2021 NFL Divisional Round Playoff Predictions

By Saransh Sharma & Rohan Krishnan

The 2021 Super Wild Card Weekend was one of the most memorable ones in recent memory. We saw Tom Brady set up Brady-Brees III, Taylor Heinicke had the performance of his life and maybe the best quarterback performance of the Wild Card Weekend in Washington’s loss to Tampa. We saw Buffalo and Cleveland break their playoff win droughts, a Nickelodeon NFL game, the Rams run the Seahawks out of Seattle, and Lamar Jackson got his first playoff win as Baltimore got their revenge against Tennessee. This weekend should set up one of the most Divisional Rounds in recent memory, with many young, up-and-coming superstar QB in the AFC and legendary QBs in the NFC. Here are our predictions for the Divisional Round:

AFC Divisional Round

#6 Cleveland Browns @ #1 Kansas City Chiefs

Saransh’s Prediction: Cleveland just came off of what may have been their biggest playoff win in team history with their upset victory over the Steelers, and what a display they put on. With great defensive play all night to give the offense short fields to work with, along with the poise of Baker Mayfield and the running game from Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb, this Browns team proved how legit they are. The Browns proved to be a team that could give Kansas City problems. In Kansas City’s first loss of the year to the Raiders, the Raiders grossly outrushed the Chiefs, which ultimately led to the win, as every other stat was almost identical for both teams. Despite that, the Chiefs offense will have all their cannons out ready to fire, and the Browns offense will have much more work to do than they had on Sunday Night. Chiefs win, but the Browns keep it very close. Final Score: 37-34, Chiefs

Rohan’s Prediction: What a win for the Cleveland Browns, getting their first playoff victory in 25 years! Cleveland dominated the Steelers with almost no practice and their head coach in quarantine. They showed they can overcome adversity and find ways to win games shorthanded. However, they are about to face a very well-rested Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, and the Kansas City Chiefs on the road with 17,000+ fans in attendance. The Browns secondary will get torn apart, and this game will not be close. Browns fans should be proud of their season and have a lot to look forward to in the future. Final Score: 41-20, Chiefs

#5 Baltimore Ravens @ #2 Buffalo Bills

Saransh’s Prediction: Two of the most electrifying QBs in the league, Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen, have led their teams to this position, along with great weapons around them and defenses to complement them as well. This game is calling for 1-3 inches of snow on Saturday, and Lamar Jackson said earlier this week that he has never played in the snow and hopes not to. That to me is all the difference, as that, coupled with Bills Mafia in the stands, boosts the Bills to victory. Final Score: 24-17, Bills

Rohan’s Prediction: Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen, both getting their first playoff win last weekend, are a pair of thrilling dual-threat playmakers, which makes this matchup very exciting. Both teams are evenly matched and had very hot finishes to the regular season. Baltimore did a fantastic job containing Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry last week, but this week will have a more difficult test against the electric Buffalo offense. I anticipate a down-to-the-wire game, but Buffalo will come out on top by controlling Baltimore in the red zone. The weather will be in favor of Buffalo too, and Lamar does not have experience playing. Final Score: 23-20, Bills

NFC Divisional Round

#6 Los Angeles Rams @ #1 Green Bay Packers

Saransh’s Prediction: The hype around the Rams defense is legit, and they are the undisputed best defensive group in all of football, but against the best offense, led by arguably the most talented quarterback in NFL history in Aaron Rodgers, and all of his pass-catching options, at some point the Rams defense will bend enough to the point where Rodgers makes them break. Davante Adams and Jalen Ramsey will have the most exciting WR-CB matchup we have seen in ages, but Rodgers will keep the Packers’ offense afloat. That, along with the uncertainty of Jared Goff at QB, who will be asked to throw late in the game, and in the cold, possibly-snowy winter wonderland of Lambeau Field, that should propel Green Bay to the win. Final Score: 28-14, Packers

Rohan’s Prediction: The best defense in the league against the best offense in the league, what more could you ask for? No NFL team has scored more points in the regular season than the Packers, while the Rams defense is responsible for most of the team’s wins. The Rams have the issue of having both Jared Goff and Aaron Donald banged up coming into this game. Dealing with injuries to these key players will be a headache for Sean McVay and his squad, along with the icy conditions, nothing like that nice Los Angeles weather. That said, I feel an upset brewing. Even though MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers has been on a tear, I think the Rams secondary can contain Davante Adams and the rest of the receivers. Also, the Packers will be missing All-Pro David Bakhtiari, which is a concern against the team that leads the NFL in sacks (53). Rams will shock the world and play in the NFC Championship for the 2nd time in 3 years. Final Score: 26-23, Rams

#5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ #2 New Orleans Saints

Saransh’s Prediction: Brees vs. Brady, Part III, live on The History Channel. Well, that is a joke but has become viral on Twitter during the past few days. All jokes aside, this matchup has the legacies of Brady and Brees on the line, as Brady losing three times in one season to Brees could put a bit of a dent on his legacy, especially now that he is in Tampa as opposed to New England, where the competition was typically much younger and less experienced. Both times these teams have played, Brees has calmly picked apart the Buccaneer defense, Alvin Kamara has done his thing on the ground, and the elite front-seven has fooled Brady and forced mistakes. While Tampa Bay may have figured out how to beat Washington’s elite front-seven, them doing it twice in a row, is unlikely. I expect Brees to have a very similar game to the one he had against the Bears last week, where he constantly found Michael Thomas and led the Saints on methodical, clock-chewing drives. Final Score: 30-21, Saints


Rohan’s Prediction:  This game should be a memorable one as it will be the last time we will see Drew Brees and Tom Brady face off head to head. The Saints have swept the Buccaneers in the regular season by a combined 72-26 score. New Orleans has an elite defense and showed that when they held the Bears to 9 points and the Bucs to just 3 points in their most recent matchup. Meanwhile, the Buccaneers managed to take care of Washington but it was not easy by any means, and it went down-to-the-wire. On paper, the Saints have the better defense, better offensive line, and know-how to win games against elite opponents. However, you can never count out Tom Brady, who has the most impressive playoff resume and has weapons like Evans, Gronk, Godwin, and AB. I expect this to be a close game, but the Saints will come out victorious thanks to their defense and controlling the clock. Final Score: 33-28, Saints

2021 NFL Super Wild Card Predictions

By Saransh Sharma, Rohan Krishnan, & Pranav Thiriveedhi

For the first time in the NFL’s history, we will be seeing a playoff with 14 teams, as opposed to the usual 12 teams, with each conference having 7 representatives, and one team in each conference receiving a bye week, bringing us our first-ever Super Wild Card Weekend, where we get to see 6 games between Saturday and Sunday played to decide who moves throughout the playoffs. Here are our predictions for who will prevail in the Super Wild Card.

AFC Predictions

#7 Indianapolis Colts @ #2 Buffalo Bills

Saransh’s Prediction: The Buffalo Bills have at times looked like the scariest team in the NFL not named the Kansas City Chiefs, and it is no secret as to why. Josh Allen has played like an MVP candidate all year and drastically improved and like the Chiefs with their QB-Receiver duo of Mahomes and Kelce, Allen has found his duo partner in Stefon Diggs, who was acquired this past offseason. 

Meanwhile, for the Colts, they signed QB Philip Rivers to a 1-year, $21M deal, which surprised many, but his consistent play in the late-season stretch, along with the elite defense, helped Indianapolis secure the 7-seed in the AFC. This game features two defenses that have been hot for the majority of the season, but the Bills’ offense is far superior and more consistent than that of the Colts, propelling them to a win. Final Score: 31-21, Bills

Pranav’s Prediction: The Buffalo Bills are your AFC East Champions! That is something the world has not been heard in over 20 years, but after an upsetting season from the New England Patriots, who placed 3rd in the division, the Bills not only filled the seat but also took the #2 seed in the AFC conference. The Bills are a scary team on all sides of the ball. A very dynamic yet work-in-progress quarterback Josh Allen is the leader for arguably the best wide receiver core in the league. Stefon Diggs, the NFL’s leader for receiving yards and receptions, is finally on a team with a quarterback that can reach his ceiling. 

On the other side, the Indianapolis Colts have proven to be an excellent team, especially with their destructive defense. They ranked first or second in the categories that matter, including points and rushing yards allowed. Matching up a weaker secondary against a strong suited receiving core, though, could prove to make the difference in a win or loss. The Bills are going to take the dub here, but watch out for the Colts next year. 

Final Score: 38-31 Bills

Rohan’s Prediction: The Bills will be hosting their first playoff game in 24 years! A lot has changed for the franchise as they have returned to relevance thanks to HC Sean McDermott, GM Brandon Beane, and MVP candidate Josh Allen. Allen has shattered franchise records this year, throwing for 4,544 yards and 37 touchdowns. Stefon Diggs, who was acquired in a trade this past offseason, was a big part of that and became Buffalo’s first player to lead the NFL in catches (127) and yards receiving (1,535). Furthermore, the Bills are perhaps the hottest team in the NFL as they are winners of six straight to end the regular season. 

On the other side, Phillip Rivers, who was signed on a 1-year deal, is a veteran passer who can take the offense down the field. He needs to hit on all cylinders Saturday and put the ball into the endzone as the Bills’ offense is dangerous. The run game and defense are the highlights of this Colts squad. The defensive unit is fantastic and has not allowed more than 90 rushing yards in any of the last five games. Furthermore, Jonathan Taylor is a joy to watch and became the third rookie in Colts history to have 1,000-plus rushing yards and 10-plus rushing TDs in a season. The run game will be key to the Colts victory, and if they can find leaps of success, they can pull off the upset. The Bills defense is poor against the run but tightened up recently and has played much better in the 2nd half of the season. It will be a close battle, but the hot Bills will take this one and get their first playoff win since 1995. Final Score: 24-16 Bills

#6 Cleveland Browns @ #3 Pittsburgh Steelers

Saransh’s Prediction: If the Cleveland Browns did not have their head coach, along with four other players out for this game due to them having tested positive for COVID-19 or having been in close contact with those that did test positive, I would pick Cleveland, but without them, especially without your head coach, that will be a difficult task. Pittsburgh started as maybe the most underwhelming team ever to start a season with 10+ wins and be undefeated, with losses to the Washington Football Team, Buffalo Bills, and Cincinnati Bengals, and big losses at that proved exactly why. The offense was simple and easy to figure out for defenses after a while, there was no run game, and the defense never missed a beat all year, until that Washington game. 

Cleveland, meanwhile, looked like they were headed for a bit of a downfall when they had gotten their season back on track, but then Odell Beckham Jr. tore his ACL, but they found themselves finishing the season 11-5 and having a Week 17 rematch with the Steelers as their Wild Card matchup. This game will come down to the wire and Cleveland will earn the respect of the NFL, but Pittsburgh will take advantage of the players out for Cleveland. Final Score: 34-27, Steelers

Pranav’s Prediction: Cleveland is going into their first playoff game in a very long time. That is hard to win with a team that has no playoff experience. Cleveland is going into their first playoff game without their head coach, without their best player [Odell Beckham Jr], and four other players. The Browns are an exceptional team who have proved to show that they are not quitters. They have the guts and talent to win games against any team. But being matched up against their division rivals, who they barely beat after the Steelers rested many starters, is not a welcoming entry into the playoffs. 

I have to congratulate them for doing what would have been the impossible two years ago, and even though they possess the running power to beat many teams. The Pittsburgh defense, along with Cleveland’s vacancy in the head coach position will cost the Browns their first playoff win in a long time. 

Final Score: 28-13, Steelers

Rohan’s Prediction: Browns fans have been waiting nearly two decades for their team to return to the playoffs, and it finally happened. Sadly, Cleveland will be without COTY candidate Kevin Stefanski, safety Ronnie Harrison, and LG Joel Bitonio, the longest-tenured player on the team and made three consecutive Pro Bowls. They could also be without tight end Harrison Bryant and cornerback Denzel Ward as they are still on the COVID-19 list. Moreover, the team has not practiced all week and their facility remains closed, which is brutal for Cleveland considering the magnitude of this game. 

It is difficult for me to pick Cleveland to win here despite the Steelers finishing the season 1-4. To be fair, Pittsburgh took Cleveland to the final minutes in Week 17 without Ben Roethlisberger, TJ Watt, and Cam Heyward. The Steelers will win this one comfortably. Unfortunately for Browns fans, they will have to wait a little longer for a playoff win. Final Score: 24-13 Steelers

#5 Baltimore Ravens @ #4 Tennessee Titans

Saransh’s Prediction: The whole ‘Lamar Jackson is 0-2 in the playoffs’ narrative has been the biggest topic of discussion coming into this matchup, but the real talk should be about how the Titans beat them in the playoffs last year, and that this year they may be even better. Titans RB Derrick Henry rushed for over 2,000 yards this season, Ryan Tannehill had a career-high in passing TDs and won 11 games and the AFC South, and Mike Vrabel continues to be one of the NFL’s premier coaches. 

One big advantage that Tennessee has had is to have fans (14,500 total) since October. Having fans during the playoffs will give them a true home-field advantage. The Ravens defensive line will do their job to stop Henry, but it will come down to which QB will make more big plays, and I will take the most underrated QB in football in Ryan Tannehill, in what should be the most exciting game of the weekend. Final Score: 41-37, Titans

Pranav’s Prediction: I agree with Saransh that Tennessee is a good team, but Baltimore is better on paper. I will wait for him to prove that Lamar Jackson truly is a playoff quarterback so I will keep this short and sweet. Final Score: 28-21, Titans

Rohan’s Prediction: The Titans stunned the Ravens in last year’s postseason and the Ravens are looking to get their revenge, this time in Tennessee. This will be an exciting matchup as two of the NFL’s most explosive offenses go head-to-head, with the spotlight being on Lamar Jackson and Derrick Henry. Tennessee built off of last year’s playoff run and got better this year. Derrick Henry had another impressive 2,000 rushing yard season, and Ryan Tannehill had the best season of his career, throwing for a career-high 33 touchdowns and leading the Titans to an 11-5 record. The receiving core of AJ Brown and Corey Davis is no joke, and the Titans defense is very talented. 

Meanwhile, the hungry Ravens are looking to redeem themselves and are entering the playoffs on a 5-game winning streak. Lamar Jackson endured a midseason slump but bounced back in December thanks in part to an easy schedule. The Ravens also have a great rushing attack like the Titans, averaging 191.9 yards per game with Jackson, rookie J.K. Dobbins, and Gus Edwards. I think it will come down to the defenses. Baltimore has a far superior defense, and the Titans just gave up 38 points to a Texans team that had nothing to play for. The defenses will prove to be the deciding factor, and the Ravens will come out on top this time around. Final Score: 34-30 Ravens

NFC Predictions

#7 Chicago Bears @ #2 New Orleans Saints

Saransh’s Prediction: Alvin Kamara tweeted on Thursday evening ‘See y’all Sunday,’ signaling to fans, as well as the Chicago Bears, that he should be back on Sunday evening after having tested positive for COVID-19 last Saturday. Chicago’s offense has been explosive as of late, and Drew Brees has had his playoff struggles the past few years, but with the return of both Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas, Chicago may not have much of a chance. Final Score: 38-28, Saints

Pranav’s Prediction: This is a very complicated game for me to predict. On one side, the New Orleans Saints are a heavily talented team on both sides of the football, but even with Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas returning to the lineup, Drew Brees has not played like his former self. I think a strong Chicago defense can step up and steal a few possessions from the Saints. While I do not believe an inexperienced Mitch Trubisky will be enough to take down the Saints, I will call the upset thanks to that defense.

Final Score: 17-14, Bears

Rohan’s Prediction: Alvin Kamara is a huge factor here. He is currently on the COVID-19 list but the Saints are hopeful that he plays and he recently tweeted “See y’all Sunday”, suggesting that he plays. Drew Brees loves to depend on Kamara, who leads the Saints with 83 receptions, and Brees still looks shaky after returning from his rib injury. 

