2021 NBA Play-in Tournament: (8) Washington Wizards vs (9) Indiana Pacers

2021 NBA Play-in Tournament – Game 5 Preview

  • When: May 20, 2021
  • Time: 8:00 PM EST
  • TV: TNT
  • Where: Captial One Arena, Washington D.C.

(8) Washington Wizards

The Wizards played against the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night and obviously are here. Due to their loss, they are alive for one more night unless Indiana decides that the Wizards are no more. Russell Westbrook had an easy night to forget. While he scored 20 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, he shot the ball 6-of-18 from the field (33-percent). Bradley Beal, the Wizards’ other All-Star player, chipped in with 22 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists this past Tuesday night. It wasn’t enough to overcome 50 points by Boston’s Jayson Tatum.

Moving forward to face Indiana the Wizards will still have their hands loaded. The Pacers pulled out a 144-117 victory against the Charlotte Hornets Tuesday. Westbrook will have to come out more aggressive early on for the Wizards but also shoot the ball better obviously.

While a few of us on the Shoot or Pass Podcast’s latest episode suggested the Wizards are the MOST dangerous team in the tournament we quickly want to forget the effort from Washington against the Celtics. However, with the lack of Washington’s ability to shoot the three-ball and IF Westbrook’s unable to get into a better shooting game we have to question their winning formula. Indiana isn’t a team that will lay down easy and it appears unless Washington has an overachieving game shooting the three-ball this game will be just as difficult against Indiana as Boston. My concern here is Washington playing behind early on could dictate Indiana pressing hard all game and without a doubt stealing the 8th seed from the Wizards.

(9) Indiana Pacers

I have to admit I was a little afraid of Indiana losing Caris LeVert in the Play-in Tournament week would deflate their momentum. However, a couple of honorable mentions Doug McDermott (21 points), Osahe Brissett (23 points), and T.J. McConnell (17 points) all outscored the only All-Star on this roster? That’s right Domantas Sabonis cruised to a quiet 14 points, 21 rebounds, and 9 assist against Charlotte on Tuesday. Indiana never lost their lead, ballooned the lead to as much as 39 points, and outrebounded the Hornets 54-36.

If this is a boost of confidence of a game for the Pacers then, I am intrigued to see a 9th or 10th seed attempt to “steal” the 8th seed from the Wizards. The concerning part for Washington is that the Pacers do a pretty good job defending the three. The average opponent’s three-point percentage against Indiana this season is 37-percent. The Wizards this season shoot the three-ball an average of 35-percent so that’s a huge difference-maker if the Wizards scare the Pacers with some electrifying shooting in Game 5 of the tournament.

If all signs point to the team that will have the biggest turnout from their players I have to say it will be Indiana. Eight of their players scored double-digits against the Hornets. Besides the above mentioned already the Pacers starting five shot the ball 63-percent in their big win against the Hornets. Again, I can’t stress that shooting in this game will be a huge factor and it appears to be favoring the Pacers.



Top players to watch

Domantas Sabonis: 2020-2021 Season

  • 20.3 PPG
  • 6.7 APG
  • 12.0 RPG
  • 54% FG

Russell Westbrook: 2020-2021 Season

  • 22.2 PPG
  • 11.7 APG
  • 11.5 RPG
  • 44% FG

Where should the money go?

COULD this be the BIGGEST upset brewing in the Play-in Tournament? Possibly at this rate that Indiana is performing at. I did say before the season they’d be a sneaky good team. However, injuries with T.J. Warren and Myles Turner have the Pacers competing a little lower than expected in this tournament. Otherwise, they to me are a better team than the Wizards this season.

Where do the dollar bills go tonight? Well, we have our panel of experts below to fill you in on that they’re feeling for this elimination game.

As always check out our expert daily picks too!

2021 NBA Play-in Tournament Schedule – Eastern Conference

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Game

Away

Home

Time (EST)

TV

Results

1

10

9

6:30 PM

TNT

Hornets - 117
Pacers - 144

2

8

7

9:00 PM

TNT

Wizards - 100
Celtics - 118

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Game

Away

Home

Results

5

9

8

Pacers - 115
Wizards - 142

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2021 NBA Play-in Tournament: (9) Memphis Grizzlies vs (10) San Antonio Spurs

2021 NBA Play-in Tournament – Game 3 Preview

  • When: May 19, 2021
  • Time: 7:30 PM EST
  • TV: ESPN
  • Where: FedexForum, Memphis, Tennessee

(9) Memphis Grizzlies

There used to be a once upon a time where there were two well-known big men who battled it out between these two teams. However, long gone from the NBA is Tim Duncan and Pau Gasol is playing his best life in Barcelona? Well, the Grizzlies definitely enter this season with a bit of redemption in mind. They lost Jaren Jackson Jr. in the bubble last season.

