With the regular season just a week away, take a look at my predictions for the playoffs.
The Western Conference
The #1 Seed: Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors made significant improvements to their roster in the offseason. With the addition of DeMarcus Cousins onto the same roster as Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Kevin Durant it’s hard to imagine this team losing many games. The Warriors starting five could also be a sneak peek at the Western Conference All Star team’s starting five.
The #2 Seed: Oklahoma City Thunder
With the additions of Dennis Schröder and Nerlens Noel as well as the subtraction of Carmelo Anthony, the Oklahoma City Thunder have a solid bench and still have two all stars in their starting lineup. If the key defensive pieces of the Thunder like Andre Roberson and Steven Adams stay healthy it’s going to be difficult for most teams to score on them. The best match-ups for the Thunder this upcoming season are the Warriors and the Houston Rockets.
The #3 Seed: Houston Rockets
The Rockets fall a spot in playoff seeding this season due to the loss of two key pieces of their roster in Luc Mbah a Moute and Trevor Ariza. They also added Anthony to their roster, which at this point no one can predict how Anthony’s season is going to go. With a team very similar to the Thunder’s, he could become a liability on the Rockets just as he was in OKC. If Anthony has as much of an inefficient season with the Rockets as he did with the Thunder it’s hard to see the Rockets sitting at a seed higher than the third by the end of the season.
The #4 Seed: Utah Jazz
The Utah Jazz are a team that depends on the health of their players. The Jazz are a team that don’t have an insane amount of depth but have a great amount of young talent, especially with Donovan Mitchell, and a Defensive Player of the Year in Rudy Gobert. If the Jazz stay healthy there is a very high chance that they end up with the home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Also, that Grayson Allen kid looks pretty solid.
The #5 Seed: Portland Trailblazers
This is where the predictions start to become difficult due to how crazy talented the Western Conference of the NBA really is. But the fifth seed for the 2018-19 NBA season has to go to the Portland Trail Blazers. The Blazers have one of the best back-courts in the NBA with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Not to mention one of the better big men in the NBA, Jusuf Nurkic, is on the roster. That combination is a scary one for opposing defenses. They will drop a few spots this year because of improvements in other teams like the Thunder and Lakers. The fifth through the eighth seed positions are going to be just as tight this year as they were last year in the Western Conference.
The #6 Seed: Los Angeles Lakers
My heart is telling me to put the San Antonio Spurs in the sixth seed but with the Los Angeles Lakers additions of LeBron James, Rajon Rondo, and Lance Stephenson it’s hard to place them above the Lakers. Anyone with the mindset that the Lakers aren’t going to be a good team is completely wrong. When you have the modern day, “GOAT” on your team you’re basically guaranteed a playoff spot. Not to mention the Lakers have one of the best young cores in the NBA. If the young core that the Lakers currently have turns out to mesh well with LeBron this year (and they don’t all get traded before the deadline) the Lakers could be a deadly team for years to come. It all really depends on if LeBron allows himself to take a backseat and let the young core takeover or not.
The #7 Seed: San Antonio Spurs
The sixth and seventh seed will probably only be one or two games apart from each other. However, the Spurs will find themselves on the underside of the two seeds at the seventh spot. Despite the roster still being solid with pieces like LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, and the new addition of DeMar DeRozan, the Spurs lost a few key pieces to their roster during the off-season. Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Anderson have all found new teams to play for. When you lose pieces like those, wins against the best of the best in the NBA become hard to come by.
The #8 Seed: Timberwolves, Pelicans, Mavericks, or Nuggets?
This is probably the most difficult pick out of every position in the Western Conference. These teams are all equally matched and could all find themselves at either the seventh or eighth seed. For the sake of these predictions however, we’re going to go with last year’s eighth seed team, the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Wolves are in a similar position as the Lakers (Minus having the GOAT on their team). The Wolves have one of the better young cores in the NBA and if Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns develop better defensive skill-sets the Timberwolves could soon become a match-up nightmare for other teams. No matter who ends up in the eighth seed though, the Warriors will most likely bring out their brooms and sweep them right out of the playoffs.
Side note: The Northwest Division is the best in the NBA.
The Eastern Conference
The #1 Seed: Boston Celtics
The first four playoff spots in the Eastern Conference are the only clear cut spots due to how mediocre the talent is for most of the East. The Boston Celtics are hands down the best team in the Eastern Conference of the NBA now that LeBron has taken his talent to the West. With how well the Celtics played last year despite Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward’s injuries it’s hard to see this team slowing down if they maintain their health. The Celtics have the best young core in the NBA and are one of three teams that actually have a shot at beating whoever they face in the Finals, assuming that they get there.