The Bears and Saints met in the regular season and went into overtime, but things are different this time around. Mitchell Trubisky is now the starting quarterback for the Bears, and both Drew Brees and Michael Thomas are back for the Saints. The Bears defense is elite and is among the best at stopping their opponent’s wide receivers, but I do not see their offense giving enough firepower to win this game. With Michael Thomas back and Kamara likely to play, I think the Saints will move on. Final Score: 26-10 Saints

#6 Los Angeles Rams @ #3 Seattle Seahawks

Saransh’s Prediction: What if I told you that since Week 11, the Seattle Seahawks had the #1 scoring defense in the NFL? After the historic start to the season for the offense, setting multiple scoring records and such, the defense was on pace to a historically tragic start, and at one point could have allowed the most yards per game on average. The return of Jamal Adams and the trade for Carlos Dunlap has changed the fortune of this defense and has made them lights-out, but their offense has sputtered since. The offense that could once put up 30+ effortlessly every week can barely even score 20, and this Rams defense that ended the season as the #1 defense in the NFL will hold that Seahawk offense in check, but potentially without QB Jared Goff or Jared Goff at 100%, the Rams defense may be asked of too much, and we all know that Russell Wilson and this offense always finds a way. Final Score: 23-20, Seahawks

Pranav’s Prediction: Is it just me, or has the Seattle Seahawks offense been playing badly recently. So bad that the defense that once was atrocious is now winning them games. I like Russell Wilson, but he has not been meeting any marginal expectations, regardless of his record. A strong Rams defense against a weaker Seattle offense will sputter points for Seattle, and an explosive offense (even if Goff does not start) will be the deciding factor for whether the Rams can pull off the playoff upset. But for my prediction, I will be taking the Rams. 

Final Score: 21-20, Rams

Rohan’s Prediction: The Seahawks got off to a hot start to begin the season, but the offense, led by Russell Wilson, started to run out of gas and became inconsistent. The defense, however, is the complete opposite, as the unit is improving and was responsible for the Seahawks winning 6 of their last 7 to finish the year. No matter what the records were, games between these two teams were always tight, and I expect a close game once again. The Rams have an elite defense and held Wilson and the Seahawks’ offense in check in both games. 

A player to keep an eye on is quarterback Jared Goff who did not play in Week 17 due to a thumb injury and is questionable for this wild-card matchup. The problem with Los Angeles is poor QB play, limiting their potential. Even though Goff has had a subpar year, he is better than backup John Wolford and gives them the best chance to win. Due to the inconsistencies at quarterback for the Rams, I am going to go with the Seahawks here. Final Score: 20-14 Seahawks

#5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ #4 Washington Football Team

Saransh’s Prediction: The Washington Football Team, who would have thought that after everything they endured, such as Alex Smith’s near-death injury, Ron Rivera’s battle with cancer, Dwayne Haskins being one of the most immature football players of recent memory, and a major scandal involving owner Dan Snyder, that the Washington Football Team would host a playoff game? Well, not any of us, as you can see from our preseason predictions. The NFC East was not great, but teams like Washington and New York both played better than what their record shows. Washington sports the #2 defense in the NFL with the most intimidating front-4 that we have seen since ‘Sacksonville’ in 2016. Alex Smith is 5-1 as a starter, and even without the most impressive numbers, one thing that has stayed consistent with him is that he is a winner. He battled back to the playing field, and Ron Rivera, who battled through cancer, got this team from 2-7 and the bottom of the division to the playoffs. 

Meanwhile, the Bucs acquired Tom Brady, and they have had a mostly consistent season, with most of their mishaps coming in primetime games against strong blitz defenses, which bodes well for Washington. Brady also may not have Mike Evans, but Antonio Brown, Chris Godwin, and Rob Gronkowski are plenty to work with. Washington’s defense will pressure Brady all night and slow down this offense, but the Bucs defense, who has been solid all season, should slow down the injured Alex Smith, and backup QB Taylor Heinicke. It will be a slugfest, but Tampa should pull it out. Crazier things have happened, however. Final Score: 24-22, Buccaneers

Pranav’s Prediction: The Washington Football Team has a top-five defense that is like none other, and Chase Young is my vote for DROY, but their offense is atrocious compared to any other playoff team. I know the saying, “Offense wins games, Defense wins championships,” but a 7-9 Washington Football Team that doesn’t even possess a mascot, has not won a sufficient amount of games to show me that they belong in the playoffs, regardless of how the playoffs work. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the far better team here. With future HoF quarterback Tom Brady, who is the greatest of all time, and a crazy offense to counterpart (even without Mike Evans), Washington’s defense is like a wall with a big door. Tampa Bay also has a top-10 defense to complement themselves as well. And against a weak WFT offense, who will not move the ball, expect a playoff blowout Saturday night.

Final Score: 38-7, Buccaneers

Rohan’s Prediction: You could say that Washington only made the playoffs due to how atrocious the NFC East is, but they are the best team in the East, and it is very impressive how big of a leap they made from last season to this season. Ron Rivera is a Coach of the Year candidate, fighting cancer at the beginning of the season and taking Washington from 2-7 to 7-9 and a division title. They also have the Comeback Player of the Year, Alex Smith, who has inspired millions of people with his road back from his devastating injury and was a big part in taking the team to the playoffs. 
Washington’s defense is tremendous, ranking 2nd in the NFL, with a phenomenal pass rush that should force a lot of pressure on Brady this weekend. However, this is going to be a tough task as the Buccaneers have a crazy loaded offense that has Tom Brady coming off a 40 touchdown season. They arguably have the best receiving core consisting of Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski, and potentially Mike Evans will be a handful for Washington’s secondary. Also, Alex Smith is still nursing a calf injury that has affected the offense as a whole. Washington’s run game, headlined by Antonio Gibson, keeps the offense alive, but Tampa has the number-1 ranked rushing defense. WFT has the defense to make this a battle and shock the world, but I feel that their offense just will not give enough to win. Tampa takes this one. Final Score: 31-20 Buccaneers

2020, The Most Unthinkable Year In Sports

By Saransh Sharma, Pranav Thiriveedhi, Anish Dhondi, Rohan Krishnan, & Nikhil Pradeep

2020, who saw this coming? A worldwide pandemic, systemic racism across the world, an election that tore people apart from each other, horrifying tragedies, yet through all the challenges we faced, all the sacrifices every one of us made, we, whether we know it or not, prevailed. We grew braver, grew an appreciation and gratitude for the people we had, the objects we possessed, the values we hold. One of the biggest things that kept us going all year was sports. Whether it was an ugly Sunday Night Football game between the Eagles and Cowboys, an NBA Bubble playoff game, whatever the spectacle may have been, sports brought people together, and at times, made us escape the reality we were facing in our world. We saw the power athletes had not just through playing their sports, but with their voices, with their actions, with their perseverance, that it inspired us to do the same, and it lifted us during these difficult times. Here are some of the monumental moments that we saw in 2020:

The Day Sports Came to a Halt by Saransh Sharma

On August 26th, 2020, we saw the Milwaukee Bucks boycott their first-round playoff game against the Orlando Magic in response to the shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old black man who was shot 7 times in the back and killed while unarmed in Kenosha, Wisconsin, just 30 miles away from Milwaukee. The fallout led to the cancellation of two other NBA playoff games that day. The rest of the MLB games on that night were postponed, and tennis star Naomi Osaka announced that she would not play in her Western & Southern Open Semifinals match, set for August 27th, the next day. On the 27th, many NFL teams had canceled their practices in tribute to Blake, and all seven major league sports in the United States went to a halt. We also saw the NBA nearly boycott the remainder of the season. Players such as LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard favored the motion to boycott unless a plan to keep the conversations to help end racial injustice. A plan was put in place by the NBA of initiatives to support throughout the NBA bubble, and thanks to the help of Former President Barack Obama, the NBA was able to get back and continue the season.

These actions led to many players having their forms of silent protest before their games or matches, such as taking a knee during the National Anthem, wearing a mask or shirt with the names of victims killed by police due to racial injustice across the country. Overall, it brought more awareness to the injustices going around our country into the sports world, as fans learned of the importance to push for changes for this country. Had it not been for the events that transpired on August 26th, which led to a full day without any sports nationwide on the 27th, we as a country would be in a much different position.

NBA Season Dropped for the Second Time in the Last Ten Years by Pranav Thiriveedhi

In 2011, the NBA season under commissioner David Stern saw a league-wide lockout, allowing for the absence of professional basketball across the country. Many people thought that the issues present under David Stern would not be a problem under incumbent commissioner Adam Silver, but on March 11th, 2020, the NBA season was suspended. Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz All-Star Center and two-time Defensive Players of the Year tested positive for COVID-19, leading to the postponement of their game against the OKC Thunder. Gobert’s positive test led to the indefinite suspension of the 2019-2020 NBA season. Word of this terrible news spread like fire across the United States, even while NBA games were being played that day. Dallas Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban, was devastated to hear about the season suspension moments after coming out with a win over the Denver Nuggets. With so much emotion and tragedy going across the NBA world, and even after the news of Kobe Bryant’s death, the suspended season was the worst thing for many to hear. 

But we are not quitters. The coronavirus pandemic has affected every single person not only around the country but around the world, making us rethink and reinvent our old ways. After the NBA’s indefinite hiatus, and after a struggle to make it work, on June 4th, the NBA board of governors approved for the resume of the season in a competitive bubble format on July 30th, 2020. And you guys know how the rest went. The Orlando bubble proved to be very successful, all the way from the last eight regular-season games to the NBA finals, which helped show that the 2019-2020 NBA season was the most historic and craziest professional basketball season ever. 

The ‘Flex My House’ NFL Draft by Rohan Krishnan

The National Football League was preparing to have their annual draft at Las Vegas this year, and the plans were so extravagant that it included a stage on the water at Bellagio Fountains. Players would be taken by boat to the main stage to be drafted. This spectacle would have made for one of the most memorable drafts of recent memory. Due to the pandemic, however, it became a TV-only event. Roger Goodell, the league commissioner, started the Draft from his basement and behind him was a huge video screen, showing the fans for each team and reactions from players and their families. It was a weird experience for prospects and fans as they did not get to walk up to a stage and get the customary hug from Goodell. Nothing is the same without a huge crowd to cheer or boo for their team’s selection. However, the first night had stellar ratings, drawing a record 15.6 million viewers.

The NFL did a fantastic job of not having any technical issues and proved that in the face of a crisis, a Draft can be done from home. It was also fun to see the memes pop up on social media, giving plenty of memorable moments. Roger Goodell looked like he was about to fall asleep on Day 2 of the Draft, Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury did the Draft from his $4.45 million mansion, as he dunked on everyone else’s draft setup, and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was chilling on his yacht. Watching the event was a welcome distraction for all fans across the country since it was one of the very few live sporting events since the pandemic started in mid-March. It was also special to watch the draft prospects hanging out at home with their loved ones and showing their reactions to the world as they start a new chapter in their lives. 

The Struggle of the Bubble by Anish Dhondi

After the NBA shut down in March, the NBA planned its way back to a restart in July. The process was strange for both players and fans. The world had to go months without sports, one of the largest forms of entertainment. When the NBA restarted again, players were in an unorthodox situation. They were restricted to their hotel ‘bubble’ in Orlando, where after they played games, they could see their opponents walking around in the same bubble, which gave a unique experience. The style of the game also changed with no fans, the games for the players were very quiet. Watching on TV, we did not notice as much as they add in fan audio, but the players could hear every little thing that they all were saying. This led to players on the bench getting more technical would than usual, as any chatter on the bench could be heard very clearly by the referees. At the end of the NBA Playoffs and Finals, the Los Angeles Lakers were the NBA Champions. Strangely, people will find any reason to discredit a LeBron James ring, calling it a ‘Mickey Mouse Ring.’ In reality, winning the championship was more difficult than fans realize. Portland Trail Blazers star, Damian Lillard, came out and said that playing in the bubble was a lot harder competition-wise. Traditionally, the season and playoffs require a lot of traveling to satisfy homecourt advantages along with other distractions, Dame said that in the ‘bubble life’ was just eat, sleep, and ball. NBA players were also fully rested as they did not have to deal with any travel or jet lag and could recover their bodies for the next game much faster than usual. Overall, the bubble was a huge success, with no positive cases that required a second shutdown. Credit to Adam Silver, one of the best, if not the best commissioner in sports, for creating the safest environment possible for players and teams. After this strange bubble experience, it was not over for 2020. 

The 2020-21 NBA season had to begin to avoid future seasons from being delayed. Teams that played in the bubble received the shortest offseason (72 days for the defending champion Lakers) of all-time, while players outside of the bubble received the longest. The shortened offseason has resulted in players taking additional rest during the regular season to avoid injuries, like Westbrook, Kyrie, Kawhi, and Kevin Durant periodically sitting out games. No fans, along with the difference in rest have made a big difference, as teams that received the most rest are seemingly starting the season on fire. The Magic and the Cavs are surprise teams in the East who were well-rested and started the season with wins that no one expected. In the bubble, we saw a whole different type of play from some players who went off like TJ Warren, Devin Booker, and Damian Lillard with no fans to cheer or boo at them. As many described, it felt like playing at an empty practice gym. 

As the vaccine is slowly getting pushed out, I truly hope that the NBA can start incorporating fans into the games safely because, without fans, the game does not feel as exciting to watch or play.

A New Injury Designation in the NFL by Nikhil Pradeep

Most avid viewers of the NFL know that injuries are simply part of the game, and no matter how far medical and biophysical science goes to improve safety equipment, that fact is not going to change. The sheer amount of force, power, and most importantly, the heart that NFL players play with is just too much for injuries not to be an integral part of the league. In 2020 however, a new type of injury designation showed up in the game-day rosters and fantasy team news articles for those associated with the NFL: the COVID-19 identifier. In these unprecedented times, there were insane circumstances that left NFL general managers scratching their heads and fantasy football players livid. The prime example that inevitably will go down in history is the Denver Broncos having no available QBs to play Week 12 against the New Orleans Saints, a situation that some believe to be poorly handled by the league office and commissioner. There was no exception granted to the Broncos after having pleaded their case for excruciating circumstances, with the game played with Kendall Hilton, a practice squad wide receiver, at quarterback. The result of the game needs no explanation, but the event itself shows the frailty of the NFL’s plan to get their league running again during the time of this virus. Couple this with the league’s handling of the Ravens’ multiple weeks long COVID-19 spread, which resulted in the shifting of games throughout the weekend schedule, and you start to see how bad of a job the league did in handling this year’s rollout of the NFL season. Compare this to the NBA bubble that was deemed a complete success by many within the media, and you begin to wonder how Roger Goddell and his team thought their plan would suffice in the first place.

But we are talking about 2020, and anything that could have happened did happen this year. All things considered, it might have been necessary to play this year and steamroll through multiple COVID-19 cases to even have a league to play in for years in the future. The NFL is by no means a graceful sport, and maybe the methods the league office takes to run it are the same way. All in all, there were not an absurd amount of cases, especially not an amount that endangered a significant portion of people’s lives, and it resulted in a rather entertaining season in a rather dreadful year. On the positive side of things, there were not games completely canceled, all 256 games were fully played. That being said, there are ways to improve the handling of an unforeseen event like this in the future. The NFL will not be praised for their forward-thinking in handling this virus, but at the end of the day, the league, players, and personnel will all benefit.

The NFC (L)East: The Worst Competitive Division Ever

By Saransh Sharma, Rohan Krishnan, and Pranav Thiriveedhi

The NFC East’s current leader, the Philadelphia Eagles, has a half-game lead over the other 3 teams in the division, who are in a 3-way tie for second place in the division. These teams must be good, right? Well, they certainly are competitive, and they have had their fair share of injuries, unlucky losses, roster changes, blowouts, coaching turmoil, and everything in between. All of these teams have 3 wins, with the Eagles only having a half-game lead over the rest of the division due to the tie they had with the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 3. This week has some big division games coming, with the Cowboys hosting Washington on Thanksgiving Day, the Giants playing the Bengals, and the Eagles hosting the Seahawks on Monday Night Football. Here are our predictions for who wins the NFC East:

Current NFC East Standings:

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (3-6-1), Division Record: (2-2)
  2. New York Giants (3-7), Division Record: (3-2)
  3. Washington Football Team (3-7), Division Record (2-2)
  4. Dallas Cowboys (3-7), Division Record (1-2)

Saransh’s NFC East Winner: Washington Football Team

Washington Remaining Schedule: @ Cowboys (3-7), @ Steelers (10-0), @ 49ers (4-6) vs. Seahawks (7-3), vs. Panthers (4-7), @ Eagles (3-6-1)

Yes, I am a Washington fan, but no, I am not saying this in a biased sense. Right now, of the 4 starting quarterbacks in the NFC East, the one quarterback that I trust most to not turn the football over and make poor decisions, win games, and use their experience to their advantage, is none other than Alex Smith. For New York, Daniel Jones has shown improvement over a 2-game stretch, where they played Washington and Philadelphia, but is still a turnover machine. For Dallas, Andy Dalton is still shaky and does not have the best chemistry with all of the Cowboys’ WRs, although he has a very nice connection with CeeDee Lamb and Dalton Schultz. And lastly, for Philadephia, Carson Wentz has the clock ticking on him as the starter in Philadelphia. Alex Smith is a born winner, and when he had come into Washington, he was at the time in the top-5 in terms of winningest active QBs at the time (2018). Then, of course, the gruesome leg injury happened which nearly ended his career and his ability to ever walk again, yet he is here on a football field, inspiring the young Washington Football Team to be in winning situations and even win games, something that has not been seen in Washington for years. Alex Smith may never be even half of what he was as a QB before his injury, but he is still a winner and a leader, and the other quarterbacks in the division are not showing that right now. On top of that, Terry McLaurin has been unreal and is easily the most underrated wide receiver in the entire league, but most of all has been another great leader on the field and in the locker room.