Furthermore, Memphis was the guinea pig of the Play-in Tournament happened last year between the Grizzlies and the Trailblazers. Unfortunately, the Grizzlies ended up on the bad side of the deal. After holding the 8th seed all season they were overtaken by the Blazers and missed the playoffs. They KNOW what it’s like to be so close but yet a season’s work all down the drain after one loss. The good news is this season is that Jackson Jr. made his return on April 21st, 2021.

The young leader of Memphis is Ja Morant. He is the Grizzlies 2nd pick overall in the 2019 NBA Draft. At age 21 I prefer we give the Grizzlies the benefit of the doubt not to count them out but don’t disappointed in any shortcomings. What I like about Memphis is their ability to defend the ball. A team that hangs out in the top 10 Defensive Team Rating. Ranking next to Milwaukee, Phoenix, Los Angeles Clippers, and the Heat is the benefit of the doubt that they are the easy favorite for this game.

(10) San Antonio Spurs

That good old saying, “never count the Spurs out”, and yet here we are again. First, let’s honor the great Tim Duncan who just recently was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Even more so, the success he brought to San Antonio still lingers on as the Spurs have a chance to return back to the playoffs.

DeMar DeRozan has led the team in scoring all season and the Spurs also cut ties with LaMarcus Aldridge who also retired due to health issues after signing with the Brooklyn Nets as a free agent. The Spurs are truly the team that always flies under the radar. However, is there something impressive about them this season?

That answer to me is a no. They are an average defensive team that allows 50 points in the paint while rated an average defensive team this season. The concern here also is that San Antonio also shoots the three-ball as a team 35-percent on the season. This is the WORSE among teams in the Play-in Tournament. The Grizzlies game plan could be to limit the interior scoring while running and gunning to the basket on the offensive end. Ja Morant getting scoring 8+ points in the paint? I’ll bet on that easy against San Antonio.



Top players to watch

Ja Morant: 2020-2021 Season

  • 19.1 PPG
  • 7.4 APG
  • 4.0 RPG
  • 45% FG

DeMar DeRozan: 2020-2021 Season

  • 21.6 PPG
  • 6.9 APG
  • 4.2 RPG
  • 50% FG

Where should the money go?

Out of the Play-in Tournament games, the Western Conference seems to be the easiest to bet on the favorite picks. I will personally advocate taking the Grizzlies at home here. Memphis has defeated the Spurs two out of the three times these teams faced each other this season.

In the two games, the Grizzlies won their average margin of victory was 24 points. Take that for some food for thought.

Expert Picks

2021 NBA Play-in Tournament Schedule – Western Conference

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Game

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Time (EST)

TV

Results

3

10

9

7:30 PM

ESPN

Spurs - 96
Grizzlies - 100

4

8

7

10:00 PM

ESPN

Warriors- 100
Lakers - 103

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Game

Away

Home

Results

6

9

8

Grizzlies - 117
Warriors - 112

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2021 NBA Play-in Tournament: (7) Los Angeles Lakers vs (8) Golden State Warriors

2021 NBA Play-in Tournament – Game 4 Preview

  • When: May 19, 2021
  • Time: 10:00 PM EST
  • TV: ESPN
  • Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, California

(7) Los Angeles Lakers

Ah well, here we are. When the Play-in Tournament was announce did we ever expect the Los Angeles Lakers to be drawn down that far in the standings? Most sensible NBA fans didn’t expect that but here we are! A Stephen Curry vs LeBron James showdown yet again. This time James is more on the side of the favorites for this matchup instead of the past times he’s faced Curry and the Warriors.

The concealing part of this game is that the Lakers just welcomed back Anthony Davis and LeBron James in a span of two weeks. One extra game for the Lakers to secure the 7th seed and rest until May 22nd? You bet! Let’s make no mistake here. When healthy (like they were at the beginning of the season) the Lakers are among the top 3 best defensively and Davis is a huge factor.

I bet that we can figure the NBA never thought the prestigious Lakers (who are defending the NBA Championship by the way) would be at this point. The good news is Anthony Davis returned on April 22nd and quickly began to look like himself. Davis scored 42 points, 12 rebounds, 3 blocks, 48-percent from the field in a win over the Suns on May 9th. Also back for the Lakers is Dennis Schroder who missed the previous 7 games before turning on May 15th. The Lakers enter the tournament with a 5-game win streak.

