2020-2021 NBA Rookie of the Year Rankings

With less than two weeks left in the 2021 NBA season, it’s time to debate Rookie of the Year 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 2020-2021 NBA Rookie of the Year Rankings!

2021 NBA Rookie of the Year Rankings

2020-2021 season (as of 5/6/21)

  • 18.9 PPG
  • 4.7 RPG
  • 2.8 APG
  • 41 % FG
  • 31.8 MPG

Anthony Edwards has proven that he’s an NBA player. Remember when he said that he’s not fully into playing basketball yet pre-draft? Little did we know that Mr. Edwards would be gold during media sessions. He’s even made funny comments about Alex Rodriguez’s love life. Let’s discuss some basketball, however. Edwards has emerged as the clear favorite this week with his 42-point outburst against the Grizzlies on May 5th, 2021. After all, in a pandemic year and the lowest of expectation from the 2020 NBA Draft we’re in luck for some “overachieving” surprises.

Anthony has now scored 42 points twice this season (third youngest to do so when he first did it). He is the number one pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. He rightfully has earned his way into the conversation for Rookie of the Year. Does LaMelo Ball’s missed time hurt his Rookie of the Year chances? Edwards is a man of steel. No missed games for the Timberwolves. I am a fan of availability but honestly, Ball gets a break here and he’s back in action anyways. For now, he ranks number one given the fact of his recent play and proving he will not have an issue scoring the ball in the NBA.


2020-2021 season (as of 5/6/21)

  • 15.9 PPG
  • 5.9 RPG
  • 6.1 APG
  • 45 % FG
  • 28.7 MPG

Ignore my 2021 NBA Awards predictions because if LaMelo is the runner-up this year, I was wrong about the Rookie of the Year anyway. Shame on me thinking Golden State would be a perfect learning spot for James Wiseman to showcase his talents. I apologize to Melo and also isn’t it great to see his older brother Lonzo Ball look a lot better in the second half of the season? The youngest Ball has been the BEST Rookie all season until well, Edwards decided that playtime was over. He missed 19 games and has come back to play three games since then. Those games aren’t appearing to be any different at this rate. The smaller sample size might make the averages seem a bit lower but we can assume the wrist injury isn’t slowing him down upon return.

This Rookie of the Year race is getting spicy now that Anthony Edwards has entered the chat. We can try to look at scheduling for the Timberwolves and Hornets. We can try to anticipate match-ups that may hinder any potential big games from these two Rookies. However, odds are in the last two weeks of an NBA season it is too difficult to determine. For this week since Ball is returning from injury, he’s back at number two barely.



2020-2021 season (as of 5/6/21)

  • 11.2 PPG
  • 5.4 RPG
  • 2.3 APG
  • 51 % FG
  • 29.4 MPG

I’m assuming nobody has watched a lot of Rockets games (honestly Rockets fans have you stuck to enjoying the young core this entire season post-James Harden?). I will not question that as a Magic fan but let’s talk about a guy who has moved up in the top 3 this week. Unfortunately, we lost James Wiseman with a season-ending knee injury and the Sacramento Kings announced that Tyrese Haliburton is done for the rest of the season.

The window opens up for plenty of young Rookies to make some noise but let’s be real. Nobody is coming close to LaMelo and Anthony. However, a nice bronze medal for Tate is the hardest working Rookie lately. His last 10 games averaged 10.5 points per game, 5.1 rebounds per game, and 3.6 assists per game while shooting 49-percent from the field.


2021 NBA Rookie of the Year Rankings Honorable Mentions

Cole Anthony – Orlando Magic
I have to dig this deep to have a reasonable homer pick and here it is. Anthony has a game-winning shot under his belt yet again. He does it for the second time this season AND gives us an interview similar to the current Rookie of the Year frontrunner. Now I know you’re like come on man, are we really giving Cole Anthony ROOKIE OF THE YEAR mention? Well quite frankly, at this point we could interchange any Rookie stepping up weekly in the third spot down. In the game against Memphis (the one that he hit the game-winner) he had 26 points (4-of-6 3PT field goal),, 8 rebounds, 6 assists.

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Top NBA Super Teams of the modern era

For starters, we will not dive into the concepts and ignorant comments of Julius “Dr. J” Erving. For context, you can listen to Dr. J on “Posted Up” a podcast featuring Yahoo’s Chris Haynes. Erving made a comment (while picking his All-Time First & Second NBA Teams), alluding to LeBron James being left off because he is the reason for super teams in the NBA. To hell with Dr. J however, we will instead discuss some of the best NBA Super Teams of the modern era.

“He’s the guy who led the charge in terms of superteams being put together when he put together a team in Miami,” said Erving of the four-time MVP James. “He put together a team in Cleveland as well and put together a team in Los Angeles. He can pick his own team. I ain’t gonna pick his team.”

Source: Watch on YouTube if you want to cringe

Top NBA Super Teams Criteria

  • Three or more All-Star players (or All-Star caliber players) in the season referenced
  • Teams from 2010 onward considered (the 2008 Celtics miss the cut they’re old and retired anyways)
  • No NBA Championship necessary – talent and individual player success considered to justify the “Super” aspect of the team
  • Must have assembled team through free-agent signings, trades, or achieve highly unattainable NBA records

2012-2013 Miami Heat

One of the biggest offensive rebounds and three-point field goals came in the 2013 NBA Finals. It was Ray Allen who would tie up the game with 5.5 seconds left in Game 6 of the 2013 Finals. Sure enough, it was Allen who had the ropes and the Larry O’Brien trophy temporarily placed back behind the scenes until overtime was played. In overtime with just under two minutes left, the 2013 MVP, LeBron James would put the Heat up for good 101-100 and never look back. In other words, Miami forced a Game 7 to eventually win the 2012-2013 NBA Championship.