The defense, who are middle-of-the-pack against the run, is ranked #1 in the NFL against the pass and 3rd in sacks. Having guys like rookie sensation Chase Young be double and even triple-teamed at times, has allowed the rest of the front seven, like Jonathan Allen, DaRon Payne, and Ryan Kerrigan, to get constant pressure along with Young. Then there is the secondary, led by cornerbacks Kendall Fuller and Ronald Darby, who have quietly led the #1 pass defense in the entire NFL. To be fair, the stats are misleading, as this defense has had some big games, such as their 7-sack performance in Week 1 against the Eagles, but also poor games, like giving up 30 points to a Lions offense without Kenny Golladay. If they can find even the slightest bit of consistency, as the offense is beginning to show now under Alex Smith, this team can win the games they should win, and do enough to win the division.

Washington should beat Dallas on Thanksgiving and should beat the Eagles to complete the season sweep to finish 4-2 in the NFC East overall. Outside of that, Carolina should be a win, and a sneaky win could come against the 49ers, who will be without George Kittle and most likely also Jimmy Garoppolo. Without the 49ers win, they would finish 6-10, and they would finish 7-9 with it. Either way, I do not think any other NFC East team finishes with more than 5 wins. The Giants, who are the biggest competition to Washington for the division title, have all but two of their remaining games against teams with winning records, and I do not see the Giants doing enough to get past Washington. HC Ron Rivera has battled through cancer this season, and Alex Smith, while being nothing more than an average QB, has still made one of the greatest comebacks from an injury in the history of sports. This team not only could end up being the best in the NFC East when it is all said and done, but also the most inspiring. Whatever happens in this wild division, it will be intriguing (and ugly) to watch, and all of these teams will have their work cut out for them this offseason.

Pranav’s NFC East Winner: New York Giants

New York’s Remaining Schedule: @ Bengals (2-7-1), @ Seahawks (7-3), vs. Cardinals (6-4), vs. Browns (7-3), @ Ravens (6-4), vs. Cowboys (3-7)

Let me start by saying I am a Philadelphia Eagles fan. ‘Go Birds’ and all that stuff, but this year? The Eagles stink, and no single person can be blamed. Sure, Carson Wentz and his disgusting attempt at being a marginally good quarterback, or Doug Pederson and his awful play-calling, have failed miserably, but this is a team problem that is not a one-week fix. Let us face reality here, the Eagles have tried to fix these problems every week, yet nothing has changed. Fans and critics thought it might be because half the team is injured but the truth is the Eagles are not the best in the NFC East, regardless of their place in the division presently. At the beginning of the season, Dallas and Philadelphia split the predictions for winners of the NFC East, but after the injury to Dak Prescott, Dallas doesn’t have a shot. The Philadelphia Eagles, for the last few weeks, have been too quick to crown themselves as the division winners, but now everyone can see that they might have called it too early. They have probably the hardest remaining schedule in the NFC East, playing four Super Bowl contenders in a row: Seattle, Green Bay, New Orleans, and Arizona. 

On the other hand, the dark horse team in the NFC East, the New York Giants, are riding on a few wins. The New York Giants and I hate to say this, are the best team in the division. No one expected them to be anywhere outside of the last place in the division to start the season, and even more after Saquon Barkley’s season-ending injury, but things change. For starters, the Giants have the easiest remaining schedule, and being tied for second is a big help for them because one win already puts them in the driver seat for the East. The Giants are better than the Washington Football Team, having the series sweep. The Giants are also better than the Philadelphia Eagles. Despite having split the season series, the Giants have dominated both matchups with ball control, as they lost their first matchup with Philly due to avoidable penalties. And lastly, the Giants are better than the Dallas Cowboys, and I do not even have to explain. I know I should have no bias as an Eagles fan, but I will never give the Cowboys any love unless they have 1:1 odds to win something.

That being said, the Giants are in the position to take the NFC East, but this is still a division too early to call. We don’t know what is going to happen, or what more (or less) to expect, and to be honest with you, it is not good. All I can say is that none of these teams are going anywhere this season and will be undergoing major changes this offseason. 

Rohan’s NFC East Winner: New York Giants

New York’s Remaining Schedule: @ Bengals (2-7-1), @ Seahawks (7-3), vs. Cardinals (6-4), vs. Browns (7-3), @ Ravens (6-4), vs. Cowboys (3-7)

I am also a Washington fan like Saransh, yet I believe the Giants will come out on top and take the NFC East crown. Joe Judge is doing a solid job in his first year as head coach of the Giants, and the team is making incremental progress game after game. Daniel Jones is starting to pull it together with consecutive no turnover performances, and I trust the Giants defense the most in this division. The Giants defense is ranked 12th in the NFL in scoring average this season, with several standout players, including lockdown cornerback James Bradberry, Blake Martinez, and Leonard Williams. Also, over the last 6 games, the Giants are 3-3 and those three losses are just by 6 points. One of those losses includes the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are viewed by many as Super Bowl contenders. The Giants were playing the best football of any team in the NFC East before their bye, and I think they will get 3 more wins (CIN, CLE, DAL) to win the division. I view Dallas as the biggest competition to the Giants. They have the easiest road as they still get to play each of the East teams once and have opponents like the 49ers and Bengals on their schedule. They have also been very competitive, nearly beating the undefeated Steelers at home and knocking off the Vikings recently on the road. The offense looked solid with Andy Dalton back and Zeke had his best game in a while, totaling over 100 rushing yards for the first time this season. Tony Pollard has also been a nice touch, as he added some quality carries and a TD against the Vikings. They also have a special talent in CeeDee Lamb who is looking like the best rookie receiver in the draft class. However, the Cowboys defense needs to improve, especially their poor secondary. Their run defense is atrocious as well, allowing a whopping 153.8 yards on the ground per game to opposing offenses. 

The Cowboys hopes for winning the NFC East division will likely disappear if their defense is not up for the task. Washington, meanwhile, has a solid chance but a few problems of their own. Let us start with the defense, who was supposed to be one of the best units in the league under DC Jack Del Rio but has not lived up to the hype. By looking at the numbers, you might think that Washington has an above-average defense, however, it’s the complete opposite. Their defensive line has plenty of talent like Chase Young, Montez Sweat, and Daron Payne, but have failed to take advantage of poor offensive lines, which proved to be critical in getting swept by the New York Giants. These losses hurt Washington big time as the Giants now have the tiebreaker. The linebacker core and secondary are both very weak and it showed when they played average offenses like the Lions. However, I also think a better offense would have a positive impact on the defense. The offense is badly underperforming overall, ranked 29th in the league, and Alex Smith is nothing more than an average quarterback. Washington has a bright future with star receiver Terry McLaurin and rookie running back Antonio Gibson, and their offensive line is looking better than expected, but aren’t going to go far with the style and play of this offense. The Thanksgiving game between Washington and Dallas will be very critical, as Washington can take the tiebreaker over Dallas with a win. 

Finally, Philadelphia is terrible, starting with QB Carson Wentz. He currently leads the league in interceptions and is making head-scratching mistakes game after game. Ever since that ACL injury, Wentz has been trending downward and could crash down to the point of no return. Carson is not the only one to blame, though. The coaching staff has regressed, and Head Coach Doug Pederson should be fired this offseason. Veterans like Jason Peters, Alshon Jeffery, and Jalen Mills are on the decline. The Eagles are a dumpster fire and could very well lose out and only win 3 games this season, as they have the toughest remaining schedule in the division. 

This division is all-around terrible, and we might see the worst division winner of all time. The worst record that a playoff team has ever recorded is 7-9 (Seahawks, 2010), and it is hard for me to envision an NFC East team even getting to 7 wins. It is crazy to think that one of these teams is going to host a playoff game. I do see this division coming down to the very last game, however, and that game would be Week 17: Cowboys @ Giants, a winner-take-all game to decide the division. One thing we can all agree on is that the team that makes the playoffs will not go far, and all of these teams have to make major changes this offseason. 

sportsthrills Q&A With NBA Commissioner Adam Silver

By: Pranav Thiriveedhi

The Opportunity With Adam Silver

Recently, I got the opportunity to attend a Zoom call with Commissioner of the NBA, Adam Silver. Adam Silver has been the Commissioner of the NBA since 2014, and he is one of the most respected and most popular executives in all of the sports world, having an amazing relationship with all 30 NBA teams, and the various basketball leagues around the world. The call I had attended was on a specific agenda, regarding the schedule for the NBA in terms of the 2020-2021 schedule and future basketball operations moving forward. A lot of things are coming for the next season, adding onto an already historic season, but here are some questions I was able to get answered during that informative call.

The Q&A With Adam Silver

The first question I asked was geared to spark more than just an answer, but a story. We all know that since the NBA came back to finish the regular season and hold the playoffs in the Orlando bubble, the spread of COVID never affected the players, staff, and teams. The play was easily done, and was very enjoyable, which made the bubble so successful for the NBA. So I had to get an answer for what Adam Silver thought about it.

Q: What do you think was the best part of making the NBA bubble so successful?

A: According to Commissioner Silver, the best part of making the bubble so successful was that they started planning and going through their operations for it early, way in advance than more people thought. The NBA had already started planning for the bubble before the first NBA player, Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz, tested positive for the coronavirus, which started the shutdown of the league. Even before then, the executives and planning teams had already come up with strategies to test for the coronavirus efficiently. This was possible because of the NBA’s amazing relation with China, where the coronavirus broke out first, and with the CBA (Chinese Basketball Association). The NBA was able to see the effects of the coronavirus and the severity of it due to their relation with China, something the United States wasn’t able to see yet. Adam Silver stated they were preparing for something big, but no one expected that this would turn into a global pandemic, but early preparation helped them stay aware that it could be an impending issue especially so early.  

Q: Due to the success of the NBA playoff bubble this year, and the continued issue of the coronavirus, could we see another playoff bubble for the 2020-2021 season?

A: The NBA bubble was one of the best moves by any sports leagues across the world. Many sports and their respective leagues tried to recreate the success of the NBA, which is a supporting fact the bubble was very successful. But, the bubble was the league’s spontaneous move, something that needed to be done when the entire country was in confusion. Now, that containment and experience are more established, and even though the coronavirus case numbers aren’t slowing down, the NBA would be able to effectively plan for the future, whether the coronavirus stays at large or a new pandemic comes along. Silver and the league anticipate that the NBA bubble that we saw from July to October could be a once in a lifetime thing, and most likely will not be a thing for the 2020-2021 NBA season. Of course, the league has a lot to plan for the upcoming season, but the bubble will not be on the agenda.

What We’ve Learned

Something I think I learned not only from the call but from the action of the NBA throughout the last few months is how effective planning and communication is for the success of anything. The NBA took on so many problems and struggles to kickstart the season back up, and they were able to solve these problems and more in such a short time, and set a standard that other major leagues could not get to. Adam Silver and the league have also adapted with their changes to this upcoming season, such as a 72-game schedule, early start to the Draft and to the season, and a play-in, this year with the 7-10 seeds of each conference. It will be interesting to see how effective the NBA’s changes are, and how the teams handle traveling across the country to play their games without the risk of infection. As more time and preparation becomes a factor for the future, the NBA will have a plan to surely add to such a historic season, and I am excited to see what will happen. 

2019-20 NBA Finals Predictions

By Saransh Sharma, Anish Dhondi, & Nikhil Pradeep

The NBA bubble is soon to come to an end, and what a success it has been, and what a thrilling and unexpected Finals we are set to have. A Miami Heat team that is the third team in NBA history to be a 5-seed or lower to make an NBA Finals, against a Los Angeles Lakers team led by former Heat player, LeBron James, who is star-studded and back in their first NBA Finals since 2010. So much is at stake for both franchises, with Miami able to get their 4th ring and have this team be the greatest underdog story in NBA history, and LeBron James on his quest for being the Greatest of All-Time and winning his 4th ring. Here are our predictions for who wins this highly-anticipated NBA Finals:

Saransh’s Prediction

NBA Finals: (1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (5) Miami Heat

As a Heat fan myself, this is beyond my wildest expectations for this season. Early in the regular season, Miami was the 2-seed, but then post-All Star Game hit, and the team started reeling, and I had lost my hope of anything crazy, like an NBA Finals appearance, happening. But then the bubble came around and they unlocked a potential the basketball world was not ready for. An excellent run to end the regular season, and then a sweep of the overhyped ‘MJ Warren’ and the Pacers led us to Milwaukee, whom all season I said Miami would beat, and I did not miss on that one. That being said, I thought our series against Milwaukee would be longer and more physical, resulting in Boston beating us there, but that was not the case at all, and Miami was able to tough it out against Boston in 6 games. Anyways, enough about my internal happiness and joy over us making the NBA Finals, now to the series. 

So Miami started off the season hot, but in the end, got themselves to a position even better than that. This next test against the Lakers is a beast like no other. As amazing as Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, and Duncan Robinson have been, as well as veterans Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic, this is something they have not experienced, but they will have a former Finals MVP in Andre Iguodala to help them out with that. Him, along with Butler, will have the duties of guarding LeBron James and trying to slow him down, which I do not see happening. The Heat’s zone defense, however, could cause lots of problems and make the Lakers one-dimensional, meaning the support cast of shooters has to knock down their shots, as coach Eric Spoelstra will flex his forward thinking on this one. The backcourt of Miami, with Herro, Robinson, and Dragic, are going to feast offensively, against Alex Caruso and Danny Green, so one of those guys offensively has to be consistent every game in order for the Lakers to take commanding control of this series. The way that Caruso has been playing offensively with running the offense, he just needs to keep being aggressive as a ball-handler and floor general in order to keep the Lakers over the hump of Miami.

Matchup-wise, the Lakers would have preferred Boston. They could have played with a bigger lineup against guys like Daniel Theis and Jayson Tatum, and forced Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker to be the guys that beat them. This Heat squad makes it much more difficult, as despite their lack of size, they rebound much better than Boston (case in point, Bam Adebayo and Jae Crowder), they have so many different players who can take over a game and keep it close, and they are going to cause headaches at times for the Lakers. At the end of the day, Miami has all the matchups and depth they need, and Bam could do just enough to slow down Davis, but there is simply no one who can stop LeBron James. As great as Butler and Iguodala are at defending him, to see a guy at age 37 dropping 30-point triple-doubles casually might be the scariest sight in NBA history. That alone, along with the impact of having another superstar in Anthony Davis will prove too much for this great, young, and electric Heat team. Lucky for them, and lucky for me, there is going to be lots of success to cheer about coming in the future, and even with a more competitive league next year (with teams like the Nets, Wizards, and Warriors getting fully healthy), Miami is in prime position to make another title run next season. As much as I love my Heat, I can never go against LeBron and the better Lakers team (which, while it is a superteam, it is a balanced one, not like the Warriors of years past). This will go down as one of the most unexpected title runs in history for the Heat, but they will fall just short to an opponent that is simply better than them. 

Prediction: Lakers Win the NBA Finals in 6 Games

Finals MVP: LeBron James

Anish’s Prediction

NBA Finals: (1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (5) Miami Heat

As the Lakers and Heat meet in the NBA Finals I can say I was only surprised about the Heat, very surprised. I confidently had the Lakers and Celtics as my finals prediction but the Heat took the East by surprise and absolutely dominated as a team. Different players would go off different nights, as much as we’d call this “Jimmy Butler’s team” stat wise it was very balanced. The Heat have an incredibly deep roster where guys like Tyler Herro can come off the bench and drop 37! It’ll be exciting to watch this matchup, however I think the Lakers are clearly the favorite to win. It appears to be just another NBA Finals appearance for LeBron James as fans/haters are already getting to pull out LeBron’s finals record at the end of this. The LeBron slander has completely changed as now the West is being appeared as the “weaker” conference compared to the battles in the East. The hate towards LeBron James as a basketball fan is just laughable. I see LeBron dominating in this series, but when necessary he will take a step back to Anthony Davis. Regardless, the Lakers will win this series because they have the star power and are far more experience playoff wise. Miami is a great young team who just had an incredible run, however it’s no match for an experienced LeBron James led Lakers.

