The 2020-21 NBA season is finally here after a shorter-than-usual hiatus. This season features plenty of storylines to watch with several superstars returning and several new-look rosters. One thing on everyone’s mind at the start of a season, though, is who they think will bring home the NBA’s ultimate prize. Prior to tipoff, our editors chimed in on the debate.
Last Word on Basketball Editors Predict the 2020-21 NBA Season
Eastern Conference Champions
Zach Kircher, Managing Editor: Brooklyn Nets over Miami Heat in Six
The best player not named LeBron James is Kevin Durant. He looks almost completely fine post-injury and that Brooklyn Nets team is loaded with role players and depth beyond the two stars. The Miami Heat will make the Eastern Conference Finals again, but won’t topple the Nets. They got better from last year and will always be a tough out.
KD and Kyrie are gonna be a problem in the East
Durant: 25 PTS, 6 REB, 3 BLK
Irving: 17 PTS, 7 REB, 5 AST
Nets duo just getting started ♨️ pic.twitter.com/l4JZVFOKuT
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 19, 2020
Chase Gage, Senior Editor: Brooklyn Nets
As a Boston Celtics fanatic, it pains me to put it on paper, but I’m rolling with the Brooklyn Nets. I have some doubts about their chemistry and distractions will be at an all-time high with Kyrie Irving and Durant playing together. However, Durant was the best player on the planet before his injury, and if he can get close to that level again, no one in the East is stopping him. Of course, I’ll hold out hope that Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown level up and take over the East, but I wouldn’t bet on that happening…yet.
Dylan Guest, Associate Editor: Milwaukee Bucks
It’s gotta be the Milwaukee Bucks. There are no more distractions about Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s future, but now he has everything to prove. Jrue Holiday, Khris Middleton, and Antetokounmpo are all elite on both ends of the floor.
Taylor McKillop, Associate Editor: Brooklyn Nets
Honestly, this is the toughest prediction for me to make. It’s deeper than years past, especially at the top. There’s no reason the Miami Heat don’t improve from last year with all of their key pieces returning and the youth getting another year of experience under their belts. I’m happy with the Milwaukee Bucks this offseason, but until Antetokounmpo gets over the championship hump and proves me wrong, I’m going to keep betting against him. For me, it’s the Durant factor. The Brooklyn Nets looked awesome in the bubble. If Irving can stay out of Durant’s way this season, and they avoid going after James Harden and keeping the core intact, then it’s going to be a fun year in Brooklyn. Such a sad thing to write and read for New York Knicks’ fans.
Nicolette Rojo, Associate Editor: Milwaukee Bucks
Despite the Bogdan Bogdanovic sign-and-trade deal falling off, the bucks got better overall. Holiday is an explosive defender and playmaker and of course, you have Antetokounmpo who will likely be more zoned in after signing the five-year extension. If Brooklyn stays healthy, they will certainly compete for that top spot.
Western Conference Champions
Kircher: Los Angeles Lakers over Dallas Mavericks in Seven
The Los Angeles Lakers may have more talent this year, but they’re going to be worse defensively so the offensive end will be much more important. The rest of the West is going to be good again, but it’s hard to bet against James and Anthony Davis. The addition of Dennis Schroder was big, too. The Dallas Mavericks are going to be the most improved team in the NBA this year.
Gage: Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers won the title last year and then got better in the offseason. They’ll have steeper competition as the Denver Nuggets and Dallas Mavericks continue to improve, while the return of Steph Curry puts the Golden State Warriors back in the fold as well. However, I just don’t see anyone knocking off the Lakers just yet.
33 points, 10 boards, 4 steals.
Talen Horton-Tucker is ready for year two 🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/k9Da3IuC7F
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) December 15, 2020
Guest: Los Angeles Lakers
I think the Lakers would win the West again with the same roster from last year. However, the additions of Schroder, Montrezl Harrell, and Marc Gasol just makes them a nightmare. No one is stopping the Lakers in the West.
McKillop: Los Angeles Lakers
Let’s just put this simply. The Lakers already possess the greatest player to have ever lived in LeBron James, and one of the best players on the planet in Anthony Davis. Los Angeles returns the core of its roster including Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma, Alex Caruso, and Wesley Matthews. This team won the 2020 NBA Title with ease. They went out and added three talented starter-caliber options in Schroder, Gasol, and Harrell. This team is going to run through the regular season and playoffs. Only injuries could play a factor, but that goes for every team.
