Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports
It’ll take quite a few dominoes to fall just right, though.
Welcome to Hot Take Week on Detroit Bad Boys. Longtime readers of Detroit Bad Boys might remember the old slogan on the masthead – “A Detroit Pistons blog with completely fair and unbiased opinions of 29 of the Association’s 30 teams.” We’re going to live that truth with writers delivering blistering truth bombs that may or may not resemble reality all week. There are only two rules:
- No writing about the Detroit Pistons
- No doing any research in support of your argument – it all had to come from the gut.
So I was accused of my hot take of the Lakers being a dumpster fire not being hot enough.
How about this one?
The Utah Jazz are going to be very good this year; that’s no hot take (Editor’s Note: Steve’s Hot Take took it one step further than “very good”). They have been steadily building themselves back up since losing Gordon Hayward to the Boston Celtics . Many expected the team to crumble, but what most people didn’t see coming was the hole Hayward left being filled by then-rookie Donovan Mitchell .
At the time, the team was without an alpha. Their point guard Ricky Rubio was definitely not an alpha. Neither was Rudy Gobert. But the team with the Hayward -sized hole was still a very good one and with an excellent (albeit very frightening-looking ) coach in Quin Snyder .
Enter Mitchell, who saw the reigns to the team that Hayward dropped upon exit, picked them up and never looked back. Mitchell has never been shy to shoot or create, which was exactly what the Jazz needed. His lack of shyness, however, contributed to his biggest flaw: A low shooting percentage, mainly based on poor shot selection. Mitchell was forced to carry a higher than normal burden due to a lack of anyone around him that could create their own shot or who needed the ball in their hands.
Enter Mike Conley.
In the offseason, the Utah Jazz very smartly decided to trade for Conley , one of the most talented players ever to not make an All-Star team, to take some of the creation load off of Mitchell. The also let signed sharpshooter Bojan Bogdanovich to join Joe Ingles as floor spreaders. Both of these moves will help get Mitchell better looks and open lanes, and generally help him not jack up quite so many ill advised shots. This will lead him to make the jump 95 percent of the NBA is expecting him to make. This jump will propel the Jazz into the top four in the Western Conference ,and make him into even more of an NBA darling.
The MVP voters have a history of loving the young budding stars who have made it over the hump to superstar status and in doing so, helped their team reach the upper echelon. It happened with Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls . It just happened last year with Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks . Both of these guys were also the same type of media darling that Mitchell is, the guy everyone is rooting for on the team that everyone wants to see succeed. James Harden is not incorrect in saying that there are narratives in the NBA . There are. It just makes for better stories, and people like good stories.
For Mitchell to get to the MVP, he will also need outside help in the form of other candidates falling out of contention for the award. That’ll happen in two ways. The first way will be the lone superstar on teams not having the best seasons. The second will be would-be MVP candidates being canceled out by other superstars on their own teams.
As one of two examples of the first way let’s start with the reigning MVP. The Milwaukee Bucks are primed for a return to earth this season, and Giannis Antetokounmpo will regress a bit under the pressure. This same outcome I see happening with the Denver Nuggets and Nikola Jokic .
There are also multiple situations where this new Big Two phenomenon will bite a load of top candidate duos in the ass with their equally great efforts cancelling each other out. We just saw this cancelling-out effect happen in Golden State with Steph Curry and Kevin Durant , and this season is full of that. Anthony Davis and LeBron James with the Lakers. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George with the Clippers . James Harden and Russell Westbrook with the Rockets . In other occasions, a former second fiddle could make the jump from a #2 option to a #1b to push him and his #1a into the above group. These two would be in Philly where Ben Simmons moves up with Joel Embiid and in Portland where CJ McCollum moves up with Damian Lillard .
That really just leaves Steph Curry as a part-time solo act until Klay Thompson returns, and I don’t see that Golden State team doing much more than fighting for a playoff spot.
So, ladies and gentlemen, your 2019-2020 NBA MVP: