I’m not sure if the Atlanta Hawks won the series or if the Philadelphia 76ers lost it, but either way, the Hawks and Trae Young have surprisingly made it into the Eastern Conference finals. On the other side of the bracket, the Phoenix Suns and Devin Booker are surging. Dreams are forming in my head of a Young vs. Booker NBA Finals, and we all deserve it.
It’s been a while since we’ve had an NBA Finals with a couple of first-time, budding superstars. Actually, “a while” doesn’t begin to do justice to how rare this would be. The NBA has been dominated for decades by the biggest, most established stars. Sure, we’ve seen young ones make their way into the Finals, but waiting for them on the other side was always an imposing foe, like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, or Michael Jordan.
The most surprising team in recent memory to make the Finals was likely last year’s Miami Heat, but they went up against James, Anthony Davis and Co., losing 4-2. There were the Toronto Raptors in 2019, but they had Kawhi Leonard and squared off with the already-three-time-champion Golden State Warriors. Before that, since 1999, either Bryant, Duncan, or James appeared in the NBA Finals every year except 2006, which still saw Dwyane Wade, Shaquille O’Neal, and Dirk Nowitzki compete.
So, this year, Suns-Hawks would truly be a unique series.
Any time we have an opportunity to see such talented youth reach the highest stage, we should welcome it. Young had a phenomenal series despite getting off to a very slow start in Game 7. He showed up late, but hit dagger shots to bury the 76ers.
Young’s star is rising.
Already in the Western Conference finals, Booker did his own thing in Game 1, posting 40 points, 13 rebounds, and 11 assists.
Booker and Young are two of the brightest young talents we have in the NBA today, and we would be lucky to see them go to battle with an opportunity to win their respective teams’ first-ever NBA Championship.
While I want to see this battle unfold between Young and Booker, even if the conference finals don’t go the way I want, there’s still a good chance for a first-time champion. Of the four teams remaining — Atlanta Hawks, Milwaukee Bucks, Phoenix Suns, and Los Angeles Clippers — only Milwaukee has a chip, but that was exactly 50 years ago, before the merger, and with guys named Oscar and Kareem.
So yes, this NBA playoffs is already set to reward us with a unique viewing experience, but I will absolutely be selfishly rooting for Phoenix and Atlanta to advance so we can see Young and Booker on the same court with title dreams on the line. Please, Basketball gods, reward us with this matchup. We deserve to see something that we’ve never seen before.