.
- Coach of the Year: Lebron James. Just kidding, but we aren’t giving it to Frank Vogel. Mike Budenholzer’s superior rotation work deserves a lot of credit. He’s been the best tactician of the regular season and is more than deserving.
- MVP: Giannis Antetokunmpo is the best player on the team with the best record in the NBA. He’s also the only player in the NBA in top three in points and rebounds per game. It’s the Greek Freak’s year to win MVP.
- Rookie of the Year: Ja Morant finished his rookie season averaging 17.6 points and 6.9 assists per game. Zion Williamson averaged more points, but Morant played in 40 more games. It’s a yearly award and Morant played a majority of the season with quality numbers.
- Defensive Player of the Year: Yes, Giannis Antetokunmpo will win DPOY and MVP. Antetokunmpo has the length and versatility to defend anyone in the NBA. The Bucks finished the regular season 5th in opponent points per game and 1st in opponent field goal percentage. The Greek Freak made an impact this season every time he stepped on the floor.
- Sixth Man of the Year: Dennis Schroder is a starting NBA point guard who just so happens to be teammates with a future Hall of Famer. Even as his backup, he manages to produce 19 points and 4.1 assists per game. The Thunder were the surprise team in 2020 and Schroder’s production off the bench was a major factor.
- Most Improved Player of the Year: Bam Adebayo. There aren’t many NBA players who took that large of a jump in four major statistical categories (+7.3 points, +3.2 rebounds, +3.9 assists, +0.5 blocks from last season). Adebayo turned into a star in 2020. His improvement on both ends of the floor was eye-popping.
- Coach of the Year: Nick Nurse has been nothing but fantastic since taking over as head coach in Toronto. Even after losing Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors are near the top of the Eastern Conference and average the lowest opponent points per game total in the league. Nurse deserves the award this year.
11. Who do you have making the Conference Finals?
- De Falco: Just on paper now, I have the Eastern Conference Finals as Bucks vs. Raptors and Nuggets vs. Clippers in the Western Conference Finals. For the East, there is no stopping the Bucks and the Raptors, like I said before with Nick Nurse, have shown no signs of slowing down since losing their 2019 Finals MVP. In the West, the Nuggets have A TON of depth with the likes of Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and now Bol Bol just to name a few running the floor. The Clippers, much like the Nuggets, have a ton of depth have one of the best 1-2 combos in the league right now in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Predictions for the winners: Bucks in 6 for the East and Clippers in 7 for the West.
- Mitchell: This is a tough question to answer when not seeing the seeding for the playoffs, but if we go based off of what it could have potentially been if the season never ended I see; Eastern Conference: Celtics vs. Bucks and Western Conference Lakers vs. Clippers, with Clippers and Bucks playing in the Finals. The reason why I have Clippers over the Lakers is for numerous reasons, but the main one is that the Clippers have a far better and deeper bench compared to the Lakers. LeBron and AD (Anthony Davis) can play all the minutes in the world but eventually, they will get tired. With the Clippers having Montrezl, Lou, Landry, Marcus Morris Reggie Jackson all coming off the bench throughout the game while giving your horses Kawhi and Paul time to rest, it is tough to try and keep up with that. With the Bucks, I just believe it’s Giannis time to take over the Eastern Conference, with LeBron a new King needs to be crowned and he seems to fit it quite well. Celtics are still young; I think them and the Bucks can be the new Knicks and Pacers battle that happened in the 90s.
- Scavetta: It depends on who’s seeded where, but I would probably go Lakers/Clippers and Bucks/Celtics. Toronto would give the Celtics a run for their money, but Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry are not enough to defend two rising stars in Tatum and Brown, on top of having other good scoring options in Kemba Walker and Gordon Hayward. Milwaukee’s biggest challenge in the East is Miami. Both teams play very similarly, but Miami is missing a superstar. Bam Adebayo and Meyers Leonard would not be able to contain Giannis in the paint for several games. I don’t think anyone can contend with either LA team prior to the Conference Finals. Bogdanovic is out with a wrist injury, so Utah is a man down and Denver still doesn’t have enough outside of Nikola Jokic and Jamaal Murray.
