It’s that time of year again, the time where everybody speculates who’s going to win the NBA Championship! Will it be another year of the Warriors dynasty? A year of LeBron? Or will new blood make its way to the Larry O’Brien trophy? Here’s what I think is going to happen, conveniently divided by conference! If you’re paying attention, this is also my prediction of the playoff order in both conferences. If my NCAA bracket is any indication, though, I’m terrible at predicting things.
Western Conference First Round:
#1 Houston vs #8 Jazz
Every time the Rockets have played the Jazz this year, the victory margin has range from 11 to 21 points. The Jazz defense is one of the most solid in the NBA (3rd in the NBA in defensive rating), but the Rockets have the 2nd highest eFG% and 2nd most scoring this year. James Harden, Chris Paul, and Clint Capella will have to outlast Ricky Rubio, Donovan Mitchell, and Rudy Gobert, but something tells me they’ll get the job done.
#2 Warriors vs #7 Spurs
That final series score is only on the condition that Kawhai doesn’t come back, obviously. With the roster they have, it’s a wonder they’re still competing for a spot. But with the coach they have, it automatically makes sense. The Spurs defense is incredibly daunting, and the advanced ball movement gives them an advantage over most defenses. But, the Warriors are the Warriors and as long as Steph Curry can get healthy before the first round, they should be fine and shouldn’t have a problem winning this series barring any surprise Klaw attacks.
#3 Trail Blazers vs #6 Timberwolves
The season series is split 2-2 on this one, but that isn’t 100% accurate considering both Blazers losses came before what I like to call the Great Awakening. For some reason, the Blazers are really good. They have relatively the same roster besides trading Allen Crabbe and drafting Zach Collins and Caleb Swanigan, but for some reason they’ve just looked amazing this year. The Wolves are still waiting on Jimmy Butler, who’s said he’ll be able to come back for the playoffs. If this is true, the Wolves defense will be incredibly lucky, as they won’t have to deal with Andrew Wiggins guarding CJ McCollum. When it comes down to it, if the Blazers stay as hot as they are right now, there’s really not much of a chance for the Wolves to edge their way into the 2nd round. Maybe next year, Timberpups.
#4 Thunder vs #5 Pelicans
Yeah, I legitimately can’t tell which team is going to get which seed. But what I can tell is that Steven Adams probably isn’t going to be able to guard Anthony Davis. In the only game the teams have played since the Cousins injury, the Pelicans got the edge and won 114-100. The Pelicans are still surging without their 2nd best player, but their only concern should be who’s going to guard Paul George. This will be the first series to go to a Game 7 (cue Zaza Pachulia clip), and it will be a very fun series to watch.
Eastern Conference First Round
#1 Raptors vs #8 Heat
The Heat are a strange basketball team. Their star center is constantly out, but their backup center is en route to being a better player anyway. Their guard core is all over 6’3’’. Dwayne Wade is back on the team and playing out of his mind whenever he’s healthy. Someone decided they weren’t allowed to wear those cool jerseys anymore, and that person is the worst person in sports. The Heat either fill it up in a hurry, or they don’t score for like 15 minutes. There just seems to be no in between, and that inconsistency will cause the Raptors to pounce. The Raptors have the bench advantage, just like they do against every other team in the NBA, and Lowry and DeRozan have a chance to prove they don’t choke in the playoffs by not choking this time. The Raptors get the clean sweep just to prove they can.
#2 Celtics vs #7 Bucks
The Boston Celtics should change their mascot so that the leprechaun has crutches and a cast or something. This team has been riddled by injuries all season, especially to their core pieces of Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart, and Gordon Hayward. Kyrie is getting knee surgery, and his timetable is 3-6 weeks. Hopefully he’s able to return before the playoffs (but secretly I really want to see playoff Terry Rozier go to work). If the Bucks can capitalize on a Celtics team not at 100%, we could see a Game 7 (again, cue Zaza).
#3 Cavaliers vs #6 Wizards
Is John Wall affected by the Ewing Theory? Are the Wizards better without him? Down the stretch of this season, they’ve looked very good. But can Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre contain playoff LeBron? I’m gonna go with no. He’ll have one or two 30-point triple doubles, and we’ll call it a series after four games. Sorry, Wizards.
#4 Sixers vs #5 Pacers
Once again, I cannot tell who’s getting the 4th seed. Also, you may be upset at that result. “Trust the Process,” I hear you chanting, watching clips of Joel Embiid do funny postgame interviews. But, in the playoffs, experience over everything. Embiid and Simmons are big time guys, but neither of them has even touched a first round series. Myles Turner, Vic Oladipo, Lance Stevenson, Darren Collison, Al Jefferson, Thaddeus Young, and Cory Joseph all have. That’s more than half the Pacers rotation. The season series is currently 2-1 Pacers, and I think the Process stops here for this season.