The Status of the NBA: 2/26/2020

The NBA has become my sole focus this year. I have not gotten too interested in the college basketball season like I usually do, mainly because there are not really any intriguing players playing on winning teams. I would be enthralled into the season if James Wiseman was playing on a top-ranked Memphis team or Anthony Edwards was playing for Kentucky or North Carolina instead of Georgia. Also, if my Michigan State Spartans were more reliable and lived up to the preseason hype, I would be into it for sure. But, other than that, the NBA has been more intriguing than in recent years.

Reason 1: The Bucks are the most dominant team since the ’16 Warriors

If I told you I watch every Bucks game, I would be lying to you. If I told you I had watched more than three of the Bucks’ games, I would be lying to you. But, I know something abnormal is happening, just like I knew the Warriors were unique when I saw them lose in Detroit that 73-9 season. The Bucks are currently 49-8 (writing while Bucks are losing to the Raptors 32-39) and have the former MVP on their team, The Greek Freak. It is conceivable the Bucks can win 70 games, which would be the third most wins in NBA history (behind ’96 Bulls and ’16 Warriors).

Also, Giannis is going to be the 12th player in NBA history to win the MVP trophy in consecutive years (Curry, (2X) James, Nash, Duncan, Jordan, Magic, Bird, Moses, (2X) Kareem, Wilt, and Russell). Elite company, in other words, all current Hall of Famers or future Hall of Famers. If Giannis gave up playing the rest of the season to prep for the playoffs, I would guarantee an MVP. It’s not even a close race.

Sure, the Bucks are a one-person lead team, but they do have Khris Middleton, a top 40 player, and George Hill, the best 3PT shooting percentage in the league. Without Giannis, against the poor Wizards, the Bucks led by 32 points at a point in the second quarter. So, it is not as much of a one-person team as others would think.

Reason 2: The promising youth

For the Rookie of the Year not to be the most intriguing rookie in the NBA, it means it’s a good season. As the season is coming to an end, I guarantee the First Takes of the world will have the same debate they had in the 2016-17 season, when Embiid was the most dominating rookie but, he only played 31 of the 82 games. (Side Note: Joel Embiid has played his 200th career game six years after being drafted) Malcolm Brogdon played the majority of the season at a decent level. This year, Ja Morant has had a near All-Star level rookie season. But, Zion is the most dominant this season in the 12 games he’s played thus far.

In my lifetime, there has only been one rookie to command as much attention as Zion Williamson has, and that’s LeBron James (the best player of my generation). I was born the same year as LeBron was drafted, so I only hear others say things like that. Thus, Zion is the first view-commanding rookie in my lifetime. Whenever Zion plays on national broadcasts before 10:30 EST, I will be watching the entire game. If the game is on a nationally broadcasted game that starts at 10:30 EST, like the Pelicans-Trail Blazers game last Friday, I watch the game from my computer and watch only parts of the game Zion plays in.

Due to me watching more Pelicans basketball, I have been more interested than ever before on Brandon Ingram. I finally see what I thought we would see coming out of Duke. The Kevin Durant without a knockdown three-pointer comparison is finally becoming more probable. I, currently, am a big Brandon Ingram believer.

Another great youth player, Luka Doncic, has had a fantastic season. I would rank him as the second most valuable player based on the adjusted to age value (only behind Giannis). He was regarded as the second-best player in the NBA for a stretch of the season. He has notched his first, of many, starts in the All-Star game after winning the Rookie of the Year award last year. He’s off to an impressive start to his career with possible Hall of Fame at the end of the road.

Reason 3: The title is up for grabs

The Eastern Conference

After the Raptors and Warriors played in the Finals last year, no one expected either team to make it there again after losing stars like Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant. With the injuries to the Splash Bros, the Warriors dynasty has taken a year off. But, the Raptors are unexpectedly the second-best team in the Eastern Conference. Pascal Siakam has taken an advancing step no one expected him to take even though he was the Most Improved Player last season, along with a dominating playoff performance. Again, no one expected this to happen, and people don’t expect it to take them back to the NBA Finals.

I do not feel 100% confident the Bucks are going to the NBA Finals. They will have, practically, a first round bye because the Eastern Conference is only six deep. But, I would guarantee a tough matchup with the Celtics, Raptors, and Heat right now (The Sixers could join the list if they get their act together). I think their toughest matchup would be the Celtics. After watching Jayson Tatum take it to the Lakers in the two point loss on Saturday, I think he could be the best player on a championship team. Thus, the Eastern Conference is wide open.

The Western Conference

This is a two-horse race. I would not bet against a team outside of LA to win the West. Sorry Denver, but the Nuggets are not Finals ready in case you don’t know this.

No one is allowed to bet against LeBron, and I have never rooted for him. But that’s a fact. His track record is too real. Now he has Anthony Davis, the best player he has ever played with, along with the one seed. The Lakers should be all set, right? No. The Lakers have faced the Clippers two of their three times and have lost both of the matches. They are the team they have to beat.

Kawhi Leonard, going into the season, was the best player in the NBA, and he won the Finals MVP as he carried the Raptors through the East and won the title. He has been paired with Paul George, and everything should be roses, right? No. Kawhi has been visibly frustrated on the court, and it doesn’t look like the best situation in LA.

The Last Words

This season has become the best basketball season in that I can remember, but this is also the first season I’ve genuinely tried to watch NBA over NCAA. I expect more twists and turns to come this season. It’s going to be exciting.

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