With the NBA Season winding down, the race for Playoff seeding is in full effect. With some teams resting players down the stretch, and other going all in to play in this year's postseason, there is plenty of action to go throughout the regular season.
This year, amazing individual performances by James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and many of the NBA superstars have wowed fans, along with the dominance of super teams such as the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers. Looking ahead to the Playoffs, I will be selfish and find out who the best, most entertaining, and most dramatic Playoff series consist of. This list includes super teams, but also fantastic rivalries and stories to follow along.
5. Houston Rockets (51-23, 3rd in West) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (44-31, 5th in West)
A potential 1st round matchup if the Clippers continue their slide and fall to the 6th seed, this matchup combines individual stars and bad blood to make a very interesting series. Two years ago, with the same cores intact, the Clippers and Rockets battled in the Western Conference Semifinals. Up 3-1, the Clippers allowed 124 points in Game 5, got outscored 40-15 in the 4th Quarter in Game 6, and lost Game 7, blowing the 3-1 lead to lose.
The Rockets are back after a down year, and PG James Harden is becoming a leading MVP candidate, with a strong core of talent including Lou Williams, Eric Gordon and Patrick Beverley. This creates a fantastic PG matchup between Harden and the Clippers’ Chris Paul. Paul, the leader of the Clippers roster looks to take his Big 3 including Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan for revenge on the Rockets. A series full of superstars, tons of offense, and revenge in mind, a potential Clippers and Rockets matchup would certainly entertain NBA fans around the globe.
4. San Antonio Spurs (57-16, 2nd in West) vs. Golden State Warriors (60-14, 1st in West)
Surprisingly, in their two years of dominance at the top of the NBA, the Golden State Warriors have never played the San Antonio Spurs in the Playoffs during that stretch. The Spurs are currently 2-0 this season against the Warriors, including winning on the road on opening night 129-100. Despite these two teams going back and forth the past 3 years for Western Conference Supremacy, The Warriors clearly possess more premier talent. Between MVP’s Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, and All-Stars Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, the Warriors have a combination of big names and big production.
The Spurs are on a different path, with Tim Duncan retired, and former stars Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili aging, the team is clearly Kawhi Leonard’s with secondary option LaMarcus Aldridge and coaching wiz Gregg Popovich. If these two teams were to finally meet up in the Playoffs, the amount of Superstars on the floor combined with the excellent regular season pedigree would create an amazing matchup. Even more than that, it would perhaps finally signal the changing of the guard from the Spurs to the Warriors as the consistent threat at the top of the Conference.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers (47-26, 2nd in East) vs. Washington Wizards (46-28, 3rd in East)
A matchup that could either occur in the Eastern Conference Semifinals or Finals, the rivalry created between these two teams this season would make for an amazing Playoff series. Only 2.5 games back of the Cavaliers, the Wizards have played extremely well against them this season. After dropping the 1st game of their series by 9, they then lost in one of the games of the year, 140-135 after LeBron James hit a fadeaway bank in 3 to tie the game and send it to overtime. More recently, they won by scoring 127 on the road in a win in Cleveland. Terrific guard duo John Wall and Bradley Beal, along with wild card Otto Porter Jr. will have to play great series’ against the Cavaliers and their big 3 of James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.
The main reason this series could be so entertaining is the offensive firepower that comes out when these teams play. The last two games combined, the teams have scored 513 points, and with both teams tendencies to struggle defensively, the series could have just as many points involved. The East’s best potential series, the Wizards and Cavaliers could determine who makes it out of the East to make it to the NBA Finals.
2. Golden State Warriors (60-14, 1st in West) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (42-31, 6th in West)
In what either could be a 1st or 2nd round matchup, this series between the Warriors and the Oklahoma City Thunder has the greatest storyline out of all the potential series; Durant vs. Westbrook. After Durant left Westbrook and the Thunder this offseason to play for their rivals Golden State, it was no secret that there was a rift between them. Westbrook has elevated his game to new heights this season, leading the league in points and triple-doubles.
While his team success has been nowhere near that of the Warriors, Westbrook is still a leader in the MVP race. In their 4 games this season, there has clearly been tension between the two former teammates, but the competition has not been as tense, as the Warriors have won all of the games very easily. While this series may not be the best in terms of talent matchups, there drama and intensity that would be created with the battle of Durant against Westbrook makes this a must-watch series should it happen.
1. Golden State Warriors (60-14, 1st in West) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (47-26, 2nd in East)
As most readers assumed, a 3rd consecutive NBA Finals matchup between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers is clearly the most entertaining, highly skilled, competitive series there could be. Besides the evident star power in this series with LeBron, Kyrie and Love against Curry, Durant, Draymond and Klay, there is tons of drama as well. The drama includes the 3-1 lead that the Warriors blew last June in the Finals or the regular season game they blew against the Cavs this Christmas.
There is not as much intrigue in terms of surprises with this series however, as both teams have played against each other so much, and have been shown so frequently on national TV, that we already know what to expect. In terms of who will win, that is far from being determined, but no matter what happens, if Cavs and Warriors are in the finals for the 3rd straight season, it will be another historical series.