With the NBA Season about to tip-off, it is time to take some looks at some players who might take steps back or jumps forward in the season, and perhaps a team who could run the tables come playoff time.
The MVP race this year is quite interesting, simply due to the plethora of talent in today's league.
The favorite to win MVP this upcoming season is the Dallas Maverick's star, Luka Doncic. The 21 year old has made great progress in his two years in the league as last year he averaged about 28 points per game, 9 rebounds, and 9 assist. Those stats are due to the amount of Triple-Doubles Luka is able to acquire throughout the season. With the upside from Luka Doncic still blooming, it seems that Luka might be able to push Dallas into the contender spot which they have not been in for a while. With Luka, and Kristaps Porzingis along with a solid Mavericks team, we might see Luka carry Dallas deep into the season.
As Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Damien Lillard, Anthony Davis, are all players who could win MVP, the player to watch is Russell Westbrook.
I am not saying Russ will win MVP, but in a system where he will be able to be the center of the offense, expect big numbers from Westbrook this upcoming season. Remember, it was Westbrook's 2016-2017 MVP season, where he was playing without another superstar. And while Bradley Beal is a extremely good player, Russ now doesn't have to share the ball with the likes of James Harden, or Paul George, like we have seen in past years.
The favorite this year is the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers have two of the Top 10 players in the NBA right now, and with an addition of last year's 6th Man of the Year, Montrezl Harrell and solid point guard Dennis Schroder, it seems Lakers are in prime position for a repeat this year.
That being said, there are still some great teams that could upset the Lakers come playoff time. The main team that comes to mind is my pick to come out of the East, the Brooklyn Nets. With Kevin Durant, probably the best scorer in NBA history, and elite point guard Kyrie Irving. The Nets finally have two superstars to compliment their strong core.
While the Nets might represent the East, they may have their hands full with the likes of Milwaukee. The Bucks have added Jrue Holiday, a top level perimeter defender, to Giannis and Chris Middleton. The Bucks have a very strong chance to come out of the east.
In the West, It seems like the Warriors have fallen out of contention due to Klay Thompson's leg injury. However, the Denver Nuggets still in the mix - as Jamal Murray, Nikola Jokic, and the stacked Nuggets squad could be very difficult for teams when they play at home, due to the Nuggets historically having great advantages at home.
In addition, the playoffs are a period where roster depth is key, and when you have guys who can score 20 points on any given night, you have a chance to make a run.
These are teams who could find themselves in a spot which no one predicted at the end of the season.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are the first team that comes to mind, as they have skilled scorer, DeAngelo Russell, and also arguably the best center in the NBA, Karl Anthony Towns. It is also noted that the Wolves drafted guard Anthony Edwards with the first overall pick in this years draft. Assuming he has a solid rookie year, and the young player Jarrett Culver and veteran Ricky Rubio bring some depth to this Minnesota team, we might see them in the playoffs as the season concludes.
Not necessarily a sleeper team, but a team who might make the finals, is the Boston Celtics. The Celtics are by no means a favorite to make the finals out of the East. However, that being said, they must be accounted for when discussing contenders.
As I stated, depth is crucial to playoff teams, and the Celtics have just that: Jayson Tatum, an emerging star in today's game, along with Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Kemba Walker, are all guys who can put up big numbers at any given time. These playmakers, along with Boston's deep core, allow the Celtics to "go with the hot hand," or mix up tendencies when they want a certain matchup. Boston might just be the team to represent the East come Finals time.
There are many teams who could make playoff runs from low seeds, such as the Portland Trailblazers, or the New Orleans Pelicans. However, a team which could make the playoffs who typically does not stand a chance, is the Phoenix Suns.
Chris Paul makes any team relevant, as we witnessed him do in Oklahoma City last year. Now that Devin Booker has a partner in the backcourt, the Suns' offense could see vast amount of success this year. Suns center, Deandre Ayton, is also a rising name in the game, which might be interior force which compliments one of the game's best Backcourts.
There is no doubt that 2020-2021 season is going to be exciting. However, in time of unpredictability, we may see some unlikely occurrences throughout the season, or some surprises from teams and players.