(8) Golden State Warriors

Stephen Curry is having a year. That’s it that is all that needs to be said. More specifically, he’s the All-Time Points Leader in Golden State’s franchise history. He’s running the count even more by securing the scoring title this season as well with this 32 points per game. The Warriors without Curry are probably at best a 25 win team (no disrespect to Draymond Green). I think he’s an honorable mention for an MVP candidate but not top 3.

The good thing about this game is that the Warriors still have a shot to get into the playoffs to secure their 8th seed. They’ll face the Utah Jazz in the first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs if so. Golden State will have to prove they can beat the winner of Game 3 (Memphis or San Antonio) first. The advantage the Warriors have in Game 4 is that they’ll know their next opponent if they lose this game by the time they are tipped off in Los Angeles. Does that play into terms of how they play Game 4?

In order to lock themselves into the 8th seed Play-in Tournament position, the Warriors looked too confident in beating the Grizzlies this past Sunday. Curry’s 46 points, 9 assists, and 7 rebounds led the Warriors to a 113-101 8th seed clinching win. I have to believe the Warriors are the ones with the least amount of pressure here. Making it all so appealing that a possible close game and Steph Curry dagger is all but impossible.



Top players to watch

LeBron James: 2020-2021 Season

  • 25.0 PPG
  • 7.8 APG
  • 7.8 RPG
  • 51% FG

Stephen Curry: 2020-2021 Season

  • 32.0 PPG
  • 5.8 APG
  • 5.5 RPG
  • 48% FG

Where should the money go?

I have a rule of thumb when it comes to two guys in the world of team sports. That is don’t bet against them if they are favored and in this case favored with a better team on paper. Those two guys happen to be LeBron James and Tom Brady.

The Lakers are clearly the better team when fully healthy. Their concern at this point is wondering if Davis and James will have any relapse of their injuries this season or are they rested enough to pursue the back-to-back title run. Barring any injuries, it is hard to say the Warriors win this game unless we find them down 2 points and Stephen Curry has the last shot.

How about this game for the tournament though? Instead of Zion Williamson vs Ja Morant or Portland vs Dallas, we’re looking at Stephen Curry and LeBron James still trying to secure a playoff spot. However, it is not life or death and the latter is Memphis or San Antonio on the other side. I expect both of these teams in the playoffs by Saturday.

As always check out our expert daily picks too!

2021 NBA Play-in Tournament Schedule – Western Conference

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Game

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Home

Time (EST)

TV

Results

3

10

9

7:30 PM

ESPN

Spurs - 96
Grizzlies - 100

4

8

7

10:00 PM

ESPN

Warriors- 100
Lakers - 103

Friday, May 21, 2021

Game

Away

Home

Results

6

9

8

Grizzlies - 117
Warriors - 112

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2021 NBA Play-in Tournament: (7) Boston Celtics vs (8) Washington Wizards

2021 NBA Play-in Tournament – Game 2 Preview

  • When: May 18, 2021
  • Time 9:00 PM EST
  • TV: TNT
  • Where: TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts

(7) Boston Celtics

The Celtics arrive at the Play-in Tournament with a little bit of an underwhelming feeling this season. The team that faced the Miami Heat in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals at the 7th seed this year? What’s going on? We can discuss all day about Danny Ainge not making a move for other All-Stars, signing Jeff Teague and Tristian Thompson this past offseason, and the absences of key players. Sure enough all of these factor into Boston’s success this season.

Arguably, the Celtics are the best team in the Play-in Tournament in the Eastern Conference. They should be easily favored to play the opening night of the Play-in Tournament and take off the rest of the week until May 22nd when the Playoffs start. The concerning part for the Celtics? Jaylen Brown is out with a wrist injury that has sidelined him for AT LEAST 3 months. Yeah, that basically means he will not be available for the 2020 NBA Playoffs.

Jayson Tatum is next in line among the NBA’s youngest star players at the age of 23. He’s scoring a career-high 26 points per game, 4.3 assists per game, and 7.4 rebounds per game. All categories that Tatum improved on this season. Surely, he did miss time in a 70 game season that could help his case. Since his Rookie season, the Celtics have been to the Eastern Conference 2 of the three seasons and finished no lower than the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Tatum has some early experience in the Playoffs overall but will those past opportunities help him elevate his game with the absence of Jaylen Brown?

