In the end, the Lakers defeated the Heat by 4 games to 2, in a series which brought the best competition out of the finals MVP (Most Valuable Player) LeBron James and his counterpart Jimmy Butler, with the latter on a mission to win the underdogs a Championship ring. Rookie Tyler Herro also made a name for himself with uncountable numbers in various games sparking the NBA world alight. The play-offs seemed surprisingly odd, with all games being played in a Disneyland, Florida Arena, with no fans in attendance due to the ongoing COVID pandemic. However, the latter stage of the season brought out several great performances from future All-stars and the current elite crop, as well as showing the world that with no fans in attendance, anyone can win on their day. In this review we will highlight each play-off team’s overall season and what we should expect from them for the upcoming season.
Los Angeles Lakers
The eventual winners of the NBA Championship and home to worldwide superstar, LeBron James. The Lakers, who failed to make the play-offs last season, had an excellent regular season as expected with 52 wins, leading the polls for favourites for the Championship. The lethal duo of LeBron and Davis led a rejuvenated team to the Finals, alongside league veterans Dwight Howard and point guard Rajon Rondo, as they eased their way into a matchup against LeBron’s former side, the Miami Heat. The Lakers won 4-2 with LeBron almost averaging a triple-double and eventually winning Finals MVP. But with Free Agency looming, could we see LeBron lose his partner Anthony Davis or will we see ‘AD’ rejoin the Lakers in an attempt to regain the title.
Jimmy Butler led a youthful side to the Final’s matchup against the Lakers, as they pulled off major shocks including wins over the Boston Celtics and League MVP Giannis Antetokonumpo’s side, the Milwaukee Bucks. The Heat were unfortunate to lose to a much more experienced Lakers side as we saw future stars; Tyler Herro, Bam Adebayo and the undrafted 3-point shooter Duncan Robinson rise to the occasion as they stood toe-to-toe with LeBron and Co. and were unfortunate to lose out. The Miami Heat clearly showed from their performance that they are not a team to be underestimated when it comes to challenging for the NBA title next season.
The Denver Nuggets, home to breakout star, Jamal Murray and dominant Nikola Jokic, were the most eye-catching team of the season play-offs as they surprised everyone with their determination and never give up attitude against some of the best in the league to pull off shock comebacks on several occasions. Challenging teams throughout the season and overcoming many fans favourites for the title, the LA Clippers, The Nuggets proved that in these tough times when there are no fans at the game, the impossible can become possible if you knuckle down and give it everything you have left.
The 17-time winners of the NBA were knocked out in the conference finals by the Miami Heat, going one further than last year and showed a major improvement from Brad Stevens’ young side. An offensive team filled with All-stars Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum and young leaders Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown, impressive performances meant pundits failed to dismiss them from the title race during the season. We believe that the Celtics will continue to work with the young trio of Tatum, Brown and Smart and build around them, making them a definite challenge for the title next season.
Los Angeles Clippers
After a 2nd place finish in the Western Conference the LA Clippers looked in a very strong position with a side that included former title winner and Final’s MVP, Kawhi Leonard, and 6x All-star, Paul George, coached by one of the best in the business, Doc Rivers. The Clippers fell at the hands of Jamal Murray and his much-determined Denver side, who came back from 3-1 down to beat the heavily favourited Los Angeles Clippers. They who will be looking to get payback after being surprisingly knocked out of the playoffs so early this year and go again next year, however, they will be without their coach, Doc Rivers, who has departed for Philadelphia.
A team led by consecutive league MVP and rising star, Giannis Antetokounmpo, ‘the Greek freak’, The Bucks pulled up short in the post season as they were knocked out by eventual finalists, the Miami Heat in their bid to compete for the Championship. Topping the Eastern Conference by a considerable amount again, the Bucks were favourites to advance to the Finals going into the play-offs, and many thought it would be a Giannis – LeBron final, however, Jimmy Butler and co. had other plans. It is unclear whether ‘the Greek freak’ will return to Milwaukee or not as his contract is up. Hopeful and dependent Bucks eyes are on him staying, however, there seems to be some background issues which could influence otherwise, therefore we could see him departing the Bucks, leaving them without a main man for next season.
Last years winners of the Championship were knocked out in the Conference Semi-finals by the Boston Celtics. They will be hoping to get back into to title contention next season, with a side which his clearly missing Kawhi Leonard. The Raptors, without Leonard, proved many wrong by even making it to the play-offs and will be hoping to do the same next year, by getting get back up to the level of challenging teams such as the Lakers and the Clippers for the Championship.
