The NBA playoffs have always been where player legacies get defined. Now that we are in the ultimate showcase of the Finals’ NBA playoffs, it is time to look at the two players who this year’s NBA Finals will define.
Giannis Antetokounmpo has won back-to-back MVP awards. He is a defensive player of the year. Despite these regular-season accolades, the story of Giannis is what he hasn’t done when it comes to the playoffs. His story is what his game lacks. The road through the East has gotten easier since Lebron left Cleveland to play for the Lakers. But that easy road has led to disappointment in the previous two post-seasons. The Bucks lost to the then Kawhi lead Raptors, where the defensive solution was to build a wall around the basket and make Giannis shoot.
Then came disappointment last year when they, as a #1 seed, lost to Miami in the semi-finals in the bubble last year using the same strategy as the Raptors. This year could be argued, is his best chance. Will Brooklyn be injured as they were where it was KD vs. Bucks? The Sixers, Hawks, Heat, Celtics all should be better. Other teams like the Bulls (who have two all-stars) are looking to make moves this off-season look to make them better than they are. Anything can happen in the off-season with big-name players already emerging as possibly being traded. Who is to say that the Bucks will ever be in this position again? The last time they were in the finals was in 1974. There have been plenty of teams in the history of the NBA who, we say, should have won at least one but never did. Will the Bucks, led by Giannis, be one of those teams.
Chris Paul, aka CP3, aka Point God, whatever you like to call him, has the most on the line for this NBA finals. The 16-year vet has always wanted to be known as one of the best point guards ever to play the game. Whenever you talk about being the best in the NBA, a requirement is winning the chip. CP3 has always been great, but his playoff legacy has always left more to be desired.
Whether injuries, luck, or a combination thereof, the championship has eluded him. This year, however, seems to be the time where he can get it. If you asked me last year, after the bubble, who will be a future superstar in this league, I would have said Devin Booker. He has been an all-star and always put up solid numbers. Despite putting up numbers, he has had 0 playoff appearances until this year.
Last year’s bubble run was impressive and built the way we see now out of the Phoenix Suns. CP3 clearly saw what the Suns were and why he requested to be traded there the last offseason. This team has drafted well enough (Devin Booker, DeAndre Ayton), made solid trades that boosted the Suns (Mikal Bridges, CP3), and gotten the right role players to take this team make it to the Finals. Luck is always a part of getting to the championship, but the Suns have done it with an incredible skill which is also a requirement to getting to where they are. While the Suns as a whole have a lot on the line, CP3 has the most to gain yet the most to lose as well.
One thing is for sure about these Finals. It will be fun to see how these two players and their teams play to get their legacy and to be defined.
Special thanks to guest contributor Matt Willis for this contribution.