(8) Washington Wizards

Where do we even start on this one? Triple-double king or the fact that the Wizards may be one of the best teams in the finishing stretch of the NBA season? Russell Westbrook should no longer be doubted that he can help a team be successful albeit that his game hasn’t brought much championship success. But this is a team game and he’s currently taking an underwhelming roster outside of Bradley Beal to the playoffs.

The Wizards went through a brief pause in playing games due to COVID quite frankly. This happened early in the season in which the Wizards didn’t get off to the greatest start. When they looked like a team that may just miss the Play-in Tournament this year Westbrook passed Oscar Robertson for the most triple-doubles in NBA history. Not only did the Wizards regain possession of the Play-in Tournament seeds but they ultimately put themselves in a position to win one game and guarantee a spot early on in the week y clinching the 7th seed should they beat Boston.

If there is a dangerous team that started from the bottom and now they are making a serious playoff run it could be the Washington Wizards. This is the team that started the season 2-10 in their first 10 games. Since then and as of recently the last 20 games of the season the Wizards went 15-5. During that span since April 12th, they accomplished an 8 game win streak. Surely, one of the NBA’s hottest teams coming into the tournament.



Top players to watch

Jayson Tatum: 2020-2021 Season

  • 26.4 PPG
  • 4.3 APG
  • 7.4 RPG
  • 46% FG

Russell Westbrook: 2020-2021 Season

  • 22.2 PPG
  • 11.7 APG
  • 11.5 RPG
  • 44% FG

Where should the money go?

At this rate the fact that Washington is looking better (and healthier) than the Celtics. Losing Jaylen Brown is one of the worse things that could happen at this time for Boston. Now you’re asking Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum to lead you over the Bucks, 76ers, and have we talked about the Brooklyn Nets Big 3?

The road ends here for the Celtics as the 7th seed. They get bumped as the Wizards lock in a date with the Nets in the first round. Although tensions have cooled off Russell Westbrook at this point against James Harden and Kevin Durant? MUST-SEE TV!!! Selfish reason but here is the deal.

The Celtics are 4-6 in their last 10 games and I can’t trust the fact that defensively the Celtics are ready to face the challenge of a Wizards team with a full steam of momentum. As always check out our expert daily picks too!

2021 NBA Play-in Tournament Schedule – Eastern Conference

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Game

Away

Home

Time (EST)

TV

Results

1

10

9

6:30 PM

TNT

Hornets - 117
Pacers - 144

2

8

7

9:00 PM

TNT

Wizards - 100
Celtics - 118

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Game

Away

Home

Results

5

9

8

Pacers - 115
Wizards - 142

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2021 NBA Play-in Tournament: (9) Indiana Pacers vs (10) Charlotte Hornets

2021 NBA Play-in Tournament – Game 1 Preview

  • When: May 18, 2021
  • Time: 6:30 PM EST
  • TV: TNT
  • Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana

(9) Indiana Pacers

I believed in the Pacers being a sneaky good team but nonetheless at this rate their ceiling might have been Conference Semifinals at the best this season. Do they still have a shot at taking the 8th seed at best this season? All signs favor the Pacers being the better team in this game but with a few key injuries certainly not the dominant team as they could have been.

The only All-Star between these two teams is Domantas Sabonis who rightfully earned his All-Star bid. One of the promising players for the Pacers’ future is Caris LeVert who they acquired from the Nets in a multi-team trade that sent James Harden to Brooklyn. After a brief medical scare, LeVert has come back to average 20.2 points per game, 5.2 assists per game, and 4.6 rebounds per game.

This is the game that could come down to the wire because Indiana is in the middle of the pack when it comes to their defensive rating. Not having T.J. Warren due to injury also hurts Indiana’s chances of being more of the dominant offensive team. How about rebounding and interior defense? Well, they’re down Myles Turner with an injury as well. However, the Pacers can have a balanced offense across Levert, Malcolm Brogdon T.J. McConnell, Justin Holiday, and Doug McDermott between the starting unit and bench.

(10) Charlotte Hornets

This has to get even more exciting with a Rookie of the Year candidate seeing extra games AFTER the season ends. LaMelo Ball comes in as the second pick from the 2020 NBA Draft. He could arguably be considered the main factor of the Hornets’ success this year. I personally have never met someone who identified as a “Hornets fan” (and no offense to that Hornet fan reading this).

What do we know about the Hornets outside of the youngest Ball brother and Michael Jordan? Gordon Hayward signed a 4-year deal this past offseason and we all kind of scratched our heads. The worse the Hornets could do at this rate was maybe not finishing last and give LaMelo his playing time to get acquainted with the NBA.

