It seems like we’ve talked about the same group of players as the royalty amongst the elite players in the NBA. You know the names and articles that start like this force you to recite those names immediately – Lebron James, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Damian Lillard and Giannis Antetokounmpo. These names are listed with great reason as each of these players has achieved NBA Most Valuable Status at least once in their career, but these players time dominating the league will eventually come to an end. That moment may be the 2021 season as foreshadowed by the performance of a handful of players during the NBA Bubble.
Its obvious why the majority of these names will see their time dominating the NBA come to a close soon, but why Giannis? After all, he is the back-to-back NBA MVP and just won a Defensive Player of the Year Award. NBA award voters won’t forget his performance in the bubble, though, and that will surely impact his standing for MVP in years to come. Sure, I know this shouldn’t impact the voting, but it definitely will. Its hard to forget a back-to-back MVP failing to reach the NBA Finals or even the Conference Championship in back-to-back years. Its even more difficult to grasp quotes like this one below:
We all remember this moment from the bubble, right? It will stick in many hoops fan’s heads for years to come with Giannis. Not only did he seem like an absolute coward shrinking away from the responsibilities of a top player, but he potentially setup the run the Miami Heat went on leading to a NBA Finals appearance. These moments will force NBA fans and journalists to start looking for the next big thing beginning in the 2020-2021 season, whenever that may start.
ESPN released their way too early Power Rankings for the 2020-2021 season about a week ago. Ever since, I’ve been thinking about the names on this list, specifically on 4 of these rosters. While the top 3 teams on this list are completely predictable, there is an infusion of youth in a few of these teams.
How unbelievable was the run the Denver Nuggets made this year in the NBA Playoffs? Murray and his band of underdogs never allowed themselves to fold under the pressure of the corner they put themselves in after falling 3 games to 1 in back-to-back playoffs series during the Western Conference Finals. While they finally ran into the buzz saw named the Los Angeles Lakers, the run Murray and his team made was unreal and inexplicable.
Murray is in just his 5th season in the NBA which is typically the athletic prime for NBA Players. His statistics during the regular season were modest average 18.5 points, 4 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.1 steals per game. However, the man turned up the volume on those numbers after reaching the playoffs.
While functioning as the main scoring option on the perimeter for the Nuggets, Murray averaged 26.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 1 steal per game. During this run, he had 4 games scoring 40 of more points per game with a pair of 50 point games both coming in pivotal moments of first round matchup with the Utah Jazz.
Murray recorded just 8 games with a negative +/- meaning the man was positively impactful for his team 11/19 games despite losing 10 times in these playoffs. Its very, very difficult to achieve a positive +/- in a losing effort, but Murray often did just that.
These Denver Nuggets are a terror to look out for in the Western Conference next year and the emergence of Jamal Murray as a dynamic, dominant scorer
Appearing at #5 on the Power Rankings from ESPN, we find Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks. The image above is one etched in the memory banks of all Mavericks fans. What Luka did during the NBA Bubble without his partner Kristaps Porzingis was nothing short of incredible.
The early legend of Luka is unbelievable at times. The 2018-2019 NBA Rookie of the Year has been a revelation for a Mavericks franchise that lost NBA Legend Dirk Nowitzki. During his rookie campaign, Luka average 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 6 assists and 1.1 steals per game. He followed up that tremendous season by completely blowing away those numbers averaging 28.8 points, 9.4 rebounds and 8.8 assists and 1 steal per game while playing Point Guard for the Dallas Mavericks. For comparison’s sake, Lebron umped from 20.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.6 steals per game to 27.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, 7.2 assists and 2.2 steals per game from his Rookie of the Year campaign to his Sophomore Season.
Yes, what I’m telling you is that Luka Doncic is on pace for a historic career as he is currently outpacing Lebron’s growth who just happens to be one of the greatest basketball players to ever live.
Luka’s very first playoff appearance occurred during the NBA Bubble where he averaged 31 points, 9.8 rebounds, 8.7 assists and 1 steal per game including 2 triple doubles. He did all of this while playing as the primary ball handler for the Dallas Mavericks and their primary scoring option. To compare him to the great Lebron James, Lebron averaged 30.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 1.4 steals per game.
Luka is arguably on pace to perform in a similar fashion to a man many consider the Greatest of All Time, a player who Doncic admits is his favorite player and who he clearly modeled his game after.
The leader of the youth movement, Luka is set to take over the NBA.
Tatum is entering his 4th NBA season and is the feature star on a team featuring a treasure chest of lottery picks. One of the best defensive players in the league, Marcus Smart, is another centerpiece of this historic NBA Franchise looking to return to the glory of a NBA Title like their longtime rival, the Los Angeles Lakers.
Tatum’s 3rd season was a successful one averaging 23.4 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 1.4 steals per game. He had an impressive NBA Playoffs run as well before losing in the Eastern Conference finals while averaging 25.7 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal and 1.2 blocks per game. Often overlooked, Tatum is an incredible piece for these Celtics.
Consistency is an issue with Tatum. He often had slow starts in the playoffs before finally turning in on in the second half. This was a theme for the Boston Celtics, but this is a thought for another day. Although not as impressive as the first two names on this list, Tatum did record 5 30 point games during the Boston Celtics playoff run and had just 6 of his 17 games result in a negative +/-. If Tatum was on the court, the Celtics had the best opportunity to win.
The leader of probably the best collection of young players in the league, Tatum is a name to watch out for as he will be entering his prime soon.
I’ll briefly touch on a handful of other players that look to be supporting the infusion of youth dominance heading to the top of the ranks in the NBA.
Mitchell played meaningful, high pressure basketball throughout the entirety of the NBA Playoffs. Throughout the regular season, he averaged 24 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1 steal per game.
He was otherworldly in the playoffs
Mitchell was incredible in the first round series against the Denver Nuggets averaging a whopping 36.3 points, 5 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1 block per game. He unbelievably recorded scoring totals of 57, 30, 20, 51, 30, 44 and 22 games. Add this man to your list of potentially dominant scorers to look out for next season.
Mitchell will be entering just his 4th season in the NBA.
The Suns went 8-0 in the NBA Bubble after entering as a team many assumed had absolutely zero chance of making the playoffs. A disappointing result awaited the Suns as they would head back to Arizona despite an awesome run.
The secret to the run? Devin Booker.
During the regular season, Booker averaged 26.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 6.5 assists per game.
The Bubble brought out the best of Booker as he averaged 30.5 points, 4.9 rebounds and 6 assists per game. When the pressure was highest, Booker turned up his performance and nearly delivered an end to the Suns’ playoff drought.
Booker will be entering just his 6th NBA Season.
Brandon Ingram was traded away from the Lakers to the Pelicans for Anthony Davis. Both teams seem to have benefitted nicely from this trade as Anthony Davis helped lead the Lakers to a championship and Ingram appears to be a superstar in the making for NOLA.
Ingram averaged 23.8 points, 6.1 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1 steal per game during the regular season. He was consistent in the Bubble, though he didn’t play in the final two games as the Pelicans were eliminated. However, he chipped in 3 20 point games during this run and showed he will be a wonderful option to offload some of the pressure from Zion Williamson heading into the 2020-2021 campaign.
The NBA is changing guards which isn’t something that happens very often. The 2003 NBA Draft has had a grip on the NBA for the last 17 years. The Oklahoma City Thunder’s promising young duo from years ago is losing its grasp as the guard to takeover for Lebron once he retires. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are excellent, but it is time for the young studs coming up in the NBA to takeover next season.