Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns took Game 2 over the Bucks and now lead the NBA Finals 2-0 as the series heads to Milwaukee. With Phoenix on the brink of winning a title and Milwaukee on the brink of elimination, KSR answered some questions about the 2021 NBA Finals with two games in the books.
Who do you predict will win the Finals and in how many games?
Wynn McDonald: Give me Suns in 6. I know they’ve looked pretty dominant in the first two games, but Milwaukee was down 2-0 against Brooklyn, too, and we know how that ended. They’re a tough out, especially at home. Still, with the way the Suns have been playing locked-in offensively and Giannis at less than 100%, I feel good about this.
Alex Weber: Phoenix in 5. The West has produced better basketball than the East at every stage of these Playoffs — including, so far, the Finals. Milwaukee is a flawed team powered by a one-man waste-layer while Phoenix starts a lineup that fits and plays perfectly together. I’ll take the better team to wrap it up quickly.
Zack Geoghegan: I originally went with Suns in 7, but it feels like I might have to trim that down by a game or two. Phoenix is grooving and always has an answer for whatever the Bucks have thrown at them. The series flipping to Milwaukee will make for an exciting Game 3, though, especially when you consider the Bucks came back down 2-0 to beat the Brooklyn Nets in the Eastern Conference Finals, as Wynn referenced above.
Kassidy Stumbo: I’ll take Suns in 5. If you had asked me before the series started, I might have given the Bucks some more love. But after the first two games, I’ve seen all I need to see. The Suns are on a mission and will win the NBA championship — the first in franchise history.
Is Chris Paul or Devin Booker the Finals MVP after two games?
Wynn: It’s honestly hard to say right now. CP3 absolutely dominated Game 1, and you know he’s going to get more media hype for the whole veteran redemption narrative — and no hate, it’s a great narrative! — but I just feel like Booker is on the cusp of his true superstar breakout moment. That’s a good narrative, too. If it were handed out today I’d say Paul, but by the time it’s all said and done my money’s on Book.
Alex: As great as Devin Booker is, 2021 is the Year of Chris Paul. He’s been a monolithic presence on and off the court in Phoenix, helping flip the Suns from dweller to dominator in eight months. This Finals MVP will be his lifetime achievement and a suave 24-year-old with a razor jawline and great jumper won’t unseat him.
Zack: It’s only been two games, but it’s got to be Chris Paul so far. Booker was excellent in Game 2 but struggled from the floor in Game 1. Paul is shooting over 56 percent through two games in the Finals for averages of 27.5 points and 8.5 assists. Booker can easily move into a position to win Finals MVP with big games in Milwaukee, but Paul appears to be on a mission right now with no sense of slowing down. Let’s not forget how well Giannis is playing on a bum knee, too.
Kassidy: As much as I would love to say, Booker, it’s got to be CP3 for me. Though not known to be a scoring powerhouse, he has really stepped up in the first two games and in this postseason as a whole. I’ve always respected his game and leadership, and I’m very happy to see it all finally paying off. Still, all love to my guy D-Book. I am confident he will win one eventually.
Which team is more likely to be back in the Finals in the next five years?
Wynn: Love this question. I’ll take the Suns again since they’re younger and frankly, I never expected the Bucks to make it this time. That said, the West is murder. The Lakers, Nuggets and Jazz aren’t going anywhere, and I have a feeling Steph & Klay will be coming back for blood next year. If this year is any indication, it’ll probably depend on injuries.
Alex: I could go either way. Phoenix has a deeper, younger core and should sustain success far beyond Chris Paul’s time, but they’re in a loaded Western Conference. Milwaukee has a friendlier road back to the Finals in the coming years and the best player of either team in Giannis. I’ll take the Suns because I like their organizational greatness, from the front office to the coaching staff to the players, whereas Milwaukee’s appeal is entirely powered by Giannis.
Zack: This one is quite tough, actually. Milwaukee mortgaged the next five-plus years of draft picks and cap space to bring in Jrue Holiday and keep Giannis Antetokounmpo happy. The Greek Freak is locked into an extension that will pay him $45 million per year through the 2025-26 season. But as long as Giannis is in Milwaukee, the Bucks will be a contender. The Suns have Booker locked in until 2024, but he’s not a two-time MVP and his co-star is aging. I’ll take Milwaukee, final answer.
Kassidy: This is hard. My fellow coworkers have made some great points above, but in the end I have to agree with Wynn and Alex. Though the West is extremely competitive, I think the Suns have really proven themselves this season. With the exception of Chris Paul, they are a pretty young team that seems to play well together. While the Bucks have a great superstar in Giannis, he can’t do it all on his own.
Who is your favorite role player in the series? (NOT Booker, Paul, Giannis, etc.)
Wynn: With all due respect to our fallen prince Dario Šaric, I just love Mikal Bridges’ game. His energy reminds me of Tyrese Maxey’s, and you can see it all coming together right now — he had 27 points last night! I stand by my opinion he was the best player on the Villanova team with Jalen Brunson.
Alex: I don’t know why, but Jae Crowder’s mere existence amuses me.
Zack: 100 percent Mikal Bridges. I’ll throw some love to former Murray State Racer Cameron Payne, but Bridges is literally earning himself millions of dollars with his postseason play. He has another 12 years of two-way NBA basketball left in the tank and is only scratching the surface of how good he can be on both ends of the floor.
Kassidy: Literally anyone but Frank Kaminsky. Literally.
Who is your least favorite?
Wynn: Bobby Portis, ’nuff said.
Alex: Frank the Stank. Willie and Karl should have wiped him off the face of the planet in 2015.
Zack: It has to be Jeff Teague. Every second he’s on the floor is like the Bucks are playing four on five.
Kassidy: Frank Kaminsky. For obvious reasons.
Where will this year’s Finals champ rank among the last 10?
Wynn: Assuming it’s Phoenix, top seven. Maybe six if they sweep. There’s a ton of talent on that roster, but it’s still ripening. Ayton in particular is only scratching the surface. If CP3 has a few more good years in him, this team could be really special pretty soon. But I don’t think either team quite stacks up with those Heat and Warriors teams that ran the 2010s.
Alex: I’m not here to disparage Phoenix or Milwaukee, but let’s really break this down. These are the last nine champs ahead of 2021: Lakers, Raptors, Warriors, Warriors, Cavaliers, Warriors, Spurs, Heat, Heat.
Well, all three Warriors teams are easily superior to either of this year’s teams. Same goes for the ’12 and ’13 Heat, who would’ve stormed to a title in this debacle of a Playoffs. The ’14 Spurs ran the remains of those Heat teams off the court so they’re certainly better too. The Cavaliers team that beat the 73-9 Warriors also deserves recognition ahead of the Suns or Bucks. We’re up to seven so far that are for sure better than this year’s Finals Teams.
Looking it over, yeah, that Lakers team was better and proved so when healthy in this year’s Playoffs. As for Toronto, maybe they’re right at the level of the Bucks and Suns, but that is it. So, the answer is ninth or tenth.
Zack: In terms of expectations from the beginning of the season, the Suns’ win would rank right up there as one of the top three, in my opinion. Even taking league-wide injuries into account, Phoenix has been a juggernaut in these playoffs and has been winning each series without much issue. Booker and Paul have redefined their respective images in these playoffs. In terms of overall talent, neither team stacks up with past winners, but preseason expectations for the Suns and the lengthy Finals drought put it up top for me.
If Milwaukee wins, it’s tough to say — there were multiple times in the playoffs where it looked like the Bucks head coach might not even make it to the end of the series without getting fired. And yet here the Bucks are: four wins away from a championship but struggling once again. They would be quite an underwhelming victor, even if they were to come back from a 2-0 hole.
Kassidy: If it’s Phoenix (which I strongly believe it will be), I would honestly say top five. I think this team has been so fun to watch all season. Of course they are insanely talented, but they also have an incredibly strong will to win. They have been on a mission from game one of the regular season. Bringing the city of Phoenix their first NBA Championship would be an awesome ending to an awesome season, especially since a former ‘Cat is largely responsible for it.
And if I’m wrong (which I never am) and it’s Milwaukee, I would rank them near the bottom.