The first weekend of this year’s NBA Playoffs/countdown to a Warriors championship is over, and things are looking just as they should so far. Youth and inexperience is on full display, the usual suspects are showing out, and it’s looking like 2010 all over again for LeBron James. Here are three takeaways from the first few games of the Playoffs:
Harden is 100% this year’s MVP
Sam Presti has earned the title as the greatest Draft Day GM of all time with this one. In three years, he drafted Kevin Durant (2014 MVP/proxy for the real MVP, Wanda), Russell Westbrook (2017 MVP), and James Harden (likely 2018 MVP, scoring champion). I restrict that award to Draft Day for obvious reasons; the product on the court in Oklahoma City has been good but not quite championship caliber, but this man knows talent.
Harden’s performance on Sunday night against Minnesota was remarkable. The game was WAY closer than it should have been, and Houston was relying perhaps too much on their interior offense in the first half (Clint Capela had 20 points in the first half), but adjusted and went right back to what works to pull out the win. Harden ended with 44 points and was simply dominating the game down the stretch. It’s one game, and he certainly has more to prove to overcome his past Playoff failures, but he’s in fine form and poised to drive the Rockets deep into the Playoffs. He’s the MVP this year.
LeBron is on his way out
This is the definition of a too-early prediction or take, but LeBron just lost to the Pacers. After winning 21 consecutive first-round games, he loses to the Indiana Pacers. That’s no shade on the Pacers, they’ve been a much improved team this year and Victor Oladipo is a star player, but LeBron is the king. His ability to transform in the Playoffs is well-documented and astonishing, and he can certainly still pull this one out, but this loss will be a bigger blow than anyone anticipates.
The rejuvenating trade deadline moves by Cleveland had everyone feeling comfortable again and got a big smile back on Colin Cowherd’s face, but it’s looking more likely than ever that LeBron might not even make the Eastern Conference Finals. The EASTERN Conference Finals. If he goes out west next year, he’s going to NEED Paul George or whoever he wants to bring with him. Again, it’s just one loss, but this is a sign of bigger, stranger things to come, and seeing LeBron in purple and gold is a strange thought.
The Thunder are already too confident
To the Oklahoma City Thunder:
As a resident of the city from which your current opponent hails, let me remind you that the Utah Jazz are, well, the Utah Jazz. They had a great run in the regular season, but they are NOT a Playoff team. Donovan Mitchell is a star and a future superstar, but he’s a rookie right now. Beating the Jazz is like taking down the best basketball player from a town of 2,000 people. He plays in K Swiss shoes from 2001, believes contraception is from Hades, and yells “in your face” every time he makes a shot (which he takes with both hands from his waist).
You’ll sweep this series, but realize that this has more to do with the other guys’ lack of experience than your own skill. Get it together and get ready for the next round. Also, go back to Seattle.