Prediction: Lakers Win the NBA Finals in 6 Games

Finals MVP: LeBron James

Nikhil’s Prediction

NBA Finals: (1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (5) Miami Heat

As a Wizards fan, it’s somewhat heartwarming to see a comparatively mediocre team like the Miami Heat make the NBA finals. By all means, the Heat are in no way, shape, or form lackluster in any respect, but the fact that they had to earn the respect of the league first, and then had to defy all expectations kind of shows how much of an uphill climb this roster had to make. In this respect, I’ve morphed into a Heat fan ever since the beginning of these weird and extenuating circumstances. The Heat have broken the stereotype of two all-stars per team and have managed to spread the wealth among their entire roster, spearheading this approach with the play of the totally deserving de facto leader of their squad, Jimmy Butler. They’ve used such unique techniques, like a 2-3 zone defense reminiscent of high school ball among other things, to get to this position, and head coach Eric Spoelstra has to be hailed for his forward thinking.

But this is the Lakers we’re talking about. And if history has taught us well, it’s that you bet on LeBron James when the odds seem to be in his favor.

The Lakers are the true embodiment of where the league finds itself today: a double-headed monster in James and Anthony Davis, surrounded by specific skill set journeymen, like Danny Green, Kyle Kuzma, and Alex Caruso. This is the definition of a super-team, but one that seems to be pretty balanced in comparison to the 4 All-Star Golden State Warrior teams from years past. It just seems wrong not to pick this team, especially having beaten all opposition up until this point by 4-1 in each series. The Heat are a very similar threat to the Nuggets in many ways: underdog mentality, a well spaced out roster, a lot of young talent, but we all saw how that went. As much as the fan inside me wants to see Miami make this a series, deep down we all know what’s about to happen, and who’s about to pop off.

Prediction: Lakers Win the NBA Finals in 6 Games

Finals MVP: LeBron James

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NFL 2020 Season Playoff Predictions: Before Week 1

By Saransh Sharma, Rohan Krishnan, Pranav Thiriveedhi, and Nikhil Pradeep

The 2020-21 NFL season is just days away from us, as on September 10th, the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs will take on the Houston Texans to kick off the NFL season, and through everything that has been going on around the world, especially with COVID-19, which has forced some players to miss practices and maybe even season games, and has also kept fans out of stadiums, there is just so much uncertainty around if the NFL can even manage to have an entire season. As we are seeing with the MLB, without a bubble, players and coaching staff members are most likely going to end up getting COVID-19 throughout the season, and with how big NFL rosters are, it could force teams to go deep into their practice squads, put backups in quarantine (Seattle is doing that with Russell Wilson and his backup quarterbacks), or even simply put the NFL on pause until they find a bubble, or even completely cancel the season. With this post, we will try not to get into that, and treat it as if it is just a normal season, and let you know our predictions for the NFL season, based on our post from June with the NFL standings.

NFL Consensus Standings (Based on our NFL Records Predictions)

NFCAFC
1 – New Orleans Saints (13-3)1 – Kansas City Chiefs (13-3)
2 – San Francisco 49ers (12-4)2 – Baltimore Ravens (11-5)
3 – Dallas Cowboys (11-5)3 – New England Patriots (11-5)
4 – Green Bay Packers (10-6)4 – Houston Texans (11-5)
5 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-6)5 – Buffalo Bills (10-6)
6 – Seattle Seahawks (10-6)6 – Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6)
7 – Atlanta Falcons (10-6)7 – Indianapolis Colts (9-7)

Saransh’s Predictions

NFC Wild Card Round

(2) San Francisco 49ers vs. (7) Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta has so much talent on the offensive side of the ball, and Julio Jones will be a tough cover, even for Richard Sherman. The daunting task of facing the 49ers defense, however, especially the front 7, is too much for Atlanta to handle, paving the way for a 49ers victory.

(3) Dallas Cowboys vs. (6) Seattle Seahawks

This is probably a division-winner’s worst nightmare for a Wild Card Game, to play Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks, just ask the Philadelphia Eagles (although had Carson Wentz not been injured in that Wild Card Game last season, this is a whole different conversation). The Cowboys are going to be a good team, but their core is very young outside of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, and that is going to hurt them quite a bit, not to mention their suspect defense. The run-first mindset of the Seahawks, combined with Russell Wilson’s talent and experience, beats Dallas. 

(4) Green Bay Packers vs. (5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Brady vs. Rodgers in the playoffs, could you ask for a better matchup? I mean that alone gives this matchup so much hype and potential. Defenses will be non-existent in this one, as both teams are very offense-first and have high-scoring potential. Brady will outplay Rodgers, but Rodgers will do enough to complement the run-game to beat Brady and the Bucs. 

AFC Wild Card Round

(2) Baltimore Ravens vs. (7) Indianapolis Colts

The last time Lamar Jackson faced Philip Rivers was in the 2019 Wild Card Round, when rookie Lamar entered the game in place of Joe Flacco, down 23-3, and was 50 seconds away from pulling off the upset, but fumbled. Now, Jackson is the reigning league MVP and leads one of the most exciting teams in football and one of the biggest Super Bowl contenders. Rivers and Indianapolis will put up a valiant fight, but Lamar and Baltimore get the win this time. 

(3) New England Patriots vs. (6) Pittsburgh Steelers

Cam Newton might not be in the MVP form he once was in, but Bill Belichick and the Patriots are going to help him get back to elite-quarterback status this season, and that is going to be hard for anyone to stop, even for a defense as good as Pittsburgh’s. Getting Ben Roethlisberger back will get this offense back to having its high-scoring potential as always, but it might not be enough in this game to stop Cam and Co. 

(4) Houston Texans vs. (5) Buffalo Bills

These two teams met last year in the Wild Card Game, and man was it a great one. Down 16-0 most of the game, the Texans battled back to force overtime, and then some costly mistakes by Josh Allen in the overtime period gave Houston an easy field goal to win it. That game will be much different than this in large part to the fact that the Texans do not have DeAndre Hopkins, who had 90 yards on 6 receptions. Not having that nearly-unguardable player is going to be the difference this time around, as an improved Josh Allen and improved Bills team will take this one. 

NFC Divisional Round

(1) New Orleans Saints vs. (6) Seattle Seahawks

Call me crazy, but the Saints have not exactly been very good in the postseason the last few years. Oh wait, I am not crazy, I am right. That theme unfortunately continues yet again for the Saints, as Russell Wilson and his monstrous receiving core comes up big and denies Drew Brees of a chance at a second Super Bowl ring for perhaps the last time in his NFL career. 

(2) San Francisco 49ers vs. (4) Green Bay Packers

Aaron Rodgers is a guy you do not want to mess with, even at this stage of his career, where his team is not the usual, pass-heavy, everything-goes-through-Aaron Rodgers type team, and his numbers might not be as glamorous as it has been, but Aaron Rodgers is still one of the greatest football players and intellectuals of all-time. Not only that, but the Packers defense knows what to expect from the 49ers after last season’s NFC Championship game, where Jimmy Garoppolo only threw 8 passes. The Packers will be much more prepared for the run-game this time around, and make Garoppolo do the thing he hates the most, throw the ball in the clutch. I mean, he is a quarterback and does not make big plays throwing, weird right? His job is to throw the football, especially in the clutch, right? Just ask Emmanuel Sanders why he left San Francisco to go play for Drew Brees instead. All jokes aside, Rodgers and the Packers get their revenge. 

AFC Divisional Round

(1) Kansas City Chiefs vs. (5) Buffalo Bills

Unfortunately for the Bills, there is not much they can do. The Chiefs take this one easily.

(2) Baltimore Ravens vs. (3) New England Patriots

Lamar Jackson vs. Cam Newton. John Harbaugh vs. Bill Belichick. This matchup is one filled with tons of starpower, both on the field and on the sidelines, and to see Cam Newton revitalize his career and play against a quarterback like Lamar Jackson, whom many compare to a young, MVP Cam Newton, is going to be a great matchup to see and an instant classic. However, Lamar will have learned from his playoff mistakes previously. Baltimore will find a way to outsmart Belichick’s defensive gameplan and lead the Ravens to the AFC Championship Game. 

NFC Championship Game

(4) Green Bay Packers vs. (6) Seattle Seahawks

Rodgers vs. Wilson yet again in the NFC Championship Game? Yes, please. Last year, Rodgers got revenge for the 2015 NFC Championship Game loss, but this year, in yet another classic matchup between these two, Wilson gets his revenge. Seattle stuns Green Bay in Lambeau and goes to the Super Bowl.

AFC Championship Game

(1) Kansas City Chiefs vs. (2) Baltimore Ravens

Mahomes vs. Jackson, yet another amazing quarterback battle, and one of the MANY we will hope to see this postseason. Kansas City is the overwhelming favorite to win the Super Bowl, but many forget that there has not been a repeat Super Bowl champion since the Patriots did it back in 2003 and 2004. After two years of disappointment, it is only fitting that Jackson comes into a league of his own through this postseason run and takes down the defending champions, showing yet again how hard it is to repeat as Super Bowl champions in the NFL. 

Super Bowl LV: Baltimore Ravens vs. Seattle Seahawks

This Super Bowl is going to be a historic one. It will feature one of youngest Super Bowl matchups amongst the two quarterbacks (combined age), the first Super Bowl featuring two Black starting quarterbacks, and just the third time that a 6-seed has made a Super Bowl. Yet again, the quarterback battle does not fail to disappoint anyone, and in a year filled with so many unknowns, a potential playoff bubble, and so much more, I pick an even more unpredictable Super Bowl champion. Russell Wilson and that monstrous receiving core I mentioned earlier (Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, David Moore, Josh Gordon, Philip Dorsett, plus Greg Olsen and Will Dissly at Tight Ends), along with a great running mentality, they will present a challenge that the Ravens simply cannot match, no matter how great the heroics of Jackson are. The Seattle Seahawks are your Super Bowl LV Champions.

Pranav’s Predictions

NFC Wild Card Round

(2) San Francisco 49ers vs. (7) Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta has been the most iffy team in the last few years, not only on the football side but literally with every other sport in the city. But for the Falcons, a promising offense with star receiver Julio Jones and a reliable Matt Ryan could pose a major threat in the NFC playoff side. On the other hand, the 49ers, have arguably the best defense in the league and were the NFC’s rep for last year’s Super Bowl. Depending on the performance of Atlanta’s offense and how well Todd Gurley fits into Dan Quinn’s scheme, Atlanta has a shot at upsetting San Francisco. 

(3) Dallas Cowboys vs. (6) Seattle Seahawks

The Dallas Cowboys, once again, are in a position where they have to match up against one of the hardest teams to play, on both sides of the ball. Unlike their path to the playoffs (which was to just win the NFC East) they will have to prove they are the real 3rd seed and show the entire NFL they are the team to be scared of. But let’s be realistic. Other than Elliot, Cooper and Martin, what other talent resides in Dallas that can stand up to Russell Wilson and the dangerous Seattle Seahawks. Seattle will easily step over Dallas and move onto the next round.

(4) Green Bay Packers vs. (5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Like Saransh said above, this round will feature Brady vs. Rodgers in the playoffs, something fans have been dying for since forever. Guess what? It’s going to happen and the game will come down to the wire. Brady is probably the most reliable player in the NFL when it comes to the playoffs and with a strong and loaded offense, I think the Packers defense will have too much to handle. Brady and the Bucs take this game. They definitely won’t forget it.

AFC Wild Card Round

(2) Baltimore Ravens vs. (7) Indianapolis Colts

Lamar Jackson was last year’s MVP. MVP is a regular season award to clarify. When it comes to the playoffs though, Lamar Jackson really drops out of that “MVP Race.” Last time Jackson played Rivers in the playoffs, Lamar got a taste of what really goes on in win-or-go-home games and unless he is healthy and is able to lead the Ravens to start off the game well, this will be a cakewalk for Baltimore. Rivers and the Colts will put up a good fight, but a more experienced Lamar Jackson (at least more than last year) will lead the Ravens to the next round.

(3) New England Patriots vs. (6) Pittsburgh Steelers

The New England Patriots were expected to have a losing record after losing the biggest player in franchise history. The Pats had even more bad news with the opting out of almost the entire defense due to the Coronavirus. But, with the addition of former MVP Cam Newton and the more experienced Gilmore, Belichick can definitely prove the doubters wrong once again. New England will end their “rivalry” with the Steelers and move on to the next round.

(4) Houston Texans vs. (5) Buffalo Bills

This matchup is a repeat of last year’s playoffs, where the Texans took the game in what was a very close and competitive matchup. I think the loss of Deandre Hopkins will play a significant part in Houston’s struggle but I still think they have a shot. Houston will beat Buffalo.

NFC Divisional Round

(1) New Orleans Saints vs. (6) Seattle Seahawks

The Saints once again will have the opportunity to show the world they are the best team in the NFC. But for the New Orleans Saints, a playoff struggle drought is hard to overcome. Not much changed with the team, but some things are happening as we speak that can alter the future of the Saints organization. Seattle on the other hand looks rock solid and can definitely pull off a “seeding mistake” upset. Seattle takes this game. 

(2) San Francisco 49ers vs. (5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Next up is another great matchup for Tom Brady and his new team. A game against his former apprentice in what will be a thriller for the ages. A booming Tampa offense against San Francisco’s wall defense will definitely be a hard game to predict a winner but I can see Tom Brady’s experience overcoming the 49ers. Bucs move onto the championship game.

AFC Divisional Round

(1) Kansas City Chiefs vs. (4) Houston Texans

Mahomes is too good. Sorry, not sorry. Chiefs will move on.

(2) Baltimore Ravens vs. (3) New England Patriots

Lamar will definitely win his last game but can he overcome another round of the playoffs in the same year? And against Belichick and Cam? I don’t see this happening for the Ravens. Patriots take this game and move onto the AFC Championship.

NFC Championship Game

(5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. (6) Seattle Seahawks

Last time Brady played Russell Wilson and the Seahawks in the playoffs, he needed the luckiest play in the world to win (Malcolm Butler interception). But this time, a stronger Seahawks offense and defense will provide a reckoning for Brady and will show the Bucs they aren’t ready yet. Hopefully the Seahawks run the ball this time. Seattle moves on to the Super Bowl.

AFC Championship Game

(1) Kansas City Chiefs vs. (3) New England Patriots

Two years ago, the Patriots and Chiefs played in what was the craziest AFC championship game in a long time. Brady and Mahomes went back and forth, which caused the game to come down to the wire, where the Patriots got the edge and were able to win. But this time, Brady won’t be there to provide that insurance against the Chiefs. Cam Newton will perform his best, but an already Super Bowl contender in the Chiefs will show the NFL why they belong in the Super Bowl again.

Super Bowl LV: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Seattle Seahawks

If the Super Bowl comes down to the Seahawks playing the Chiefs, this will surely be a hard one to predict, with an amazing matchup at every position on the field. The most exciting one would obviously be the Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes showdown. Mahomes got the best of the 49ers last year, but the Seahawks are not the same team they were last year. They are stronger and have a real hunger in the team’s heart. I think this game will be a showdown that comes down to the wire, but I definitely see the Seahawks pulling away with the Lombardi Trophy.

Rohan’s predictions:

NFC Wild Card Round

(2) San Francisco 49ers vs. (7) Atlanta Falcons

I think Atlanta is going to surprise a lot of people this year. Matt Ryan always performs well in even years, and they have weapons like Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Todd Gurley. Despite Atlanta’s electric offense, the 49ers have one of the best defenses in the league. San Fran moves on in a nailbiter. 

(3) Dallas Cowboys vs. (6) Seattle Seahawks

Dallas and Seattle are going to be a high scoring affair. You got two of the best quarterbacks in the game as Prescott and Wilson will have high passing games. However, I think Wilson will outduel Prescott and the Seahawks defense, with newly acquired backs Jamal Adams and Quinton Dunbar, will make a couple of needed stops for the victory. Seattle advances.

(4) Green Bay Packers vs. (5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Here we have another legendary quarterback duel. Aaron Rodgers vs Tom Brady is always a fun one as these two are bound to be in the Hall of Fame. Tampa Bay has a sneaky good defense though and I think the Buccaneers will outduel the Packers in the end. Tampa wins by a touchdown.

