Five favorites to win NBA 2014-15 MVP

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There are always surprises and breakout players in an NBA season and with that it can be hard to make predictions on postseason awards before the season tips off…

But not as much with MVP lately. This has been a two-man race for a few years now — LeBron James and Kevin Durant. They are the two best players on the planet, both are near the peaks of their games. Each has won the award before.

It is likely a two-man race again this season, they are at the top of the list of people to watch, but we’ve got three others who could slip into the discussion and some dark horses out there. Still, smart money probably is on the guy at the top of this list.

1) LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers). When it comes to winning the MVP a player needs two things: Great statistics to show off a great season, and just as importantly a great narrative. Voters for MVP are media members and that’s a group who likes stories. We know LeBron is the best player on the planet and will put up numbers (even though with Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving around his raw numbers may dip a little). And now having returned to Cleveland and lifting that team to elite contender status, he has a narrative people love. He has to be considered the favorite to pick up his fifth MVP.

2) Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder). He’d be on top of this list for me had it not been for the foot injury that will have him out at least the first month of the season (considering the type of injury and the Thunder’s history of being cautious with injured stars, expect it to be longer). Also, this year he will have a healthy Russell Westbrook on his team all season, last season with Westbrook out Durant had to take on more of the scoring load and did so while still being very efficient (which really is what won him the award). All that said, he is going to put up big numbers, particularly the second half of the season, and he’s going to be the best player and a legit title contender. He is the guy who got the trophy last year and he’ll get a lot of votes again.

3) Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers). He finished third in the MVP voting last season and again will be at the heart of a contender with the Los Angeles Clippers. If someone tells you “all he can do is dunk” you know that person doesn’t watch a lot of basketball — he has a solid midrange jumper now (with range out to the three point line), is a good passer out of the post and can even score plenty with his back to the basket (even through his footwork can still be sloppy). And yes, he can dunk — if you’re that athletic you should get a lot of shots at the rim. Griffin averaged 24.1 points a game with an impressive .583 true shooting percentage plus had 9.5 rebounds a game, and his numbers could well go up. The one real challenge to Griffin’s candidacy? He may not be the best player on his own team. Griffin and Chris Paul will split votes, and that could hurt both of them. Expect the Clippers PR machine to get behind and push one of them over the other, probably Griffin.

4) Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans). The Brow is entering his third NBA season and this could be a breakout year for him. He averaged 20.8 points a game with a .582 true shooting percentage plus 10 rebounds a game last season and after a summer as a key part of Team USA at the World Cup he is ready to make a leap — by the end of the season he may establish himself as the third best player in the NBA. Also, he’ll be the star of a Pelicans team that is going to surprise a lot of people. All that may not be enough for him to win the award this year, but he’s going to move into the discussion (and probably win one down the line).

5) Derrick Rose (Chicago Bulls). There are a lot of “ifs” with his candidacy. If Rose stays healthy. If he looks close to his old self before the knee injuries. If the Bulls behind him look like a team that can challenge the Cavaliers for the Eastern Conference title. If all those things come together… well, Rose has won this award before. He’s dynamic and entertaining. Every other guy on this list is at least 6’8”, Rose is listed at 6’3” yet slashes his way into the paint and makes plays among the trees in the NBA — it’s something fans can relate to in a way they can’t with taller players. If Rose and the Bulls are back and big stories again, he will be in the MVP conversation.

Dark horse candidates: Chris Paul (Clippers), Stephen Curry (Warriors), James Harden (Rockets), Carmelo Anthony (Knicks).

LaMelo Ball not worried about where he gets drafted, “Anywhere is a great fit”

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Lavar Ball has his opinion. Always. When the patriarch of the Ball family went on the “Road Trippin'” podcast a couple of months ago, he said he didn’t want his youngest son, LaMelo Ball, drafted by the Warriors because he would have to come off the bench behind Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. “Michael Jordan didn’t come off the bench,” was his logic.

LaMelo Ball is about as interested in his father’s opinions as most 19-year-olds.

“I’m my own man. He’s his own man. He has his opinions, I have mine,” the younger Ball said of his father on Monday while speaking to reporters via Zoom as part of the NBA’s pre-draft process.

“I feel I could play on any team and do good anywhere I go,” Ball said. “Anything that happens, I’m positive.”

Ball is projected to be a top-five pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, scheduled for Nov. 18. Rumors have bounced around the league that if the Timberwolves keep the No. 1 pick they will select Ball to pair with D'Angelo Russell in the backcourt. The Warriors have the No. 2 pick, the Charlotte Hornets select third, followed by Chicago then Cleveland.

Ball spent a chunk of his time with reporters denying having had contact with many teams at the top of the draft, although he said he didn’t know about Minnesota. He did say he had contact with the Knicks, who pick eighth, adding they just wanted to get to know him as a person (outside the online persona). Ball will not be on the board when New York makes its pick (the Knicks could trade up to get him, all the teams at the top of the draft are listening to offers).

Ball’s consistent point was he could fit in with any team.

“Anywhere is a great fit,” Ball said. “It’s the NBA. You put me with good players, I feel like it’s even gonna be better.”

Ball said he has adapted to the unprecedented pre-draft process, in part because his path to the NBA is untraditional. He said he realized back when his father had him playing in Lithuania at 16 he was not going to have the more traditional route to the NBA that his brother Lonzo Ball had, but LaMelo embraced it. LaMelo spent last season playing in Australia before returning to the states to prepare for the draft.

“I feel like I am dealing with it well,” Ball said. “I kinda like it, that nobody has been through something like this, it’s kinda unique, like me… I’m one-of-one.”

