In a blink of an eye, we went from watching the Lakers claiming their 17th title, to the start of the 2021 season. As anticipated, it was a very weird "offseason". The draft snuck up on all of us, and just like that preseason was in full throttle. With that being said, it is never too early to provide some premature takes on who will bring home the end of the year hardware.
Ah, potential playoff seeding. Will any of this be accurate? No idea, but it's fun to plug and play and pretend I know how to predict it. I have the Lakers on top. It may be recency bias, but Los Angeles is coming off a nice title run and posses a new look improved roster. The West is filled with competition, with the Nuggets, Trailblazers, and Mavericks all have well-rounded rosters and are looking to make some noise. With the departure of Doc Rivers and added pressure to Kawhi Leonard/Paul George, the Clippers are not ready to take on the West, let alone LA. The Jazz and Suns are very solid teams, with All-Star caliber talent, that will surely bring them into the playoffs. Seven out of eight of these teams seem to be locks, the outlier in my eyes would be the Houston Rockets. Adding DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall would have been an ultimate "big-three" a few years ago, but those guys are coming off major injuries. Then there is the James Harden drama. Looking a little out of shape and rumors of wanting out in Houston, the Rockets are hard to predict. If Harden remains a rocket and they can overcome their woes, they are a playoff team. If he is shipped off, you can confidently take them off this list.
The East, on the other hand, is very top-heavy. With Giannis in his prime, it's the Bucks conference to lose. However, the Nets will be the team everyone is watching. A new dynamic duo and head coach with a lot of anticipation, I think the Nets will be a force to reckon with. The Celtics and Heat are no jokes either. Boston is seeking to get over the conference final hump, and Miami wants to return to the finals to finish some business. Everyone else is middle of the road and could catch some heat come playoffs. The one surprise team may be the Hawks. They have a young core with solid veteran depth, I like their odds to make the playoffs.
End of Season Awards
Some may say picking Giannis is a cop-out pick for MVP, but I think his path to going back-to-back is very likely. The Bucks are a dominant regular-season team, and they got better by adding Jrue Holiday and some depth and giving Antetokounmpo a massive contract extension. After getting bounced in the bubble, and failing to reach the finals, the Greek Freak will have a chip on his shoulder to prove that he is the best in the league.
Anthony Davis was poised to win it last year with a strong season but was ultimately defeated by Giannis. AD got the last laugh and won his first ring. I anticipate his 2021 will be better than his prior season, and he'll want to add this award to his resume.
Rookie of the Year, a difficult award to predict so early in the season. I'm sticking with a dark horse candidate. No, it's not because I am a Knick fan. Obi Toppin has a high ceiling and can shine on the Knicks roster if he becomes an everyday starter. This year's draft class is full of unknowns, with no true training camp to get the new players up to speed. This may be a stretch, but there is No Stoppin' Obi Toppin!
For Coach of the Year, there are many names that come to mind. If the Nets meet their expectations you can see first-year coach, Steve Nash, take home this award. His name is already cemented as an NBA great, so with a few wins and strong playoffs, Nash can add this honor to his impressive career.
Finals Matchup and Championship
The Lakers cruised through the bubble, showing their dominance, and they are set up to contend and repeat for that title. They swapped Danny Green, Rajon Rondo, Dwight Howard for Montrezl Harrell, Dennis Schroder, and Marc Gasol. Lebron is eyeing his fifth title to solidify himself as one of the greats. Although I placed the Bucks as the top-dawg, I think the Nets will beat them out. They have a solid system and loads of talent, they are a dangerous team. Lakers in 7, write it in the books for me. Obviously, there is a lot of basketball yet to be played, but I feel confident about these predictions. If I am completely off, you can share this with @FreezingColdTakes.