With James Harden still in Houston it’s hard for me to gauge what the 2021 NBA Finals will be because despite all the backlash James Harden has received over the coarse of his career he is a difference maker at the end of the day and one of the top superstars in the NBA today, you could make the case he is a top 5 player in the NBA at the moment depending on what you go by. I am aware of Kevin Durant and how good he has looked so far in a Brooklyn Nets jersey and it’s great that Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving seemed to have the chemistry down packed as they are very good friends and actually wanted to play with each other. It has been said that Kyrie Irving never expected to play with LeBron James after signing a 5-year $90 million dollar extension with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014 the same off-season in which LeBron James was able to opt-out of Miami Heat deal. There will be a lot of hype surrounding the Brooklyn Nets this coming season but I do not see them making the NBA Finals at least not this season.
Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are both elite scorers but the game of basketball is much more than just scoring and I believe the Miami Heat,Milwaukee Bucks,and Boston Celtics will cause problems for them come playoff time. We must remember playoff basketball is different than regular season basketball, you’ll be seeing the same team repeatedly and will have the opportunity to look over film and make adjustments along the way. Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro will only get better this coming season which will bold well for the Miami Heat and they brought back the same team and added one of the top 5 wing defenders in the game whom they stole from the Los Angeles Lakers in Avery Bradley, not to mention Goran Dragic who was their leading scorer last season and even without him the Miami Heat were still able to give the Lakers a scare in the 2020 NBA Finals. Bam Adebayo has his sights set on becoming one of the top power-forwards in NBA history and knowing Bam’s approach to the game I would not be shocked if he gets there, this is the same man who shed tears after losing in the Final Four in college you can’t fake that.
Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum looked primed for breakouts and with Gordon Hayward now in Charlotte the stage is set for those two to show us why Danny Ainge’s faith in their development will payoff. Boston’s glaring weakness was their bench last season but if Romeo Langford remains healthy I have no doubt he will be that scorer they need off the bench, picking up Tristan Thompson erases their lack of size from last season in their front-court and I am expecting Kemba Walker to have a bounce back season and to fall in line behind Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum where he belongs as a 3rd option on a championship team. The x-factor is Marcus Smart, he is an elite defender,floor-spacer,and play-maker on the court all at the same time which is vital come playoff time. Boston can sick Marcus Smart on Kyrie Irving in case they face the Brooklyn Nets come playoff time and I have no doubt Marcus can give Kyrie trouble and hold him to at least 2-3 bad shooting nights in a series putting even more responsibility on Kevin Durant’s shoulders to carry the Brooklyn Nets.
The Milwaukee Bucks are not the same team from last season, after losing Malcolm Brogdon who was the glue of the team and a 50/40/90 player and exceptional play-maker and efficient scorer I thought they would have been worst last season but to my surprise Giannis Antetokoumpo took his game to another level and had the Milwaukee Bucks on pace for a 70 plus win season. As expected they lacked that third play-maker behind Giannis Antetokoumpo and Khris Middleton who could get their own offense and keep the floor spaced out, that is no slight towards Eric Bledsoe you just can’t afford to have a guard who can’t make shots consistently when your franchise player still lacks a consistent jumper. Jrue Holiday is a lights-out scorer and can punish defenses who dare sag off him the way they did with Eric Bledsoe in the bubble. With Holiday and DiVincenzo now in the back-court everyone in the Bucks’s starting lineup can keep the floor spaced out for Giannis, and having Augustin,Portis,Connaughton,Craig,and Forbes coming off the bench is far from a bad bench unit as all 5 of those guys will be able to scorer in double figures and provide sufficient relief for the starters.
With all that being said I have the Milwaukee Bucks coming out of the Eastern Conference, I would not be shocked if the Miami Heat reach the NBA Finals again as they will be even better this coming season but the Milwaukee Bucks patched up their weaknesses this past off-season and locked up Giannis Antetokoumpo long-term. Something about the Milwaukee Bucks defeating the Miami Heat in the bubble without Giannis behind Middleton’s 36 point 8 rebounds and 8 assist performance showed me the Bucks were still a very good team without Giannis and they won that game without Jrue Holiday who is hands down a better point guard than Eric Bledsoe who started for the Milwaukee Bucks last season. Sorry Kevin Durant fans basketball is a team sport and the Milwaukee Bucks are just a better team than the Brooklyn Nets team top to bottom no matter which way you slice it, if Kyrie Irving’s shot is not falling the Brooklyn Nets are in trouble. Kevin Durant no longer has Draymmond Green’s leadership and the best backcourt in NBA history to fall back on not to mention Andre Iguodala who in my opinion should be a lock for the hall-of-fame.