LeBron James26.8 PTS | 8.0 REB | 7.2 AST | 31.67 PER
Dywane Wade21.2 PTS | 5.0 REB | 5.1 AST | 24.04 PER
Chris Bosh16.6 PTS | 6.8 REB | 1.7 AST | 20.08 PER

2012-2013 Miami Heat season highlights:

  • Winners of 27 games in a ROW (and the second most wins a row in NBA history in the regular season)
  • LeBron James wins his fourth MVP Award
  • The Heat won a league-high 66 games in the 2012-2013 regular season
  • Miami led the NBA in shooting percentage average with 49.6 percent per game
  • LeBron James made the All-NBA First Team and All-NBA Defensive First Team

2016-2017 Golden State Warriors

How else can I describe a modern NBA Super Team without mentioning the Warriors? This one is an intriguing match-up if this roster could have faced off against the 2013 Heat squad. Don’t you agree? Arguably, on paper, this Warrior team is one for the ages. Now the previous season they did go 73-9 (and still hold the best record in the regular season). However, with Kevin Durant on the roster, I gotta say that this team is the BEST Warrior team obviously. Remember we’re tracking the BEST teams overall. In conclusion, that means a KD-less Warrior team at 73-9 isn’t the best Warrior team of the modern era.

Stephen Curry25.3 PTS | 4.5 REB | 6.6 AST | 24.74 PER
Kevin Durant25.1 PTS | 8.3 REB | 4.8 AST | 27.68 PER
Klay Thompson22.3 PTS | 3.7 REB | 2.1 AST | 17.53 PER

2016-2017 Golden State Warriors season highlights

  • 16-1 in the 2017 NBA Playoffs (swept all three rounds in the Western Conference playoff rounds)
  • Draymond Green won Defensive Player of the Year
  • Warriors won a league-high 67 games in the 2016-2017 regular season
  • Bob Myers wins Executive of the Year Award
  • Curry, Durant, Green, and Thompson all were 2017 NBA All-Stars

2015-2016 Golden State Warriors

I know what you’re thinking. Chev, you just told us the Warriors without KD isn’t the best Warrior team. Yeah, they’re not the BEST Warrior team of the modern era. Both sides of history tell us this Warriors team is the rare one apart of the good and bad sides. Losing a 3-1 NBA Finals lead is still the worse in NBA history. Since 2016 no NBA team has gone up 3-1 and lost (and the 2017 Finals was revenge for the Warriors). Again, it is hard to ignore how good this team was and quite frankly one of the best teams we have witnessed in the last decade in 2021. Most importantly, a nice note about the assembly of this team? All of the players listed below were drafted by the Warriors and with the right veteran guys, their success was rapid.

Stephen Curry30.1 PTS | 5.4 REB | 6.7 AST | 31.56 PER
Draymond Green14.0 PTS | 9.5 REB | 7.4 AST | 19.31 PER
Klay Thompson22.1 PTS | 3.8 REB | 2.1 AST | 18.67 PER

2015-2016 Golden State Warriors season highlights

  • This Warriors team achieved the best NBA regular-season record as mentioned before. The 73-9 record tops the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls 72-10 team
  • Stephen Curry wins the NBA MVP Award. His second MVP award in back-to-back seasons
  • The Warriors were down 3-1 to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2017 Western Conference Finals. They won the final three games of the series to win the Western Conference in 2017
  • Steve Kerr won the Coach of the Year Award
  • Started season 24-0 before losing their first game on December 12, 2015.


2015-2016 Cleveland Cavaliers

Furthermore, to piggyback off of the 2015-2016 Warriors the Cavaliers also make the cut in consideration that they also were arguably one of the best rosters. The fortunate part is that the Cavs make this list on the best side of history. Thus far they are the only team to go down 1-3 in the NBA finals and to come back and win eventually. LeBron James hoisted his third NBA Finals and NBA Finals MVP. The iconic Game 7 block on Andre Iguodala and the Kyrie Irving three-point shot over Stephen Curry will forever be a part of the NBA Finals montage. We are all left wondering if the Warriors-Cavaliers matchups could continue to be a well-balanced NBA Finals choice until Durant decided he wanted a piece of the Championship pie.

LeBron James25.3 PTS | 7.4 REB | 6.8 AST | 27.64 PER
Kyrie Irving19.6 PTS | 3.0 REB | 4.7 AST | 19.96 PER
Kevin Love16.0 PTS | 9.9 REB | 2.4 AST | 19.08 PER

2015-2016 Cleveland Cavaliers season highlights

  • LeBron James was elected to All-NBA First Team, became the third player in NBA history to record a triple-double in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, and became the first player in NBA history to lead both NBA Finals teams in all five statistical categories for the round
  • Cavaliers finished first place in the Eastern Conference with 57 wins
  • As mentioned, the only team to appear in the NBA Finals and come back from a 1-3 deficit to win the NBA Championship

Honorable mention

2017-2018 Houston Rockets
First, the Houston Rockets also went through a few changes before the season started. Tilman Fertitta bought the Rockets in the summer of 2017 while Morey organized trading for Chris Paul from the Los Angeles Clippers. It was the 2017-2018 season where the Rockets won a league-high 65 games, James Harden won the MVP award and Daryl Morey, GM at the time, won the Executive of the Year award. Houston rolled up to the Western Conference Finals to face the Warriors. Paul was unable to play in Game 6 & 7 due to a hamstring injury he sustained in Game 5. The Rockets went up 3-2 in the series still. After that, the disappointing part of this team? They missed missing 27 straight 3-point shots in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals in 2018.

In addition, are we calling Chris Paul and James Harden a Super Team likewise the above? The criteria I laid out was to guide us through this journey. I think the lack of accomplishing anything extraordinary made this team underwhelming. They were the closest team that came to contesting the Warriors in the Western Conference and the East’s best was Cleveland so, slim pickings to discuss any further teams in the past.

2017-2018 Golden State Warriors
We can almost copy-paste the 2016-2017 team and call it a done deal. However, the biggest feat for this team? Was being down 3-2 in the Western Conference Finals against the Houston Rockets as mentioned above. If there was a year the NBA needed to catch the Warriors slipping it was this opportunity.

