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There are only nine days left in the NBA season and a lot of things have yet to settle down. To break down some of the biggest questions in the NBA this week, I consulted some of the brightest minds from across the NBA network from The Step Back and FanSided.
1. What if…just listen to me…LeBron James…has already played the last playoff game of his career?
Sell DaltonsBehind Bucks Pass: I still think LeBron and the Lakers will find a way to sneak into that final play-in spot this year, but that’s certainly far from guaranteed. However, if you told me he’s already played his last playoff game, I’d be shocked. While there’s a lot of uncertainty about the Lakers roster and who might be in the lineup next season, LeBron has nonetheless shown this season that he can compete with the best of the best. There are questions about Anthony Davis’ health but I expect he’ll be there next year and if he’s healthy Davis will be in the top 10 players in this league. This duo should be in the running for the postseason no matter who’s around them, but as this season has shown, anything can happen. Simply put, I would be shocked.
Tyler WattsThe Smoking Cuban: That might seem crazy to fans, especially considering he’s averaging over 30 points per game this season and is one of the greatest players of all time, but James is 37 years old. Father Time is unbeaten and LeBron has played the second most minutes in NBA history. He’s averaged just 55.5 games over the past four seasons, and the Lakers’ options for improving their roster this summer are complicated.
James reportedly wants to stay in LA but the Lakers have been so poor this season. Yes, they’ll be relocating Russell Westbrook this summer, but finding a trading partner won’t be easy. The Lakers only have three players under guaranteed contracts for next season when Westbrook comes off the books, but the other three make $92.7 million combined. Los Angeles needs to add talent and improve their depth.
Never count LeBron out. He’s been to 10 NBA Finals and has four rings, but don’t bet on the Lakers making the playoffs in 2023. If they miss again, will James chase the ring? His days as the best player on a playoff team are probably over, but don’t be surprised to see him in a different jersey again in the postseason.
Michael SaenzResponsible Sir Charles: It might seem silly at first, but there’s at least a small chance that this can be true. The Lakers are a mess and it’s hard to imagine how they’ll dramatically improve their roster in an offseason. LeBron will be 38 when he’s free agent again. If he’s serious about ending his career with his son, chances are he’ll end his career in Orlando or Oklahoma City. What a disappointing end to his playoff run it would be.
2. Let’s line up the top eight MVP contenders in a single elimination tournament – 1-on-1, play 1s and 2s to 11 times, name your own fouls. Who wins?
Dalton Sell, beyond Bucks Pass: Imagine Giannis Antetokounmpo in a 1v1 tournament with just one player defending him instead of two or three people clogging the paint every time he touches the basketball. There are few players in this league who could challenge him 1v1, so this would be a dream scenario for Giannis. He would face stiff competition, but Giannis would ultimately win it.
Tyler Watts, the smoking Cuban: Okay, let’s lay out the bracket. According to ESPN’s latest MVP straw poll, Nikola Jokic is the MVP favorite and top seed against Stephen Curry in a sharp first-round matchup where the Warriors Guard’s ability to shoot from long range ultimately overwhelms them. Jayson Tatum defeats Ja Morant in the other quarterfinals by using his size and strength.
Bottom of the bracket gives us Giannis Antetokounmpo against Luka Doncic in another hard-to-predict quarterfinal. Ultimately, the Greek freak’s superior defense allowed him to get just enough stops to progress. Joel Embiid punishes Devin Booker with his height to advance in final quarterfinals
With that, Curry meets Tatum in the first semi-final in a matchup in which the two-time MVP shoots past another opponent. Giannis and Embiid are another impossible-to-predict matchup, but I have to give Antetokounmpo the advantage due to his perimeter defensive skills.
That puts Giannis in the final against Curry in a matchup where defending the Greek freak is once again key. He guards Curry well enough on the perimeter to take the W and the hypothetical championship.
Michael Saenz, responsible Sir Charles: Ultimately it comes down to Joel Embiid or Nikola Jokic. Are we sure NBA players would call fouls at each other? I’ve never played pick-up with an NBA player, but I know as bad as a player I’m always hesitant to name anything. NBA players, with their egos, take it almost for granted that nothing will be called out. The bigs will be beating up every other player with nothing being called. I give Jokic the advantage, mostly because I’m sure his brothers will be on the sidelines.
3. If the Utah Jazz list was a pizza, what would the toppings be Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell?
Dalton Sell, beyond Bucks Pass: If these two great players were pizza toppings, they’d be pineapple and anchovy, respectively, simply because they don’t go well together. That narrative has been alive for many years, and while Jazz has a chance to rewrite it in the playoffs this season, the consistency with these two will be called into question again if they fall short. Many have spoken out in favor of a split, and that could very well be the case unless Utah finally breaks that playoff wall.
Tyler Watts, the smoking Cuban: The Jazz are playing like a pizza that’s been left in the oven for far too long as they lost five straight games to slip from fourth to sixth in the Western Conference. They will likely avoid the play-in tournament, but Utah will likely be eliminated in the playoffs in the first round.
Rudy Gobert would be sausage because he’s strong and tough. Sausage is the perfect topping when you want a little extra filling with each slice, and Gobert is one of the best defenders in the NBA. He makes up for the Jazz’s lack of full defense this season, making them a tough matchup for any opponent.
Donovan Mitchell is the mushroom. He’s an elite scorer and strong playmaker, but a liability at the defensive end of the field. Mitchell is good on almost any pizza, but he needs different toppings to take his pizza to elite levels.
Michael Saenz, responsible Sir Charles: Not counting the sauce and cheese, I’d say Donovan Mitchell is pepperoni. It’s consistently good and a staple of what makes a pizza a pizza. For the most part, a pepperoni pizza is safe and something that would be universally welcomed. This is Mitchell. Good to great and a player that any franchise would love to have. Rudy Gobert, on the other hand, is more like sausage. It adds flavor to the pizza and contrasts well with the cheese and pepperoni. However, it’s not for everyone and not a topping I get for every occasion.
For example, sausage isn’t a topping I’d typically pick for a fourth-quarter pizza. i’m kidding, i’m kidding
Other NBA Stories:
The newest Hall of Fame class has been announced. Congratulations to Manu Ginobili and Tim Hardaway.
The Pistons have a very good chance of landing the top pick in the NBA draft. But could they trade down and take that top spot in much more depth?
Jayson Tatum has been better than LeBron James this season and hopefully the All-NBA voting will reflect that.
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https://fansided.com/2022/04/01/nba-mvp-lebron-last-playoffs/ NBA MVP 1-on-1, LeBron’s final playoffs and more