Giannis Antetokounmpo wins his second consecutive MVP and the Lakers win their 17th NBA Finals in one-of-a-kind NBA season
After the COVID-19 pandemic brought the NBA season to a halt for nearly four months, the top 22 of 30 teams returned to play at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla, otherwise known as "the bubble". After each team played eight regular season games that would be added on top of their original record, the playoff bracket was set.
Here is a quick reaction to the regular season all-NBA honors. I will preface the award reactions by saying it's hard to leave playoff performances to the side, but I will do my best.
All-NBA First Team:
Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
James Harden, Houston Rockets
LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
Giannis Antetekounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks (MVP)
Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers
Although I predicted Giannis would win back in December, LeBron should have won the MVP. He was the best player on the best team in the league this year. LeBron elevates the Lakers and he truly makes every single player better.
As a Wizards fan, I wish I would've seen Bradley Beal on the first team. As an NBA fan, I wish I would've seen him on literally any of the three all-NBA teams. Beal ended second to James Harden in points per game with 30.5 points per game. Granted, he opted out from the bubble and the Wizards were mediocre at best this year.
NBA All-Rookie First Team:
Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies (ROTY)
Kendrick Nunn, Miami Heat
Eric Paschall, Golden State Warriors
Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans
Brandon Clarke, Memphis Grizzlies
Ja Morant was the no-brainer rookie of the year. Morant towered over other rookies in player efficiency rating (PER) and total win shares (tWS). In addition, Memphis had one of the youngest and most inexperienced teams in the league, yet their 2019 second-overall draft pick led them to 9th place in a very competitive Western conference.
Kendrick Nunn exploded onto the scene, winning Rookie of the Month in November, December and January, but I would take his teammate Tyler Herro in the second guard spot. A case could be made for Washington's Rui Hachimura replacing Paschall, as Hachimura was the second best scorer on his team, but Paschall had a statistically stronger season.
NBA All-Defensive First Team:
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics
Giannis Antetekounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks (DPOY)
Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers
Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
With Giannis leading the league in defensive win shares, this win makes sense. I'm glad to see Marcus Smart earn his second consecutive all-defensive first team honors. Honestly, Patrick Beverley or Kyle Lowry could have possibly been more deserving of the second guard spot over Ben Simmons.
6th Man of the Year: Montrezl Harrell, Los Angeles Clippers
Although Lou Williams is the all-time classic sixth man, Harrell has proved himself as one of the best big men in the league, all from outside the starting five. Sometimes I wonder why he doesn't just start over Ivica Zubac. OKC's Dennis Schroder would have also been a fair winner behind Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
Most Improved Player: Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans
The race for MIP is always a tough one. In my December prediction, I thought that Charlotte's Devonte' Graham was the clear frontrunner for MIP. I still think his progression from his rookie year to his sophomore year was one of a kind. Miami's Bam Adebayo saw a huge increase in his role in the team. That being said, Brandon Ingram saw an increase in volume after coming to a young New Orleans team. He stepped up to the plate and knocked it out of the park.
From James Harden's series-winning block against Oklahoma City, to the Nuggets erasing two consecutive 3-1 deficits, to Duncan Robinson hitting three after three after three, the bubble playoffs were quite the journey. Now, for the reaction of these playoffs.
Boston defeats Philadelphia (4-0) - With Ben Simmons missing the series and a very young, talented Boston team, this came as no surprise.
Miami defeats Indiana (4-0) - This was the start of an unexpected NBA Finals Trip for Miami, sweeping the higher-seeded Pacers. Coming into the postseason, T.J. Warren averaged 34.8 points in the last five games of the regular season, but he lit a fire in Jimmy Butler after they got into a shoving match in game 2. Jimmy Butler carried that for the rest of the playoffs.
Milwaukee defeats Orlando (4-1) - After Orlando's impressive Game 1 win, Milwaukee swept Nikola Vucevic (28 points per game) and the Magic, but looked shaky doing so.
Toronto defeats Brooklyn (4-0) - Brooklyn was really just a weak team making the playoffs due to their weak conference. That aside, Toronto did more this year than anyone expected.