On the bubble

2020-2021 Brooklyn Nets
The verdict has yet to be determined for this New York team. Interestingly enough, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden all faced some sort of super team in the last decade. We await the season-ending results but this team to me can easily be top 3 if we ranked the above mentioned. I sound like a broken record writing about the Nets lately but they have secured a playoff spot and currently sitting number one in the Eastern Conference. Having a trio of superstars in the NBA means you can rotate the load management and still stay afloat huh? Furthermore, word on the street is that Durant, Harden, and Irving all have played up to seven games together as of today.

In conclusion here, the lack of this trio playing together doesn’t represent the true potential of how good this team is. The scary part for today’s NBA is that it is bad news for the competition. However, there is still the potential that the Nets either end up like the 2017-2018 Houston Rockets and fail to see the Finals in year one together or if they do win it all, may be considered as the BEST Super Team ever?

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2020-2021 NBA Coach of the Year Candidates

Prior to the season starting I predicted Rick Carlisle as the best-case scenario for the 2020-2021 NBA Coach of the Year award. My runner-up was Steve Kerr and boy that is nothing close as the NBA season winds down. However, we do know enough at this point to determine some final top three candidates for the 2021 NBA Coach of the Year.

These coaches in the NBA represent the true factors of Coach of the Year to me. Team success, playing style and building a cohesive unit hinges on the Head Coach in the NBA. Let’s take a look at who matters the most from the NBA’s coaching standpoint in the 2020-2021 season.

Top 2021 NBA Coach of the Year Candidates


Quin Snyder – Utah Jazz

What more to say besides the Utah Jazz have been the best team all season long? They’ve maintained the best record all season and arguably the best defensive team in the NBA. Sure it helps to have a 2-time Defensive Player of the Year and 2021 All-Star Rudy Gobert. Yes, it helps to have Donovan Mitchell. The interesting part here is that Mitchell looks to be almost identical to his career numbers. He’s scoring 2 points more this season than in any season he’s played in the NBA, shooting the ball 44-percent (career average), and playing 33 minutes a game (career average).

You have to wonder what’s the sudden rise with the Utah Jazz. They made very few movements last offseason and the biggest move was signing Derrick Favors. You’d think Utah bringing him back was for a significant reason but he is playing a career-low 15 minutes per game this season. Jordan Clarkson is the biggest factor for the Jazz this season coming off the bench (and Sixth Man of the Year Candidate). Clarkson is averaging 17.5 points currently this season and all off the bench. He’s started one game so far of the 57 games he’s played in this season this far. Hopefully, you see the momentum of reasons Synder should be the favorite to win this award this season. The next step is to see if he can coach the Jazz to a deep playoff run.



Monty Williams – Phoenix Suns

One of the easiest candidates for the NBA’s 2021 Coach of the Year is Monty Williams. The Suns bloomed a little late last season and went 8-0 in the seeding games in the Orlando bubble. Williams still was at the helm and the Suns failed to make the Play-in Tournament last season. Although their faith was partially controlled they lost out due to win-percentage. Flip the script in 2021 and the Suns are cruising into the playoffs. The only battle to fight is securing the number one seed from the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference.

Again, we can’t ignore that roster upgrades are a part of the Suns success this season. Anytime your team acquires Chris Paul, there is a good chance that your team is instantly playoff bound. Jae Crowder is another free agent signing that makes Phoenix a favor to compete for the Western Conference Championship come playoff time. This is all about credit where it’s due as we shouldn’t ignore Monty’s success end of last season. Reuniting with Chris Paul is a good thing for both parties here. A little wiser and All-Star Devin Booker is on your side with a young DeAndre Ayton. Coaches with talent striving at the top of the contender list is what I like to see.


Tom Thibodeau – New York Knicks

Hey, here is Thibbs and a team of his becoming successful. Was Tom the wrong or right hire for long-term success? That is to be determined but can we give him some love seriously? New York was in no shape or form projected to be in the top four of the Eastern Conference this year. The exciting part is that Julius Randle is an All-Star and continues to prove he might be a centerpiece for a franchise. Perhaps, Randle could be the main piece next to another All-Star? The Knicks have some sort of justification that free agents should peak their way.

New York will forever be a market where players will be attracted to. However, front office, coaching changes, and just the bad taste of hearing “Knicks” are slowly turning around from the worse. One of the biggest improvements for the Knicks? You bet, the defense! The Knicks currently sit in the top 5 of Defensive Rating this season. The early season hype has proven in the final few weeks they have maintained great defensive ratings. Plus, that OTHER team in New York is sitting in the low-20s in Defensive Rating. So let’s give credit where it’s due. This is in large due to Thibbs and his coaching.

Honorable mentions

Doc Rivers (Philadelphia 76ers) and Frank Vogel (Los Angeles Lakers)


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2021 NBA Top 5 Conference Championship Contenders

The 2021 NBA Playoffs are set to begin on May 21, 2021. However, there will be a Play-in Tournament starting May 18, 2021, to determine the seeding of the 7th and 8th seeds in each conference respectively. While the Play-in Tournament may include some of these contenders below we will discuss 2021 NBA Top 5 Conference Championship Contenders.

Eastern Conference

Brooklyn Nets
It’s Late-April and we’re hardly seeing the big trio of James Harden, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving all play together. YET, here we are also discussing how the Nets are 40-20 as of today. They are STILL are the first seed in the Eastern Conference? The Nets have the MOST experience out of all teams in the Eastern Conference. Their big three has the most NBA Finals experience in the Eastern Conference based on the potential field of teams in the East’s playoffs picture. KD, Kyrie, and Harden combine for a total of 33 NBA Finals games.

The East is so YOUNG that the next players who actually have NBA Finals experience on their roster AND an All-Star player? That would be would be Miami’s Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler. Ok, I’m cheating a little bit because they were All-Stars in 2020 however, failed to become All-Stars in 2021. That being said, I am a fan of experience. Especially experience that includes three-star players all on one team in an inferior conference. Nets take the easy number one spot in the Eastern Conference as contenders.