- Simms: I like Boston and Milwaukee out east and for some reason I believe the dream matchup of the two LA teams will not happen. Because the games will not be in Staples, obviously, we can hope for next season. Lakers and Nuggets out west.
- Svetz: The teams who have the least amount of cases…OK, ok, I think I’ve made my point, I’ll stop. I guess the Lakers and Clippers are destined to throw down in the battle of L.A. As much as I want to pick the Heat, I’ll go with the Bucks vs. Raptors. You know what, I’ll do you one better. I’ve got the Lakers vs. Raptors in the final.
- Walt: 2020 NBA Finals: Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Clippers. In the East, I don’t see anyone at Milwaukee’s level. Giannis Antetokunmpo has been on another planet this season and I think he leads the Bucks to the Finals. Out West, I think the Clippers make it out of the Battle of Los Angeles. It will take seven games, but the Clippers are versatile and physical enough to defend LeBron James. Also, without Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo, the Lakers lost a ton defensively in their backcourt. I think the Clippers are built to win this series.
12. Who is your pick to win the 2020 NBA Finals and by how many games with your Finals MVP?
- De Falco: I got the Clippers winning the 2020 NBA Finals in seven games against the Bucks with Kawhi Leonard winning his second Finals MVP in two years. Giannis is great and they have the defensive depth but my goodness, have fun trying to stop Leonard and PG13 at the same time. On top of that, role players like Marcus Morris, Patrick Beverley, Montrezl Harrell, and Lou Williams will get their chance to get buckets.
- Mitchell: I have the Clippers winning it all and I’ve had them winning it all ever since they acquired both Paul George and Kawhi Leonard this past off-season. Kawhi is just built differently, especially when the playoffs come around. “ I heard a sound bite from him saying, ‘the regular season is like scrimmages, the real games start during the playoffs’” And he truly followed up with that comment by going out and winning his second Finals and second Finals MVP. I believe the Clippers will win in five with Kawhi capturing his third finals MVP in the process.
- Scavetta: The story should probably be scripted for the Lakers to beat the Bucks in seven games and LeBron wins MVP, right? However, I still think Giannis and the Bucks get it done in six games. A lot of things can happen out there with COVID-19, so I am basing this prediction strictly off of who I think is the deepest team in the NBA. I could sit here today and say, backup guards, George Hill and Donte DiVincenzo are better options than anyone the Lakers can throw out at point guard outside of LeBron. The Bucks and Lakers each have deep frontcourts featuring Giannis, Brook, Robin, and Ilyasova, as where the Lakers have AD, Howard, Morris, and McGee. That’s the key to the series right there and I think the Bucks are a little deeper in that department especially after adding stretch four, Marvin Williams. Giannis takes home the MVP, he’s worked super hard this year.
- Simms: My pick is for LeBron James to win his 4th NBA title and really set himself up for discussion to be the greatest unequivocal player of all-time. Winning this title in the backdrop of a global pandemic, months of rest, one of the worst political climates in US history, and leading his team to an unprecedented title that no player in league history can claim puts him in one of one company. I would love to see Anthony Davis have a monster Finals and truly announce his superstardom to the world in his first Laker season by claiming the MVP trophy.
- Svetz: Kobe Bryant; The Black Lives Matter protests; Lebron’s comeback year; Anthony Davis finally getting over the hump; Dwight Howard’s redemption; every storyline is there for the Lakers, and you know Lebron has forced them to stay in shape. It’s the easy pick, but an obvious one. I guess Kawhi could rip the storybook ending away, and Giannis is the most dangerous player in the playoffs. But still, it’s set up for the Lakers to lose, so I’m going with them. Add another Finals MVP for King James.
- Walt: The Los Angeles Clippers will win the NBA Championship in six games and Kawhi Leonard will win NBA Finals MVP. Just like my answer above, the Clippers have the versatility to defend Giannis Antetokunmpo. If these two were to also meet, the only star in this series with NBA Finals experience is Leonard. That would give the advantage to the Clippers. Also would give the edge in Finals MVP. Leonard would be the main defender on Antetokounmpo. Award will go to the winner and I believe it will be the Clippers.