However, the Hornets developed themselves a legitimate argument of “Most Overachieved Team” this season. Except, I’d say the New York Knicks run away with that title this year. Terry Rozier is arguably the team’s best player and leading scorer averaging 20 points a game. The promising sign for the Hornets is that they won the season series 2-1 against the Hornets. The most recent game was played on April 2, 2021, with the Hornets winning 114-97 in Indiana. LaMelo Ball did not play for Charlotte and the Pacers were without Turner and Warren of course.



Top players to watch

Domantas Sabonis: 2020-2021 Season

  • 20.3 PPG
  • 6.7 APG
  • 12.0 RPG
  • 54% FG

Terry Rozier: 2020-2021 Season

  • 20.4 PPG
  • 4.4 APG
  • 4.4 RPG
  • 45% FG

Where should the money go?

Update 5/18/21 – 3:00 PM EST:
The Pacers announced that Caris LeVert will not play in Game 1 of the Play-in Tournament. my original prediction is below. However, you’ll see my updated prediction in the expert pick chart below!

A favorable nod to the Pacers and the potential of their bench is better than the Hornets for one night. I’ll take that as the best FAVORABLE pick. However, this is the one game where the one-and-done ordeal could really disappoint the Pacers season even more so.

The Hornets have nothing to lose in a season we may have thought was lost when LaMelo went down with the injury. Either team that wins still has one more game to play and it’s probably against a team they may not have a better chance against than this game.

As always check out our expert daily picks too!

2021 NBA Play-in Tournament Schedule – Eastern Conference

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Game

Away

Home

Time (EST)

TV

Results

1

10

9

6:30 PM

TNT

Hornets - 117
Pacers - 144

2

8

7

9:00 PM

TNT

Wizards - 100
Celtics - 118

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Game

Away

Home

Results

5

9

8

Pacers - 115
Wizards - 142

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The Ten Podcast: NBA MVP Candidates

There’s nothing like a good crossover; in basketball or podcasting and that’s what we have on the latest episode of The Ten!

Baseline Times’ owner and host of the Shoot or Pass Podcast Chevy jumps in with Cody on The Ten to discuss the 2020-21 NBA MVP candidates!

Chevy and Cody also discuss the long-winded NBA season, playoff format options, and Chevy gives out his awards for the regular season. To close, Chevy names his ten NBA MVP candidates including his pick to win the award this season.

Listen here or anywhere you get your favorite podcast and be sure to follow on Twitter @BaselineTen.

Check out The Baseline Bet$ for daily expert picks!



Shoot or Pass Podcast – 2021 NBA Play-in Tournament Preview

GRAB YO BEER, BASKETBALL THAT FINALLY MATTERS IS HERE! Chevy, Gabe, and Rhoby are joined by the host of Baseline Times’ newest podcast The Ten Cody Guinn to get you ready for the play-in tournament. They share their NBA moods (02:20), what a loss to the Warriors could do to a Lakers repeat title run (06:12), throwing games with the Nuggets & Clippers (12:07), whether or not it is time to call Ja Morant overrated (16:05), the most dangerous team in the play-in (19:17), and Cody goes on another rant- this time about the play-in set up (26:45) and apologizes to a certain standout rookie for his previous rant (44:35). The crew play another round of Dribble, Dunk, or Flop and name the players they think will have breakout performances in this week’s games (32:25)

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More NBA coverage from Baseline Times Media



Shoot or Pass Podcast – 2020-2021 NBA Awards, STUDS & DUDS, and Conference Tiers Review

Is it too late now to say sorry, Brodie? The crew is back together to talk the 2nd half of the season starting with Russell Westbrook making history (09:55)! They break down what team disappointed the most (13:40), the underrated trade of the season (18:00), name their STUDS & DUDS of the 2nd half (21:35), play another round of Dribble, Dunk, and Flop to name this year’s NBA Awards winners (32:21), and do a little revision of the Eastern & Western Conference Tiers they set in the season previews (66:10).

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More NBA coverage from Baseline Times Media

2020-21 NBA Awards Predictions

It’s that time of year again! And while this season brought about some unprecedented challenges, the players (and coaches below) are defying the odds and shining bright. Here are my 2020-21 NBA Awards Predictions for the COY, ROY, DPOY, MIP, 6th Man, and of course, MVP.