The #2 Seed: Toronto Raptors
The Toronto Raptors won’t make the finals this year but they will once again find themselves at the top of the Eastern Conference. With the addition of Leonard, the Raptors definitely improved defensively but with the loss of DeRozan they lost some offensive power. The trade of DeRozan for Leonard kind of just left the Raptors where they were last season, and with how good Boston will be this year, there is NO WAY the Raptors are taking the top spot of the East.
The #3 Seed: Philadelphia 76ers
The Philadelphia 76ers are the third team that have the capability of winning against the top tier teams in the Western Conference. They are also one of the few teams coming out of the East that are talented enough to make the finals. If Markelle Fultz proves to be the player he was touted to be coming out of the draft last year the 76ers will be a scary team for any opposition. The 76ers have the second or third best young core in the NBA and if they are better than they were, or even as good as they were last year, they could have a shot at the NBA Finals.
The #4 Seed: Indiana Pacers
Victor. Oladipo. That’s all that has to be said about the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers performed well last year in the playoffs forcing a seven-game series against the Cleveland Cavaliers. And if the rumors are true about Victor Oladipo coming back as an even better player than last year then NBA fans should be on the lookout for the Pacers. The Pacers have a shot at any of the second, third, or fourth seeds. Realistically they will probably end up where I’ve put them as they probably won’t win most of their key match-ups, but home-court advantage in the playoffs is still home-court advantage.
The #5 Seed: Milwaukee Bucks
Just like in the Western Conference, the fifth through the eighth seeds are difficult to predict. However, on the Eastern Conference’s side of the spectrum it’s because of the mediocre talent that comes after the Pacers. The Milwaukee Bucks aren’t necessarily a mediocre team but they aren’t better than the Pacers right now either. The Bucks definitely improved with the signing of Brook Lopez during the off-season. They also have a soon to be superstar in Giannis Antetokounmpo. If the Pacers have a significant injury or for some reason make a bad trade the Bucks could be in the fourth seed by the end of the season. I doubt either of those things will take place for the Pacers, so that puts the Bucks in the fifth seed.
The #6 Seed: Washington Wizards
The Washington Wizards had a pretty solid off-season this year with the signing of Dwight Howard. The Wizards have always been a team with the talent to have potential at good playoff runs but hardly make the most of it. John Wall is the second most athletic point guard in the NBA and Wall matched with Bradley Beal is one of the more dangerous back courts in the NBA. Match that talent with Kelly Oubre Jr. and Howard and you’ve got a pretty solid starting lineup. With Dwight Howard not being half the player he was at the beginning of his career, his signing to the Wizards doesn’t put them any higher than the sixth seed.
The #7 Seed: Miami Heat
The Miami Heat are one of the mediocre teams from the Eastern Conference but they were able to grab some key wins last season, even against Golden State. So I have to put them in the seventh spot. They have a great defensive center in Hassan “Blockside” Whiteside, and they have the third best shooting guard of all-time on their roster, Dwyane Wade. Although the Heat aren’t going to be a match-up nightmare for any teams that have above average talent, they’ll find themselves in the seventh spot of the East by the end of the year.
The #8 Seed: Detroit Pistons
This year, health willing, we might have a chance at watching one of the most dominant front courts terrorize opposing teams. But as we all know the Detroit Pistons and the term “healthy” don’t really seem to go together, especially now that they have Blake Griffin on their roster. If the Pistons stay healthy for even 60 percent of the season, they’ll find themselves in the eighth seed. If the Pistons somehow stay healthy longer than that, they could even find themselves in the seventh seed by the end of the year. But they most likely won’t stay healthy which puts them at the eighth seed. Better than last year’s ninth seed though.
Side note: The Atlantic Division could also be considered the best in the NBA.
This is where I make my playoff bracket and try very hard not to be biased for the teams that I love more than others.
On the Eastern Conference side of things, the Celtics are going to cruise through their competition until they meet the 76ers in the Eastern Conference Finals and the Celtics will win that series in seven games advancing to the NBA Finals. The Raptors will also have a chance at making the Eastern Conference Finals but will ultimately fall to the 76ers in six games.
Of course the winners of the NBA Finals will once again be the Warriors. However they won’t get there so easy this year. The games played against the Jazz are going to be close at the end of every single one and the Western Conference Finals match-up with the Thunder, I feel will be the hardest they face. In the NBA Finals the Celtics are going to grab a few games from the Warriors and take a 2-0 lead and then the Warriors are going to come back and win the next three games. The Celtics will win game six, but the Warriors will close it out in game seven, crowning them champions for the third straight year.
Side note: Russell Westbrook is bringing it home to OKC this year hands down, none of the above matters.
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