Philadelphia 76ers
The 76ers MAY be growing up this season. Health is WEALTH as always with this team. Last season ended in a bummer as Ben Simmons was shut down and not available for the playoffs. He returns in a year where he’s favorable for the Defensive Player of the Year Award next to Joel Embiid who is also having an MVP-like year. I have mentioned age as a factor in the NBA’s successful players. Especially at what age you typically see talent become at its prime in the NBA. Embiid fits the time frame where its a time for himself and his Sixers to turn the corner.

Philly has maintained a top-five rating in defensive efficiency this year. I’m a firm believer in defense teams making noise in the playoffs against inferior defensive teams. I hate to be cliche too but “defensive wins championships”. Now, I’m not saying the 76ers are going to win the Championship this year. There is also the factor of a better 76er team on the floor this year than ever. If there is a safe bet on them making a deep playoff run, I’d take it.

Milwaukee Bucks
Well, where do I start here? The Bucks have been some of the biggest pretenders to me in past years. My personal bias will have you believing the Bucks could no way win the championship. I won’t go down that hole but the easiest route here is that yes, the Bucks SHOULD be considered as a top contender in the Eastern Conference. Still maintaining their efficient defending this year they sit in the top three of the conference right now. They also have sort of upgraded with Jrue Holiday who doesn’t put them into a sure lock to win the East but a more competitive opportunity.

I would say it is time for the Bucks to turn the corner as well. They shouldn’t be ignored as they’ve spent the past couple of seasons with growing pains in the playoffs. Their competition is truly Philadelphia and Brooklyn at this time who the Bucks are currently looking up to in the standings. They’ll be tough competition for either team they face in a seven-game series and still can overpower inferior teams in the playoffs.

Boston Celtics
If don’t know if you’re seeing the trend here but the Celtics are in place to also make a point they are for real. The dynamic duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have reached some elite All-Star status. Tatum arguably can be one of the best top 3 players in the Eastern Conference right now. I’d say the Celtics are the less favorable team to make any serious run this year in the East. However, I’m only trying to secretly hope Tatum takes a leap and I can brag about another Duke guy in the NBA. Coming back down this may be the only realistic chance Boston has is if their two All-Stars and Kemba Walker push this team over the size of the 76ers, Bucks, and Nets.

For the reason of lack of experience, I think the Celtics are a sleeper team we ignore for now but could surprise later. Maybe not as drastic as Miami winning the East last year when everyone picked the Bucks. Well, maybe a little worse if Brooklyn’s big three fail to seal the deal this season. Sure, it would be one of the biggest expectations of a flop for Brooklyn and making Danny Ainge look like a genius. On that note, yes a possible championship contender in the East but not the best.

Miami Heat
The Heat are in the best place again. Count them out, believe their run in the bubble was a fraud, and forget that Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler WITH Victor Oladipo this year couldn’t be better. Lately, Oladipo hasn’t played much or traveling with the team. Could Miami just be overcautious with their injury manage to lay low until the playoffs start? I got a hunch that the Heat and Pat Riley the Godfather could be playing chess. However, Miami’s season has been a circus of injuries and no telling how good they are. Based on the type of transactions Miami put together this season they do get a better player in Oladipo than hardly used Avery Bradly.

Miami Heat at some point has to get a healthy roster. They are technically the defending Eastern Conference Champions let’s not forget that! They’re currently fighting for their lives to stay out of the Play-in Tournament between the 6th and 7th seed cut-off. Perhaps, the Play-in Tournament itself represents the hard work mentality of this team. The grind and grit of a Butler-led Heat would be up for the challenge and a deep playoff run. Don’t SLEEP ON MIAMI!



Western Conference

Los Angeles Lakers
What more can we say about the DEFENDING CHAMPS? The Lakers have not given us much to say besides the return of their All-Stars should help. They’ve maintained themselves well at least 5th seed in the Western Conference. The majority of the season spent without LeBron James and Anthony Davis could make a team look like they are headed for the lottery right?

Ugh, I know if you’re anything but a supporter of the purple and gold it’s heartbreaking to admit it. You don’t care for the Lakers to win again. I’m not too fond of the idea either but let’s come down to the terms of being real. The Lakers will contend and defend their championship as tough as Golden State was in the 2018 NBA Finals. There I said it take what you want from that.

Utah Jazz
The BEST team in the league with their record all season long. The Jazz has maintained health (for the most part although Donovan Mitchell is missing games now) and stayed out of trouble with COVID-19. They’ve managed to be the most consistent team coming out of last year’s bubble. Mitchell at 24 looks to turn the corner next to his All-Star big man Rudy Gobert. Now Gobert is arguably the Defensive Player of the Year with his impact the Jazz to me is the best team defensively.

The biggest question for this team this year is can they finally have a deep playoff run? Again, you’re going to get the “defense” pep talk but I’ll avoid it here. The Jazz just seems to be the team that has figured out their identity and Mitchell continues to shine in the moments Utah needs him. The little blemish from last season is that they did go up 3-1 to the Denver Nuggets in the first round only to lose the series in a dramatic fashion.

Los Angeles Clippers
Their All-Star duo is hard to bet against. Hold on, I laughed at that a bit. However, the Clippers know and hear how bad they are considered. That “B” team in LA that can’t close games. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George teamed up to try and build a new legacy in red and blue. The ugly playoffs exit last year doesn’t give us much confidence this season no matter how good they are in the regular season.

I also don’t want to overhype that the Clippers are a “sneaky” contender. They’re seriously not. It takes a few moments of Kawhi and PG13 influencing momentum for the Clippers for them not to suck this bad again in the playoffs. It is also truly a toss-up as to how a series vs Phoenix would be for me at this point. So for that one of the West’s fiercest.

Phoenix Suns
A dangerous team with Chris Paul at the helm. They quietly sat in the top four of the Western Conference all season. Now up to the 2nd seed currently they lick their chops to see who the Play-in Tournament settles the 7th seed. It will be a steady diet of Dallas, Memphis, Portland until the end of the season of best possibilities. I’d say at this point you have to favor Phoenix over these three and the latter of Golden State or San Antonio.