Denver defeats Utah (4-3) - Donovan Mitchell (36.3 points per game) and Utah won three of the first four games, one of which they won by nearly 30 points. Miraculously, on the back of fantastic performances from Nikola Jokic, Denver won the last three games in order to win the series.
Houston defeats Oklahoma City (4-3) - This tumultuous series went back and forth, down to the last second. Harden did what Harden does, average about 30 points per game, and Oklahoma City flexed their depth with six players in double figures. Ultimately, Harden's series-winning block sent them to the conference semifinals.
L.A. Clippers defeat Dallas (4-2) - Luka Doncic showed why he deserved his All-NBA First Team honors, averaging 31 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 8.7 assists. I wasn't very impressed with Dallas' performance, but they were facing one of the best playoff performers (Kawhi Leonard) and a pretty experienced team in the Clippers.
L.A. Lakers defeat Portland (4-1) - Damian Lillard is a playoff demon, there's no denying that, but it's fair to say he slightly underperformed in this series. That being said, LeBron averaged a triple-double and Anthony Davis' defense was able to stunt Jusuf Nurkic's production.
Boston defeats Toronto (4-3) - This series showed that Toronto is a force to be reckoned with next year, especially if they can resign Serge Ibaka and Fred VanVleet. Pascal Siakam put out pretty weak performances though, while Boston's young core kept eating and eating.
Miami defeats Milwaukee (4-1) - Giannis folded. As the league MVP and the leader of your team, there is no planet in which you can sit out of an elimination game. That being said, Milwaukee did win game 4 without him, but if he was able to play, he should have. Miami, though, had a great series and showed off their numerous scoring options.
Denver defeats the L.A. Clippers (4-3) - Another 3-1 comeback for the Nuggets! Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic proved to the entire league that they are a dangerous team. Clippers stars Paul George and Kawhi Leonard combined for 58 points in Game 6, but the Nuggets simply had a better game. In Game 7, Leonard and George folded under pressure, combining for just 24 points, while Denver's Murray dropped 40.
L.A. Lakers defeat Houston (4-1) - After another game 1 loss, the Lakers got in their groove, led by LeBron James who averaged 25.8 points, 10.4 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.8 blocks. I'm not sure why Houston didn't transition out of their small ball lineup as they faced one of the strongest big man units in the league. As a result, the Lakers ate on the boards and dominated inside.
Miami defeats Boston (4-2) - I know I sound like a broken record, but once again, Miami kept spreading the ball with six players scoring in double figures. I will say, I am thoroughly impressed with Marcus Smart's offensive performance in this series, and him being an extra offensive weapon on Boston is scary.
L.A. Lakers defeat Denver (4-1) - We all knew Denver's success would come to an end when they had to face the Lakers. I'm sure fatigue was a factor, as Denver played 14 games before this series (as opposed to L.A.'s 10 games played). To balance Paul Millsap's underwhelming performance, Michael Porter Jr.'s production saw a jump, which is promising for Denver's future.
L.A. Lakers defeat Miami (4-2) - After a somewhat-boring Game 1 and 2, I thought this would be an easy sweep for the Lakers. Thankfully, Miami got in their groove and gave the Lakers a challenge. Game 5 was one of the best Finals games I have watched in my lifetime, from LeBron dropping 40 to Jimmy Butler sitting just 48 seconds all game. I'm excited to see how this young Miami team can keep progressing and, hopefully, keep up the success. Of course, we can't talk about the Finals without talking about LeBron's stellar performance all series, as well as the veterans on the team showing out, such as Rajon Rondo dropping 19 in game 6.
All in all, this NBA season has been unique, to say the least. The league hopes to play a full 82-game regular season with a full postseason and spectators for the 2020-21 season. As it stands, we may not see any NBA basketball until the new year, as Adam Silver announced in September.
Billy Scott. What's up! My name is Billy Scott (he/him), and I am a sports editor for SCO! I am a member of the Dual Enrollment Program, meaning I am in the graduating class of 2021 at both Montgomery College and at Blair. I love rap, my … More »