Sports are finally getting back into swing! The MLB season is already about a third of the way over, and the NBA just got done with its 8 per team seeding games, with the playoffs set to begin today! Even without fans, I for one am so excited for playoff basketball! In my opinion, there is not a sweeter thing on the planet. Seeing as the regular season and seeding games are over, I figured I would see how all of our former Cards did this season, and some predictions for those still in the playoffs (spoilers: I MAY just have a former Cardinal winning his first ring this year!)
Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz)
Not only does this man have one of the most affordable signature sneakers of any NBA player (I own 2 myself and trust me, the affordability does not affect the quality, these are GREAT shoes), he may just be one of the BEST players the University of Louisville has ever produced (and man does that say something for a player who is only in his 3rd campaign in the NBA). He was 1 of 3 former Cardinals who made the Bubble restart of the NBA. He also looked like he was on a personal mission during the Bubble as well, as multiple games I watched of the Jazz he completely took over the game. Not only is he getting more aggressive finding his jump shot, he is also improving leaps and bounds as a passer, more often than not being the man that brings the ball up court for the Jazz, even whilst sharing the court with PG Mike Conley (Special congrats to Conley by the way for the birth of his new baby.) Want proof of how clutch Mitchell has been in the bubble? Look no further than this late game situation VS the Nuggets.
Donovan Mitchell is unreal. Clutch 3. Clutch layup. Star. pic.twitter.com/ZxbcXtBfas
— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) August 8, 2020
Not only look at this, but look at the fact that D-Mitch is the 3rd fastest active player to make it to 5k points, he has what it takes to be an ALL-time great in the NBA, and maybe win a ring or two along the way.
Minutes Per Game: 34.3
Points Per Game: 23.9
Assists Per Game: 4.2
Rebounds Per Game: 4.4
Field Goal %: 44.9
3-Point %: 36.6
Free Throw %: 86.3
Gorgui Dieng (Grizzlies)
It was an up and down year for the always solid (and member of the 2013 national champs (*AHEM* NCAA)) Gorgui Dieng. Starting the year out for the Timberwolves, he saw his playing time vary, as the Wolves eventually slid to the bottom of the standings, his playing time was on the short side of things as they were looking more and more to play the younger guys. Then, came the trade around mid-season to the also-young Memphis Grizzlies. He actually saw his playing time have an uptick for the surprisingly contending Grizzlies, as he was one of the big veteran voices in the locker room. For a team with few vets, this trade was absolutely necessary and one that I personally believe led to them being in contention for a playoff spot, although they eventually lost the Play-in game to the 8th-seeded Portland Trailblazers. This should be a sticking spot for Dieng, as he was (at least from my point of view) generally well-liked by his teammates.
Terry Rozier (Hornets)
The man who got PAID this previous offseason. The Charlotte Hornets saw enough from Rozier in his stints of being one of the first men off the Celtics bench, awarding him a hefty contract last offseason. Now, some analysts say that he was WAY overpaid and his performance was just not living up to the contract he signed. While his numbers may not scream superstar, Rozier had an actual pretty good first season as a starter, even if at times he was outshined by the super suprising Devonte’ Graham who he now shares Charlotte’s backcourt with. He will definitely be a solid starting 1 or 2 guard in Charlotte for the foreseeable future. In fact, I believe if Charlotte can draft a good big man and shore up their bench in free agency, they could definitely make a playoff push next season in the weaker East.
Damion Lee (Warriors)
One of my all-time favorite Cardinals (even if he only played one season in the black and red) playing for one of my least-favorite NBA teams in the Golden State Warriors? Great combination. All jokes aside, I am so proud of this dude. Took his lumps in the G-league, was originally signed to a 2-way deal, and played so well they were basically forced to sign him to a complete NBA deal. Now don’t get me wrong, the Warriors were absolutely atrocious this past season (due in part to the injuries suffered by Steph Curry and Klay Thompson), but Lee was one of the bright spots. He knocks down 3’s, and plays hard defense, what more could you ask from a (thrust into a starting role due to injuries) 2 guard who can on occasion play the 3? Even though he is already 27, I believe the future is bright for Lee!
Montrezl Harrell (Clippers)
Finally on to Big Trez! Playing for one of the best teams in the NBA in the Los Angeles Clippers, Trez is up for Sixth Man of the Year this season, and in my opinion, its a two-way race between him and his teammate Lou Williams. Trez has improved EVERY season he has spent in the NBA thus far, turning from an undersized big man who was basically stuck in the post, to a big man who plays WAY above his size, fights for every single rebound, and has actually developed a reliable jumper in the mid-range area. The dude is probably the 4th or 5th best player on the team but is coming off the bench because the Clippers are so deep. He is a huge key for the Clippers, and they’ll need his versatility and defense off the bench to advance through the gauntlet that is the Western Conference. A spoiler for you though, Trez WILL be starting in a season or two, he is growing way too fast to not be in the starting 5.
