Last year the Atlanta Hawks got off to a slow start to the season before rookie Trae Young and star power forward John Collins were able to push the team to a number of late season victories where the two players were exceptional.
Collins in his second season hit a great stride averaging 19.5 point and 9.8 rebounds per game along with a trip to the NBA’s slam dunk contest during All-Star weekend. The rookie back court pair of Trae Young and Kevin Huerter combined for 29 points and 11 rebounds per game, and many feel like Trae Young may be able to average that himself this upcoming season. Huerter will have competition for his starting spot with the addition of former Duke SG Cam Reddish through the draft last month.
Speaking of the draft, the Hawks also added Virginia F De’Andre Hunter who led the Cavaliers to the 2019 NCAA championship on addition to center Bruno Fernando who helped build a program at Maryland. If these three rookies can come in and make immediate impacts, I’m sure the Hawks can make a run in the weakened Eastern Conference.
The Hawks also added veteran wing presence Chandler Parsons to help out Vince Carter as he is set to enter what should be his final NBA season. It would have been great if they could have convinced Al Horford to come back to the squad but they still retain SG Kent Bazemore who was also one of the Hawks players back when they captured the number 1 seed in the East in 2015. Former Hawks Kyle Korver is still available in free agency and although many articles link him to the Lakers, the Hawks should take a long look at Korver and bring him back to help spread the floor with his top notch shooting ability.
The Milwaukee Bucks are set to face off against the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals (ECF) in a matchup of teams fairly new to the ECF. The Raptors were last here in 2016 when their best player was DeMar DeRozan and the Bucks were last here in 2001 when they had a budding star in Ray Allen. Now the two teams who had the best records in the NBA this season will compete for the right to represent the East in the NBA Finals.
Stars Giannis Antekounmpo and Kawhi Leonard are the new crop of the East following the departure of LeBron James who previously ran through the East in eight straight seasons to reach the NBA finals. The ECF will come down to much more than just the play of the two stars however, as coaching strategies and bench play will surely play a huge part in swinging the series one way or another.
Keep reading below to see what questions will answer which team will advance to the NBA Finals.
1. Which Superstar Will Average More Points Per Game?
Bucks F Giannis Antekounmpo and Raptors F Kawhi Leonard will essentially be playing a game within a game as they are two dynamic scorers who can be lockdown defenders. Antekounmpo is averaging 27.4 points per game these playoffs to Leonard’s 31.8, but that doesn’t necessarily lean the advantage to Kawhi since Antekounmpo averages more assists and rebounds. Since the Bucks play more within the offense than isolation that may create Giannis more opportunities to score over the defensively talented yet shorter Kawhi Leonard if that’s who the Raptors choose to guard him. Kawhi’s advantage on the three point line and ability to score over bigger defenders is to also be noted as the series goes along.
Prediction: Kawhi Leonard
2. Which Big Man Will Step Up For Toronto?
Toronto’s trio of big men (Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka) are going to play the biggest role in the Raptors success if they are able to pull off the series. Everyone knows Kawhi’s going to get his buckets but he’ll need someone else to step up and make big shots in big moments just like he can do. Siakam had previously been that player who looked like he could play second fiddle to Leonard’s aggressive game, but he sort of fell off in games six and seven against the 76ers while Serge Ibaka woke up and put together two great performances. His rim protection will be key to how the Raptors play on defense and in transition throughout the series. Marc Gasol is able to play huge minutes and has his best shot at an NBA finals ever so I figure he’ll put his best effort forward on a nightly basis. But will he be able to defend Brook Lopez on the perimeter?
Prediction: Serge Ibaka
2. Which Team’s Bench Will Have The Biggest Impact Throughout The Series?
The Boston Celtics just swept the Indiana Pacers handily in a series the Pacers were overmatched in from the start. Indiana was missing star guard Victor Oladipo throughout the series as he’s battling back from a ruptured tendon which he suffered in January. The loss loomed large as the Pacers were forced to turn to Bojan Bogdanovic to provide a spark on offense throughout the series.
The Celtics pushed any chatter of an early playoff exit out of the door as their core of Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford along with their deep bench are all peaking at the right time. It’s been a long road for this Boston team that entered the season with expectations higher than almost any team in the NBA. Remember now, this is the same Celtics team that was a Game 7 victory away from knocking off LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals a year ago.. without Irving or Gordon Hayward. Now LeBron’s in the Western conference
Former Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh watched on as the Heat officially retired his jersey during their loss to the Orlando Magic. Bosh was 1/3 of the “Big Three” for the Heat that lasted for four seasons when the franchise had LeBron James and longtime staple Dwyane Wade help them reach four straight NBA finals’.
Bosh’s contributions should never go unnoticed by NBA fans. In his 14 year career he was an 11 time all-star, two-time NBA champion along with being named to a couple of all-NBA teams. By his third NBA season Bosh was averaging over 22 points per game and by his fourth he was averaging a double-double. When Bosh played for the Raptors he was the lone star on a squad that was never able to make it past the first round of the playoffs, which they only qualified for twice in Bosh’s seven seasons there. The transition to the Heat was a favorable one for the big man in terms of playoff success as he enjoyed the ride to four straight NBA finals appearances with the team on South Beach.
Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo posted a double-double in tonight’s win over the Houston Rockets to help his MVP candidacy.
The “Greek Freek” helped his team by posting 19 points and 14 rebounds while dishing out four assists to contribute towards the Bucks’ 108-94 victory. Does the showing cement Giannis as the MVP? His team has the best record in the league, he’s averaging a triple double and he’s also number five in terms of points per game on the season. Those are strong numbers for a player who is carrying a franchise that hasn’t seen real success since the early 2000’s.