As usual, I have been watching the NBA Playoffs closely. Whether you have been keeping up or not, here is a list of five things from across the bracket which have stood out:
1. Kevin Durant is an all-time scorer, not an all-time player
This is one I have been saying for years, this year's playoffs has just helped to further confirm that. KD is an elite shot-maker. He can get to the right elbow and stop-and-pop over anyone. He can pull up into three-pointers with ease and is highly accurate from the free-throw line. But as I've said time and time again, he does not have the heart of a leader. Against Boston (my team) he has not shown up. At this point the series is 3-0 Celtics over Nets. Kyrie had an excellent game 1, but the Nets came up short. Nash is an unproven coach, but games are ultimately won on the court. Kevin Durant has only looked like "the guy" while on the Warriors (which anyone could've looked that way with that roster) and for brief stints in OKC and Brooklyn. I will continue to say that Tracy McGrady and KD are more comparable than KD and any all-time NBA great. This series shows why. Boston for the sweep.
2. Trae Young is a star, not a superstar
Ice Trae has been ice cold for a large part of this series versus Miami. The Heat defense has been outstanding, mentally taking him out of the game. Trae Young, much like Damian Lillard, can pull up from anywhere and hit shots. He can score in transition and play the lob-game with Capela better than most pairings in the league. However, at the end of the day, Trae has looked lost throughout this series. He led the league in turnovers, just a touch ahead of Russ, and that trend has continued in the playoffs. He was able to hit the game-winning floater in game 3. That I will give credit for. Other than that, Young has no answers and has scored single-digits in two of these four games. This series is over, but Trae needs to show-up until it official is.
3. Ja Morant needs to develop his jumper
We all know what Morant is capable of. He has the rising ability of Vince Carter, with the touch of Kyrie Irving. He can spin into the paint and finish around and over anyone. He is the most electrifying man in sports entertainment today (a la The Rock). But, until he can develop a consistent jumper from the mid-range and three-point line, he will always be limited to being a star, and NOT a superstar. Ja has not shown up so far versus Minnesota. Fortunately, the Grizz have showed more success in his absence than they have in his appearances. I still believe Memphis will need Ja in order to go all the way. I also believe he will be able to show high value in this playoffs. Time will tell.
4. Embiid is the MVP
Jokic is amazing. He can pass better than almost anyone in the league, excluding perhaps Paul and LeBron. He has high basketball IQ and can put up points in various ways. His MVP competition, Joel Embiid, is more of a scoring machine than a passer. Both guys have huge impact on the game and their teams. With that being said, Joel Embiid has looked the part of MVP in this first round. Embiid hit the game winning shot in game 3 at Toronto, while Jokic and the Nuggets were down 3-0 to the surging Warriors. And yes, the Warriors are a much better team than the Raptors, AND, the Nuggets are without Murray and Porter Jr., Jokic has looked ordinary at times while Joel has looked elite. MVP voting is done prior to the playoffs, but this first round has shown why Embiid should be the league's MVP, even over Giannis.
5. The Bucks are still the team to beat
As much as I love my Boston Celtics and their rise as true contenders for the title, Milwaukee still looks like the favorites. Boston has been the most impressive team, leading 3-0 on a Nets team that no one wanted to face in the first round. Tatum has taken the next step towards superstar. Miami's defense has locked-down Atlanta. The Warriors are firing on all cylinders with Lethal Weapon 3 (Steph, Klay, Poole). The Suns are tied with the Pelicans after losing Booker for the series, but overall they feel capable of surviving until his return. Even with all this, the Bucks are the most balanced squad. Giannis is playing at his peak, and even with the loss of Middleton for the series, the Bucks have looked like the champions they were last season. I believe in them more this year, than last year's team. Their depth is legit and they never stray away from the style of play which makes them successful. Assuming they finish off Chicago, the second round match-up versus Boston will be amazing. Go Celtics.