They are rated in the top 5 of the Defensive Rating in the NBA and I mean if you really don’t like stats and analytics in sports, I hate to say it. There is a pretty good correlation between the best defensively rated teams and where they reside in the standings. Point and case – the New York Knicks are in the top 5 rankings of Defensive Rating. I may not know a thing about the calculations of such rating all the way but the Suns are a top Western Conference Contender.

Denver Nuggets
So this is the nerve-wracking part here for the Western Conference. Do I think that the Nuggets represent the last of a dying breed here in the West? Not at all. I know I’m going to hear, “what about Portland? Dallas?”. Quite frankly, I don’t see the Trailblazers making any noise this year yet again. Dallas has me in doubts based on their season they are having as much as I love Luka Doncic. I’ll tread lightly here and say that I wouldn’t be surprised or upset I’m wrong if the Nuggets aren’t as good as we thought right now.

Now it is my turn to vote Nikola Jokic as my favorable MVP pick. He’s been the most available all season long and the biggest impact any All-Star this year makes for his team. Currently, he is pacing to have the most assists per game in a single season among centers. For the sole reason of Mr. Jokic, the Nuggets should still rightfully be respected as the Western Conference runner-up last season.

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The NBA’s long path to parity and championship success in 2021

For the longest time, the NBA has suffered a parity issue. How rare is it for a young player under 25 years old to win the Championship himself in the NBA? Super rare in fact that no one under 25 years old in the modern NBA won a championship unless they were playing next to an All-Star older than 25 years old. The NFL is a completely different game thus more parity. In the NFL players like Patrick Mahomes can win a championship as the Pro Bowl leader Quarterback. With the NBA I will take a deep dive into the path to parity and championship success in 2021. (and we sort of alluded to younger players not having much success in the NBA as a standard in this Shoot or Pass episode)

Let’s first set the standard here and define “growing pains” in simple terms but what that could mean in the NBA. By definition from Dictionary.com, it explains in a form of definition: difficulties attending any new project or any rapid development of an existing project.

Growing pains in the NBA?

What is an example of difficulties in the rapid development of an existing project in the NBA? A young Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2012 NBA Finals? Both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were 23 years old at the time. Oh and this guy named James Harden was 22 years old playing off the bench for the Thunder. The Heat featured LeBron James at 27 years old at the time on his third NBA Finals trip and still ringless. Remember folks, this 2012 NBA Finals started strongly in the Thunder’s favor as they went up 1-0 with homecourt advantage in the series.

After their first NBA Finals win the Thunder found themselves quickly going home without a championship. I’ll let you decide on going down the rabbit hole of the 2012 NBA Finals but in short, the Heat completed the gentleman’s sweep. LeBron James hoisted his first-ever Larry O’Brien Trophy as a member of the Miami Heat. Certainly, this NBA Finals alone is a prime example that age and experience win.

Perhaps are we really blindly missing that the NBA’s most successful players generally don’t succeed far until post-25 years old? I will save you numerous examples of young vs old and who won those matchups but lets dive into the historical success of current players and the past NBA greats.

Below are the ONLY 2021 NBA-All Stars with at least one Championship and their age. The average age of the chart below? You guessed it – 25!

2021 NBA All-Stars First NBA Championship

PlayerAgeFirst NBA Championship
LeBron James272011-2012 – Miami Heat
Stephen Curry262014-2015 – Golden State Warriors
Kevin Durant282016-2017 – Golden State Warriors
Kawhi Leonard222013-2014 – San Antonio Spurs
Kyrie Irving232015-2016 – Cleveland Cavaliers
Anthony Davis262019-2020 – Los Angeles Lakers

Now, this isn’t an attempt to draw negativity on a really young team in the NBA. Don’t fret, I think there could be an earlier curve of when players start peaking, or in other words, maybe we can see younger first-time champions in the NBA. Now that you see the current NBA trending on more tenured players having a ring but what about past greats?

Retired NBA Greats since 1980 First NBA Championship

PlayerAgeFirst NBA Championship
Dirk Nowitzki322010-2011 Dallas Mavericks
Dwyane Wade242005-2006 – Miami Heat
Shaquille O’Neal271999-2000 – Los Angeles Lakers
Kobe Bryant211999-2000 – Los Angeles Lakers
David Robinson331998-1999 – San Antonio Spurs
Tim Duncan221998-1999 – San Antonio Spurs
Hakeem Olajuwon311993-1994 – Houston Rockets
Michael Jordan271990-1991 – Chicago Bulls
Isiah Thomas271988-1989 Detroit Pistons
Larry Bird241980-1981 – Boston Celtics
Magic Johnson201979-1980 – Los Angeles Lakers

These are listed in order from most recent history to the oldest time period and we’ll put a stopping point at 1980 as the furthest we’ll look back. Now the argument can be made that each Legend or All-Star 24 years and younger won their first NBA Championship next to an OLDER player in their prime already listed as well. Shaq helped give Kobe and D-Wade their first ring. Duncan wasn’t winning unless David Robinson was there right? As for the current era, Kyrie Irving won his first next to LeBron’s third ring and Kawhi’s came with San Antonio’s legendary trio.

This also brings a little bit of clarity to this question. Are we really expecting a team like the New Orleans Pelicans in 2021 to be competing for any of the top 8 seeds in the Western Conference? Ironically, if we look at the standings of the top 6 in the present Western Conference, each team has an All-Star player aged at least 25 or older. It isn’t just a coincidence that Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic are both over 25 years old and each having an MVP-like season?

More parity for younger players needed

If you’re still following along with the point let’s break this down by the conferences in the 2020-2021 NBA season. The 2021 Western Conference All-Stars that have a ring currently amount to Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, and Stephen Curry. The Eastern Conference gets by with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. As we gear up for the 2021 Playoffs it’s a safe bet to bet on the experience at this rate.

The lack of championships on the 2021 Eastern Conference All-Star team means there is less championship experience come playoffs time from the respective All-Stars in the East. The Brooklyn Nets will be the ONLY team in the Eastern Conference this season that makes the playoffs and has AT LEAST an All-Star with a championship.