On paper, the Rockets look like a team that could win back-to-back Championships with the backcourt of James Harden and Russel Westbrook, however, it was clear last season that they weren’t as consistent as hoped for and perhaps, also not having a Championship winning mindset resulted in them losing to the eventual winners, the Lakers. With some key strengthening in personnel, could we see the Rockets reaching their potential next season and challenging for the NBA championship?
Another team to watch out for in the future is the Dallas Mavericks, led by the young prodigy, Luka Doncic. They made it to the Play-offs after having a tremendous season, finishing 7th in the conference with a total of 43 wins. The Mavericks eventually lost out at the first hurdle to favourites, the LA Clippers. Doncic’s first play-offs were a learning curve for a possible future MVP and with stars such as Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr, this up and coming squad will be one to watch for the upcoming seasons.
Led by an incredible athlete and Winner of the slam dunk contest, Donovan Mitchell, the Utah Jazz were very much up against it during the play-offs as their main stars Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, missed the first two games due to coronavirus regulations. This undermined the team’s success in the regular season as they got off to the worst possible start, being knocked out in the first round of the play-offs by another underdog side in the Denver Nuggets. If the Jazz can acquire a couple of new stars in the off-season or draft, we could possibly see them push for a place in a conference finals next year.
The Trailblazers are another side, similar to the Houston Rockets, who look great on paper with the backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, however, fail to play up to their potential when it matters most. It seems they possibly don’t have the mental attitude needed to compete with the likes of LeBron and Kawhi as the NBA’s best. Portland fell at the first hurdle to the Lakers in round one of the play-offs as LeBron and Anthony Davis combined to breeze past them, creating a whitewash by winning 4-1 the series.
Oklahoma City Thunder
A team who are in the process of a rebuild, the Oklahoma City Thunder, led by 10x All-star, Chris Paul, made it to the play-offs as they finished 5th in an extremely competitive Western conference. They lost to division rivals, the Houston Rockets, 4-3 in the first round, showing bravery and great determination as they put up a great battle. They will be looking to continue their rebuild, having lost the likes of former MVP’s Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and James Harden in recent years, and push on to get further than the first-round next season.
Indiana are another young side who surprised many throughout the season with their ability to pull off many surprising results and qualify for the play-offs. They ultimately lost 4-0 to a strong Miami team, in a series where Jimmy Butler showed why he is one of the best players in the world. For next season, the Pacers will be looking to keep up their ‘never give up’ mentality and continue to bag the unpredictable W’s to reach another play-offs, possibly acquiring some new players in trade deals and in the off-season draft.
“Trust the process” is the motto of the Philadelphia 76ers and fans can see why, with the talent they have on the court and the performances produced. Players like Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, who have already been selected for All-star games, are part of the rebuild taking place in Philly and despite an overall poor show in the play-offs this year, losing to Boston 4-0, they are still a force to be reckoned with for upcoming seasons, with the tremendous talent they continue to produce.
Missing their new stars, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, the Brooklyn Nets were swept 4-0 by Toronto, as they crashed out in round one of the play-offs. There is a high possibility that the Nets, next season, will be a different animal, if the pair of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant are fit. Brooklyn have a clear vision to challenge for Championships as they look to get past their days of underperforming and attempt to give their fans something to cheer about.
Finally, of all the teams who made the play-offs last season, the Orlando Magic. Another franchise looking to rebuild, lost in round one as they were beaten 4-1 by Giannis and his Milwaukee side. The Magic will be looking to continue their rebuild to partner stars Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac, possibly through acquiring a top draft prospect, they will be looking to further their play-off performance next season.
What a season 2019-20 was for the NBA! The league continues to bring the fans extremely entertaining games right up until the last second – even if it is only on our television screens – which are of the highest level of the sport. The fans can look forward to another year of the same spoils and even better as we see the likes of Stephen Curry and Zion Williamson returning to the court, the possibility of LaMelo Ball joining the league and also fans can’t wait to see where free agents Giannis Antetokounmpo and Anthony Davis will end up. Who will be victorious next year? Will we see Giannis team up with the Warriors bringing them another Championship? Or will we see LeBron try to solidify himself as the Greatest Of All Time as he attempts to win another Championship? Have a look out for our NBA season preview for the 2020/21 campaign….