Check out Chevy’s MVP Rankings

COACH OF THE YEAR

Top candidates – Quin Snyder, Monty Williams, Tom Thibodeau

Surprisingly, this is what I believe to be the closest call in all of my 2020-21 NBA Awards Predictions. No one is running away with this one like they may be in the other categories. We have a coach who propelled an incredible 8-0 bubble run to a 2-seed in the Western Conference. Monty Williams seamlessly fit new veteran acquisitions Chris Paul and Jae Crowder into a young starting line up. He successfully developed a bench unit capable of outperforming the starters on any given night. The Phoenix Suns took the BIGGEST leap this season, and while everyone in that locker room will hinge their success on playoff performances, this team exceeded expectations thanks in large part to their head coach.

Speaking of big leaps, it is not possible to have this conversation without Quin Snyder. While one can argue that the Suns made the bigger leap, Snyder turned a 5-seed, early playoff exit Utah Jazz into the top team in the league. Not to mention, he achieved this feat without any significant changes to the team’s roster. I find that to be equally impressive, particularly in a conference where coming into the season all teams were considered a tier below the NBA champs.

Let’s not forget about the Eastern Conference, where teams are also making impressive strides. This is where Tom Thibodeau comes into the mix, but it would not be fair to mention him without Doc Rivers. Thibs took a Knicks team with no prospects and turned them into a playoff team. Doc turned a Sixers team who continually failed to meet expectations into one that could represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals. However, both coaches do not have the greatest track records in the playoffs. While this award really only counts for the regular season, I need to see more from these two coaches and their teams.

WINNER – Monty Williams


MOST IMPROVED PLAYER

Top candidates – Julius Randle, Christian Wood, Jerami Grant

On to easier 2020-21 NBA Awards Predictions to make.

Christian Wood was blowing my mind to start the season. Unfortunately, he got hurt and missed games (and happens to play for the worst team in the league). Tough break for him.

On paper, Jerami Grant is the most improved player in the league. He is averaging 10 more PPG as a starter in every game for the Detroit Pistons this season. He is proof that betting on yourself pays dividends, even if it comes with sacrificing wins, something he is not doing much of with his new team. You just know the Denver Nuggets would love to have his production right now going into the playoffs in a very tough Western Conference.

Fear not, Denver. I am throwing another name into the ring for this award from your roster – Michael Porter Jr.

The sophomore standout has really burst onto the scene after the All-Star break and his timing could not be better with Jamal Murray out for the season. I don’t know that he beats out Julius Randle this season, but Porter Jr. still has levels to unlock in his game. As he develops his facilitating and defensive abilities, he will be a viable candidate for this and other awards for years to come.

WINNER – Julius Randle

6TH MAN OF THE YEAR

Top candidates – Jordan Clarkson, Joe Ingles, Jalen Brunson

Recency bias will have you leaning toward Joe Ingles for this award, and with good reason. Jingles is more efficient, a better playmaker, and a smarter defender than his Jazz teammate. But here’s the deal, for better or for worse, this award is all about POINTS PER GAME (off the bench). With that said, this has to be Jordan Clarkson’s award to lose, right? A huge part of Utah’s success this season comes at the hands of Clarkson’s volume scoring in the second unit. Just the other night (albeit in a losing effort), he came out and scored 24 POINTS IN THE FOURTH QUARTER. This will be instrumental for Utah to finish out the regular season and in the playoffs with Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley coming back from injury.

Another guy who deserves some recognition in this category? Dallas’ Jalen Brunson, who is proving to be a worthy piece to the rotation on a team that has been decimated by injuries this season. He is earning more minutes, particularly in the clutch and will have an opportunity to really prove himself in the playoffs.

WINNER – JORDAN CLARKSON

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Top candidates – Anthony Edwards, LaMelo Ball, Tyrese Haliburton

First off, shout out to all of the rookies this season. Most wrote off this rookie class, but they are defying the odds, with some even becoming household names.

One of the rooks who has stepped up to the plate? Sacramento’s Tyrese Haliburton. The 12th pick in the NBA draft is proving his doubters wrong with a level of consistency and composure that makes you forget he just got out of the college game. He is effective off the bench and as a starter, playing a key role in a nice little 7-1 winning streak the Kings went on in March. There is some hope to hang your hats on, Kings fans!

I feel like those who are leaning heavily one way or another between Anthony Edwards or LaMelo are doing so because of personal preference. That’s okay. However, let’s bring a new scenario into the picture – Co-Rookies of the Year.

What? Why? HEAR ME OUT.