Zach LaVine is the one outlier here at age 26 on a solo mission to elevate the Chicago Bulls. Even with the trade deadline deal to bring another All-Star Nikola Vucevic (age 30), the Bulls still find themselves scratching to stay afloat in the 2021 Play-in Tournament rankings. Perhaps the learning curve with new teammates and an All-Star could work its kinks out by May? To be determined but a prime example that not always paring your young buck with an elder All-Star could work.

2021 Eastern Conference is a hopeful direction of parity

What this could mean for teams like the Boston Celtics with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown? Both are 24 and under and playing against more equal talent to them. I’d say better odds for success in the playoffs for the Boston Celtics. There is less experienced competition in their conference until they have to face the Nets. If the peak is high enough for a young Boston team in May their shot to win the Eastern Conference would be a great time this year.

However, the same could be said for the Philadelphia 76ers at the top of the conference and one of the NBA’s best defensive teams. Joel Embiid is having an MVP year and the Sixers are arguably the best defensive team in the NBA with Ben Simmons as a frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year. Ages? Simmons is 24 years old and as mentioned Embiid is 27 years old. Again, no surprise with a few roster changes and elevated play for these All-Stars the success is there as Simmons looks better nearer to 25 years old.

What’s stunting the success of younger players?

Again, technically Michael and LeBron repeated after they won their first championship. Shaq and Kobe had a three-peat and Kobe won again in 2009 and 2010. So, the point here is when you’ve reached your prime and won once, the odds are the superstar players can repeat. Unless you’re the San Antonio Spurs winning in 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007, and 2014. This doesn’t bode well for younger players under 24 since the NBA has always trended towards its star players primarily becoming a Champion at a later age in their career more than once. The facts also show that players 24 years old and under and usually need to be paired next to these elder All-Star players in order to win a championship at a young age.



Throw out high expectations for younger players

LeBron James started out the “rapid development” in 2007 as he led an underdog Cleveland Cavaliers to the 2007 NBA Finals and swept by the San Antonio Spurs. His better attempt at an NBA Finals in 2011 came with another loss.

Regardless of how you feel about LeBron James, the same argument can be made for Michael Jordan who did not win a championship until his 27th year of life either. It is still a fact that James reached his first NBA Finals much younger and faster than Michael Jordan did whether James lost or won the 2007 NBA Finals. Thus, a more rapid development.

Again, we enter the fifth decade from the 1980s and still have not seen any sort of All-Star player lead a team to a championship younger than 25 years of age. I’m not here to fight that it’s impossible but the “realist” take on this is that younger teams and players just aren’t the safe bet. However, the expectations for the league’s 25 and under shouldn’t have to amount to championship or bust in the early ages of their career.

So what’s the point here?

Most likely the NBA may see brief moments of parity through the “growing pains” of young teams. We’re watching during an interesting time where the current All-Star players in terms of having a championship are few and numbered. This means the majority of teams in the playoffs are being led by guys who hardly know what it’s like to get to an NBA Finals.

Take ESPN’s list of best 25 under 25 by future potential rankings. Some of the top players on this list have made the All-Star roster at a young age without any Finals experience or a championship.

Chris Paul, Paul George, and Damian Lillard are ALL 30 and older without an NBA Finals appearance. These are the eldest All-Stars of 2021 without championship success.

A sign that it’s time for the under 30 club to make a push at winning? The Jazz and 76ers sit atop of their respective conferences all year, the Suns feature Devin Booker (24 years old) as the prime star next to Chris Paul, and we’ve mentioned how Embiid and Jokic have helped elevated their younger teams into the conversation for championship contention.

Parity or no parity?

To answer the question directly, I believe the NBA will never see a large amount of parity unless we truly see an older generation phase out into a completely new generation. Embiid and Simmons in Philadelphia and Tatum and Brown in Boston help the cause.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, and Nikola Jokic are all post-25 years but under 30 in the top seeds of their respective conferences. Donovan Mitchell is 24 at this time BUT if we follow the guidelines here he’s playing next to All-Star Rudy Gobert who is 28 years old and a 2-time Defensive Player of the Year. This specific group’s success shouldn’t surprise us, it’s kind of what history tells us they’d become right?

That leaves the current under 25-generation of the NBA still figuring out life as an NBA All-Star. Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, Luka Donic, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Trae Young all under 25 and nowhere near favored to win a championship in the 2020-2021 NBA season.

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Shoot or Pass Podcast – Respect Jokic, NBA’s Best Under 25, and the Playoff Push

With March Madness officially in the books, the spotlight is on the NBA and the crew is back together to talk about the playoff push! Chevy, Gabe, and Rhoby share their NBA Moods (02:33), talk about putting some RESPECK on the Joker’s name (16:00), Kendrick Perkins’ take on Jayson Tatum (21:38), the Suns and their playoff aspirations (27:05), a series of unfortunate events for the Hornets (33:45), a not-so great investment for the Lakers (39:17), and of course – the on-going saga of Mr. Twitter Fingers, Kevin Durant (42:58). In the latest round of Dribble, Dunk, or Flop, the crew analyzes some interesting articles by The Ringer and ESPN that caused a lot of debate in the NBA this week – Ballers as Rappers (50:10) and the NBA’s best 25 under 25 (59:50).

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WNBA 25th Anniversary Nike Explorer and Rebel Edition Jerseys

The WNBA’s 25th Anniversary means a redesigned logo to honor the achievement and NEW jerseys from Nike. The jersey release was announced on April 8th, 2021 between Nike and the WNBA.

Now, while I am a fan of what Nike did with the NBA Jerseys I am beyond impressed with the designing of the WNBA Jerseys! Beyond the tangible products, the message is even a bigger reason to fall in love with these designs. The Nike “Rebel Edition” uniforms are intended to portray a strong message about underrepresented voices.

The WNBA Nike Rebel Edition uniforms applaud the unapologetic, irreverent, and underrepresented voices who define each team’s home cities and states. In a celebration of each community’s deeper stories, fans are invited to embrace their authentic identities and they’re given a platform to shine.

