2020-21 NBA Season Predictions: Finals, Player Awards & More

In the quickest turnaround between seasons since forever, it’s already time to release the 2020-21 season predictions for teams and players. 

Along with a quick turnaround, this season is quite unorthodox. The regular season starts tonight, much later than usual, and due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this season will be shorter than regular seasons, playing just 72 games instead of 82. 

The full schedule hasn’t been released yet. Due to the uncertainty of the virus’s future, the NBA decided to release only half of the regular season schedule with the second half coming sometime before the All-Star break. There won’t even be an All-Star game this season, either. 

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The league has also decided to adopt the play-in tournament idea from last season’s bubble and use it this season. The tournament will feature the seventh through 10th-place teams from each conference. The top eight teams from each conference will still progress to the playoffs. 

Some teams are hosting fans, but the few that are will be significantly more limited than usual. There’s no bubble this season so the NBA could be in the same boat as the other major sports with games being postponed or canceled because of positive coronavirus cases or flare-ups in respective cities. 

With that, it’s clear that this season will be unlike any other and even last season’s. Regardless, the show must go on. There will still be an NBA champion, an MVP, a Sixth Man of the Year, and teams that under and overachieve. 


Here are Addam Francisco’s predictions for the 2020-21 season. 

The Most Overachieving Team: Atlanta Hawks 

For some reason, the casual NBA fan seems to somewhat sleep on Trae Young, despite putting up some of the gaudiest numbers by a second-year player in NBA history (29.6 PPG, 9.3 APG, 4.3 RPG). 

Young is the clear alpha on the Hawks, but there’s not enough talk about the supporting cast that’ll push this team into the playoffs. The acquisition of Bogdan Bogdanovic, Danilo Gallinari, and Rajon Rondo, fresh off a title run with the Los Angeles Lakers, provides this already talented young Hawks team with veteran experience and one of the NBA’s best young players in Bogdanovic. 


The Most Disappointing Team: Brooklyn Nets

Let me clarify. The most disappointing team will be the Houston Rockets, but they’re starting the season in shambles, so are they disappointing, or are they just a team in disarray from the jump? I’m going with the latter.

The Brooklyn Nets, however, are expected to compete immediately. Expectations are for them to win the Eastern Conference this year, or it’s all a bust. Kevin Durant is coming off an Achilles tear, Kyrie Irving is, Kyrie Irving, and the rest of the team will get tired of dealing with the constant headlines. KD will be as dominant as ever, but this team is very similar to last season’s Los Angeles Clippers.


Eastern Conference Playoff Teams:

  1. Milwaukee Bucks 
  2. Boston Celtics. 
  3. Brooklyn Nets. 
  4. Miami Heat. 
  5. Washington Wizards. 
  6. Philadelphia 76ers. 
  7. Toronto Raptors. 
  8. Atlanta Hawks. 

Western Conference Playoff Teams: 

  1. Los Angeles Lakers.
  2. Denver Nuggets.
  3. Los Angeles Clippers. 
  4. Dallas Mavericks. 
  5. Portland Trail Blazers. 
  6. Phoenix Suns. 
  7. Golden State Warriors. 
  8. New Orleans Pelicans. 

Conference Finals:

East: Milwaukee Bucks vs. Miami Heat.

West: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Denver Nuggets. 

Finals: 

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Milwaukee Bucks. 

Champions:

Los Angeles Lakers. 


Season MVP: Luka Doncic, Mavericks.

Luka’s ascension has been unbelievable. He’s already a top-five European to play the game, and this season will solidify it. No one in the NBA has an answer for him, and last season’s bubble further proved that. 


Rookie of the Year: Obi Toppin, Knicks. 

The story is there. He’s a New York kid playing for the New York Knicks. He has an electrifying personality, showed how passionate he is about playing in New York on draft night, and oh yeah, he can ball. He’ll give you modern-day Blake Griffin vibes with his raw athleticism and highlight-reel caliber dunks that’ll make the Knicks box office happy. Toppin oozes Rookie of the Year. 


EXTRA! Most Surprising Rookie: Thèo Maledon, Thunder. 

The name doesn’t ring a bell to many NBA fans outside of Oklahoma City, OK, but Maledon’s 20-point preseason debut in San Antonio opened the Thunder’s eyes and opened mine as well. He reminds you of a taller Tony Parker, who happens to be his mentor. Based on his preseason performance, he appears to be unusually comfortable handling the ball for a rookie. But then again, he’s the youngest to win a French Cup Final MVP. You know how there’s always that one rookie that comes out of nowhere with a highly productive season? This season look for Maledon to be that rookie.


Defensive Player of the Year: Anthony Davis, Lakers. 

Davis got robbed of this award last season, and if you think he forgot about that, you’re sadly mistaken. Davis will ramp up his defensive play this season to solidify himself as the NBA’s elite defensive player. 


Sixth Man of the Year: Talen Horton-Tucker, Lakers.

If LeBron endorses a young player like Horton-Tucker, you know there’s something to it. Also, you know LeBron likes to be right, so he’s going to make a conscious effort to force-feed Horton-Tucker to back up his preseason endorsement of the young wing.


Most Improved Player: Talen Horton-Tucker, Lakers. 

I like Michael Porter Jr. for this award too, but if Horton-Tucker wins Sixth Man of the Year, he’s going to have to be the most improved player in the NBA because he was virtually nonexistent for most of last season, averaging 5.7 PPG, 2.3 RPG, and 1.0 AST in six games. 

Addam M. Francisco

Founder & Editor-in-Chief. National Association of Black Journalists. University of Central Oklahoma.

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