The Dark Horse team in each conference of the 20-21 NBA Playoffs you Can Not sleep on
With the 20/21 NBA Playoffs underway we are now halfway through the first round as of this moment.
In the East
we have the #1 seed Philadelphia 76ers having a 1-0 lead against the #8 seed Washington Wizards, The #5 seed Atlanta Hawks with a 1-0 lead against the #4 seed New York Knicks, #3 seed Milwaukee Bucks with a demanding 2-0 lead against #6 seed Miami Heat & the #2 seeded Brooklyn Nets also having a 2-0 lead against #7 seed in the Boston Celtics.
In the West
On the other side of the map we surprisingly have the #8 seed up 1-0 against the #1 seed Utah Jazz, Also very surprisingly the #5 seed Dallas Mavericks up 2-0 against the #4 seed Los Angeles Clippers, #3 seed Denver Nuggets and #6 seed Portland Trailblazers are currently tied 1-1, & the #2 seed Pheonix Suns are also tied 1-1 against the defending champions Los Angeles Lakers.
Now, with all that out of the way lets quickly get into who i believe are the dark horse team of both conferences that should not be slept on.
Eastern Conference Dark Horse
If you may not have seen my podcast already you probably dont know that I am a DIE HARD Miami Heat fan. Unfortunately that is not the team that I am about to talk about *enter jordan crying face*
The dark horse team in the East in my opinion are the #5 seeded Atlanta Hawks.
Early before the season even started I noticed exactly how deep the Hawks team were and have multple close friends who can quote me when i said "This team is a sleeper if they make the playoffs this year".
Already led by an up and coming little monster of a superstar, Trae Young. They aquired the likes of a double double machine in center Clint Capela in a trade with the Houston Rockets & signed then Free Agent forward Bogdan Bogdanovic. Then you add the veteranship of forward Danilo Gallinari & multi time sixth man of the year Lou Williams to the mix who can take over and be who he is when Trae is out of the game, It could be a recipe for something great.
Trae Young is blossoming into a superstar before our eyes whether its liked or not and he is 100% the centerpiece and core of the team Atlanta wants to build around. Averaging 25 points, 9.5 assists, & 4 rebounds a game this season it seems the sky is the limit for him. Lets not forget his last season where he averaged 29 points a game in only his second year of being a pro.
With John Collins still being on the team and not traded he has been arguably inconsistent. He does have his moments but lack luster more times then not.
*Bogdan has entered the chat*
This whole season Bogdan Bogdanovic has been playing with a very heavy chip on his shoulder. First with regressing from his great rookie season to finding out *via twitter might i add* that the Sacramento Kings traded him to the Milwaukee Bucks just for the deal to fall apart due to "tampering". Many people including myself thought it might be the begining of a mediocre career for him.
That is until he signed with Atlanta.
Ofcourse throughout the season he was hurt and missed a bunch of games, But near the end of the season when he returned he has been lighting it up on a pretty consistant basis while looking confident and has been hitting very big shots when needed. Exactly like in game 1 against the Knicks. As said earlier, if Collins isnt having a good game they can rely for the most part on Bogdan to get something going.
As mentioned earlier he is the biggest addition to this team *all puns intended*. Averaging 15 points and career high 14 rebounds a game this season, He is capable of HUGE games on any given night especially with a point guard like Trae at the wheel. Then add his average of 2 blocks a game makes him a threat to anyone driving down the lane to meet him at the basket.
Western Conference Dark Horse
Obviously with the cover picture theres not much of a surprise here that my dark horse in the West is the Dallas Mavericks
Firstly Ill say this, If you watched my prediction episode on my podcast I actually picked the Clippers to win this matchup in 5 originally although said would love for Dallas to get the upset series win.
We are now 2 games into the matchup and Dallas is up 2-0! Unless you are a die hard Mavericks fan chances are you did not expect this start. Vegas certainly didnt having the Clippers as decent sized favorites in both matchups.
Just like I mentioned with Trae earlier, Luka is QUICKLY becoming a super star and is not looking to stop the journey there anytime soon. Matter fact, he IS a superstar already and just growing his stardom with every performance at this point. Taking on the challenge of former 2x defensive player of the year Kawhi Leonard defending him.
Game 1 he had 31 points there were alot of people saying Kawhi needed to guard Luka more and in game two they tried just that, And Luka ended with 39 points this time. Scoring aside his ability to get a triple double on any given night just plays into how well he gets his team involved. If he can keep finding the likes of Tim Hardaway Jr *who scored 21 points in game 1 and 28 in game 2* and other shooters like Josh Richardson, Brunson and hell even Kleber for open shots this can very well keep being an issue for the Clippers in this first round.
Of course when talking about the Mavericks key players you can not forget about the Latvian Unicorn also known as Kristaps Porzingis. He has been pretty injury prone his last few seasons and might still not be 100% healthy in this series.
BUT, even a 85% healthy Porzingis can play a huge factor for this team. Given his size and shooting touch he, at any given night he could average a 20 and 10 double double. These first two games he seemed to shy away from rebounds a bit but still contributing with 15 point & 4 rebounds in game 1, And 20 points & another 4 rebounds in game 2 while playing over 30 minutes in both games. Which is the key factor here. If Kristaps can stay healthy this team can and in my opinion will have an impact in these playoffs moving forward.
Now am i saying i think these teams i picked as my dark horse will win it all? God no. BUT i would not be in the least bit surprised if either goes to atleast the conference final.
Hope you guys enjoyed the read, Enjoy the rest of the 1st round games !