Aidin Ebrahimi’s 2024 NBA Round 1 Playoff Summary

A review of Western Conference action with picks for the best team and Most Valuable Player

Posted on May 8, 2024


  By Aidin Ebrahimi, SuperWest Sports

The first round of the 2024 NBA playoffs in the West wasn’t as exciting as last year’s version, but it still produced some good moments.

Now, the Thunder, Nuggets, Timberwolves, and Mavericks are looking to put on a show in round two.

Here’s my review of the First-Round action along with my pick for the best team and MVP.


The End of the King?

No. 2 Nuggets vs. No. 7 Lakers (Nuggets won 4-1)

Last year, the seventh-seeded Lakers traveled to Memphis to take on the Grizzlies, who I ranked as the best team in the West that season.

However, with their low morale due to their “off-court issues,” the Grizzlies looked like a shell of themselves and the Lakers easily won the series four games to two.

They beat the Warriors in the next round to officially end their dynasty era, but lost to the Nuggets in a close sweep in the Conference Finals.

This year, the Lakers looked poised to reach the Conference Finals again, but bad luck caused them to face off against the Nuggets earlier than expected.

Around a month ago I said only two teams in the West had the Lakers’ number in a seven-game playoff series, those being the (healthy) Clippers and the Nuggets.

The Clippers did indeed get hurt once again, so had the Lakers won just two more games in the regular season to finish as the sixth seed, they could have had an easy route to the NBA Finals.

 AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post
LeBron James drives against the Nuggets | AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post

But, alas, that was not the case and the Nuggets asserted their dominance over California’s best team once again.

For the second year in a row, three games in the Lakers/Nuggets series were decided by single digits, and in those games, the pick-and-roll duo of Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray torched the Lakers when the pressure was at its highest.

I’ll talk about Murray and the Nuggets more later, but now there are serious doubts about the future of this team.

Darvin Ham, AKA “the Erik Ten Hag of basketball,” has been dismissed in a move that should have happened months ago.

Now, the team is looking at the likes of JJ Redick as potential replacements, but the biggest question is LeBron James’ future with the franchise.

Some even expect “King James” to hang up his boots for good seeing how it’s becoming more and more unlikely that his son Bronny will get a shot at the NBA.


A Shattered Legacy

No. 3 Timberwolves vs. No. 6 Suns (Timberwolves won 4-0)

Speaking of LeBron, even if he does hang up his boots, he’ll unquestionably go down as either the greatest or the second greatest player of all time depending on where you stand on the LeBron/Jordan debate.

Kevin Durant certainly had the talent to reach those heights, and I would argue that KD’s natural talents and physical tools were superior to that of LeBron’s or Jordan’s. But now, his legacy has been shattered.

Nowhere near GOAT level, and outside of many people’s top tens.

He’s not even regarded as the second-greatest player of his generation, an honor that has been bestowed upon his former teammate Stephen Curry by most analysts.

It’s truly a shame. KD could have gone down as a GOAT-level player if he had just stayed in OKC and won two or three championships throughout his career.

Instead, he took the easy way out, playing for a juggernaut for three years and winning two championships that were largely discredited by the media.

Abbie Parr/AP
Kevin Durant dribbles vs the Timberwolves | Abbie Parr/AP

Then, he took his talents to Brooklyn and formed another superteam that had, lest we forget, five players who were All-Stars two years prior.

After that experiment flopped, Durant asked out and was traded to a Phoenix team which was desperate to get back on top.

Unfortunately for KD and his legacy, they traded away their entire bench and future assets to acquire him and Bradley Beal, and now they’ve been swept.

During the series, the Timberwolves relied less on big names and more on squad synergy.

The likes of Jaden McDaniels, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, and Naz Reid are the types of players who the Suns would have traded in a heartbeat if a big name was available.

Yet they did much more in the series compared to Bradley Beal. Now, KD is rumored to be seeking yet another exit, which might tarnish his legacy even more.


Groundhog Day

No. 4 Clippers vs. No. 5 Mavericks (Mavericks won 4-2)

In any good rivalry, the trilogy should always cap things off and be the most exciting fight yet. That’s why a large number of major WWE feuds tend to last three big matches.

The Clippers-Mavericks feud should have ended with a bang, but instead, it ended with a whimper.

Kawhi Leonard finally got to play a home playoff game at the arena formerly known as Staples Center, but his comeback didn’t last long, and the Clippers were easily dealt with once it became obvious that their star man wasn’t returning.

In 2020, it was Doc Rivers’ terrible coaching that let the Clippers down. In 2021, an injury to Kawhi derailed a season that saw them reach the Western Conference Finals for the first time ever.

Kiyoshi Mio/USA TODAY Sports
Mavericks vs Clippers | Kiyoshi Mio/USA TODAY Sports

That same injury, alongside an injury to Paul George, prevented them from making the playoffs in 2022, while new injuries to those two ended their chances last year.

Now, it’s obvious that PG and James Harden are way past the stage of carrying a team on their own and need Kawhi to be there as well.

Clippers fans are hoping that their move to the Intuit Dome can finally strip them of their injury curse. As for the Mavs, this win failed to prove anything about their team because they were expected to win and they delivered.


The Zion Curse

No. 1 Thunder vs. No. 8 Pelicans (Thunder won 4-0)

Does Zion Williamson have the talent to make the Hall of Fame? Absolutely, his physical gifts are unprecedented. However, Zion has failed to do something throughout his entire career.

The former first-overall pick—who will be entering his sixth season in the league next season—has never played in the NBA playoffs despite his team making the playoffs twice over the last three years.

And in the one year they didn’t make the playoffs, they made the Play-In Tournament, where Williamson once again failed to play.

NBA.com
Zion Williamson vs the Thunder in March | NBA.com

So, just like their second-round rivals, the Thunder didn’t prove anything with this win. They were expected to dominate the Zion-less Pelicans and they went out there and did just that.

Among the players who made the basketball Hall of Fame and spent a few seasons in the NBA, they all played at least one game in the playoffs.

Zion still has Hall of Fame-level potential, but he will need to take better care of his body as the next few years should be the prime of his career and he needs to play in the playoffs in his prime if he wants to build any sort of a legacy.


Best Team of Round One

The Minnesota Timberwolves

The Wolves are now up 2-0 over the Denver Nuggets and look primed to make a shock run to the NBA Finals just one year after everyone (including myself) wrote them off.

During their last series against Phoenix, the aforementioned trio of McDaniels, Alexander-Walker, and Reid combined to average 36.1 points a night to help Karl-Anthony Towns get back to rhythm as he recovered from his injury.

Mike Conley kept being the team’s steady and reliable point guard, while Rudy Gobert had a BPM of +62, the highest of anyone in that series.

And of course, Anthony Edwards continues to build upon his legacy as a playoff performer, as his stats have gotten better every year in the playoffs and he looks destined to bring a championship to Minnesota sometime in the future.


MVPs of Round One

Jamal Murray (Denver Nuggets)

Edwards had the better stats, and Murray’s performance against the Lakers last year in the WCF was unquestionably better from a statistical standpoint.

Murray

But stats and percentages aren’t everything. Murray gets the nod here because he ripped the Lakers’ hearts out twice.

Had he not scored 14 points in the fourth quarter of Game 2, which included the game-winner, the Lakers would have won and they would have had a lot of momentum as the Nuggets traveled to LA for the next two games.

The series could have been tied 2-2, but with Murray’s explosion in Game 2, the Nuggets had the chance to end the series in five.

Murray saw that opportunity and made the most out of it, scoring 12 points in the fourth and hitting yet another game-winner to eliminate the Lakers from championship contention.




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