Moving on to the Western Conference every team in the West is chasing the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers have to figure out their rotation and assuming Frank Vogel and LeBron James get Dennis Schroder to buy in to coming off the bench where he belongs I think the Lakers are the team to beat. Dennis Schroder is not a starting point guard at the NBA level, he is a combo guard who plays both ends of the floor and wreak havoc on opposing defenses by getting in the paint creating opportunities for shooters or cutters to the rim for lay-ups and dunks. The Lakers might look to make a mid-season trade in case Kyle Kuzma is not fitting in and producing even after being given a 3-year $40 million dollar extension and could look to acquire a Zach Lavine who would be the ideal fit alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis as a high-level scorer and shooter. I like the fact that the Los Angeles Clippers added some play-makers which they lacked last season in Nicolas Batum and Luke Kennard but Kawhi Leonard seems like he has one foot out the door in Los Angeles even after his partner in crime Paul George re-upped with a 4-year $130 million dollar extension which all but locks him in LA for the rest of his prime.
The Denver Nuggets will be downright terrifying with the continued development of Michael Porter Jr who the Nuggets have made clear over this past year is off-limits and the return of Will Barton who is one of the Nuggets longer tenured players and gives the Nuggets versatility with his ability to play up to 3 positions on the floor and score off the dribble to help take pressure off Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. The Nuggets’s offense wont be as predictable this coming season, the Lakers caught on to the pick and roll game between Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic and were able to take out the Nuggets with ease as the series went on. That is leaving out the addition of Jamychal Green who was one of the Clippers better floor spacers last season and shot close to 40 percent from the 3 point line as well. 7’2″ Bol Bol will more than likely not have a big role this coming season but to be able to handle the ball at that size and push the ball up the floor and create shots for others is very unique. Not to mention the kid can create his own shot off the dribble and does not need screens or someone to get him open, that gives the Nuggets 5 shot creators in Jokic,Murray,Porter Jr,Barton,and Bol to go to.
If any team in the West can take out the Lakers in a 7 game series it will be the Denver Nuggets, Zion Williamson’s potential is scary and with Lonzo Ball ready for a breakout I won’t count the New Orleans Pelicans out either but I just don’t see any team out West beating the Lakers 4 times before they do with Denver being the exclusion. I really do think Zion Williamson is good enough to carry the Pelicans to the Conference Finals because he has arguably the most complete point guard in the game in Lonzo Ball to get him the ball and Brandon Ingram who despite his average defense is more than capable of holding his own against anyone any given night and will be the perfect second option behind a player of Zion Williamson’s caliber. Ultimately I think the Los Angeles Lakers will once again make it out of the West it won’t be as easy as it was last season in the bubble but I think we will be seeing the Milwaukee Bucks vs Los Angeles Lakers in the 2021 NBA Finals. For TV ratings obviously a Kevin Durant vs LeBron James NBA Finals would be more exciting and maybe we get that matchup over the next 2-3 years but it won’t be this season.
To conclude I have the Los Angeles Lakers repeating as NBA Champions and we could be witnessing the first 3-peat in the NBA since Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal 2000-2002. But to 3-peat the Lakers must first go back to back and with LeBron James and Anthony Davis locked in for practically the next 3 seasons in Los Angeles and ready to give it their all, I find it hard that the Lakers will lose this coming season so long the supporting cast behind LeBron James and Anthony Davis steps up and Rob Pelinka I’m sure will patch up any holes if the Lakers’s role players are not performing behind LeBron and AD. Again no one knows what will happen with James Harden but assuming he doesn’t join Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn the Lakers will prevail once again. There is not another team in the NBA which James Harden can join and help dethrone the Los Angeles Lakers, hopefully Sean Marks never gets a hold of this article, till next time Lakers in 6.