Anthony Edwards is surpassing LaMelo Ball now (averaging 19/2.8/4.7 on 41% shooting from the field and 33% from three), but Melo is still the more efficient player (44% from the field and 35% from three). It is not fair to just hand the award to Edwards when Melo missed time due to injury. On the other hand, it is equally unfair to give it to Melo for having the better start and playing for the better team. CROWN THEM BOTH!

WINNERS – Anthony Edwards and LaMelo Ball

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Top Candidates – Rudy Gobert, Ben Simmons, Bam Adebayo

Here are three candidates who have been openly campaigning for this award all season.

See – Bam Adebayo stating his case just last night:

And Ben Simmons not-so subtly declaring himself DPOY back in April over Rudy Gobert:

You’re probably thinking I am going all homer on this one. I LOVE BAM and think he belongs in the conversation, but Ben and Rudy have been absolutely DOMINATING.

You just cannot compare these two players to one another because their roles are different defensively. Here is what it comes down to for me – 107.7 points allowed per 100 possessions with him on the court, 119.6 points allowed per 100 possessions without him on the court. Leader of most defensive stats, including blocks and defensive rebounds per game. The heart and soul of the league’s #1 defense. King of RIM PROTECTION. The embodiment of defense. It’s got to go to Rudy Gobert. Sorry Philly.

WINNER – Rudy Gobert

Feb 15, 2021; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) hangs on the rim after a dunk against Philadelphia 76ers guard Seth Curry (31) in the fourth quarter at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

Top Candidates – Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo

This race was close. Had this article been drafted up midseason, I would be writing a dissertation for the grandest award of them all. Joel Embiid was DOMINATING with DPOY candidate Ben Simmons, and succeeding on both ends of the floor, a huge part of the Sixers turn-around this season. But, the injury bug has spared NO ONE and thanks to it, this section will be short and sweet.

There is really no argument to be made at this point, anyone trying to say otherwise is just bored. Doesn’t even matter who is third, fourth, fifth, etc. on the ballot.

Props to the Joker. Plain and simple.

WINNER – Nikola Jokic

For more 2020-21 NBA Awards Predictions, catch the Shoot or Pass podcast’s latest episode out 5/14!



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2021 NBA MVP Race Rankings

With less than two weeks left in the 2021 NBA season, it’s time to delegate MVP honors. Here are my rankings updated as frequently as I can. The games will go on, players will play, some will compete to the very end. Let’s get to the 2021 NBA MVP Race Rankings!

2021 NBA MVP Race Rankings

2020-2021 season (as of 5/11/21)

  • 26.4 PPG
  • 10.8 RPG
  • 8.5 APG
  • 56.6 % FG
Week of 5/10/21 (This week: #1 | Last week #1)

The Joker had a pretty average week compared to his regular-season averages. Last week’s four games brought us 29.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 7.5 assists. The twist here is that the Nuggets cooled off after their 9-1 streak and looking good despite losing Jamal Murray. If we really wanted to be petty here the Nuggets schedule was a tad bit tougher last week. They lost to the Lakers, Jazz, and Nets. Now that isn’t solely on Jokic’s shoulders as MAYBE Jamal Murray is a little bit important? That’s all just a question but nothing here says that Jokic has a significant decline this week. He’s still my front-runner pick for MVP but I’m slowly creating an idea that if this race is so close let’s enjoy it until the end of the season. The Nuggets are most likely seeding in the top four at this rate and no higher than the 3rd seed in the Western Conference at this rate.

Last week’s input

Denver has all right to be excited about heading into the playoffs. Well, let me take that back because losing Jamal Murray to a season-ending injury isn’t fun. However, I believe that the Denver Nuggets could be just as competitive without Murray. It is Nikola Jokic and his play right now that is responsible for the Nuggets’ success. You remove him from this team and it’s highly difficult to see the Nuggets winning anything over 50 games this season.

Jokic moves up to the number one spot. The Nuggets are 9-1 in their last 10 games and on a five-game win streak before facing the Lakers on Monday night, May 3rd, 2021. The key focus here is that WITHOUT Jamal Murray the Nuggets are still 9-1. Based on the law of averages and the rest of the games, Jokic is flirting with history. He could top Wilt Chamberlain’s record for most assist per game by a center in a single season. Denver is only three games behind Phoenix and Utah for the West’s top spot. You have to think if the Nuggets keep it up could Joker lock in his MVP if the Nuggets finish at the 1st seed? 