AFC Wild Card Round

(2) Baltimore Ravens vs. (7) Indianapolis Colts

Indianapolis is a sleeper team this year. They went 7-9 last year but they arguably got an upgrade at QB and their defense has one of the better linebacker corps with Darius Leonard and Anthony Walker leading the way. But they are playing Lamar Jackson, who is coming off an MVP season and is looking for redemption after a disappointing playoff loss last year. I think the Ravens take this one easily at home in a blowout. 

(3) New England Patriots vs. (6) Pittsburgh Steelers

I am surprised to see the Patriots at the third seed, but I could see it happening. Cam Newton would have to be playing close to what he was before injury and offensive pieces like N’Keal Harry and Sony Michel have to step up. However I think the Steelers are the better team here. Big Ben is back and JuJu will have a bounce back year because of that. They also have James Conner who has suffered injuries in the past but I think he will be healthy this year. I got the Steelers winning on the road.

(4) Houston Texans vs. (5) Buffalo Bills

Despite the Texans losing Hopkins, they still have a very solid team. I think Will Fuller is massively underrated and can take a step up in his production this year. They also have newly acquired deep threat Brandin Cooks and David Johnson who could have a bounce-back year. The Bills are another team that I really like this year. Josh Allen continues to trend up and now he has Stefon Diggs to help him out. A rematch of last year’s playoff game, I think the Bills get revenge and win this one thanks to their defense.

NFC Divisional Round

(1) New Orleans Saints vs. (6) Seattle Seahawks

I am not sure how to feel about the Saints. Every postseason it seems that they choke and lose to an inferior opponent. But in this matchup, Seattle is a very good team and I feel that they are better than the Saints. New Orleans postseason woes continue and Seattle clinches an NFC championship berth.

(2) San Francisco 49ers vs. (5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The 49ers are looking for redemption after losing a lead and the Super Bowl last season. It is also nice to see Garoppolo go against Tom Brady since Garoppolo was his backup back in New England. In this matchup, we have a firepower offense consisting of Brady, Godwin, and Evans against a defensive juggernaut of Bosa, Sherman, and Armstead. I see the 49ers coming on top in a close one thanks to their elite defense.

AFC Divisional Round

(1) Kansas City Chiefs vs. (5) Buffalo Bills

Listen, I love Josh Allen and the young Bills, but the Chiefs are going to blow them out period. Kansas City kept the same team from last year and got better. Chiefs move on easily. 

(2) Baltimore Ravens vs. (6) Pittsburgh Steelers

Man what a game this would be. One of the greatest rivalries in all sports in the AFC Divisional Round. I definitely think this will be a close game despite Baltimore having a much better and deeper team. Lamar will learn from his previous mistakes and have one of the best Ravens playoff performances but the Steelers will give a very good fight. Ravens by a field goal.

NFC Championship Game

(2) San Francisco 49ers vs. (6) Seattle Seahawks

The 49ers-Seahawks rivalry is one of the best in the NFL. If you want proof, just take a look at their two most recent matchups. In Week 10, the Seahawks grinded out an overtime win but in Week 17, the 49ers got a last second stop and won the NFC West. I think this one will be another one for the rivalry books, as the Niners come out on top in a thriller. 

AFC Championship Game

(1) Kansas City Chiefs vs. (2) Baltimore Ravens

This is the matchup many people were expecting in last year’s postseason, but the Ravens flamed out in the divisional round. Mahomes and Lamar are the future of the NFL and this game is going to be a fun scoring affair. Kansas City is the high favorite here, however I think the Ravens will win thanks to Lamar who further cements his place as one of the most dynamic QBs in the league.

Super Bowl LV: Baltimore Ravens vs. San Francisco 49ers

A rematch of the 2013 Super Bowl, this one is definitely going to be a treat. This game will go back and forth, but the swarming 49ers defense will have its ways with Lamar and shut him down. The 49ers get their redemption this year and win the Lombardi Trophy, becoming the third team to win 6 championship wins.

Nikhil’s Predictions

NFC Wild Card Round

(2) San Francisco 49ers vs. (7) Atlanta Falcons

The 49ers proved a lot of people wrong last year by making it to the super bowl, and for all intents and purposes kept the same team and mentality for this year as well. The ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ mentality applies perfectly fine in my opinion, and this matchup against Atlanta should not be a real threat to their postseason aspirations. With a staunch defense that will pose real problems even for Atlanta’s high-powered offense (headlined by Julio Jones, Todd Gurley, and Matt Ryan), and a decent enough run-central offense, I see the Niners winning this one in a secure manner.

(3) Dallas Cowboys vs. (6) Seattle Seahawks

Somehow, some way, the Seattle Seahawks always manage to make it into the postseason one way or another. The reason behind this has to be Russell Wilson, and his MVP caliber play in recent years. With Tyler Lockett and Chris Carson on offense, and an already solid defense that just got better with the addition of Jamal Adams, there isn’t any real doubt here that they’ll win this game handily. Especially when a team as mired in mediocrity as the Dallas Cowboys steps up to be the opponent, Seattle will keep the ship sailing right through to the next round.

(4) Green Bay Packers vs. (5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Ah yes, the two old men of the league, in a good ol’ fashioned shoot-out. Nothing gets better than this type of matchup. As I sort of alluded to already, this game is all about the high-powered offenses. And with the recent addition of Leanord Fournette, the Bucs seem to take this one. When you have names like Brady, Gronk, Godwin, Evans, and even Ronald Jones and LeSean McCoy as members of a rotating RB committee, there really is only so much Aaron Rodgers can do with his comparatively weaker offense. I do see the Packers making it difficult for the Bucs, but in the end the Bucs take this one.

AFC Wild Card Round

(2) Baltimore Ravens vs. (7) Indianapolis Colts

I think Lamar Jackson is mad. Mad about going out so early in last year’s playoffs, even after completing one of the most jaw-dropping seasons for a QB in recent memory. And if sports has shown us anything in past years, it’s that you should never make a team’s best player angry. This Raven’s team is nuts, and that’s an understatement. Matched up to a rather unproven Colts team with so many new moving parts, and it’s hard to go against the Ravens blowing them out of the water. 

(3) New England Patriots vs. (6) Pittsburgh Steelers

If Lamar Jackson is mad, Cam Newton is FURIOUS. And again, you never want to make a former MVP mad. Again, there is so much we don’t know about the Patriots right now, and that makes it even harder to predict this matchup; we don’t even know if they’ll put the pieces together to make it into the playoffs. But for arguments’ case, when matched up against a rather uninspiring Steelers team, if they can figure it out I can see the Patriots sneaking by to the next round.

(4) Houston Texans vs. (5) Buffalo Bills

The Texans are a rather interesting case, because many thought they had the potential to contend last year, but they’ve seemingly gone backwards by getting rid of Deandre Hopkins this offseason. Don’t get me wrong, this team is definitely still talented, with Watson, Johnson, Fuller V, and of course JJ Watt, but the way this league has headed in recent seasons, the Texans simply haven’t made the right moves to contend. The Bills on the other hand are on an upward trend, having proved a lot of doubters wrong last season as well. With the addition of Stefon Diggs to a rather underrated offense, I think we see the first upset in my set of predictions, and see the Bills advance to the next round.

NFC Divisional Round

(1) New Orleans Saints vs (6) Seattle Seahawks

The Saints have to break this curse that they are in eventually, and I believe this is the year. Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, and of course Drew Brees are in dire need of a NFC Championship appearance, and it feels like, now more than ever, they want it more. The Seahawks will definitely provide a hell of a fight, but in the end I don’t think their defense can contain the offense of the Saints enough to see them through. New Orleans advances.

(2) San Francisco 49ers vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Apprentice meets master. Jimmy Garrapollo showed the world that he was no joke last year, carrying the 49ers to the Super Bowl. Even though the Bucs have the one person that Jimmy G learned under in the New England system, I think the 49ers are more adapted to deal with the other team instead of vice versa, and it’s mainly because of their amazing defense. Brady has not been the human highlight reel he has been in previous years, and I think the Niners defense capitalizes on this. Expect the Niners to advance.

AFC Divisional Round

(1) Kansas City Chiefs vs (5) Buffalo Bills

Mahomes. Ok cool, glad everyone’s on the same page. Kansas City flies past.

(2) Baltimore Ravens vs (3) New England Patriots

The Patriots are too new of a team to expect the most from in their first year without Tom Brady, and even having them this high up in my prediction is giving them a huge benefit of the doubt. I don’t think their offense can put up enough points to contend with the absolute machine that is the Ravens offense. Thus, the Ravens advance to the next round.

NFC Championship

(1) New Orleans Saints vs (2) San Francisco 49ers

This is where these predictions get interesting. Both of these teams have strengths on different sides of the ball: New Orleans has their offense, the 49ers have their defense. We’ve emphasized those strengths so much, so in my mind it depends on who wins the matchup of their weaker ends of the ball. In my opinion, I think the Saints put it together on defense and are able to shut down the run-heavy Niners offense, and thus, advance to the Super Bowl.

AFC Championship

(1) Kansas City Chiefs vs (2) Baltimore Ravens

Again, I think Lamar Jackson has something to prove, and is going to flourish in this matchup. I think he matches Patrick Mahomes in production, which will inevitably result in a complete shootout between the two. What seems to be the deciding factor in this matchup is the defense, and I think the Ravens can muster up enough secondary structure to contend and limit Mahomes’ production. It will be a crazy, hard, but earned win for the Ravens.

Super Bowl LV: (1) New Orleans Saints vs (2) Baltimore Ravens

Throughout these predictions I’ve been on the Ravens bandwagon, stating that Lamar Jackson will play like someone with something to prove, and the Ravens will rally behind his play. I also think the Saints have matured from their previous blunders and have finally moved away from their fragile nature. Thus, both of these teams are teams that have learned from the past, and have in some ways turned the corner. In the end, I think the hunger that the Ravens can tap into, as well as the jaw-dropping talent that their roster has gives them the upper hand. It will definitely be close and a high scoring affair, but I predict the Baltimore Ravens as the next world champions.

2020 NBA Playoffs Biggest Storylines – Conference Quarterfinals (Post-Game 1s)

By Saransh Sharma, Anish Dhondi, & Nikhil Pradeep

With the Western Conference play-in now officially completed and the Portland Trail Blazers having won and gotten the 8th-seed, the entire NBA playoffs is set and the Conference Quarterfinals will commence. To see our NBA Playoff Predictions from before the NBA Bubble started, click the link here. We now will dive into the biggest stories to watch going into the start of the playoffs.

Saransh’s Storylines:

How Will Houston Play Without Russell Westbrook?

This entire season, while James Harden has always been the top scorer for this team, Russell Westbrook has been the leader and glue-guy for the team. Westbrook was the one who helped him and Harden get over their differences that they originally had to start the season, he was the one who helped the team get through midseason trade rumors and speculation that OKC won the Russ-CP3 had been rising. When Head Coach Mike D’Antoni wanted to start his small-ball experiment and thus GM Daryl Morey traded starting Center Clint Capela, Russ elevated his game the most. Russ had career-highs in shots per game made and field goal percentage, and overall was a more relaxed and under control player compared to what he was in Oklahoma City. He honestly is now an underrated player (surprising to say), but deserves the most credit of all the players for Houston’s success, especially since small-ball began. 

That being said, after seeing how Harden, along with Eric Gordon and Jeff Green, played yesterday, if they play like this in Game 2 as well, having Westbrook back could have a highly-anticipated series end very quick. Only having an 8-man rotation will be tricky to manage with Westbrook back and also playing big minutes, but it means that playing guys like Gordon and Green more in the series, could be the difference. The series will hinge upon that bench support for Houston, and their health.

Did The Refs Sell The Mavericks And Ruin Their Series Momentum?

The Dallas Mavericks controlled Game 1 on Monday in nearly every facet possible, besides the final score, of course, but the referees had a lot to do with that. The ejection of Kristaps Porzingis, which was due to a slight shove, was probably the softest ejection I have seen in my entire life of watching basketball. If Porzingis got ejected for that, shouldn’t Carmelo Anthony get suspended every time he curses after getting a rebound? There were a few other questionable calls here and there after Porzingis got hurt which halted the momentum of Dallas, but had he not been ejected, the way Porzingis was dominating the paint with his rim protection and rebounding at the time, they would have won the game and taken all that momentum into Game 2 and prolonged this series more than expected. If you are Dallas, you could not have asked for a better start to the series against a heavily-favored Clippers team, but the ridiculous ejection, and final score, left nothing but a cloud of frustration for the team.

Does Brooklyn’s Overachieving Bubble Run Concern Toronto?

Simply put, no. Kevin Durant nor Kyrie Irving is walking into Orlando to suit up and play the defending champions. That being said, the run that the Nets had, including almost knocking Portland out of the playoffs (should have called timeout and drawn a play), and beating teams like the Clippers and Bucks in the process, the Nets showed that they are not here to be messed with despite their extremely shorthanded roster, but the defending champions have been way too good defensively to let Brooklyn get on a roll and shock the world. In Game 1, the Nets cut a 33-point Raptor lead to 9, but the Raptors defense was just too much, and they showed that their roster is simply too much to handle, and that they do not need Kawhi to be as scary of a contender as they are. As much as I would love to see the Nets make the series competitive, Toronto is too much to handle.

Nikhil’s Storylines:

Can The Miami Heat Make Noise In The East?

This Miami Heat team has defied a lot of expectations this season, and having accomplished everything that they have has taken a lot of grit, a lot of grind, and most importantly, a LOT of team chemistry and self-confidence. Everyone, including myself, saw this year as being a lottery pick year for this team. That being said, there are still many limitations going forward though. In order to contend for a championship in this day and age, most teams require at least a superstar tandem (Ex: LeBron & AD, Kawhi and PG, Russ and Harden). The Heat do not have a bonafide duo that they can rely on during crucial moments in a speculative deep playoff run. Yes, Jimmy Butler is a given, but who can be that other piece? Bam Adebayo has proven himself as a worthy candidate, but his game is still raw and he simply isn’t at the level of most superstars in this league, even with his first All-Star appearance. One thing I will say is that Miami manages to find a way. As of this post, they have already gone one game up on the Indiana Pacers, and contributions as a team from Nunn, Herro, Crowder, Robinson etc. can really turn this team into a viable threat in the East, and give powerhouses Toronto, Milwaukee, and Boston a run for their money.

Are The Denver Nuggets a Real Threat In The West?

Everyone seems to be infatuated with the possibility of a Clippers vs. Lakers Western Conference Finals, to the point where the third-seeded Denver Nuggets seem to be completely overlooked. This team is STACKED all things considered. Jokic and Murray comprise a deadly starting line-up, and up and coming players like Michael Porter Jr. and Bol Bol are both surprisingly sturdy in their play as well. Combine this with a perfectly crafted bench unit as well as key role players, and you have a team that could very well take down either one of the two LA teams. What’s even more appealing is that this team is built for the future, and can become a powerhouse in the Western Conference if they simply hold onto their assets they have, and continue to develop the young players they have right now as well. Yes, they might not have the complete answer for LeBron and AD, and may have not figured out the complete puzzle of Kawhi and PG, but this team has the resources necessary to piece it all together. And the best part is that even if they don’t find winning ways now, they can easily find it a few years from now, when the LA teams start to see players past their primes. Watch out for this Nuggets team to shock a lot of people now, and establish themselves for the future.

What’s Wrong With The 76ers?

Philadelphia on paper looks like a very dangerous team, yet in person they just seem lackluster. When you headline a team with 4 prominent figures in Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, and Al Horford, you expect production, and plenty of it. What we see though is a rather uninspired team that is missing something, and no one can really place a finger on it. Couple this with the injury to Ben Simmons, and you get a downward spiral of a situation for Philadelphia, one that puts head coach Brett Brown in the hot seat. Don’t get me wrong, the team is definitely winning games, and are placing themselves well within the provisional playoff picture, but many believe that the team just isn’t built or even inspired enough to contend with the likes of Toronto, Boston, and Milwaukee. Joel Embiid himself has said that he needs to step up for his team, and yes, maybe his lack of production on both ends of the court is somewhat to blame for the team’s woes, but I don’t see it as an end all be all solution. Whatever their issue may be, they need to figure it out soon in order to get past the rather difficult first-round matchup with the Celtics.

Anish’s Storylines: 

Do the Blazers Have a Legitimate Chance To Defeat The Lakers?

