Roundtable: 2018-19 NBA Season Recap & Postseason Preview
With the 2018-19 NBA regular season officially over and the postseason beginning today, the TECKnical Foul crew reflects on everything that went down. From the biggest surprises to the most petty moments--they cover it all.
1. Biggest surprises of the 2018-19 NBA season? Tim: First off...congratulations to the Milwaukee Bucks; they had an absolutely phenomenal season. It was a blend of just about everything going right. What Mike Budenholzer and Jon Horst have done to improve this team is amazing. You have the addition of guys like Brook Lopez and Ersan Ilyasova, the development of young guys like DJ Wilson and Sterling Brown, plus great seasons from Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon and Khris Middleton. And then there was Giannis Antetokounmpo’s ascent to the top of Mount Olympus: the “Greek Freak” had a MVP-caliber season that helped produce a 60-win season and home court advantage throughout the entirety of the playoffs. A couple key injuries late in the season hasn’t really slowed this team much but those players will be needed in order for the Bucks to finish their magical season with a championship. Another team of note is the Brooklyn Nets aka “The Island of Misfit Toys.” They took a big step forward this season by making it to the playoffs. It was fun seeing the young guys like D’Angelo Russell, Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert grow throughout the season. They have a pretty decent squad and their match-up with the Philadelphia 76ers will definitely be one that I’m looking forward to. Eric: The biggest surprise of the season was my hometown Milwaukee Bucks. I was optimistic during preseason (upwards of 55 wins and a top two seed in the East) and even I didn’t see this coming. Sixty wins and the best record in the league is amazing, but I was blown away with the way that the team played. Coach Budenholzer tailored his offensive and defensive schemes to fit the personnel and they took to it like fish in water (insert better metaphor here). Giannis Antetokounmpo ascended to the top stratosphere of NBA players and Brook Lopez transformed into a mixture of Rudy Gobert and the third Splash Brother. The craziest thing is that after watching every game of theirs this season, I don’t feel like they have played at peak efficiency. They’ve added pieces throughout the season (shouts to GM Jon Horst) and late season injuries to key players have robbed them of a chance to establish continuity. Khris Middleton has struggled with consistency all season but if he can get hot over the coming months and Giannis continues to knock down the occasional outside shot, I don’t know if any team (even the Warriors) can beat them. Needless to say, I did not foresee typing that last sentence in October. Camille: Before the season began, I called my shot on the Milwaukee Bucks so I won’t choose them for my biggest surprise (although they had a better season than even I could foresee). That being said, the biggest surprise to me was watching the Philadelphia 76ers go all in on this season. Going into the season, many felt they had a strong chance to represent the East in the Finals. Instead of rolling with their two young studs, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, they swung for the fences and acquired both Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris. Being able to roll out a lineup consisting of those four guys and three-point shooting dynamo JJ Reddick is the ultimate luxury, but also the ultimate risk. Both Butler and Harris are free agents this summer. Did the 76ers mortgage their future by trading away assets to acquire two guys who might just be short-term rentals? Time will tell, but the way they pushed all of their chips in for this season was a surprise for me. Ken: I knew coming into this season that the Milwaukee Bucks would be a good team but I definitely wasn’t expecting them to be this unstoppable from beginning to end. It was a big surprise watching the Bucks take the throne as the best team in the NBA while making the rest of the Eastern Conference look like a joke. The Bucks have definitely made this year more fun to watch.