2020-2021 season (as of 5/11/21)

  • 29.2 PPG
  • 10.7 RPG
  • 2.9 APG
  • 51.6 % FG
Week of 5/10/21 (Last week: #2 | This week: #2)

The biggest factor here is that the 76ers are also winners of 8 straight games. The 76ers are winning against inferior teams without question. Out of their four remaining games of the season, they face Orlando twice, Miami, and Indiana. Safe to stay the 76ers COULD march their way into the playoffs with a double-digit win streak. They’ve increased their 1st seed lead by 3 games as of 5/11/21. This is all too close to be good true. Who will have the biggest campaign to win MVP? That’s the biggest question to sway the voters. The good news is Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets aren’t creeping up for the NBA’s best record and time is running out. Maybe we flip a coin and say best team record out of Denver and Philadelphia decides the MVP award this year?

Last week’s input

The 76ers are struggling to stay as the number one team in the Eastern Conference. That’s not the fault entirely of Joel Embiid’s however. The Bucks helped cooled off the Nets this past weekend by defeating Brooklyn. Now we have to determine because Ben Simmons can be considered Defensive Player of the Year do we penalize Embiid’s MVP bid? I’m a fan of the Embiid MVP campaign this year but Jokic is just proving that even down his running mate Jamal Murray he’s still worthy enough to keep the team afloat.

In a year where the MVP race is so close, I think we have to truly evaluate what are the key factors each of these candidates brings to the table? There are pros and cons to each situation and Embiid’s looks favorable more than anyone else besides Jokic’s. We’re ignoring that Embiid also could lead the 76ers to the best record in the Eastern Conference and quite possibly the best record in the NBA. All to be determined but at this rate, Embiid or Joker are the clear-cut top 2 favorites.



2020-2021 season (as of 5/11/21)

  • 16.2 PPG
  • 4.2 RPG
  • 8.9 APG
  • 49.2 % FG
Week of 5/10/21 (Last week: #3 | This week: #3)

He stays put in the 3rd spot for sure. I can’t see anyone else moving this far up instantly although someone in Milwaukee makes me wonder a tad bit if I should have added him here this week. However, CP3 stays put as the Suns are finding their way to potentially the best record in the league. If we want to reward winning this is the best pick for third place. It pains me to say this over the rest of the field though. CP3 is still the key factor of Phoenix jumping ahead of the rest of the Western Conference except Utah. With the field so close and all great arguments for the MVP contenders, we have to nitpick something. If Giannis gave us a late push and the Bucks surged to the top then, we have a grueling debate of who could be in the third spot this week. However, that’s not the case as the Bucks are probably at best the 2nd seed with four games remaining in the season.

Last week’s input

Chris Paul is 35 years old and somehow has made his way to the MVP conversation in a season where arguably the above-mentioned could win or hell even CP3. That’s the beauty of this season that Paul is included in the conversation. Now is he the absolute BEST player on the team? Devin Booker says HELLO! This is the issue with the MVP voting. There are no true criteria or “rule book”. Stephen A. Smith has made a campaign in the national media to consider Paul as the MVP. Many others will follow along to generate some Paul hype.

Furthermore, Paul gets the third spot because in comparison to Jokic and Embiid he’s a huge key but not the main presence on the floor like either of them. The Suns are leading the Western Conference as I write this and I have to consider CP3 in the top 3. It is hard to believe the Suns would be this successful without him as well. Also, if you’re curious, is he making Booker THAT much better? You decide for yourself but Booker seems to be settling in the normal start of a peak for someone with star potential at his age, in my opinion.


2021 NBA MVP Race Rankings Honorable Mentions

Giannis Antetokounmpo
This guy is surely growing up. Almost to the point where I want to see him in the Eastern Conference Finals against Kevin Durant and the Nets. For a second I thought the Bucks and Giannis would flop in last week’s Tuesday night match-up. He follows up a 49 point night with 36 points and 12 rebounds to beat the Nets for the second time in a row. Ok, so the Nets without James Harden isn’t much to brag about but the regular season flex gives confidence to the upcoming Greek Freak. Add in Harden and this series will come down to Offense vs Defense. Who wins that one? I might pick the Bucks shhh…

Damian Lillard
I want to respect the Trailblazers and Dame Dolla is a likable guy. However, when it comes to battling in the Western Conference they are just pretenders to me. HOWEVER, a huge win against the Lakers last Friday helped them stay above murky waters of the Play-in Tournament. Lillard’s 38 points, 7 assists, and shooting 67-percent helped the Blazers sit a little more comfortably at the 6th see in the Western Conference. Thus, keeping the Lakers on their toes and possibly having to play extra games to even get in the playoffs!

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