Nike.com

Nike Rebel Edition – WNBA 25th Anniversary Jerseys

GONE are the hideous advertisements front and center on the jerseys. The ladies will get their numbers back on the front of the jersey. The equality and respect of allowing their name and number to shine in the redesigned concepts here make this Nike debut even better. This is more in line with the NBA’s version of having a patch of the team’s sponsor on the shoulder area of the jersey instead.

Trust me DON’T Google it to see this change. Before these beauties, it was up to three sponsors and the team logo donned on the front of the jersey. It was UGLY and quite frankly disrespectful to the WNBA players.

Nike Explorer Edition – WNBA 25th Anniversary Jerseys

  • Athlete numbers are returning to the front of the game jersey.
  • Each WNBA game jersey is numbered 1/144, honoring the 144 elite athletes who earned their place in the world’s premier women’s basketball league.
  • The game shorts have more room in the thighs and the glutes, and the game jerseys add more room across the chest plus overall proportion adjustments. The game jerseys also feature an assortment of three necklines: a round-neck, a V-neck and the new Victory neckline exclusive to the WNBA.

Source: Nike.com press release

It appears that some of the teams will feature a sponsor at the very bottom of the jersey under the number still. The redesign helps it look more organized but the sponsor patch on the shoulder area is much better than pasting another advertisement on the front awkwardly.

While the 2021 Season schedule has not been announced you can still gear up ahead of time. Nike announced you can now purchase the new threads at Nike.com.


Listen to the Shoot or Pass Podcast – Baseline Times NBA dedicated podcast for all of your latest NBA news, predictions, and coverage!

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More NBA coverage from Baseline Times

Shoot or Pass Podcast: The Close Up Magic

HEAT Nation is away on VACATION so Chevy steps in to fill the show need this week. What better way than to take over the podcast with a magic touch? Stephen Cameron from The Close Up Magic joins Chevy to discuss a little about the Orlando Magic, his trade deadline reactions (10:30), and describe his NBA Mood (26:30). They discuss if Russell Westbrook deserves an apology (30:42), which now-former Magic player will have the most success with their new team (34:16), and are the NBA.com DPOY rankings fucked up? (38:23). The Magic-duo takes a trip down memory in a session of Dunk, Dribble, or Flop (44:03). They share their top choices for All-Time Magic Player and Coach, and top Magic roster. Finally, in a grueling decision, Stephen picks his All-Time Magic Starting 5 (52:40).


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2021 NBA Draft – Final Four Prospects

The Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament Final Four is set! In case you’ve been taking a break from March Madness because your bracket was busted, or now intrigued here are the 2021 NBA Draft Final Four prospects to watch this weekend!

No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 11 UCLA

An 11th seed out of the First Four makes the Final Four. UCLA marks the first time a First Four team makes the Final Four since Virginia Commonwealth University did in the 2011 Tournament. On the flip side, Gonzaga has won 30 straight games and their undefeated season continues.

Gonzaga

Jalen Suggs – Gonzaga (Guard)
Suggs is a Freshman who already is in the mix of top 5 pick considerations in the 2021 NBA Draft. The future star guard is said to have star potential further in the NBA. Suggs is shooting 50-percent from the field this season. His speedy ability and composure to finish well at the rim make him an offensive threat that is difficult to guard. He will be considered as one of the top guards in the 2021 NBA Draft.

Corey Kispert – Gonzaga (Forward)
Kispert is a 6’7 Senior that keeps the frontcourt for Gonzaga well balanced. If you look at this season you may not see Kispert’s name in the mix of season leaders in points or rebounds (that actually goes to Drew Timme). Kispert’s three-point shooting is the best on Gonzaga this season. He is shooting the three-ball at 43-percent which is the best out of Zaga’s starting five. The Forward is a long-range shooter but the expectation of him being an overall player especially on the defensive end is unlikely. He is projected to go as a late lottery pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.

UCLA

Johnny Juzang – UCLA (Forward)
A potential Idol of March according to our very own John Glowatz. Here is a guy that came back home and also was looking for an opportunity to elevate his game. Juzang spent his Freshman season at Kentucky primarily as a role player. He serviced the Wildcats as a spot-up shooter more than getting an opportunity to be the main attraction on offense. Juzang isn’t going to wow you with athleticism but he is more so a prolific scorer that makes it look easy. His Elite 8 game against Michigan surely helped his draft stock rise. He scored 28 points on 11-of-19 shooting (58-percent). Johnny is a 6’6 Forward that is projected in the second round of the 2021 NBA Draft at this time. This Final Four can make or break his draft stock.

Honorable mentions: Drew Timme – Gonzaga (Forward), Joel Ayayi – Gonzaga (Guard), and quite frankly mostly Gonzaga players are the best 2021 NBA Draft prospects in this Final Four

No. 1 Baylor vs. No. 2 Houston

The Midwest region featured No. 1 Illinois who was most likely projected as the winner of the region. However, Loyola-Chicago had other plans in the second-round and ended the Fighting Illini’s hopes of a Final Four run early. Houston returns to the Final Four for the first time since 1984 when a team dubbed “Phil Slama Jama” made the tournament’s Final Four. Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon sound familiar? Both now retired from their respective NBA careers sure puts the time frame into perspective. Baylor enters the Final Four after last being there in 1950.

Baylor

Davion Mitchell – Baylor (Guard)
He wears 45 and his name is Mitchell across the back of his jersey. Could he be confused with a potential NBA look-alike? Probably not physically but I would say it’s fair to compare his game similar to a Donovan Mitchell from the Utah Jazz. A late bloomer for Baylor but nonetheless a difficult player to guard. His speed and ability to change pace quickly and finish the rim make it difficult for any team to defend. I sort of compare him to Kemba Walker as he’s a bit shorter listed at 6’2. His speed is getting attention and causing his draft stock to rise into a potential lottery pick. Mitchell as a top 10 lottery pick may be the highest ceiling for him but unlikely to be a franchise turnaround player.