2. Biggest disappointments of the 2018-19 NBA season? Tim: Carmelo Anthony. I’m thoroughly disappointed with the way Melo’s season went. Who would have thought that Melo would not even be in the league at by the end of the season? Eric: The biggest disappointment of the season was the Boston Celtics. They were almost universally considered the top team in the East. LeBron was gone, their entire team was healthy, Jayson Tatum was ready to take “The Leap” and they had a treasure trove of future assets to make in-season moves as needed. They were crowned before they even played a game. What we got instead was a flawed team with questionable rotations and shit chemistry. The young guys stagnated and the “prime” stars under performed. Kyrie Irving is a phenomenal offensive basketball player but this year illuminated that he is not a leader. That’s fine, but he failed to realize that and instead lead his team right into the toilet. There is no reason that it should have taken this team so long to catch the Indiana Pacers once Victor Oladipo went down but they still almost blew that opportunity. They *should* be able to beat the Pacers in round one but it wouldn’t surprise me if they flamed out spectacularly. The Lakers, Pelicans and Cavs also disappointed me. Camille: The wasted season of Anthony Davis. While I’m a fan of the Milwaukee Bucks, I’m also a fan of the game of basketball and greatness. I want to see the best players compete because I understand how special these talents are. Davis is only 26 years-old and in the prime of his career but we did not get the opportunity to partake in his greatness. This missed opportunity didn’t occur because of injury, but instead because Davis wanted out of New Orleans to play for the Los Angeles Lakers (nevermind the fact that he still had TWO years left on his contract). After such public trade demands and leaked trade proposals, Davis effectively ruined the chemistry in both the Pelicans and Lakers locker rooms. Ultimately, the Pelicans decided against trading him and instead unofficially shut him down for the rest of this season to protect his trade value. What a waste of a season for one of the game’s best. Ken: The biggest disappointment for was the embarrassing Los Angeles Lakers season. Since Kobe Bryant’s retirement we, Lakers Nation, have been waiting for our next big superstar. When Paul George decided to stay with the Oklahoma City Thunder instead of coming home to the Lakers, it hurt. We felt like our hopes of getting a superstar were done, but then GOD blessed us with one of the greatest players to ever play the game: LeBron James. When you hear LeBron, you automatically start to think the playoffs are guaranteed and that there’s a real shot at a championship. Not this year. The Lakers have become the laughing stock of league from the locker room to the training staff to the front office. And when you add in Magic Johnson stepping down the way he did...that was just icing on the cake of disappointments. I’m just going to stop here before I go on a full out rant.
3. How did you do with your preseason predictions? Tim: Meh. I got 5 of 8 in the East with the exception of the Washington Wizards, New York Knicks (yuck) and Miami Heat. The Washington Wizards self-imploding came out of left field for me; chemistry issues, injuries and bad contracts caught up to the team this season. They have gone into repair/rebuild mode without their franchise star. As for the Knicks…yeah,let’s not talk about that pick. The Heat came within two games of making the playoffs in Dwyane Wade’s final season. In the West I got 6 of 8 correct with the exception of New Orleans and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers and Pelicans consequently suffered from a bromance gone wrong, in addition to injuries on both teams. Eric: Ehh… I did fine. I had the Washington Wizards and the Cleveland Cavaliers (FML) in the playoffs in the East and I had the Heat as a 5 seed because I thought they would trade for Jimmy Butler. I was high on the Los Angeles Clippers, Brooklyn Nets, and Sacramento Kings but didn’t feel confident enough to put them in the playoffs. The Anthony Davis debacle torpedoed the two playoff picks that I got wrong in the West (Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans). Camille: I did much better with my Western Conference playoff picks (7 out of 8) than I did with the Eastern Conference (5 out of 8). In the West, I had confidence in the Los Angeles Lakers making the playoffs due to the LeBron effect. I didn’t think that the iron man that is LeBron James would suffer the most debilitating injury of his career and effectively end the Lakers playoff hopes. In the East, I missed on the Washington Wizards, Miami Heat, and Charlotte Hornets. If John Wall didn’t get injured, they probably would’ve willed their way there but who knows because that team really hated each other. As for the Heat and Hornets, they were in the race until the end of the season so...it is what it is. Ken: Well first of all, I predicted that the Los Angeles Lakers would end their playoff drought this season and we all know how that went. Other than that section, I got everything else right in the Western Conference. In the East, I only missed on the Miami Heat and the Washington Wizards.
