Bucks crowned NBA champions
The Milwaukee Bucks won their first NBA championship since 1971 last week, defeating the Phoenix Suns in six games. It was a remarkable performance from Giannis Antetokounmpo that sealed the series, as he became the sixth player to score 50 points in a Finals game.
It was the second time Milwaukee overcame a 2-0 series deficit, previously coming back to beat the Nets in a 7-game thriller. They never backed down from a challenge and the hunger of Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton prevailed.
Antetokounmpo was named Finals MVP after three games with 40+ points. He joins LeBron James and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the only players to win an MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, and Finals MVP award.
After a brutal injury in the Eastern Conference Finals, it seemed like Giannis would joining a long list of star players to miss time with an injury, but the Greek Freak made a remarkable recovery and helped Milwaukee advance to the finals.
Not enough can be said about Antetokounmpo’s journey. After making money as a street vendor in Greece, he and his brothers found a path to fame through basketball, and now three of them hold NBA titles.
Now Giannis and the Bucks can look forward to a daring title defense, as plenty of challengers in the East and West are starving for a chance at a championship.
Nets need finishing touches on roster
There’s no doubt the Bucks championship will make Nets fans bitter, as they fell in seven games, beaten in overtime in their own home.
The Nets were pegged as favorites for the title, especially after the Lakers fell in the 1st round. They will likely be favored again next season, as Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden look ahead to their first full season together. Brooklyn set a franchise record .667 winning percentage (48-24 in the shortened season), with the Big Three only taking the floor together 8 times in the regular season.
The glaring issues with the Nets were their lack of depth at guard and center and inexperience at the helm in Steve Nash’s first year as coach.
Brooklyn would love to see a breakout season from Nic Claxton, the athletic big man entering his third season. Increasing his strength and longevity should earn him plenty of minutes next year.
It may be a pipe dream to bring back guard Spencer Dinwiddie. Brooklyn could offer his desired 5yr/$100M deal, but it’s more likely they deal him in a sign-and-trade or let him walk.
Brooklyn will also need role players to deliver in the postseason. The bench is a big part of a championship roster, and the Nets need to improve theirs if they want to win their first NBA title.
With the right tweaks and Nash growing more comfortable in his 2nd year, the Nets should be playing deep into the playoffs.
Knicks need a star to take the next step
The Knicks blew away all expectations this season as they finished as the East’s 4th seed. Unfortunately they only picked up one postseason win, their only one since 2013, as they fell to the Atlanta Hawks.
While New York’s rebuild was progressing well, nobody expected them to make the jump this season. A remarkable year by Julius Randle earned him the Most Improved award, and Tom Thibodeau was great at the helm, winning Coach of the Year.
It’s clear that the Knicks are in a prime position to attract stars to the lights of Madison Square Garden after losing a lot of that appeal over the last decade. The Nets were able to use a playoff appearance to help lure Durant and Irving to Brooklyn, and the Knicks could do the same.
The name tossed around the most is Trail Blazers superstar Damian Lillard, though there’s no confirmation he’ll be leaving Portland. It would take a massive package to land him, including multiple 1st round picks and players like RJ Barrett or Obi Toppin.
The Knicks have plenty of cap space to pick up a strong option in free agency. Grabbing Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, or even Lonzo Ball could give them help at guard.
The Knicks were a top defensive team last season, now they just need the offensive power to put them past opponents. New York made a lot of noise this year, and now they can keep progressing and earn the respect they’re hungry for.