Finally, onto my predictions for the NBA Playoffs that I teased at the beginning. We have 2 former Cardinals and their teams in the playoffs, both out of the West. Mitchell and the Jazz, and Montrezl and the Clippers. Now as I previously explained, Mitchell has been on fire in the bubble, however, Montrezl has not played since before the season was suspended, as he has been away from the bubble morning the death of a family member. It may take a game or 2 for Trez to get his game legs back underneath him. With that being said, here are my personal predictions:
Round 1 VS #3 Denver Nuggets: Unfortunately for the Jazz, they drew one of the worst matchups they could of in the playoffs with the Nuggets. Not only do the Nuggets have one of the sweetest-passing big men in NBA history but big scoring threat in Nikola Jokic, they also have a great PG in Jamal Murray, and also 2 secret weapons in Bubble 1st team member Michael Porter Jr, and cheat code big man/point guard/whatever position he wants to play Bol Bol. If their series is as any good as the game they played against each other in the Bubble, my lord are we in for a treat! The Utah Jazz’s depth must be in question as well, as they will be missing reserve F Ed Davis with an MCL sprain in his knee, and also the status of Conley for the series will be in the air, because as previously mentioned he left the bubble for the birth of his baby. However, I don’t believe Mitchell and Gobert will let this team go down without a fight, with super scorer Jordan Clarkson I assume sliding into the starting lineup for the time being as well. I predict a 4-3 series regardless the winner, but I do believe the Jazz will take this series, if only barely.
Conference Semi-Finals: This is where the Jazz’s season will come to an end sadly. As they will play (in my opinion) the Clippers, and assuming the team is at full strength at this point, it will take a herculean effort from the Jazz to win 4 games here. I do have them taking 1 out of the 5 played, with a 4-1 victory going to the Clippers. The future is very bright for the Jazz, with Mitchell their star of the now and the future.
Los Angeles Clippers
Round 1 Vs #7 Dallas Mavericks: A very scary 1st round match awaits the Clippers, as they have to face the 2-headed behemoth of Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, along with the other fantastic starters and role players on a team that is WAY ahead of schedule (special shout out to one of my favorite players Boban Marjanovic). As special of a player Luka is (and trust me I believe the hype, I seriously believe in 3 years or less, he will be the undisputed best player in basketball, he’s THAT good), I don’t see them getting past an absolutely stacked Clippers team that is finally approaching full strength. I got this series going 4-2 to the Clippers, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this series went 7 games.
Conference Semi-Finals: As stated above, I believe the Clippers opponent in the second round will be the Jazz, and their experience and depth will push them past the Jazz, 4-1.
Conference Finals: The Western Finals we all wanted. Lakers vs Clippers. Battle of LA. LeBron vs Kawhi (Just who is the best player in the NBA right now). PG vs AD (Who’s the best number 2 sometimes number 1 in the league). I believe this is basically going to be the Finals before the Finals (no disrespect to the Eastern Conference, the West is just better this year). As much as my heart wants to pick the Lakers (LeBron will always be my favorite player, and he is the GOAT, no disrespect to MJ), I just can’t. Their offense is just so hot-and-cold that you never know what version of the team you are getting. Meanwhile, at least in the bubble, the Clippers were not only taking more 3s, they were making A LOT more 3’s. Between Kawhi and PG, and Lou Will and Trez off the bench, I believe the Clippers beat the Lakers 4-3. LeBron has to wait yet another year to make the Finals out west.
NBA Finals: At this point, Kawhi will be fully locked in. Nothing will stop him from getting a 3rd championship with a 3rd team, and I believe he’ll face the team he won it all with last year, the Toronto Raptors. You may look at the Raptors roster and think they are not that good talent wise, but with Star-in-the-making Pascal Siakam, criminally underrated guards in Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet, and coach of the year and one of the best coaches in the NBA in Nick Nurse, they are just as good if not better this year. However, as good as they may be, they will not beat a locked-in Kawhi, PG, Pat Bev, Lou Will, Trez, among many others. I predict a 4-2 win for the Clippers, another Finals MVP for Kawhi, and the first ring for Montrezl (and the NCAA CAN’T take this ‘Chip away!)
That’s it folks. Those are my predictions for the 2 former Cards in the playoffs. I’ll make sure to keep you guys updated on how they are doing, and I’ll be back with another Cards in the NBA after the playoffs, featuring some bold predictions for the next season for our Cards!
As Always, Go Cards!