The first round of the 2018 NBA playoffs brought some great moments. It has also given us the opportunity to learn some things that we did not know before these playoffs started. Here’s our list of some things we have learned from the first round of this year’s edition of the NBA Playoffs.
Underrated teams/players came to play
What probably was the biggest stunner of the first round was the amount of unexpected performances of lesser known teams and individual players. Donovan Mitchell showed the Thunder and the entire NBA why they should regard him as a top tier scoring option and that the Jazz aren’t missing a beat without former All-Star Gordon Hayward. Jrue Holiday was able to silence All-Star Damien Lillard and Rajon Rondo reminded us all he can still play en route to a series sweep over the Trail Blazers.
Lance Stephenson did his best to agitate LeBron, while Victor Oladipo was able to outscore every Cavs player not named LeBron. Star Giannis Antetokounmpo and the rest of the Bucks did their best to play against a Kyrie Irving-less Celtics team and were able to tie the series up after going down early, on their way to making it to all the way to game 7. The Washington
Wizards gave the Eastern Conference leading Raptors a pretty big scare. Overall, this has been the year where the underdog makes things very interesting. Hopefully this provides hope to the teams who were competing for ping-pong balls rather than wins in order to make the regular season just as fun as these young playoffs have been thus far.
The Kawhi-Spurs relationship is complicated
The San Antonio Spurs season ended early this season, leaving a bunch of questions that will need to be answered. Apparently team doctors and Kawhi Leonard had multiple disagreements regarding Kawhi’s return to play, causing multiple trade rumors to surface. How bad is the situation between Kawhi and the Spurs really? We may never know, but maybe it would make sense for them to trade the former Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. Gregg Popovich isn’t getting any younger, and
recently lost his wife and may consider stepping away from the game entirely sooner rather than later. The majority of the team outside Kawhi is aging; Pau Gasol, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili are all in their mid-late 30s and LaMarcus Aldridge isn’t all that far off (he’s 32 years old). They have been competitive since before I was even born, but maybe this is a sign for the Spurs to retool and rebuild for the future.
The "Bigs" made an impact
Slowly but surely the NBA is moving towards a smaller, guard orientated league, or so we thought. It seems that this year’s playoffs have given us many big performances from the big men, who are making more of an impact than we could’ve imagined. Anthony Davis gave the Pelicans their first playoff series win since 2007, solidifying his place among Pelicans lore. Karl-Anthony Towns silenced many haters by
producing a double-double in the Timberwolves first playoff win in 14 years over the Houston Rockets. Joel Embiid came back from injury to save the 76ers from the scare that was the Miami Heat. Rudy Gobert notched 18 points and 12 rebounds as the Utah Jazz took command over the Oklahoma City Thunder. Even Marcin Gortat made an impact as the Wizards tried to get back in their series against. In short, the elite big men in our league have played the best of all positions so far. Even though most teams are looking to decrease the value in an elite big man, things may change if these guys continue to put up unbelievable numbers
Beware of the Philadelphia 76ers
The Philadelphia 76ers are a team that is most definitely on the rise. The process has finally come to fruition, and boy should teams be scared about the possibility of facing them. The duo of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons is slowly becoming one of the most formidable duos in all the NBA. They provide the star power to match any other duo/trio that may be pitted against them. Add in the fact that Markelle Fultz looks as if he’s a seasoned veteran, this team can beat you many ways. The role players on this team make a heavy impact too. Dario Saric, J.J Redick, Robert Covington, Marco Bellineli, T.J McConnell, and Ersan Ilyasova give this team one of the deepest benches in the entire league. Although it seemed like they may have been struggling against the Miami Heat, they have the ability to play on a completely higher level. As long as this team keeps down their only weakness, turnovers, this is a team that I believe no one will want to face. And keep this in mind, two years ago these guys won only 10 games in an entire season.
Big changes may be coming for the Oklahoma City Thunder
The OKC Thunder were one of the most inconsistent teams in basketball the entire year. Last offseason, they built a team they believed suitable to take on the juggernauts in the Western Conference. But the issue is they weren’t even good enough to play them. Big questions face the Thunder this offseason. Paul George is an unrestricted free agent, and there is question whether or not the Thunder can convince him to sign a long term deal here. If the rumors are true, George may have already made his decision Carmelo Anthony has a player option for next season worth $27 million, but he may be inclined to opt out in order to sign on with a contender. Does coach Billy Donovan deserve to hold on to his job after how the Thunder played this season? Does star and former MVP Russell Westbrook really have problems playing with other superstars? The Thunder come into this offseason needing answers for all these questions and more.