After the Game one, upset over the Lakers, the Blazers have the league talking. Everyone knew before the Blazers would be a tough fight for the Lakers in the first round, and after game one they proved them right. The Lakers looks sloppy in their game and despite LeBron’s big triple double the Lakers couldn’t finish the game. The Lakers had issues making free throws in the clutch and Portland capitalized by hitting their shots. However, despite LeBron’s triple double, I feel like there is more left in the tank for King James. The real question is whether LeBron will activate playoff mode this early in the playoffs and completely take over the game or will he continue to dish out the ball and rely on his teammates to hit shots next game. The Lakers did a great job of hammering down in the paint and causing 3 of the Blazers starters to get 5 fouls and be in foul trouble late in the game. The Lakers definitely have the ability to defeat the Blazers on paper; it’s just a matter of chemistry and team experience (besides LeBron) which the Lakers lack.

Are the Bucks Still The Favorite To Win The East?

Similar to the Blazers pulling off an upset against the Lakers, the Magic defeated the Bucks in game one. This came to a surprise to practically everyone as the Magic seemed like the most forgotten team in the playoffs. After the Bucks loss, everyone is now beginning to question the Bucks potential. Now the real question is can just Giannis be enough to lead the Bucks to the Finals? Khris Middleton has been horrible in the bubble so far, and he is supposed to be Giannis’s secondhand man and without a consistent performance from Middleton it puts too much pressure on Giannis. Initially I had the Bucks making the finals, but because of their recent struggles I am leaning towards the Raptors-Celtics side of the bracket. It will be interesting to see the Celtics without Hayward but I still give them a slight edge over the Raptors. I believe whoever comes out of the bottom half of the Eastern Conference (Raptor/Celtics side) will defeat the Bucks and move on into the Finals. The Bucks are still a great team but I don’t see them as winning the championship, rather I see an Eastern Conference Finals loss coming their way.

Are We Sleeping On The Jazz?

Monday’s Game 1 against the Nuggets was one of the best games this year. The battle between Donovan Mitchell and Jamal Murray was like no other, it seems like in the clutch neither of them could miss and Murray got the slight edge in overtime. But we can’t forget about Donovan Mitchell’s historic 57 point game! Even with missing Mike Conley the first game the Jazz were neck and neck with the Nuggets. Conley is expected to be back for Game 3, this is important because Conley is another elite defender and to put him on Jamal Murray and contain him. This makes Jamal Murray use more effort with a better defender on him and Donovan Mitchell will be alongside another scorer and facilitator. The Jazz have always shown they are underdogs in the playoffs and are well capable of pulling off upsets. Although last year they struggled against the Rockets, the year before they defeated the Thunder, and the year before the Clippers. This Jazz team is improved from last year and have developed a better chemistry with great defense, good wing shooters and Donovan Mitchell taking the clear superstar position in this playoff series. The Jazz could make a decent push in the playoffs starting with an upset on the Nuggets. Don’t sleep on the Jazz!

NBA Bubble Playoff Predictions: Pre-Playoffs

By Saransh Sharma, Anish Dhondi, & Nikhil Pradeep

This Thursday, July 30th, the NBA season will restart in the ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando, where games will take place with 22 teams in multiple arenas in the ESPN complex. Each team will play 8 games and then go into the playoffs as the standings are after 8 games (standings will be based on win percentage as not each team will have played the same total number of games throughout the entire season). With the restart just around the corner, we thought we should dive into our pre-playoff Playoff predictions. Here are the consensus standings we made, as well as the individual series predictions for the entirety of the NBA Playoffs:

Consensus Standings

SeedEastern ConferenceWestern Conference
1Milwaukee Bucks (60-13)Los Angeles Lakers (57-14)
2Toronto Raptors (50-22)Los Angeles Clippers (50-22)
3Boston Celtics (49-23)Denver Nuggets (49-24)
4Miami Heat (46-27)Utah Jazz (45-28)
5Philadelphia 76ers (41-29)Houston Rockets (44-28)
6Indiana Pacers (41-32)Oklahoma City Thunder (43-29) 
7Orlando Magic (33-40)Dallas Mavericks (44-31)
8Brooklyn Nets (32-40)Portland Trail Blazers (34-40)

Saransh’s Playoff Predictions

Eastern Conference Round 1

(1) Milwaukee Bucks vs. (8) Brooklyn Nets

This series would have been a lot more entertaining had guys like Kyrie Irving, DeAndre Jordan, Spencer Dinwiddie, Nicholas Claxton, Wilson Chandler, and Kevin Durant gone to the bubble. Or at least Kyrie. There is not much else to say besides what this series could have been, and what the Nets are capable of doing, but being that severely undermanned and having a tough schedule is going to get them this tough of an opponent. 

Prediction: Milwaukee in 4 games.

(2) Toronto Raptors vs. (7) Orlando Magic

Orlando is a sneaky team here because even though they have a tough road in Orlando and they will not win the series, this is a team that prides itself on its depth, and actually has depth that can match Toronto. In the end, it really comes down to the fact that having guys like Fred VanVleet and Marc Gasol off your bench, as well as the huge discrepancy in starting lineup talent, that Orlando will not be able to keep up. I think like last season, Orlando will get a win in a close, last-second win, but there will not be much else Orlando can walk out of the bubble with. To see them improving every year, however, is very promising, and with the young players they are developing, they can make trades come free agency and surprise people (DeMar DeRozan or Victor Oladipo?)

Prediction: Toronto in 5 games

(3) Boston Celtics vs. (6) Indiana Pacers

If Indiana was going to have Domantas Sabonis playing in the bubble, this series would go the distance, but with his foot injury results showing the doubts of that happening, this is going to be another quick one. Indiana is built around Oladipo, but there is just too much he would have to do to keep up with the depth and talent on Boston’s side, and not to mention that he is not 100% healthy either. Tatum will probably see Myles Turner guarding him and that might slow him down, but Kemba Walker against TJ McConnell, Gordon Hayward against Doug McDermott, and Boston’s bench against Indiana’s, all of those matchups that go Boston’s way and keep this series from being longer than it should be. If Sabonis is able to come back, this series goes the distances, but if not, this will be a quick one. Either way, the winner is the same.

Prediction: Celtics in 5 games

(4) Miami Heat vs. (5) Philadelphia 76ers

The Philadelphia 76ers are really experimenting with new ways to unlock their full potential. They are playing Ben Simmons at the 4, Shake Milton at the point guard, and playing Al Horford off of the bench as the Sixth Man. While all of this seems great, there are a few problems with this. In scrimmages so far, they have had Ben Simmons play inside on defense along with Joel Embiid, but it is creating a huge hole on the perimeter for defense, and is even creating, in my eyes, a bit of a rotational issue. Guys like Al Horford, Tobias Harris, Matisse Thybulle, and Furkan Korkmaz have been seeing their usual minutes alongside guys like Embiid and Simmons be rationed out a little more than usual (it is just scrimmages so far, but still), and while having Simmons play more freely than usual seems like a great thing and he has been the best player for Philadelphia since the Orlando restart, he somehow is still managing to do the one thing that Brett Brown tried to fix, which was him taking the ball out of the hands of guys like Embiid. Against one of the league’s deepest teams in Miami, a team that matches up perfectly against the likes of Philly, but can separate themselves with their unbelievable 3-point shooting, who are the best in the league in terms of 3-point percentage. 

The deciding factor will be how guys like Harris, Milton, Richardson, and Thybulle match the 3-point shooting of Robinson, Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, and Kendrick Nunn. With the offense being less perimeter centric due to Simmons freelancing ability now, the Sixers could get caught behind trying to defend the 3-point line, and not having Simmons on the perimeter to get back in transition to stop those 3-point opportunities is going to hurt Philly. Miami has shown too much consistency all season to falter against this new-look Sixers team that Brett Brown is using to try to save his job.

Prediction: Miami in 6 games

Eastern Conference Semifinals

(1) Milwaukee Bucks vs. (4) Miami Heat

The best team in the Eastern Conference against the most likely team to take them down in the Miami Heat. Miami leads the season series 2-0 and the most noticeable thing is how much the Miami depth makes a difference. Not only is the Miami bench able to give them the boost over Milwaukee that they have needed, but they have also found the perfect matchups to slow down Giannis’ supporting cast, by throwing guys like Jimmy Butler and Kendrick Nunn on Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe. Much like last year against Toronto, where the Bucks will struggle is the depth and offensive production outside of Giannis. This could be the beginning of the end of Giannis in Milwaukee. 

Prediction: Miami in 6 games

(2) Toronto Raptors vs. (3) Boston Celtics

This series is honestly the hardest to predict of them all. Both teams have great starting lineups with stars around their superstars, have great depth, and two of the best coaches in the game. No home court advantage for either team certainly does not make the prediction any easier. My decision really comes down to the starters, where Toronto has the advantage at center and power forward, the small forward battle is actually neutralized due to OG Anunouby’s ability to defend, which will slow down Gordon Hayward a ton, but Boston’s backcourt takes the win. The matchup between Jaylen Brown and Norman Powell clearly goes in favor of Brown, who can give you 20-25 points a night, as can Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker. The consistency is what takes Boston over the hump.

Prediction: Boston in 7 games

Eastern Conference Finals

(3) Boston Celtics vs. (4) Miami Heat

Boston and Miami is a rivalry that saw Miami win each of their 3 matchups of the 2010s, and kicking off the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals with this only seems fitting. Miami and Boston have been neck-and-neck all season in standings, and are neck-and-neck in terms of talent. Like the Toronto series, the advantage is given to them in the backcourt with Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker, who can match the 3-point shooting excellence of Robinson, Nunn, and Herro, and are scoring machines. It will be a close series thanks to Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, but Miami is a year away from the NBA Finals. The luck of the long run unfortunately runs out here, but man, oh man will they surprise people.

Prediction: Boston in 6 games

Western Conference Round 1

(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (8) Portland Trail Blazers

Give Portland credit if they make it to the playoffs and have to fight through being behind in the standings and have to play in the play-in tournament. But like always, there is too much talent in the way of Lillard and McCollum, and not enough talent with them to get over the hump.

Prediction: Lakers in 4 games

(2) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (7) Dallas Mavericks

I wish I could say that Dallas is ready to make this upset, but it is simply too early. The team is young and has loads of potential, and Luka Doncic is the next face of the NBA, but right now, guys like Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are too much for Dallas to handle.

Prediction: Clippers in 5 games

(3) Denver Nuggets vs. (6) Oklahoma City Thunder

Who would have thought that a team that had acquired 7 first-round picks over a span of trading 2 of the NBA’s best players in Russell Westbrook and Paul George, would find themselves in the playoffs and as this good of a team? Seriously, I never thought this would happen, and I doubt most Thunder fans thought that either. OKC is quietly one of the league’s most exciting and upcoming teams, with the perfect balance of young and veteran talent, with guys like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Chris Paul leading the way. Denver, like OKC, matches up in a very similar way in terms of young talent, with guys like Nikola Jokic and Michael Porter Jr. leading the way. The big difference is going to be the guy that has stolen the show in Orlando so far, and that is Bol Bol. If Coach Mike Malone can utilize him right, it could cause major problems for Oklahoma City, given his defensive prowess to block shots, and his scoring ability.

Prediction: Nuggets in 6 games

(4) Utah Jazz vs. (5) Houston Rockets

This series features 2 teams running small ball lineups, but one of those 2 teams does not have a 7-foot tower inside. The Houston Rockets are going into the bubble with the tallest player in their rotation being just 6’8”, so expect Rudy Gobert to take a bit more of the offensive load for the Utah Jazz. Utah would be the obvious pick for this series, but missing out on a third scoring option like Bojan Bogdanovic due to injury is crucial, especially for size and defnse, and Houston should capitalize on the opportunity. Utah, despite having Gobert, actually does not have a lot of taller players like Houston, and so having guys like James Harden and Russell Westbrook who can rebound well, could help them take this series away from Utah. Expect Westbrook to take defensive responsibility against Donovan Mitchell, and then dominate on the offensive end. 

Prediction: Rockets in 6 games

Western Conference Semifinals

(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (5) Houston Rockets

In this series, size matters for Houston more than it will against Utah, because the best big man in the league in Anthony Davis is who the Rockets have to try and slow down, and simply put, no matter how great Westbrook and Harden are, no one is stopping Davis. LeBron will have his usual great playoff mode series, but Davis will just prove to be too much.

Prediction: Lakers in 5 games

(2) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (3) Denver Nuggets

This is an interesting series because on paper, Denver clearly has the better frontcourt, better point guard, and maybe even the better bench, but the starpower is lacking for them. While Nikola Jokic is the best center in the league, I am not sure he can match that of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, and the bench of Denver will not be able to match the bench of the Clippers, led by Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell. Bol Bol and Michael Porter Jr. can help make this series interesting, but their star potential that everyone is expecting from in a few years, needs to show up over these few games, and I simply do not see it happening. Expect Jokic and Millsap to dominate the weaker frontcourt of the Clippers and they certainly will keep it close and win some games, but they do not have enough firepower to match Kawhi and PG at the end of it all. 

Prediction: Clippers in 6 games

Western Conference Finals

(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (2) Los Angeles Clippers

The battle of Los Angeles is here… in Orlando. Yeah, that is 2020 in a nutshell. Not that homecourt advantage would have mattered in Los Angeles, but having seen this series with fans would have been a whole new atmosphere for playoff basketball, although Orlando gives us a never-before-seen feel to everything, so it all works out in the end. In the regular season, the Clippers took two of the first 3 games, and have a fourth coming to kick off their seasons in Orlando on July 31st. The Lakers won the third matchup by going away from small ball and benching Kyle Kuzma for JaVale McGee, which gave some mismatches for guys like Anthony Davis, who often drew Marcus Morris Sr., or occasionally Paul George, and LeBron drew Kawhi or Morris. Having JaVale helped limit points in the paint, and starting Danny Green also gave them good perimeter defense and a great shooting option on the perimeter. The difference in this series will be with guys like Green, and having guys that can shoot the 3 and defend on the perimeter as well, and the Lakers have more of that than the Clippers, despite having 2 Sixth Man of the Year-caliber players off of their bench. The additions of guys like JR Smith and Dion Waiters certainly helps in that department. That, the mismatches that Anthony Davis will have, and the relentless drive and heart of this team, led by Playoff LeBron, will be too much for the Clippers to handle.

Prediction: Lakers in 6 games

NBA Finals

(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (3) Boston Celtics

The 2010s decade kicked off with a Celtics-Lakers NBA Finals for their 12th matchup, where Los Angeles came back from down 3-2 to win in 7 games in one of the most intense NBA Finals series I have ever witnessed. In the 13th installment of the rivalry and the NBA Finals that kicks off 2020, we see a much more different type of game being played, one of that is more premier-oriented and fast-paced, unlike that last series, where scoring 100 points as a team was an accomplishment. Talent wise, these are the best teams in their conference, and this series would come down to who guards LeBron and Davis, as does every other series. Even if Boston was to put Tatum and Brown on Davis and LeBron, there would be too many holes for LeBron and Davis to exploit with their passing, and players like Danny Green, Dion Waiters and Alex Caruso, can feast off of open 3s with weaker defenders and pull the game and series apart that way. Not to mention how huge of an advantage experience is for Los Angeles, I mean, LeBron has literally been to 9 NBA Finals, this would be his 10th, and this win would put him as the GOAT, having overcome the biggest circumstances, both inside and outside of the bubble, that any NBA player or team has ever endured. This Celtics team is a great one, but too young and inexperienced to match that of LA. Jayson Tatum will prove he is the leader of this team, but will not be enough to stop The King.

Prediction: Lakers are 2019-20 NBA Champions, winning the Finals in 6 games

Anish’s Playoff Predictions

Eastern Conference Round 1

(1) Milwaukee Bucks vs. (8) Brooklyn Nets

The matchup between the Bucks and the Nets would be fairly easy for the Bucks as the Nets are currently missing both their superstars in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. Nets are still a solid all around team but I don’t think they have what it takes to pull an upset over the Bucks

Prediction: Bucks in 4 games

(2) Toronto Raptors vs. (7) Orlando Magic

No one expected the Raptors to be where they are today, that being said it’s still surprising for them to be at the #2 spot after losing their Finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard. However, the Magic lack the playoff experience that the defending champs hold and I believe the Raptors will dominate this series.

