The playoffs is fastly approaching and I am going to give you my opinion based on the NBA knowledge I have about who is coming out of the first round. Playoffs tip off Saturday, April 15th, 2017 at 3:30 pm EST. Now without further ado lets see how your favorite team will fare in the first round.
Golden State Warriors (1) vs. (8) Portland Trail Blazers
I believe the Golden State Warriors are going to sweep the Portland Trail Blazers. Now, here me out, the Portland Trail Blazers don’t have a good enough defense to contain the elite offense of the Golden State Warriors. I think the Blazers will keep some games close in part because of their explosive backcourt of Lillard and McCollum but the overall star power and depth of the Warriors will be too much to match. Unless the Trailblazers can have guys like Allen Crabbe and Evan Turner finally start to live at least partly live up to their insanely large contracts, there is no chance.
For those who will argue that a healthy Jusuf Nurkic poses a serious threat to Warriors. I don’t see Nurkic being an elite defender against Draymond Green when he has to guard him away from the basket if the Warriors go will their lethal small ball lineup of Curry, Thompson, Iggy, Durant and Green.
Prediction: Warriors over the Blazers in 4
(2) San Antonio Spurs vs. (7) Memphis Grizzlies
I have the San Antonio Spurs taking out the underrated grit and grind Memphis Grizzlies ball club. This is not the same Memphis Grizzlies ball club that got swept last year when they played mostly d-league level talent on the court. They have their two cornerstone stars in Mike Conley and Marc Gasol healthy. I feel like the Grizzlies can keep the Spurs on their toes this series. Sadly, we won’t get to see Tony Allen guard Kawhi because Allen strained his calf and is out indefinitely.
The Grizzlies still have lengthy defenders they can throw out there like James Ennis and Jamychal Green on Kawhi. Overall it will be the depth of the Spurs with guys like Patty Mills, Dewayne Dedmon, Jonathan Simmons, David Lee, and Manu that will give the Grizzlies fits. The Spurs are as deep as they come while Memphis might only be 8 or 9 deep. Expect lower scoring games and this is your series if you love defense.
Prediction: Spurs over the Grizzlies in 6
(3) Houston Rockets vs. (6) Oklahoma City Thunder
This is a duel between two MVP caliber players but one far better team in my mind. I give the edge to the Houston Rockets. They just broke the record for the most 3 point makes in a season and their depth goes far beyond Harden. Guys like Williams, Gordon, Anderson, and Ariza can take over ball games with their jump shot. OKC has an amazing defense but their offense is middle of the pack and besides Westbrook, their are very few other guys that can create their own shot.
Westbrook can’t play 48 minutes a game when he’s off the floor resting who will step up? Guys like Oladipo, Kanter, and Adams haven’t proved to be reliable enough to take over games when their MVP needs a rest. Basketball is a team game, ain’t no one man team gonna go far. I give the Thunder 1 game out of respect for Russ and belief that he will still have a big series.
Prediction: Rockets over the Thunder in 5
(4) LA Clippers vs. (5) Utah Jazz
I believe this will be one of the best first round match-ups in years if the Jazz can stay healthy. That’s a big if because the Jazz starting lineup only played 13 games together but they were 11-2 in that small sample size. I have to give the Clippers the slight advantage in this eventual 7 game series due to the big edge in continuity and experience. They know what it takes to win a series and their core knows it is their last potential chance to do something big on this stage. I expect to see a similar Griffin and Paul that we saw against the Spurs a few years back.
With the Jazz, there is just so much unknowns. How will Quin Snyder do coaching in these high-pressure games? Can Rodney Hood regain his lost confidence? What will the Jazz get from their bench? Can George Hill, Joe Johnson, and Boris Diaw lead by example being the veterans they are?
Prediction: Clippers over the Jazz in 7
(1) Boston Celtics vs. (8) Chicago Bulls
The Boston Celtics have something to prove that they didn’t get this one seed by mistake and they are just an overall more talented ball club than the Chicago Bulls. They have better secondary options to Isaiah Thomas in guys like Al Horford and Avery Bradley. Brad Stevens has definitely emerged as one of the best young coaches in the NBA. However, the Chicago Bulls are no pushover team as they are one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the NBA and Jimmy Butler is the best player in this series.
The problems lie with guys like Dwayne Wade and Rajon Rondo. What versions of those players are we going to see? Who is gonna stop Isaiah Thomas? Who will contain Al Horford? They have a three-headed in Smart-Bradley-Crowder that can man the wings. I see the Bulls getting one game but the only one due to a lack of depth.
Prediction: Celtics over the Bulls in 5
(2) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (7) Indiana Pacers
The Indiana Pacers always play LeBron team's tough, that is why he is 12-7 against them in the postseason. Despite, the disappointing season for the Indiana Pacers were expected to originally be as high as a top 3 team in the East, they still have the components to be a tough match-up and showed it down the stretch since adding back “Born-Ready” Lance Stephenson, they are 5-0! I definitely see the Pacers getting a game or 2 before the Cavs turn it on and start playing championship-caliber basketball.
The Cavs in the way they are built are engineered with shooters and playmakers that are capable of having big nights, but they need to win the battle on the defensive end. I believe they will but LeBron has to set the tone. Lead by example and the rest will follow.
Prediction: Cavs over Pacers in 6
(3) Toronto Raptors vs. (6) Milwaukee Bucks
It is depth vs length in what should make for an entertaining first round playoff series. The Bucks have been on a tear since All-Star with a record of 19-12. If you are the Raptors, you may just strike fortune in having the talent capable of slowing down Giannis in Demarre Carroll, PJ Tucker and Serge Ibaka. The problem is now with a healthy and lengthy Khris Middleton you force DeMar DeRozan into an uneven match up. However, when Giannis struggles the bucks struggle. When DeMar struggles, the Raptors realize that they have one of the deepest teams in the East. They are at least 12 deep in numbers. Once again, depth will decide a series.
Prediction: Raptors over Bucks in 6
(4) Washington Wizards vs. (5) Atlanta Hawks
This will be the best series of the first round in part because it features two of the most underrated players in the NBA in Bradley Beal and Paul Millsap. This series features a top tier defense in Atlanta going up against a top tier offense in Washington. Clearly, the backcourt and depth favor the Wizards but I believe if we see playoff Dwight, then the Hawks frontcourt can make this a more even match-up. Ultimately, I believe this series will go 7 but I give the series to Wizards favor because of consistency.
The Hawks are too inconsistent to win 4 games in 7. One night they’ll look like they can compete with the likes of Cleveland, next they’ll fall to the woeful Brooklyn Nets. It’s not a winning formula.
Prediction: Wizards over the Hawks in 7
Have an amazing Easter and enjoy Playoff basketball!