Today, the Conference semifinals of the 2021 NBA Playoffs will kick off when the Brooklyn Nets host Milwaukee Bucks in what could be a premature Final this year. The winner of this pair will face the winner of Philadelphia 76ers vs. Atlanta Hawks duel, which starts tomorrow. And the meeting between those winners in the next round could be an even more intriguing matchup than whoever comes out of the West this year (barring Joel Embiid’s injury issues).
The West is looking meh this year. The favorites, Los Angeles’ Clippers and Lakers teams are just awful. [And now one is out and the other fights for survival matched against a team carried by one player. But I don’t mind that as I’m not a fan of building teams by using your position of a big market that can lure big-fish free agents (or now even players on contracts with other teams) instead of doing a great job in draft, trades, under-the-radar free agency signings and player development. (In the Clippers’ case there’s also the additional factor in the way they treated Blake Griffin. I’m not worry about Mr. Big Shot as he paid his dues no matter how that team did. And no, Tyronn Lue isn’t a coach prodigy.)
And after that there isn’t too much competition for this year’s Eastern Conference contenders. Utah Jazz and Phoenix Suns might have bright future, but this year they probably still aren’t ready to go all the way. Denver lost too many crucial pieces to compete with East’s teams. Dallas Mavericks so far have Luka Doncić and a lot of roster moves to do to be counted among contenders, and Clippers, having probably two best wing defenders at the moment, are being embarrassed by a one-man team in Luka Doncic, a wing you’d think the two best wing defenders should be able to deal with.
Of course for my preferences for team-building to be satisfied, Nets need to collapse too. However, I’m not sure I’d like the possible repercussions of this as I wouldn’t be thrilled with Sixers process to succeed. I don’t like Bucks. And Hawks… I must admit that under Nate McMillan, even the idea of building a team around tiny guard doesn’t look so failed but they still look like a team based on too tiny a guard to join the ranks of contenders. Ah, how easier it all would be if the Detroit Pistons would play: we wouldn’t have any problems with the question who to root for. Auspiciously, the time when shrewd draft, trade and free agency moves of Troy Weaver will yield desired team building outcomes might not be too far away…