4. How will the postseason unfold? Tim: I think it will be a very competitive postseason with close games and several seven-game series. There’s a lot of talent on these teams and some of the match-ups should make for some very good basketball. For the Conference Finals, I have the Milwaukee Bucks over the Toronto Raptors in the East and the Golden State Warriors over the Denver Nuggets in the West. For the Finals, I’m going with the Bucks in six. Eric: I think (hope) that we are in for a competitive NBA Playoffs. I’ve got Utah and San Antonio pulling first round upsets and I wouldn’t be surprised if Indiana or Brooklyn took their series to a toss-up Game 7. My picks for the Conference Finals are Golden State over Portland in the West and Milwaukee over Toronto in the East. I truly believe that the Bucks can beat the Warriors in the Finals with home court advantage but for reverse jinx purposes I’m going with the Warriors in six. Regardless of the eventual champion, Giannis Antetokounmpo will be considered the undisputed best player in the world by the end of these playoffs. Camille: I’m super excited for this year’s playoffs! I think there’s a lot of opportunity for upsets in the first round: I could see the San Antonio Spurs over the Denver Nuggets, the Oklahoma City Thunder over the Portland Trail Blazers, the Indiana Pacers over the Boston Celtics, and the Brooklyn Nets over the Philadelphia 76ers. Of those possible upsets, I’m going to predict that only two actually occur and that’s both of the Western Conference upsets. As for the Conference Finals, I’m going with the Golden State Warriors over the Oklahoma City Thunder in the West and the Milwaukee Bucks over the Toronto Raptors in the East. This is the Finals match-up that I predicted during our season preview podcast and I’m sticking with it. Both the Warriors and Bucks are simply the best teams in their respective conferences. Bucks in six. Ken: My playoff picks as follows: Milwaukee Bucks vs. Detroit Pistons: Bucks in 5 Toronto Raptors vs. Orlando Magic: Raps in 5 Philadelphia 76ers vs. Brooklyn Nets: 76ers in 6 Boston Celtics vs. Indiana Pacers: Celtics in 5 Golden State Warriors vs. Los Angeles Clippers: Warriors in 4 Denver Nuggets vs. San Antonio Spurs: Nuggets in 6 Portland Trail Blazers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder: Blazers in 7 Houston Rockets vs. Utah Jazz: Rockets in 6 Skipping right on ahead to the NBA Finals, cause this is what matters, haha. I have the Milwaukee Bucks vs Golden State Warriors with the Bucks defeating the Warriors in six. Oh. And just for the record: I’m riding with the Bucks this year since the Los Angeles Lakers aren’t in the playoffs, so it’s all about hometown love!
5. Who would you pick to win the end of season awards? Coach of the Year
Tim: Mike Budenholzer, MIL. The Bucks are a force to be reckoned with and this is in large part due to Coach Bud and his staff. I would like to give an honorable mention to Kenny Atkinson for what he managed to do with the Brooklyn Nets.
Eric: Mike Budenholzer, MIL. There are a lot of deserving candidates (Doc Rivers, Mike Malone, Nate McMillan) but I went with “Coach Bud” due to his complete overhaul of the Bucks schemes.
Camille: Doc Rivers, LAC. This one is hard for make a selection for because there are quite a few deserving candidates for this award (Mike Budenholzer, Mike Malone, Kenny Atkinson, Nate McMillan). I’m going with Rivers because he was able to exceed preseason expectations even after trading away their best player at the trade deadline.
Ken: Mike Budenholzer, MIL. The Bucks amazing season speaks for itself. It truly shows how important good coaching and proper team management is.
Sixth Man of the Year
Tim: Lou Williams, LAC. Easy money. No disrespect to other nominees like Derrick Rose, Domantas Sabonis, and Spencer Dinwiddie, but this is all Lou Will’s.
Eric: Lou Williams, LAC. Might as well renamed this trophy the “Lou Will 6th Man Award.”
Camille: Lou Williams, LAC. He’s going back-to-back with this award; Lou Will averaged 20p/5.4a/3r a game with a 21.2 PER off the bench. You can’t really compete with that.
Ken: Lou Williams, LAC. But don’t sleep on my boy D. Rose who averaged 18.1 pts 2.7 rebs 5.1 asst a game I love that he is playing so well but Lou Williams is basically “Mr. Sixth Man” who could be a starter he will win this year.
Defensive Player of the Year
Tim: Giannis Antetokounmpo, MIL. When you look for the total package in a defensive player, look no further than the Greek Freak! Height, length, speed and great defensive instincts allows Giannis to affect the entire floor on defense. Let’s put it like this...he can guard half the floor by himself due to his freakish physical attributes.
Eric: Giannis Antetokounmpo, MIL. Giannis protects the rim at a Gobert level, can lockdown on the perimeter and wreaks havoc as a free safety.
Camille: Giannis Antetokounmpo, MIL. First, I’d like to say that Paul George was my frontrunner until he got hurt. I was torn between Rudy Gobert and Antetokounmpo for this one, but gave Antetokounmpo the edge because of how versatile of a defender he is.
Ken: Giannis Antetokounmpo, MIL. What can’t this kid do? He gives opposing coaches nightmares. He can defend the passing lines, alter shots and defend the rim. I feel bad for the teams and coaches that have to face the Bucks in the playoffs.
Most Improved Player
Tim: D’Angelo Russell BKN. D Lo had himself a breakout year for the Nets. He had career highs in points (21), assists (7), three-point percentage (37%) and overall field goal percentage (47%). Oh, and did I mention he got his first All-Star nod this year?
Eric: Pascal Siakam, TOR. He went from solid bench contributor to building block and stand out second option. Siakam transformed and expanded his game in ways the other candidates like D’Angelo Russell, John Collins and De’Aaron Fox didn’t.