Rojo: Los Angeles Lakers
No, it’s not because I’m a Lakers fan. However, it won’t be a landslide compared to last season. They certainly improved their roster, but the lack of defensive-minded bigs could be a problem in the long run. Dallas and Denver will be in the mix, but the Lakers are the reigning champs for a reason: chemistry, coaching, compatibility.
2020-21 NBA Champions
Kircher: Los Angeles Lakers over Brooklyn Nets in Six
You just can’t bet against LeBron James. There will be some really cool storylines if we get this matchup. We get James versus the guy trying to take his throne (Durant), James proving to Irving he can perform in the clutch, etc. The Nets will give the Lakers plenty of issues, but. Durant will have to be the best player on the floor every night for 48 minutes. When you’re up against James and Davis, that’s a big ask.
Gage: Los Angeles Lakers over Brooklyn Nets
It’s hard to go into this season picking anyone besides the defending champions. They won the title last year and then improved their roster. LeBron James is the best player in the world until someone proves otherwise, and even if someone did outshine him, he has the best second-option in the NBA beside him. James gets his fifth ring and probably adds his fifth Finals MVP along the way.
Guest: Los Angeles Lakers over Milwaukee Bucks
LeBron James and Anthony Davis are the best duo in the NBA by far. Now, they’ve got more depth than they did last year. The defending champions repeat.
McKillop: Los Angeles Lakers over Brooklyn Nets
I repeat, the Los Angeles Lakers won the 2020 NBA title with ease. The team features two of the best players on the planet in James and Davis. They returned the majority of their core and added a trio of players that would start on any other team in the league. This team is going to win the 2021 NBA Championship, mark my words.
Rojo: Los Angeles Lakers over Milwaukee Bucks
They’ll likely face Milwaukee, Miami, Brooklyn, or even the Philadelphia 76ers. It will be a solid fight, but the Lakers overall have a deep bench and a solid coaching staff, both crucial to long-term success. They are certainly not flawless, but it’s not easy to stop the Davis/James duo if healthy, along with Denis Schröder, Montrezl Harrell, Marc Gasol, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and an emergence in sleeper Talen-Horton Tucker.
NBA Most Valuable Player
Kircher: Kevin Durant
He’s fully healthy and ready to prove he can be just as dominant without the Splash Brothers. If he averages around 30 points, 10 boards, and 5 assists, I think he’ll get it. Antetokounmpo’s numbers might drop a bit with the addition of Holiday, and I doubt they’ll give it to him three times in a row anyway. Luka Doncic will be runner-up.
Gage: Luka Doncic
Let me start by saying I think Kevin Durant will have the best season. I really, really wanted to pick him as league MVP. However, I don’t think they’ll give it to him unless he puts up mind-boggling stats. It’s unlikely Antetokounmpo will win it a third year in a row, even if he puts up similar numbers. Further, I think being part of a duo makes it an uphill battle, so the likes of James and Durant may be eliminated solely due to their teammates. With Doncic, though, you have a young star coming into his prime. If he continues his improvement and leads the Mavericks to a top-four playoff spot, he’ll be a fresh, new face to pair with the MVP trophy.
Luka got left hanging 😂 pic.twitter.com/GkSePfNELH
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 18, 2020
Guest: Luka Doncic
He’s going to stuff the stat sheet again (especially with Kristaps Porzingis missing time) and his shooting numbers will definitely go up. The Mavericks should be a top-four seed in the West and more than just a dark horse contender this season because of him.
McKillop: Luka Doncic
As much as I’d love to give LeBron another MVP award, he has to share his stats on a star-laden team. If anything, Davis puts up the best numbers on the Lakers. For that reason, I think Doncic takes home his first MVP award this season. Doncic finished fourth in the voting last season and expect his numbers to take another jump in year three. It’s remarkable what he did in his second NBA season last year. The man is a triple-double machine and he should propel the Dallas Mavericks to potentially a better win-loss mark next year. I think his numbers do the talking, though, regardless if Dallas finishes third or seventh in the West this year.
Rojo: Luka Doncic
It’s hard to believe that he is 21 years old — basically my age — and playing at such an elite level. He is consistent and efficient on and off the ball with his scoring and passing abilities. He is also a young but vocal leader, a sign that the team’s morale is high and will support him. You can’t teach IQ and craftiness at that level of basketball.
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