NBA Playoffs Angry Picks, High Score Heroes and More

The Whiteboard is The Step Back’s daily basketball newsletter, covering the NBA, WNBA and more. Sign up here to have it emailed to you every morning.’

The NBA Play-In tournament ends tonight and settles the last two playoff spots, with the actual postseason beginning on Saturday and Sunday. 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. For the sake of a fun hypothesis, say one of the primary MVP contenders (Jokic, Giannis, or Embiid) will embarrass themselves in a first-round playoff loss? Who is most likely to suffer this humiliation and how would it happen?

Jordan ClarkDaily Knicks: I think the Raptors have a real shot at beating Joel Embiid and the Sixers in the first round. Nick Nurse isn’t the coach Embiid wants to face, and Philadelphia have far more to lose than Toronto. If there’s one pesky defense that will stop Embiid, it’s going to be the Raptors. Embiid’s right-hand man James Harden is not consistent and that will make things even harder for the MVP candidate. Frustration will run high and the series will be an absolute physical struggle (and a lot of fun to watch too).

Philip BarnettNBA Division Directors: The simple and obvious answer here is Joel Embiid. For all his perceived brilliance, Daryl Morey has yet to build a championship team. Despite coaching the Celtics to a title in 2008, Doc Rivers has become one of the least trusted in high-leverage postseason games, and James Harden has his, um, history. But we’re not simple and obvious here, are we?

Perhaps we should turn our attention to Nikola Jokic, who was brilliant on the pitch with pretty much every single advanced metric on his side. What he doesn’t have, however, is the kind of supporting cast required to thrive in the postseason. Jamal Murray is still not returning this season, while Michael Porter Jr. is likely even further from a return than Murray. On the other bench, the Warriors saw Klay Thompson drop 42 points in their last game of the regular season, they brought Draymond back from injury about a month ago and recent reports suggest Curry is likely to be back for the series opener will. We’ll see the Warriors Big 3 play together in the postseason for the first time since the team lost to the Raptors in the NBA Finals. This might not just be a first-round loss for Jokic and the Nuggets, but if Curry can be just 70 percent of who he should be at the start of the season, it could turn ugly and quick for the reigning MVP.

Candice EvansPiping is not easy: It won’t be Nikola Jokic because of his game, but because of who he’s playing. The Warriors have the experience and style of play that will bother him in a seven-game streak. Not to mention that Draymond Green is literally a Swiss Army knife.

2. In the first round of the NBA Playoffs last season, we saw 13 40-point games put together by eight different players. Who will field a 40 in the first round this year?

Jordanna Clark, Daily Knicks: Kevin Durant. I think the best bet is between him or Kyrie Irving and honestly both could put up 40-point games in the first round. We saw what KD did in the playoffs last year and he needs to put on a similar performance for the Nets to have a shot at making it to the NBA Finals. The crazy thing about Durant is that he can do just that and make it look effortless. You won’t catch me betting against him.

Phillip Barnett, NBA Division Head: Nobody has my attention right now than Jayson Tatum. Embiid led the NBA in 40-point performances, Giannis has shown he can give you 40 points any night, and I don’t think anyone will have a bigger mission this postseason than Devin Booker. But Tatum is the guy I’d bet the house on, and for slightly unconventional reasons. I think Tatum unlocked an ability that we haven’t seen him do at a high level with any real consequence. As we’ve seen with Luka Doncic in recent years (a guy I could have here if he’s not injured), his ability to find open teammates has seen Help defenders stay at home a little more, as they wish for a man with Tatum’s goal ability.

With the entire team pretty much up and running since the new year, Tatum will see a number of single-coverage looks to capitalize on. He’s averaging 30 since the All-Star break, 31 since March, 29 against Brooklyn, and finished the season on a 31-point performance shooting 11-of-14 from the field and 6-of-8 from deep. With Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving on the other side, this is going to be a series with a few special appearances, just know that Tatum will definitely have one of them.

Candice Evans, Pippen Ain’t Easy: Definitely Giannis Antetokounmpo. He plays against a Chicago Bulls team, which is a bottom-half defensive team in the NBA. In his four games against the Bulls, he dominated them from the inside out. The Bulls lack length on the perimeter or a shot blocker on the bottom. He’s going to have a great day in paint.

3. Which bottom seed has the best chance of creating an upset in the first round?

Jordanna Clark, Daily Knicks: The Minnesota Timberwolves. No, I’m just kidding, although I’d love it if they won. The Celtics have been playing wonderful basketball lately, but it’s not fair that the Nets are No. 7 in the East. This series will be a real fight and could go either way, but of the other bottom seeds, Brooklyn is the best bet to end the fuss. This matchup will feel more like the Eastern Conference Finals than the first round. My guess is the Nets will go for the 4-2 win, but I won’t complain if it comes down to a Game 7.

Phillip Barnett, NBA Division Head: Both 4-5 matchups could go either way. Utah is getting Dallas without Luka Doncic (at least initially) and we’ve already talked about how pretty much everyone in the Philly organization has had trouble playing in the postseason, and the matchup with Toronto isn’t exactly the easiest of first-round outs. The two 2-7 matchups are also terribly interesting. Brooklyn underperformed in the regular season, but it’s hard to imagine a team led by Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving going down in the first round despite Boston playing well as a unit (and not having Robert Williams in a series against a team that fight against it). Size is a much bigger deal than many admit.

In the West, the Timberwolves have been 15-8 since the All-Star break with wins over Memphis, Cleveland, Golden State, Miami, Milwaukee, Dallas and Denver. Karl-Anthony Towns at his best presents a problem Memphis may not have an answer to. D’Angelo Russell and Anthony Edwards showed they can manage to score on the fringes when Towns isn’t up to it, while Patrick Beverley, Malik Beasley and the rest of the cast adapted very well to their supporting roles. Memphis won’t be easy for anyone — especially Minnesota — but I don’t think anyone should be particularly shocked when Minnesota is a little bit more than young Grizz can handle.

Candice Evans, Pippen Ain’t Easy: The only correct answer is the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets stars can beat any team on any night. The addition of Andre Drummond and Seth Curry made them clear title favorites in my eyes. The Celtics have had a good regular season and have a strong roster. Any other year, they would have been a suspension for the Eastern Conference Finals. But in a year when Kevin Durant is the seventh seed, no top teams are safe.

Other NBA Stories:

Gary Payton is hoping Seattle will get its NBA team back sooner or later and plans to be a big part of it whenever it happens.

For much of the regular season, the Milwaukee Bucks have avoided the national spotlight. They begin their campaign for a second straight championship on Sunday against the Chicago Bulls and the numbers say they’re as good as last year.

Every NBA MVP candidate has flaws on their resume, but digging into those flaws leads to an endless rabbit hole of arguments and counterarguments. NBA Playoffs Angry Picks, High Score Heroes and More

John Verrall

24ssports is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Related Articles

Back to top button