For now, Ball is in the Detroit area working out, preparing for the draft. He said some of that Detroit toughness is rubbing off on him.

But he’s happy to bring that with him wherever he gets drafted.

NBA playoffs, Finals schedule 2020: Date, time, matchup for every game

2020 NBA Finals schedule
Michael Reaves/Getty Images
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It may be five months after they were originally planned, but the NBA playoff schedule has reached the point the 2020 Finals are here.

It is down to the final two. There is LeBron James leading the Lakers against the team where he first won his ring. And then there is the gritty Miami team that nobody expected to be here — except themselves.

Here are a few notes on the NBA playoffs schedule 2020:

• The NBA is continuing to push the pace with games every other day — except for one two-day break between Game 4 and Game 5
Even more members of families for the players, coaches, and team staff are in the bubble for the Finals.

Here is the NBA playoffs schedule 2020 (all times are Eastern):

NBA FINALS

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Miami Heat

Game 1: Sept. 30, 9 p.m. (ABC)
Game 2: Oct. 2, 9 p.m. (ABC)
Game 3: Oct. 4, 7:30 p.m. (ABC)
Game 4: Oct. 6, 9 p.m. (ABC)
Game 5: Oct. 9, 9 p.m. (ABC)*
Game 6: Oct. 11, 7:30 p.m. (ABC)*
Game 7: Oct. 13, 9 p.m. (ABC)*
*If necessary.

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: Conference Finals

Eastern Conference Finals

No. 5 Miami beat No. 3 Boston 4-2

Western Conference Finals

No. 1 L.A. Lakers beat No. 3 Denver 4-1

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: Second Round results

Eastern Conference

No. 3 Boston beat No. 2 Toronto 4-3

No. 5 Miami beat No. 1 Milwaukee 4-1

Western Conference

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers beat Houston 4-1

No. 3 Denver beat No. 2 Los Angeles Clippers 4-3

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: First Round results

Western Conference

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers beat No. 8 Portland 4-1

No. 2 L.A. Clippers beat No. 7 Dallas 4-2

No. 3 Denver beat No. 6 Utah 4-3

No. 4 Houston beat No. 5 Oklahoma City 4-3

Eastern Conference

No. 1 Milwaukee beat No. 8 Orlando 4-1

No. 2 Toronto beat No. 7 Brooklyn 4-0

No. 3 Boston beat No. 6 Philadelphia 4-0

No. 5 Miami beat No. 4 Indiana 4-0

Evolving plan for next NBA season has USA Basketball, Tokyo Olympics in limbo

Tokyo Olympics
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Will NBA players be available to represent their countries when the Tokyo Olympics begin next July 23?

Nobody knows. As the NBA pushes back its start date for next season — NBA Commissioner Adam Silver recently said it likely would be after the first of the year, but sources around the league tell NBC Sports to expect more like February or March — it leaves USA Basketball and the participation of NBA players in the Olympics in limbo. Here’s what USA Basketball president Jerry Colangelo told Chris Sherridan of Basketball News.

“I was told the NBA season would start in December, and then it was Christmas, and then after Jan. 1, and that keeps pushing the schedule for me. The NBA season typically takes 170 or 171 days to complete, so that creates a conflict on paper,” said Colangelo, adding that a suspension of the NBA season in order to clear time for the Olympics also has been discussed…

“If the [NBA] season conflicts with the Olympics, I might have 14 non-playoff teams to choose from, but then other players will become available as the NBA playoffs progress,” Colangelo said. “The problem is that the IOC has a rule mandating an early submission of a 12-man roster. But with a pandemic, the hope would be that you’ve got to set aside outdated rules. I assume people will be reasonable and come up with some kind of a program that works.”

Right now, there is no answer for Colangelo and USA Basketball because there is no answer on next season. The only thing owners seem set on is playing a full 82-game schedule — after taking a financial hit this season, owners want to start making money again — with fans in the building for as many of those games as possible.

If the NBA season starts in February and was condensed slightly, the regular season could be done before the Tokyo Olympics. A Team USA made up of guys who missed the playoffs would still be formidable (this past season that would have included Stephen Curry, Trae Young, Bradley Beal, and others). However, other countries don’t have the luxury of that kind of depth.

Also being discussed is an NHL-style break in the NBA season to allow players to compete in the Olympics, then return to finish the season.

Team USA, despite its struggles at the World Cup last year, still qualified for the Olympics. That was a team depleted of NBA star power because of both injuries and guys not wanting to play the World Cup then Olympics in back-to-back years (nobody knew the coronavirus would blow up those plans).  What players USA Basketball will send to Tokyo remains up in the air.

And there’s little Colangelo can do but wait.

PBT Podcast: NBA Finals preview, Los Angeles Lakers vs. Miami Heat

NBA Finals Preview
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
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It’s happening in October, not June. And rather than cross-country flights, everyone will be camped out in a bubble in Orlando.

But the NBA Finals are finally here: The Los Angeles Lakers vs. the Miami Heat. Which means it’s time for an NBA Finals Preview.

The Lakers are the heavy favorites but Miami posses some matchup challenges, starting with Bam Adebayo on Anthony Davis. Add in Jimmy Butler checking LeBron James for stretches, and the Heat shooters such as Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson, and this is not going to be a cakewalk for Los Angeles.

Mark Medina of the USA today joins Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports for this NBA Finals Preview. They break down the matchups, talk about what it would take for Miami to pull off the upset, and discuss how this matchup could influence how other teams build out their rosters in the future.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.