When the 2019-2020 NBA season ended in October, not many thought they’d begin the 2020-21 season before year’s end. But the NBA got right back to the bag, affording players little time to recoup physically and mentally from playing through a pandemic and all that it entailed.
The two NBA Finals participants, the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat, only had a 71-day off-season, which is the shortest off-season ever in any of the four major North American professional sports.
This season began on December 22nd, amidst the pandemic which has caused exactly 30 postponed games, Despite a few setbacks and some a few stars getting yanked midgame due to COVID protocols, we’re now at the midway point of the season.
A fan-less NBA All-Star event is scheduled for March 7th.
Here are some storylines that have manifested during the first 2.5 months:
Anthony Davis Or Bust For The Lakers?
The Lakers are the defending champs and until someone beats them they’ll be the favorite. But with superstar Anthony Davis out for about a month with a sore Achilles, this team is vulnerable and without him, at 100% they won’t win another title. LeBron James hasn’t looked 35 at all, but can he keep that up minus AD?
Jay Cee did say on the last podcast the #Lakers need Anthony Davis in order to repeat.
It's starting to look that way pic.twitter.com/Jl3mrjvZKS
— Penalty Talk (@PenaltyTalk) March 3, 2021
The Rest of The West: Is Utah Real?
They’ll be challenged in the West by the upstart (27-7) Utah Jazz who currently own the best record in the NBA. They’ve used the three-ball and a stout defense to stymie opponents.
A nighty barrage of 17 3-pointers per game has allowed the Jazz to overwhelm teams. Donovan Mitchell has looked like every bit the star we know he is and rising baller Jordan Clarkson should win the NBA 6th Man award if he keeps up his stellar play off the bench.
The @utahjazz made their 500th 3-pointer of the season last night.
They reached that mark in 31 games, the fastest team in NBA history to do so:
31 – Jazz, 2020-21
32 – Rockets, 2017-18
32 – Rockets, 2019-20
34 – Rockets, 2016-17
34 – Rockets, 2018-19
34 – Mavericks, 2019-20 pic.twitter.com/0s7K3NckQq
— Justin Kubatko (@jkubatko) February 23, 2021
But will this work come playoff time? The jury is still out on them in the playoffs, and we’ve seen this movie the last two seasons with the Bucks dominating during the regular season and then fizzling out come playoff time.
They’re joined by the Clippers who have Kawhi Leonard and Paul George and a puncher’s chance on any night. You’d think the second half of the season will inspire the Clippers to become elite as they’re seeking retribution after blowing that (3-1) series lead to the Nuggets in the Bubble.
.@ShannonSharpe on the Clippers blowing a lead to the Bucks:
"PG keep bumping his gums. This sounds like the same team that we saw last year melt down in the playoffs. What happened to the most mentally tough team? You can't talk your way to a title, you have to be about it." pic.twitter.com/PVNsKKMqCK
— UNDISPUTED (@undisputed) March 1, 2021
Can Leonard and George redeem themselves and make it to the conference finals and beyond? After all, they were acquired to win an NBA title and nothing less.
CP3 Makes Phoenix Must-See TV
Chris Paul has helped nurture the budding young talent on the Phoenix Suns and turned them into a formidable team capable of making a run like they’re doing now, sitting in second place in the Western Conference (23-11). Last night they beat the Lakers.
He’s made life easier for budding superstar Devin Booker and the entire Suns team has benefited greatly from his leadership. This is what Paul does, every team (New Orleans, Clippers and Rockets) he goes to instantly gets better. Maybe one day he will get that elusive ring, but nevertheless, his impact on franchises is legendary.
Heaving Lifting For DOLLA & JOKER
Nuggets have struggled after their surprise run to the NBA Bubble. Even with their early-season struggles, Jokic has been incredible and is an MVP candidate. Warriors and Blazers are being led by their “BATMEN” (Steph and Dame DOLLA), who minus their “ROBINS” (Klay and McCollum), have still managed to keep their teams in the thick of the playoff race out West.
5️⃣0️⃣ Triple dobles en su carrera para Nikola Jokic 😱
🔥 37 PTS
🔥 10 REB
🔥 11 AST
— Club Radio Digital (@ClubRadioDgital) March 3, 2021
Young Guns Building Legacy
Luka Doncic has continued to show that all-around skillset that’s made him one of the most effective and celebrated players in the NBA at 22. After a rough start and some injuries, the Dallas Mavericks seem to be hitting their stride as of late.
The most heralded Draft pick in the last 25 years, Zion, has been unguardable for the Pelicans. He’s an inside force whose throwback style is boosted by his new-age athleticism. Silky smooth Ja Morant is leading the gritty Grizz. Pop’s Spurs are playing better this year and DeJounte Murray has developed nicely for them.
Karl Anthony-Towns has been through it losing multiple family members to COVID-19 and then even having it himself earlier this season and the TWolves have been downright awful. DeAngelo Russell has been injured often, and they fired head coach Ryan Saunders.
The rapid development of rookie No. 1 pick Anthony Edwards (always on our Rookie Meter) has been a bright spot, but he’s still inconsistent.
Warriors Rebuilding Dynasty
All this losing does is help the Warriors, who have a 50% chance of getting a Top 5 pick in (2021 or 2022) or a 90% chance at a Top 10 pick in the (2021 and 2022) drafts. This is the compensation they’ll receive courtesy of the Russell for Andrew Wiggins trade. The 2021 and 2022 drafts are strong drafts to cash in on.
Steph Curry is an MVP candidate again and making the playoffs will be a huge accomplishment for them.
BK’s Big 3 Is In The Building
Out East it’s all about the Brooklyn Nets who already had KD and Kyrie Irving in tow and then added superstar James Harden via trade, giving them arguably the most dynamic trio of scorers we’ve ever seen on any modern roster.
5 Unstoppable NBA Forces Not Named James Harden – The Shadow League : The Shadow League https://t.co/tTV4qJxEHV
— LA MAQUINA DE SOMBRAS (@FANalyst1) March 1, 2019
Health and the willingness to play defense are the only things I believe could keep them from the NBA Finals. Expectations were already extremely high before Harden arrived, now a ring is the only thing. Despite KD resting often as he comes off a devastating Achilles injury, BK has been downright dominant offensively with “The Beard” manning the point guard duties, allowing others to hunt their shot and be the prolific scorers they’ve always been.
Ben Has To Score More
The Sixers are playing well and it’s also the best we’ve seen Joel Embiid ever play. We have to view this as a product of the Doc Rivers effect.
The team is getting quality play from Ben Simmons, especially on the defensive end. They can’t beat the Nets anyway IMO, but especially with Simmons unwilling to shoot the ball on the offensive end. Embiid is an MVP candidate.
Giannis & The Miracles
Bucks are not as good as they’ve been the last two regular seasons and maybe that’s a good thing considering how they completely fizzled out in the playoffs. They have Giannis and he’s dominant but the deficiencies in his game always surface against the teams that won’t let him play bully ball come playoff time.
Cookie Cutter Pretenders
I’ll bunch the Raptors, Heat, Celtics and Pacers together as all are capable of winning and being dangerous but something’s missing with all three as far as bring championship-caliber.
Look Who Came Out The Cellar
Immanuel Quickley and Julius Randle’s Knicks Knicks are a real surprise as they currently sit in the Top 5 of the Eastern Conference playoff race, Randle has emerged into a superstar and head coach Tom Thibodeau has them playing hard and tough.
NBA-leading scorer Bradley Beal has been on a tear this season. And so far it seems as if the Wizards are winning the Westbrook-Wall trade. The Wizards are playing much better but still can’t finish games.
Another Brother Bites The Dust
Hawks fired head coach Lloyd Pierce after he went (63-120) in two-plus seasons. I believe there was a rift between him and star player Trae Young. Young and rising star forward John Collins also don’t always see eye to eye, largely due to Young’s style of play and Pierce echoed those sentiments a few weeks ago. Those chemistry issues combined with a losing record (15-20, 11th place in East) led to Lloyd’s dismissal.
Nate McMillan is now the interim coach.
New King of Queen City
Hornets rookie LaMelo Ball is turning heads and NBA “Rookie Of The Year” honors is his to lose as we enter the All-star break. The electrifying Ball has Charlotte in the thick of the playoff race. Jordan signed Gordon Hayward and the former All-star has been a good pickup for this upstart Hornets team.
With so much still undecided and a second half for the ages on deck, with fans returning to the arenas slowly but surely, it will be a blast finding out how this 2021 NBA season plays out.