Prediction: Raptors in 4 games

(3) Boston Celtics vs. (6) Indiana Pacers

The Celtics are a young team that can put up a fight to be one of the best in the Eastern Conference. Both of these teams lack one clear superstar and are held up by their starters and role players evenly. In times like the playoffs having a superstar is a big factor so with these teams lacking I see the series being close with Celtics on top.

Prediction: Celtics in 6 games.

(4) Miami Heat vs. (5) Philadelphia 76ers

Now this is an interesting matchup. No one expected the Heat to climb all the way up to 4th seed and no one expected the Sixers to fall down to 5th seed. After the Sixers heart crushing end to last season to the championship team, I believe they will come back with a vengeance and fight harder than ever. Miami has proven to be a solid team with Butler and their young stars but in a close series I put the Sixers on top.

Prediction: Sixers in 7 games.

Eastern Conference Semifinals

(1) Milwaukee Bucks vs. (5) Philadelphia 76ers

With the Sixers coming underperforming this season I don’t see them beating the Bucks. The Bucks have been firing on all cylinders this season while the Sixers have fallen short on their expectations. The Sixers beating the Heat is about as far as I can see them in these playoffs.

Prediction: Bucks in 5 games.

(2) Toronto Raptors vs. (3) Boston Celtics

Now this will be a very close matchup for both teams. Again with two teams lacking one clear superstar but their role players and starters are great with potential this will be a series to watch. I believe this series can go either side, people may favor the Celtics because of Tatum, Walker, and Brown vs the Raptors known name only in Siakam and maybe Lowry/Vanvleet. The Celtics were strong last season with a weak team like the Pistons but got blown out when they faced the Bucks. On the other side it’s hard to compare last season with this Raptors team after losing their best player but they have managed to pull away with a better record. I believe this series will be very close and with their second time through the Celtics will come on top as the Raptors just don’t appear to have any one player they can rely on to carry them in the playoffs like last year.

Prediction: Celtics in 7

Eastern Conference Finals

(1) Milwaukee Bucks vs (3) Boston Celtics

This appears to be a familiar matchup as last year the Celtics were defeated 4-1 in the series. However, this year they have acquired Kemba Walker as a less dramatic version of Kyrie Irving. As the Celtics will learn from their mistakes from last year the Bucks have also developed as a team and Giannis continues to put on a show. I see this series fairly close but give the Bucks the edge.

Prediction: Bucks in 6 games.

Western Conference Round 1

(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (8) Portland Trail Blazers

It was a tough fight for the Blazers to even get here as it seems like on the other hand the Lakers have been cruising through. Just looking at the Lakers roster their star power in LeBron and Davis is unmatched for the Blazers Lillard and McCollum. Although the Blazers now have 2 great interior forces with Nurkic back in the lineup alongside Whiteside, I still don’t think it’s enough to overcome the Lakers. The series will be close but I have the Laker on top.

Prediction: Lakers in 6.

(2) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (7) Dallas Mavericks

The Clippers duo of George and Leonard are one of the best on both sides of the ball. It’s also a surprise to see the Mavericks make the playoffs led by the great performance of Luka Doncic. However, with this matchup I feel like with Luka clamped on ball with either George or Leonard it makes it very hard for the Mavericks to win.

Prediction: Clippers in 5.

(3) Denver Nuggets vs. (6) Oklahoma City Thunder

The Nuggets again have shown to outperform expectations in the hard Western Conference and only one bigger surprise comes in this Thunder team. Who would have though that with their two biggest stars in Westbrook and George that instead of this team going in rebuild mode, as many people assumed, they would have made the playoffs. As much as this is the underdog squad led by Chris Paul, I don’t see the practicality of them going very far in the playoffs. The Nuggets are also a young team but learning from last year they should be able to put this Thunder team away.

Prediction: Nuggets in 5.

(4) Utah Jazz vs. (5) Houston Rockets

As much as the Jazz improved with Mike Conley the Rockets have also improved adding Westbrook. Many fans would see this as an easy win for the Rockets however there may be more to the story. With the addition of Westbrook there are two ball dominant point guards on one team, they managed to make it work during the regular season, but the playoffs are a whole different story. The Jazz are one of the best defensive teams with great defense not only in the paint with Rudy Gobert, but their perimeter is locked with Conely and Mitchell. Although the Rockets win the frontcourt battle they’re missing one key element, a solid paint presence. Rudy Gobert is a one of a kind shot blocker and intimidator in the paint and makes it tough to score inside. This wouldn’t have been a problem for the Rockets, however they traded away Clint Capela to run their small ball lineup. With the Jazz good defenders on the perimeter it’ll make it hard for the Rockets to find options on offense. These are two elite teams but I give the Jazz the edge.

Prediction: Jazz in 7 games.

Western Conference Semifinals

(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (4) Utah Jazz

Now comes the trouble for the Jazz where this is as far as they go. Without a clear superstar and the Lakers having 2, the Lakers have the easy edge. The series won’t be that close and I give the Lakers the edge.

Prediction: Lakers in 4 games.

(2) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (3) Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets have done an awful lot with their young lineup, but even with their one year experience I don’t think it’s right to put them over the Clippers. The Clippers have Paul George and Kawhi Leonard who will perform during the playoffs as they have experience and the former Finals MVP isn’t easy to stop. I give the Clippers the edge and it’s not very close.

Prediction: Clippers in 5.

Western Conference Finals

(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (2) Los Angeles Clippers

Now this is the matchup everyone is expecting, nothing new. Kawhi can handle LeBron while George and Davis are still able to perform. It can’t get more even than this watching this matchup would be equivalent to the NBA Finals. That being said I see this series going neck and neck to a game 7. I give the Lakers an edge because as well as the Clippers have done, LeBron has had his 2nd season with the Lakers team and understands the unit better than Kawhi and George joining the Clippers for one season. Although Kawhi has done a similar thing in Toronto, I don’t see them getting past LeBron in the playoffs because even aging LeBron in the playoffs is another level and I wouldn’t bet against him.

Prediction: Lakers in 7 games.

NBA Finals

(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (1) Milwaukee Bucks

The two best teams with the 2 clear MVP candidates going head-to-head is what we’ve all been waiting for. The Bucks have been surprising with how dominating they have taken the Eastern Conference while the Lakers seemt to be in a battle with the Clippers. However, an important thing in this series is LeBron James. During the NBA finals LeBron has shown to be an unstoppable force. As much as we’d say Giannis is similar he hasn’t quite stretched the floor as far as LeBron and his jumpshot (still not great but better than Giannis). Also placing Anthony Davis who is a phenomenal defender on Giannis almost cancels him out. There’s no one really on the Bucks completely capable of shutting down LeBron and that is why I give the Lakers the edge.

Prediction: Lakers in 6 games.

Nikhil’s Playoff Predictions

Eastern Conference Round 1:

(1) Milwaukee Bucks vs. (8) Brooklyn Nets

The sheer amount of disparity between these two teams sort of speaks for itself. On one hand you have the MVP and DPOY candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo, and on the other, you have a hopelessly depleted Nets team missing most of their offensive firepower. Again, pretty self-explanatory here.

Bucks in 4.

(2) Toronto Raptors vs. (7) Orlando Magic

The Raptors have proven to the rest of the league that even with the loss of Kawhi Leanord over the offseason, that they are still a quality basketball club, and still have hopes of another ring in the future. The Magic are, well, the Magic. Again, it’s relatively easy to see who wins here.

Raptors in 4.

(3) Boston Celtics vs. (6) Indiana Pacers

It is worth mentioning how well the Pacers have worked around key pieces in order to contend in the playoffs this year. Oladipo is a known star in this league, however the rise of Domantas Sabonis, as well as Myles Turner and the rest of the team have vaulted them into relevancy. That being said, this Celtics team seems to have finally found the right mix of star power and teamwork, centralizing around Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker. Team chemistry is off the charts as of now, and they will be carrying that momentum into this matchup. The Pacers will be able to put up a fight, however I don’t think it will be enough.

Celtics in 6.

(4) Miami Heat vs. (5) Philadelphia 76ers

Man, this Heat team is one of the most fun to watch in a long time. With Butler at the helm, with excellent young pieces in Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro, as well as all-star support in Bam Adebayo, this team is poised to go far. That being said, this 76ers team is no slouch, and with their own mix of superstars including Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, and Al Horford, they give the Heat a very valid run for their money. In all honesty, this is the matchup I’m most looking forward to in the East, and I think the Heat take it, but it’s a close and hard fought fight that realistically can go either way.

Heat in 6.

Eastern Conference Semifinals

(1) Milwaukee Bucks vs. (4) Miami Heat

Here it is folks, my first upset within this set of predictions. Giannis Antetokounmpo is an undisputed FORCE in this league, and yes, this Bucks team is beyond dangerous. However, it just seems to me that this team is so centralized around him, even with an all-star in Khris Middleton paired with him. It’s to the point where you don’t think of the team as much anymore, you think of the one player. In this sense, Miami is the complete opposite. They have so many options when it comes to offensive productivity, and are a solid team on defense as well. I think during the series they will be able to capitalize on the moments that Antetokounmpo isn’t on the floor, and contend well enough when he is. Again, it won’t be without a concerted effort, but if anyone can do it, it’s the Heat.

Heat in 7.

(2) Toronto Raptors vs. (3) Boston Celtics

This is probably the closest matchup within the Eastern Conference, and in my opinion, it’s between the two most meticulously crafted clubs within the conference as well. The Raptors again have defied all expectations this season, and have shown a lot of heart to get to this point. The Celtics have lived up to the hype, and have matched the expectations that were placed on their shoulders this offseason. Both teams have earned the right to be where they are in the standings, and yet it is still so hard to pick one. In the end, I’m leaning towards the Celtics to take it solely based on their talent within their starting line up. If their team chemistry can shine, and they can not rely on Jayson Tatum for every source of offensive production, they have the slightly better chance to take the series

Celtics in 7.

Eastern Conference Finals

(3) Boston Celtics vs. (4) Miami Heat

In many ways I see the Celtics as the improved version of the Heat. They have the same sort of variation in offensive production, however the Celtics have a bit of an edge in terms of offensive production and overall team experience. Thus, I would pick them over the Heat 9 times out of 10. It does hurt a bit to go against Miami though, they are so fun to watch and can be such an underdog story at times. I just think their luck runs out here.

Celtics in 6.

Western Conference Round 1:

(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (8) Portland Trail Blazers

The greatness of this Lakers team does not need any introduction, and will be discussed later on in this prediction. However, the main reason they win this series for me is the disappointing play the Blazers have shown this year. After adding Carmelo Anthony to an already Western Conference Semifinal achieving squad, you would think that they would at least match that accomplishment this year. Maybe it’s the rest of the league getting way better, maybe it’s not. Regardless, they lose this series, and need to have a hard look in the mirror.

Lakers in 4.

(2) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (7) Dallas Mavericks

Oh man this will be a fun series to watch. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George up against Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. In all honesty, the Clippers are the more mature and seasoned team, and I expect them to use this to their advantage on their way to winning the series. However, this is a good litmus test in essence for this Mavs team, who isn’t in “win now” mode unlike both LA teams. If they can put up a good fight, which I personally think they will, they have a lot to look forward to in the future. For right now though, the Clippers take this series.

Clippers in 6.

(3) Denver Nuggets vs. (6) Oklahoma City Thunder

The Nuggets are a very lowkey sleeper team in these playoffs. You know the names, you know the record, but you really don’t see their lethal nature until you see them play in person. The team chemistry is crazy, especially for a team whose main star player is a big man. For this reason, they trounce the Thunder in almost every category, with the exception being Steven Adams, because no one messes with Steven Adams. Anyways, regardless of how meteoric this rise has been for the Thunder, especially in context of the Westbrook trade over the offseason, they simply can’t compete

Thunder in 5

(4) Utah Jazz vs. (5) Houston Rockets

This season is very much a disappointment for the Houston Rockets, who many believed going into the season were going to run the league along side the Lakers, Clippers, and Bucks. Acquiring Russell Westbrook seemed to be the one thing that could vault this team into a championship run, and it just hasn’t worked out. That being said, their talent and skill is in my opinion better than that of the Jazz, who really only can rely on Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert for consistent production. Don’t get me wrong, the rest of the team is a bunch of ballers in their own right, but the offensive firepower of Houston, as controversial as it is, is too much to handle.

Houston in 6.

Western Conference Semifinals

(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (5) Houston Rockets

This is where the Rockets defense and bench woes come back to hurt them. They can get away with relying solely on their offense to propel them to wins, however with a powerhouse team like the Lakers, that method simply will not suffice. The Lakers are too disciplined on both offense and defence to even think about letting Harden or Westbrook run rampant. Couple that with their own firepower in Lebron James, Anthony Davis, and a highly upgraded bench unit, and this series isn’t even that close.

Lakers in 5.

(2) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (3) Denver Nuggets

Both of these teams are so well disciplined on both ends of the court, however I’m giving the edge to the Clippers solely based on their bench production, and it’s dominance over that of Denver. For those who aren’t super informed with everything about the NBA, the Denver bench is one shrouded in mystery, and often leaves people wondering who even is there. Compare that with the Clippers bench which has 2 out of the 3 current nominees for 6th man of the year, and you start to see where the differences in these two teams lie. For this reason, I have the Clippers winning this matchup.

Clippers in 6.

Western Conference Finals

(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (2) Los Angeles Clippers

Ah yes, the matchup everybody and their mom has been frantically waiting for since the first tipoff in this NBA season. We’ve seen it before, we’re going to see it again, LeBron and AD, versus Kawhi and PG is going to be the rivalry of the season for every NBA fan. These teams are so evenly matched, and this is very much supported by the regular season games both teams played against each other. Simply based on the dominant season LBJ has been having, as well as the chemistry between those two as compared to Kawhi and PG, I’m leaning more towards the Lakers winning this series. That’s not to say the Clippers are the lesser team, in fact I would say their roster is a bit more well rounded than the Lakers, however the Lakers just have a bit more upside in terms of momentum and heart. It’s weird to say yes, but in all honesty, that’s all that’s between these two teams.

Lakers in 7.

NBA FINALS

(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (3) Boston Celtics

It’s kind of odd to say, but at this exact point in the prospective season, I would say that the Lakers have taken on and overcome their biggest challenge of the season in the LA Clippers. There is a reason why so much emphasis is placed on these two teams, and why they are the focal point of the NBA world as of now. The Celtics on the other hand are woefully inexperienced when it comes to this sort of stage, and that combined with the humongous task of taking down “Washed King” and crew sort of spells the end of the road for their squad. Because of this, I can see the Lakers taking this series in a much less difficult manner than their previous, and winning the NBA championship.

Lakers in 6, NBA Champions.

Links you can use to help educate yourself, donate, sign petitions, and much more for Black Lives Matter and Ending Racism and Social Injustice, as well as everything else going on. With so much going on, it is very hard to keep up with it all, but it is still important to educate yourself, so please feel free to use all of these resources to help you out:

https://www.adhoc.fm/post/black-lives-matter-resources-and-funds/

https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/

https://www.thezoereport.com/p/10-black-lives-matter-organizations-you-can-donate-money-to-right-now-22948855

https://nymag.com/strategist/article/where-to-donate-for-black-lives-matter.html

https://yemencrisis.carrd.co/

http://issuesintheworld.carrd.co/

NBA 2019-20 Awards Predictions

By Saransh Sharma, Anish Dhondi, and Nikhil Pradeep

With this season happening and being completed in the most unusual of circumstances due to the continued outbreak of the Coronavirus in the United States, the NBA Awards could be affected a little differently this year. The NBA has announced that these 8 seeding games in Orlando will have no effect on who wins what award, and that the voting will take place from today until July 28th, and award winners will be announced during the playoffs (late August, early September timeframe). It hurts award voters because they cannot focus in too much on what is going on in Orlando with their contenders, but instead go 4 months back to see the whole season before the Coronavirus outbreak. That being said, here are the candidates for each award, and our predictions for the winner of each award. 

