Bucks win the title
In one of the most memorable Finals in recent history, The Milwaukee Bucks captured the NBA championship. Giannis Antetokounmpo forever etched his name among the greats scoring 50 points tying the most for a title clincher. He is the 7th player in NBA history to score 50+ in the Finals and it was performances like this that seized his Finals MVP.
This NBA Finals gave us some of the more historic plays the game has ever seen. Giannis’ block on Ayton in Game 4 along with Jrue Holiday’s steal and lob to Giannis in Game 6 might be the best plays I’ve ever seen considering the circumstances.
This championship is Milwaukee's first since 1971 and they were well supported. During the championship ceremony, Adam Silver said there were around 65,000 people watching the game from outside the arena.
At least personally, I think it’s always nice for a smaller market team to win the trophy especially one that hasn’t won in 50 years. They were a resilient bunch all year long. They began their series with the highly favored Nets down 0-2 and won a Game 7 on the road. Giannis performed historically well, but it was a total team effort from Khris Middleton all the way down to Bobby Portis. Middleton’s mid-range dagger with about a minute left put them up six and they never looked back.
Five of the Bucks eight players who got minutes scored in double figures including Middleton’s 17 and Portis’s 16. Throughout this postseason, Giannis has been ridiculed for his free throw shooting, but in the most important game of his life, he went 17-19 from the line.
The Suns showed their youth towards the end committing bad live-ball turnovers and silly frustration fouls. Although they lost four straight to end the season, they will learn and return from it with more experience, but you have to wonder if that might be their only shot. Chris Paul is aging and all of the West’s stars will return at some point next season.
The Sun’s postseason run was a dominant one but ultimately to be blocked by the most dominant player in the NBA. He averaged 35 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 assists in this series and carved his name in the “one of the best players ever” conversation. He joins Hakeem Olajuwon and Michael Jordan as the only players to win MVP, DPOY, and Finals MVP.
"I could go to a super team ... but this is the hard way to do it, and we did it. We f---ing did it."— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 21, 2021
—NBA champ and Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo pic.twitter.com/ni3jG0rOhY
The NBA’s best teams will return better next season so a repeat is in question, but for now, Milwaukee is 2021’s best team.
In other news
Former Denver Nuggets assistant Wes Unseld Jr. signed a 4-year deal to become the Washington Wizard’s head coach. Unseld Jr. has ties to the Washington community as his father and NBA Hall of Famer Wes Unseld Sr. was regarded as the face of the franchise throughout his time as a player, coach, and executive.
Unseld Jr. arrives with a mission to clear up the Washington defense. As defensive coordinator for the Nuggets, Unseld’s knowledge in that department is extensive and he looks to transfer that to Washington saying, “The defensive side of the ball has been an issue here. That’s an area where I’ve been charged with for the past five seasons.”
Will Barton and Normal Powell decline player options
Nugget forward Will Barton declined his $14.7 player option for next season and will be a free agent this summer. Barton is Denver’s longest-tenured player with seven seasons under his belt, but uncertainty surrounding his role has many wondering if he will return. Barton is confident he is a starting player in this league and with the emergence of Michael Porter Jr., that Denver starting five continues to get crowded.
Reports say there is interest from both sides to negotiate a new deal. Barton played his best ball in a Nugget uniform and Denver certainly cannot afford to lose any more scoring. He averaged 13 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists in an injury-riddled season, but he remains certain his best performances are ahead of him.
Portland Trail Blazer forward Norman Powell also declines his $11.6 player option. The Blazers want to keep him but there is a lot of turmoil in Portland right now, and he is a nice two-way player making him a hot commodity on the open market. He averaged 17 points and 3 rebounds on 44% shooting from three last season becoming the third-leading scorer in that Portland offense.
Powell is an NBA champion and a rugged, skilled player and one that the Nuggets could look at if they cannot re-sign Barton.
Team USA shakes up their roster
Their two-week stay in Vegas hasn’t been a comfortable one. Bradley Beal and Jerami Grant were forced to miss time because of the health and safety protocol, Kevin Love left the team due to an injury, and they lost to Nigeria and Australia in their first two games.
They travel to Tokyo with reinforcements on the way. They added Nugget center JaVale McGee and Spurs forward Keldon Johnson who scored 15 points in their final exhibition game. With the conclusion of the NBA Finals, they are also expected to gain three stars in Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday, and Devin Booker.
Team USA begins their gold medal search this Sunday versus France at 8:00 AM ET.
Portland superstar Damian Lillard addressed the media amid continuous trade rumors. Days before the press conference, much of the media said he was going to request a trade with his words on Friday. Of course, it didn't happen as Lillard pledged his love for Portland and willingness to stay, but he remained firm in his stance desiring change on a path to a championship.
In a press conference today, Damian Lillard denied reports that he had requested a trade from the Blazers.— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) July 16, 2021
During that time, he also emphasized the team's need for urgency if they want to keep him in Portland. pic.twitter.com/GnbMY20Ut9
The Utah Jazz are in the news for the first time since their loss to the Clippers, albeit with rumors. The Action Network’s Matt Moore indicated Bogdanovic and Ingles have been “bandied about as available” as long as they can acquire a considerable upgrade.
The Jazz come off an extremely disappointing finish to a very promising season in which they finished with the league’s best record. Their point guard Mike Conley heads into the summer as an unrestricted free agent, and if they lose him that leaves a large void at the point guard spot. Some executives believe the Jazz will return next season with their core talent but some believe changes are needed for a deep playoff run.
The New Orleans Pelicans come with new trade rumors every week. Last week it was that they could trade Lonzo Ball, this week it is Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams. A report by William Guillory and Sam Vecenie of The Athletic states, “Sources say there’s an expectation that at least one of them will be on the move this offseason.”
Adams and Bledsoe were brought in last year, in part, to improve a struggling defense but it did not work out how they envisioned. The Pelicans finished 23rd in the league with a 113.3 defensive rating last season.
Also, the Pelicans have their eye on former NBA champion Kyle Lowry. NBA reporter Marc Stein announced there is “rising buzz” that New Orleans will be a suitor for the six-time All-Star. The Pelicans have been eager to acquire talented, veteran pieces with a championship pedigree and this is one of the best on the market.
There is rising buzz New Orleans plans to enter the race for free agent-to-be Kyle Lowry, league sources say.— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) July 19, 2021
There will be several Lowry suitors but it's clear why the Pels, desperate to help Zion Williamson reach the playoffs, would want in.
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