The 2019 NBA Playoffs have been a roller coaster of emotions. Wild, dramatic, and exciting are the adjectives that come to mind when describing these last couple of weeks in the NBA. From Damian Lillard’s buzzer beater and the Bucks’ dominance to the Celtics’ dysfunction and Sixers’ struggles, the NBA Playoffs have been must-see tv. Here are the winners and losers so far.
Winner: Kevin Durant
The best player in the 2019 NBA Playoffs has been Kevin Durant. As great as Kawhi Leonard has been, the Durantula has been on another level. Durant is averaging 34.2 ppg this postseason, which ranks first in the NBA. It’s not that he’s scoring buckets at will. It’s how he’s scoring. Durant’s offensive arsenal is never-ending and his wingspan reiterates the fact that his shot is unblockable. Right now, he’s the best player on Planet Earth.
Loser: Kevin Durant’s Calf
Every single fan’s heart skipped a beat. Reggie Miller convinced the world that Durant tore his achilles, but thankfully, it was only his calf. Knicks fans and the rest of the NBA can all breathe a sigh of relief. Please come back healthy, KD.
Winners: The Nuggets and Blazers
It’s never a good thing to lose a playoff series, but the Nuggets / Blazers series will have no true loser. Both Denver and Portland have exceeded expectations up to this point. For my money, Denver has the most complete team in the West, a franchise player in Nikola Jokic, and a budding star in Jamal Murray. No one predicted the Nuggets would be the 2-seed in the West and now they’re one win away from a trip to the Western Conference Finals. On the flip side, Portland is the perfect example of a patient front office. When teams lose in disappointing fashion in back-to-back seasons, the instinct is to either fire the coach or blow up the roster. The Blazers did neither and it’s worked out so far. Damian Lillard firmly planted his flag as a Top 5 point guard in the NBA and CJ McCollum is the perfect Robin to Lillard’s Batman. If the Blazers had a healthy Jusuf Nurkic, who knows how far they could have gone. I firmly expect the Blazers to win Game 6 and set up an intriguing Game 7.
Loser: The Thunder
The Thunder have ended their season in a disappointing first-round exit the past three years. Add in the fact that Damian Lillard sent the Thunder home on a 37-foot buzzer beater and things are not looking so hot in OKC. Is it time to hit the reset button in Oklahoma City? Frankly, I don’t think it’s possible. Westbrook, George, and Adams are all locked up on huge deals for the foreseeable future so it’s almost impossible to bring in a big name without trading one of those three players. The Thunder will have to change their style of play in order to improve next season.
Winner: LeBron James
Whether you love or hate him, the NBA Playoffs miss King James. It doesn’t feel the same without turning on the television every morning to see *insert sports show here* debating if LeBron was great or “just good” in a playoff win over the Toronto Raptors. The tv ratings say it all. LeBron moves the needle, and his absence in the playoffs emphasizes that the NBA needs LeBron more than LeBron needs the NBA.
Loser: The Lakers
The Lakers are not even playing games and yet, they’re still finding ways to lose.
Winner: Kawhi Leonard
Who, what, when, where, and KAWHI. At the top of the article, I stated that Kevin Durant is the best player in the playoffs. Kawhi Leonard is second. For all those who criticized Kawhi and the Raptors for utilizing “load-management” this regular season, you’re looking foolish right now. Kawhi is averaging a ridiculous 31, 8, and 3. In this series versus the 76ers, Kawhi has been a one-man wrecking crew who has been unstoppable at times. I expect a lot of teams to replicate Toronto’s “go all-in the year before a rebuild” strategy.
Loser: The 76ers Roster
Sometimes, you may have all the parts to make an engine run, but they’re not the right parts so the engine stalls. That’s exactly how I feel about the Sixers’ roster as currently constructed. Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris will both be free agents this offseason so at least one of them will leave. However, the root of the problem lies with their two supposed star players, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. At times, Embiid and Simmons are the two best players on the floor. However, both are wildly inconsistent. Embiid is averaging 17, 7, and 3 while Simmons is averaging 9,7, and 4. Those numbers should not be coming from your core talent. Embiid is so gifted to a point where he can be the best center in the league, but his injury history is becoming a serious problem. Simmons is a gifted passer with unbelievable vision, but his inability to work on his jump shot is holding his progression back severely. Embiid likes to play in the post and step out for 3s when necessary. Simmons needs space in the middle to run pick-and-rolls as well as to push the tempo. Unfortunately for the Sixers, Embiid’s style and Simmons’s style are like oil and water. They don’t mix.
Winner: The Bucks
Hats off to the Bucks. I picked Boston in 7 going into the series, and Milwaukee ended up gentleman’s sweeping the Celtics. The Bucks have been the best team in the Eastern Conference all year long led by the MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo. Somehow, Mike Budenholzer is not getting enough credit for the Bucks season as well as Giannis’s transformation from a really good player into an MVP caliber talent. Now, the Bucks are one step away from the NBA Finals
Loser: The Celtics
When the dust settled, it turned out the Celtics could not turn it on when it mattered the most. The Celtics went to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals last season without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. This year, they couldn’t even make it out of the second round with a healthy Irving and Hayward. Injuries and constant dysfunction led to their downfall. Brad Stevens had a bad year and could not manage all of these personalities. Jaylen Brown took one step forward while Jayson Tatum took two steps back. The Celtics completely lacked balance. Kyrie is a top 5 point guard in the league, but it’s looking like Boston should not be his home for the 2019-2020 season. The Boston Slam is over.
Who are your winners and losers of the NBA Playoffs so far? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter @unafraidshow.