Most Valuable Player

  • Candidates
    • Giannis Antetokuonmpo, PF, Milwaukee Bucks
    • LeBron James, SF, Los Angeles Lakers
    • Luka Doncic, PG, Dallas Mavericks

Defensive Player of the Year

  • Candidates
    • Anthony Davis, PF, Los Angeles Lakers
    • Giannis Antetokuonmpo, PF, Milwaukee Bucks
    • Rudy Gobert, C, Utah Jazz

Most Improved Player

  • Candidates
    • Brandon Ingram, SF, New Orleans Pelicans
    • Devonte Graham, PG, Charlotte Hornets
    • Bam Adebayo, C, Miami Heat

Rookie of the Year

  • Candidates
    • Ja Morant, PG, Memphis Grizzlies
    • Kendrick Nunn, PG, Miami Heat
    • Zion Williamson, PF, New Orleans Pelicans

Sixth Man of the Year

  • Candidates
    • Montrezl Harrell, C, Los Angeles Clippers
    • Lou Williams, SG, Los Angeles Clippers
    • Dennis Schröder, SG, Oklahoma City Thunder

Coach of the Year

  • Candidates
    • Nick Nurse, Toronto Raptors
    • Billy Donovan, Oklahoma City Thunder
    • Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee Bucks

Executive of the Year

  • Candidates
    • Pat Riley, Miami Heat President of Basketball Operations
    • Lawrence Frank, Los Angeles Clippers President of Basketball Operations
    • David Griffin, New Orleans Pelicans Executive VP

Saransh’s Award Predictions

MVP Winner: LeBron James

The debate between Giannis and LeBron for MVP has been going for the entirety of the season, and with both playing like the two best players in the league, and being on the two best teams in the league, no real separation has been created as to who should be the Most Valuable Player. Again, however, like previous years, we have to look at which player is more ‘valuable’ to the team, and which player has helped their team improve and win more this season. Last season, we saw LeBron miss 27 games due to an injury, the most in his career, and this season, his team is the 1-seed in the Western Conference and looking to secure homecourt throughout the playoffs against their Western Conference opponents. Giannis, on the other hand, is playing in a weaker conference, and playing for the better team, both record-wise, and statistically, despite putting up similar numbers. The biggest argument I have heard is that Giannis carries more of the load than LeBron, but that simply is not the case. Aside from Anthony Davis, no starters average double figures this season, whereas Giannis has 3 other starters averaging double figures. Milwaukee has also only changed their starting lineup once, whereas Los Angeles has had 10 different starting lineup combinations. With uncertainty and less support from starters, LeBron still being 11th in scoring and 1st in assists is as impressive as it gets, especially at age 35. Giannis will have more chances in the future, but LeBron takes this one.

Defensive Player of the Year Winner: Anthony Davis

Anthony Davis joining Los Angeles last summer to team up with LeBron James did not scare people because of his offensive ability alongside LeBron, but because of what he brought to the defensive end. James, while his defensive stats have been down, has had a great impact on the defensive end as a Laker, as last season, the team was top-5 in defensive efficiency before his injury, so adding Davis on just makes them even tougher. Davis is already 3rd in the league in blocks (2.4), tied for 8th in steals (1.5), and the team is 3rd for the season in fewest points allowed (106.9). The stats are huge, but his impact that is shown beyond the stat sheet, by often guarding the best player on the other team (alongside LeBron) both on the perimeter and inside, is what separates him from Giannis and Gobert on that end of the floor.

Most Improved Player Winner: Bam Adebayo

Bam Adebayo, fan-favorite amongst all Miami Heat fans, especially myself, has proved to Miami that taking him 14th overall in the 2017 NBA Draft was a huge steal, and he has turned himself into the franchise cornerstone. Bam went from playing 23 minutes a game and splitting playing time with elite rim-protecting center Hassan Whiteside, to now being the starter, playing 34 minutes a game, and nearly doubling his production in points, steals, and blocks, and averaging a double-double on over 56% shooting from the field. Adebayo has become the great sidekick to Jimmy Butler, both by being a complementary scorer, as well as the rim-protecting defensive anchor. Despite how much Devonte Graham and Brandon Ingram improved, Adebayo changed the future of Miami, and helped them go from a team many thought would be rebuilding or a fringe playoff team, to now being a championship contender. Adebayo is a player Miami has built around this year, and will do so in the future. 

Rookie of the Year Winner: Ja Morant

Memphis, a team that this offseason had: let its last piece of the legendary ‘Grit and Grind’ team go in Mike Conley, finished out of the playoffs for many years, but for once in the lottery were able to go low enough to get a good draft pick, and picked up a new head coach in Taylor Jenkins after spending over 2 months searching for one, finds themselves as the current 8-seed in the Western Conference, and putting all their faith and pressure on the shoulders of rookie sensation Ja Morant. Ja has been an efficient scorer like everyone expected him to be, but to be the floor general and defensive menace he is on the perimeter, was something unexpected. Ja has taken this team over in one season and completely redefined the culture, as now from the old ‘Grit and Grind’, veteran-built look, Memphis now is a fast-paced, pace-and-space team surrounded by a plethora of young talent, and then the right veterans at the right spots. Had guys like Kendrick Nunn, Zion Willamson, and maybe even Tyler Herro been more healthy, this discussion might be a lot harder, but even then, Ja would still be the well-deserving winner of this award, solely on his impact on the team alone.

Sixth Man of the Year Winner: Dennis Schröder

The Sixth Man of the Year award has largely been dominated by Lou Williams, who has won the award in three of the past five seasons, and his 3 wins are tied for most all-time. The only problem for LouWill is the fact that his teammate Montrezl Harrell played just as much Sixth Man as he did, and Dennis Schröder has outplayed both of them. Schröder has been as true a Sixth Man as you can get, be a reliable, big-time scorer off the bench, and start if necessary. While Schröder has only had to start once this season, his presence off the bench has been unmatch, being third on the team in scoring, second in assists, and third in minutes played, he has been a vital part to the success of Oklahoma City, which has been largely unexpected, considering the fact that they traded Paul George and Russell Westbrook and went into a complete rebuild mode with the multitude of draft capital they acquired for them. Trading Carmelo Anthony for D-Schro 2 summers ago has definitely paid off for OKC, as his impact and full potential is on full display for the first time in his career.

Coach of the Year Winner: Nick Nurse

Imagine this. Your first year into your job, in fact not even a month into your job, your franchise cornerstone in Demar DeRozan, is involved in a massive trade for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, both of whom are on expiring contracts and unhappy. You are sworn in to coach these guys to become championship contenders after years of heartbreak at the hands of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, but now that LeBron is in Los Angeles, the Eastern Conference is as wide-open as ever. He not only leads Toronto to the 2-seed in the Eastern Conference, but knocks off the 1-seed Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals, and then wins the NBA Finals over the dynasty Golden State Warriors. 

Now what if I told you that both Leonard and Green would end up leaving in free agency, and Toronto signed no replacements, would you still think that they can be Finals contenders and defend their crown? Most people would say no, but Nurse proved them wrong. Leonard and Green are both doing great playing in Los Angeles, but Nurse’s situation in Toronto is no different than last. Same seed as last year, same record, same team they are chasing at the top of the East. Nurse helped this team become a consistent contender that they failed to be before the Kawhi trade, and made Pascal Siakam an elite power forward and franchise cornerstone, and looks to take his team to yet another NBA Finals. As great as the team has been, they were never this good before Nurse, and it shows.

Executive of the Year Winner: Pat Riley

Much like Sixth Man of the Year, this is a no-brainer. Let’s go back to last April, when Pat Riley signed Kendrick Nunn to a 3-year, $3 million deal (non-guaranteed) right as the regular season ended from the Golden State Warriors G-League affiliate team. Come June, Miami held a lottery pick, but not the greatest one ever at pick 13. Instead, they managed to turn that into Tyler Herro (whom many compared to Devin Booker), he then, without making a dent on the cap space, traded Josh Richardson and a first-round pick for Jimmy Butler in a sign-and-trade during free agency, and in that same 4-team trade, traded the often-disgruntled Hassan Whiteside for Meyers Leonard and Maurice Harkless (who found his way onto the New York Knicks after being traded by Miami to the Clippers, then to the Knicks). Then, fast-forward to the trade deadline in February, he traded away James Johnson, Justise Winslow, and Dion Waiters, his 3 biggest contracts, for experienced vets Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder, and then on top of that, signed Iggy to a 2-year extension which includes a team option, therefore not hurting the team’s cap space come 2021, when they try to make a push for Giannis. This team went from dealing with the retirement of Dwyane Wade in the form of a multi-year rebuild, to a championship contender with a fast-paced development for young players like Nunn, Herro, and Bam Adebayo. Those 3, along with Jimmy Butler and the rest of the players they traded for, will be part of the Heat Culture for a long time, and made them a contender for years to come.

Anish’s Award Predictions

Most Valuable Player Winner: Giannis Antetokounmpo

Giannis has been in the runnings against LeBron for the Most Valuable Player. The reason I give Giannis the edge over LeBron is because the Bucks currently sit 53-12 with the best record in the league. Although the Lakers are second, LeBron gets the strong support of co-star Anthony Davis while it feels Giannis is more of a one man show in Milwaukee. Statistically the two are close, however Giannis obtains an advantage in the defensive side where LeBron continues to lack late in his career.

Defensive Player of the Year Winner: Anthony Davis

The reason I chose Anthony Davis is because of his presence in the paint for the Laker. Davis and McGee duo has been a problem for many teams against the Lakers as they make it very hard to score in the paint with their block totals. Anthony Davis currently averages 2.4 blocks and 1.5 steals which are among the top defensive players in the league which is why he is my pick for Defensive Player of the Year.

Most Improved Player Winner: Brandon Ingram

This was a close decision between Brandon Ingram and Bam Adebayo. Ingram upped his PPG by 6 and Adebayo upped it by 8 PPG. The reason I chose Ingram over Adebayo is because Adebayo was given more minutes this year by 10 and performed better with more time he was given. Ingram on the other hand maintained the same minutes per game and still increased his PPG drastically. Although he was given another opportunity with the Pelicans and more chances his improvement in a new setting and team makes him my pick for Most Improved Player.

Rookie of the Year Winner: Ja Morant

While all the hype is currently surrounding star Zion Williamson as he was also announced as one of the 2K21 cover athletes, my prediction for Rookie of the Year would have to be Ja Morant. Although Zion has been extraordinary in his few games played, those games aren’t a large enough sample size to win this award and the only other person who comes close in comparison is Ja Morant.

Sixth Man of the Year Winner: Dennis Schröder

Schroder has been the backup to Chris Paul with the thunder but still has managed to put up a great 19 PPG. He is competing for this award with two other Clippers players in Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell. The reason I have Schroder winning it is because Lou Williams already has won this award consecutively and it’s rare for the NBA to give it to him again. Also, these two Clippers are competing for the award with each other giving Schroder a slight advantage and with their stats so close I give Schroder the edge to win.

Coach of the Year Winner: Nick Nurse

This one is a no-brainer. Nick Nurse should definitely win this award because of how he kept the Raptors in such great shape. After coming off a championship win and losing their finals MVP to the Clippers, no one expected the Raptors to even make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference anymore. Not only are they in the playoffs but they sit second in the East (46-18) only behind Giannis’ Bucks. To take a new team that Nurse hasn’t worked with before that just lost its superstar and has no real ‘star player’ to rely on and still be competing in the Eastern Conference is why Nick Nurse is my pick for Coach of the Year.

Executive of the Year Winner: Lawrence Frank

Lawrence Frank is my pick for Executive of the year for orchestrating the biggest offseason steal of this year. Kawhi was constantly rumored to go to the Lakers or stay in Toronto during the offseason and it came to a huge shock when we found out he’d go to the Clippers. But not only did the Clippers add former Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, but they managed to add Paul George too in the package. Frank strategically knew that Leonard wanted to work with another superstar but didn’t want to necessarily be a shadow to LeBron, so bringing Paul George in to co-star Leonard was the perfect move. The offseason completely changed the future for the Clippers as now they’re neck and neck with the Lakers for who will come out Top in the Western Conference. This big move to acquire not one but 2 superstars during the offseason is why I chose Lawrence Frank as Executive of the Year.

Nikhil’s Award Predictions

Most Valuable Player Winner: Giannis Antetokoumpo

The fact of the matter is that Giannis Antetokoump has put up another season’s worth of historic numbers, and has vaulted his Bucks team into the best record in the league. Averaging nearly 30 points, 14 rebounds and six assists despite playing less than 31 minutes per game is not an easy task, and Antetokoumpo did it in dominant fashion. Even though Lebron James was league leader in assists before the break, and put up staggering numbers of his own at such a late stage in his career, (25.7 PTS, 10.6 AST, 7.9 REB), I don’t think it’s enough to compare to the accomplishments of Antetokounmpo, and thus I wouldn’t pick him for MVP.

Defensive Player of the Year Winner: Giannis Antetokoumpo

With this take, Antetokounmpo is slated to win the MVP and DPOY awards, a feat that only Hakeem Olajuwon and Michael Jordan have ever accomplished. The numbers simply don’t lie when it comes to Giannis’ defensive contribution. He leads the league in defensive win shares with 4.8,he leads the league in defensive plus-minus standings with 4.1, and finally, he also leads the league in defensive rating with 96.3. Combine this with an average of 13.7 rebounds per game, and the most defensive rebounds in the league, and you get a freak of nature worthy of both the MVP and DPOY awards.

Most Improved Player Winner: Brandon Ingram

This can easily be given to Bam Adebayo, who like Ingram snuck his way onto the Eastern Conference All-Star team roster, and make no mistake what he has done this year is very much worthy of praise. However, many people expected him to undertake this maturation and this increase in skill, albeit not as quickly. Brandon Ingram on the other hand was written off by so many people, including myself. He simply didn’t fit under LeBron’s Lakers, and that stunted his growth as a player, to the point where he had to pack his bags and wonder if the NBA was the right place for him. A wildly unexpected coming of age season followed up this culture shock for Ingram, and he, to put it frankly, balled out this season. Since the Pelicans did not have the monster that is Zion Williamson for a good stretch, Ingram picked up the slack and produced OUTSTANDING figures, including 24.3 PTS, 4.3 AST, and 6.3 REB. I’d call it a comeback story for Ingram, one definitely worth the MIP award.

Rookie of the Year Winner: Ja Morant

This might be the easiest pick of the bunch: when you have a rookie who can take a rather mediocre team like the Grizzlies, and put them in playoff contention, you have to recognize the achievement. And when the next closest competition is Zion Williamson, who only played 19 games for the Pelicans, this shouldn’t even be a discussion. An honorable mention has to go out to Kendrick Nunn of the Miami Heat, who put up respectable figures for a player whom many have not never heard of before, however they pale in comparison and impact to a team than that of Ja Morant. Just give my man the award already.

Sixth Man of the Year Winner: Dennis Schröder

Dennis Schröder has been one of those cornerstone bench pieces for years in this league. When Jeff Teague finally left Atlanta way back when, Schröder finally had his change in a starting role, and largely underwhelmed, granted the team was pretty below average as well. In his new role behind Chris Paul with the Oklahoma City Thunder, he’s enjoyed some of the best basketball of his career, and gets to do it under the guidance of the point-god himself, Chris Paul. He is an instrumental piece of OKC’s playoff push, something that NO ONE thought would even happen since the departure of Russell Westbrook. Averaging 19 PTS, 4.1 AST, and 3.7 REB, he provides that spark off the bench for one of the league’s surprise stories. Thus, I think he provides a better case for 6th Man of the Year than Montrezel Harril, and Mr. 6th man himself, Lou Williams.

Coach of the Year Winner: Nick Nurse

Nick Nurse took a championship team that lost the greatest thing to ever happen to it’s franchise in Kawhi Leanord, as well as an instrumental piece in Danny Green, and brought it back to 2nd place in the Eastern Conference, with almost no real big replacement. I think that’s enough validation in it’s own right. Just for argument’s case though, compared to Billy Donovan, who by all means has done a fabulous job with underdogs OKC, and Mike Budenholzer, who also has done very well with the league’s best team, Nurse simply outclasses them. Point proven.

Executive of the Year Winner: Pat Riley

Given the expectations for the Miami Heat and the actual outcome, Pat Riley deserves every ounce of praise he can get. When the news of Jimmy Butler leaving Philadelphia broke, I personally wondered why he would go to a non-contender, and one that didn’t even have much of a rebuild in mind. However, the likes of Kendrick Nunn, Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, Derrick Jones Jr., and others have given this team so much life and so much firepower, they’re honestly one of the most fun teams in the league to watch, and by all means not where most thought they would be at this point in the season. Once again the NBA is treated to the genius of Pat Riley, and somehow he and Erik Spoelstra seem to work their magic once again.

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https://www.adhoc.fm/post/black-lives-matter-resources-and-funds/

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https://www.thezoereport.com/p/10-black-lives-matter-organizations-you-can-donate-money-to-right-now-22948855

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https://yemencrisis.carrd.co/

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https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2020-04-28/coronavirus-charity-how-to-choose-and-donate