Camille: Pascal Siakam, TOR. Quite simply, he’s made the greatest improvement from last season to this season of any other player in the league. His game has expanded greatly, including that three-point shot (21.6% to 36.8%).
Ken: D’Angelo Russell, BKN. Before the season started, I said that he would be an All-Star and he did that. Being traded from the Los Angeles Lakers allowed him to grow into the player he was expected to be. Averaging 21.1 points and 7.0 assists with career-high scoring efficiency metrics all across the board is impressive. Although he’s my pick, I don’t believe he will win because there are so many guys that have improved their game this season.
Rookie of the Year
Tim: Luka Doncic, DAL. Just as Luka had a hot first half of the season, Trae Young had a crazy good second half, but Luka was just unbelievable. In his final game of the season he had 21 pts, 16 rebounds, 11 assists and 3 steals. The kid was unbelievable and put up monster numbers. 21 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6 assists per game from the rookie just feels like a sample of greater things to come.
Eric: Trae Young, ATL. It’s going to be Luka and for good reason but Trae’s second half of the season was just as strong as Luka’s first half and Luka’s shooting was just as bad in the second half of the season was just as bad as Trae’s was in the first. DeAndre Ayton, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Marvin Bagley also had very strong rookie campaigns worth consideration.
Camille: Luka Doncic, DAL. Doncic was as good as advertised and that rarely happens. Trae Young’s emergence throughout the last half of the season has been amazing, but Doncic never stopped putting up numbers--even with a post-All Star break shooting slump. Doncic ended this season with a betters stats than Young in the following categories: points per game, rebounds per game, blocks per game, field goal percentage, true shooting percentage, net rating, and defensive rating. Both Doncic and Young will be really fun to watch as their careers unfold (and as a basketball fan, I’m thankful for it) but this year the award has to go to Doncic.
Ken: Trae Young, ATL and Luka Doncic, DAL. I honestly believe that this year we should have Co-Rookie of the Year. Doncic started the season off on fire but fizzled out some after the All-Star break. That’s when Young started to catch fire and he finished the season strong. Doncic was performing at such a high level that the media was ready to clown him after the first half of the season came to a close; Young said not so fast. Both are deserving to be Rookie of the Year so it makes the most sense to me to have them both win it.
Most Valuable Player
Tim: Giannis Antetokounmpo, MIL. Giannis is making the case not just for the MVP award but also as the best player in the league. What he is doing offensively and defensively is nothing less than extraordinary. You can’t talk about Giannis and not mention what he does on both sides of the court.
Eric: Giannis Antetokounmpo, MIL. He’s a top 2 defender and a top 3-5 offensive player in the league. What Harden did offensively was historic but let’s not overthink this.
Camille: Giannis Antetokounmpo, MIL. My selection of Antetokounmpo is not a knock on the historical offensive season that James Harden had. I respect how he put the team on his back and did what he had to do in order to ensure they won games. But the Greek Freak? He’s dominant on both sides of the ball. Not only can he score in the paint at will, but he is a great playmaker and one of the most dominant defensive forces in the entire league. As Kirk Goldsberry said in his piece on ESPN, “...the league’s best team has a superstar who is clearly the best two-way player in the world’s best two-way sport. What’s more valuable than that?”
Ken: Giannis Antetokounmpo, MIL. Where do I start? He was the most consistent player from the start of this season to the end. A quick look at his per game stats this year: 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.3 steals. Man. He should become the third player in NBA history to win both this award and the DPOY award. He’s that good.
6. BONUS: What was the most petty moment of this season?
Tim: Magic Johnson holding a random press conference to announce his resignation WITHOUT the knowledge of his boss took the cake for me. Honorable mention: Jalen Rose running down why Paul Pierce career wasn’t better than Dwyane Wade’s because of the TECK Foul company motto.
Eric:This isn’t necessarily petty, but one of the underrated crazy stories of the year was the MarShon Brooks-Dillon Brooks trade confusion. As a refresher, the Grizzlies, Suns and Wizards constructed a three way trade in which a player named “Brooks” would be sent from Memphis to Phoenix. The Suns thought they were getting Dillon and the Grizzlies thought they were sending MarShon. In the end, the trade was amended to exclude the Grizzlies. All three GMs involved were eventually fired or demoted. Yay for incompetence!
Camille: Jimmy Butler walking into practice—after demanding a trade—and just causing havoc. Butler called out Karl-Anthony Towns multiple time throughout this practice, lead the third-stringers to a victory over the starters, and then did an interview about it. All planned and all petty.
Ken: Magic Johnson stepping down as President of the Lakers without informing his boss first while having an impromptu press conference. I’m still sick.