Hot takes are thrown out at the beginning of the NBA season as often as fruitcake the day after Christmas. This list of “takes” isn’t meant to be inflammatory as much as it is bitter pills to swallow. These are some of the broad strokes going into the 2021 season that may be more convenient for some fans to ignore.
Boston Falls Short Again
Jayson Tatum is one of the top 5 players in the East, has a team with some of the best talent top to bottom, and one of the best coaches in the game. So why do we have Boston failing to take the next step? The East is especially top heavy this season, most notably with the return of Kevin Durant on the Nets. Make no mistake, Boston is definitely in the mix – though they will have to keep the pace with other teams stocking up on veteran talent (Milwaukee, Brooklyn), and look to not get punched in the mouth by Miami. It’s a tall order, perhaps too tall this year.
This is still LeBron’s league
It took one year for James to get acclimated to the water in LA. Any doubts sports writers may have had about LeBron replicating the success he had in the Eastern conference have long been buried. Now his team has traded out capable veterans (Rondo, Green) for hungry young talent (Harrell, Schroeder) and look to improve on last year’s success.
Don’t Buy the Portland Hype
Damian Lillard in the playoffs is hands down some of the most entertaining basketball and must watch TV every time. However, there’s been a lot of talk about the Trailblazers moving deep into playoffs this year and Lillard being an early favorite for MVP.
What exactly has changed?
For how “deep” this team is, they barely squeaked into the bubble playoffs and lost 4-1 in the first round to the eventual champions. Trade out the Golden State dynasty for a deep Lakers team every year Lillard and crew run into a team that kicks them out in 4-5 games. Odds are they’ll find themselves in a similar position in 2021, so let’s not crown them Western Conference champions quite yet.
May The Best Bench Win
Brooklyn, Denver, Milwaukee, Miami, and both LA teams have second units that are all considered top contenders. Teams need a couple of nasty dudes to keep up the intensity when the starters rest, even if they just make life more difficult for the other team’s offensive focal points. If the bench mob doesn’t come out, then your team is going to find itself out-gunned and struggling to catch up.
This is still LeBron’s league (yes, we’re saying this twice)
Again, some people have really hard time understanding this, but LeBron is the biggest mover and shaker in the NBA. Now, he has officially settled into his throne, making the City of Angels the epicenter of the basketball world. Sure, Kawhi’s in the same building, but even he is not facilitating off the court moves like poaching the league’s 6th man of the year from your in-house rival.
The Denver Nuggets Deserve Respect
Jamal Murray emerged in the bubble a star, leading his team through two hard fought series. He and Jokić are one of the best young tandem’s in the league that seems to improve faster than any other duo in the game.
76er’s End The Process
For a while, people bought into “the process” and it looked as though Philly and Boston would compete for the East’s top spot for years. After being swept in the first round by their rival, Philly said goodbye to Brett Brown and welcomed Doc Rivers. As good of a coach as Doc Rivers is, his Clippers teams has always failed to take the next step as contenders with last year’s being arguably his best roster.
If the 76er’s come up short again in the post season, it would come as no surprise if Philly eighty-sixes one of their young stars like Simmons or Embiid in exchange for another all star.
This is still LeBron’s league (yes, for a third time!!!)
This is the most difficult pill to swallow for most NBA fans. It’s a pill that everyone has had to swallow (except Golden State fans) every year. That’s simply the reality of having one of the best players ever also act as a better GM than half of the league’s offices. His off the court influence maybe a bit overblown (myself being guilty in this article) but his continued impact on the game definitely isn’t.