Jared Butler – Baylor (Guard)
Here is the other guard in this game that the 2021 NBA Draft could possibly be kind to. He is not a “pass first” point guard but could make his way into the NBA first as a scoring guard. He’s a bit undersized at 6’3 for the two-guard spot but can knock down the three-ball. Butler’s 16.5 points per game led Baylor in scoring all season long.

Houston

Quentin Grimes – Houston (Forward)
Likewise Juzang, Quentin Grimes played his Freshman season elsewhere which happened to be in Kansas. Now in his Junior season, he’s making a slow climb into the 2021 NBA Draft boards. He averages 18 points on 40-percent shooting for the Cougars on the season. Grimes may not show up on any first-round draft boards but the Final Four could help him boost himself as a second-round pick at best.


Beyond the 2021 NBA Draft – Final Four Prospects see Glo’s Idols of March for this 2021 March Madness Tournament

NBA Trade Deadline – Winners & Losers

Break out the fire extinguishers, the NBA’s fire sale is officially over (at least with the trades, let’s see if the buyout market starts booming). I don’t know that I can say it was overwhelming, but it wasn’t underwhelming either, so let’s just say it was “whelming”. Moves were made though, the landscape of the league is changing just in time for the playoffs. Here are my winners and losers of the NBA trade deadline.

WINNERS OF THE NBA TRADE DEADLINE

CHICAGO BULLS

Be honest – did you think the Chicago Bulls of all teams would become the biggest buyers today? ME NEITHER. If I could describe their moves today in one word, it’s FIREPOWER. Because that is EXACTLY what they brought to their roster today.

The Bulls front office had an understanding that they would need to surround their star, Zach LaVine, with FIREPOWER to ensure he stays beyond 2022. So, they went to the biggest sellers in the market down in Disney World and put Nikola Vucevic on a magic carpet (with Al-Farouq Aminu), dumping Otto Porter Jr. and his $28.5 million contract in the process. That was enough to give them the crown. They took it a step further though, nabbing Daniel Theis, Troy Brown Jr., Jeff Green, and CASH MONEY (to the tune of approximately $1.5 million) later on.

This team is now SIGNIFICANTLY better than they were 24 hours ago. Are we talking playoffs or what, Chicago?!

DENVER NUGGETS

I’m going to keep this one simple mainly because HEALTH will play a huge factor in how the Denver Nuggets fare from their moves today. Aaron Gordon is a good get and I have to say, I am very much looking forward to seeing some Jokic-Gordon alley oops and some Murray-Gordon pick-and-rolls. However, Aaron Gordon has a history of injuries and the injury bug has not spared ANYONE in the league this season. Nonetheless, the acquisitions of Gordon and JaVale McGee (a serviceable backup who will help shoulder the load while Jokic rests) can help them compete with the likes of both L.A. teams and the Utah Jazz.

Essentially, the name of the game for the Denver Nuggets today is simple – turn potential into PRODUCTION. And get some DEFENSIVE HELP (because holy fuck do they need it). Worst comes to worst, Mike Malone hits the bench and starts praying. That should do it, right?

HONORABLE MENTION – MIAMI HEAT

I know what you’re thinking. “Wow, a HEAT fan thinking Pat Riley didn’t hit a home run today?”

Look, at 2:59pm ET, a meltdown was looming. At that point, all I knew was that Pat had brought the talents of another tall white guy in Nemanja Blejica to South Beach in exchange for Moe Harkless and Chris Silva. Kyle Lowry was in fact not going to come down the FL Turnpike to the American Airlines Arena. I was frustrated, confused, ENRAGED, and pretending to pay attention to a Zoom meeting for my day job.

I should have known that The Godfather runs on Miami time.

Indeed, a move was made. Victor Oladipo comes to the Miami HEAT in exchange for Kelly Olynyk, Avery Bradley, and a pick swap. My home team gets a two-way player who can take some of the load off of Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo WITHOUT having to give up Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson in the process. That’s quite the robbery on the Houston Rockets (more on that below).

The reason why I am not running around my apartment complex banging pots and pats right now is because I do not feel like this is enough. The HEAT need another BIG piece. Out of San Antonio, preferably. Another key to this becoming a home run? Making a long term deal beyond this season work with Mr. Oladipo, who wants to get PAID. If those factors work out in their favor, then BRAVO. Regardless, I think Pat deserves a pat on the back.



LOSERS OF THE NBA TRADE DEADLINE

HOUSTON ROCKETS

Y-I-K-E-S.

The Houston Rockets couldn’t even bargain for a pack of airline peanuts today (or any day this season for that matter).

After turning down a contract extension a few weeks ago, it was obvious Victor Oladipo was out the door. In fact, Victor Oladipo was out the door before he even got to Houston as he had been negotiating his way to Miami for what seems like years now.

It’s crazy because the Rockets had all of the bargaining power just a couple of months ago when James Harden was demanding a trade. Ben Simmons was on the table. Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen? Also on the table. What do the Rockets have to show for it today? Nothing more than an assortment of draft picks and random players. You can’t even mention John Wall because he is getting bought out as I type this, probably.

I feel for Stephen Silas and Christian Wood. What a fucking mess.

BOSTON CELTICS

At least they are not the Houston Rockets. That’s a good way to kick this one off, right?

Not the worst day for the Celtics, but knowing their fans I would not be surprised if we get a Tea Party Part II in Boston. I am going to give credit where credit is due, Danny Ainge was getting demands to do SOMETHING today, and technically that is what he did. Evan Fournier? Not terrible. Finding out that Danny lost out on Aaron Gordon and was aiming at Terrence Ross soon after? Terrible. Daniel Theis was out the door if he stayed through the remainder of the season because another team was going to pay him money the Celtics could not match, so not much you can do there.

I am hopeful that the Time Lord can step it up, just not sure on how soon he can become what the Celtics need to really contend in the East. Honestly, I think today proves that perhaps Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics do not see themselves making a deep playoff run and are looking ahead to the offseason *sips tea*.

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