It’s been a longtime coming basketball fans, but fear not, the return of the NBA season is right around the corner! There were many times throughout the quarantine where I thought the chance of the NBA returning was slim to none, but here we are. Of course, it won’t be the same without fans and no home-court advantage, but at this point, I’m just grateful we’re going to see any type of ball this season. The thought of starting the playoffs right away and seeding teams regardless of their conference was a cool idea, but I like the traditional East vs West NBA Finals. I thought if the NBA came back, they would go straight to playoffs, but this new format is interesting and will make for an exciting finish to the season. I’m not sure how I feel about how the 8th seed will be determined in each conference. I probably would have scrapped that and said whichever team is 8th when the season ends, gets in, but the idea of them having a mini-playoffs before the actual playoffs will intrigue many fans. This is the season to try new things, and overall, I like how the NBA decided to proceed.
I think the two 8th seeds will end up being the Magic and Grizzlies. I do think the Trail Blazers will be less than four games behind the Grizzlies but they won’t manage to beat the Ja Morant led Grizzlies two games in a row. Here’s how I see the entire playoffs shaping up!!!
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
1. Bucks VS 8. Magic
This series should not be all that close. The Bucks are obviously the much better team and should run away with this series. The Magic have some nice young talent. Gordon is a freak athlete who will only continue to get better. I’ve always been a fan of Terrence Ross and the energy he brings. Evan Fournier doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. Unfortunately for the Magic, they don’t have what it takes to upset the Greek Freak and the Bucks. I say the Magic squeeze out a win here but that’s it.
Bucks in 5
2. Raptors vs 7. Nets
I feel like this series would be closer if Durant played. He has already ruled himself out for the remainder of the season. From what I’ve heard, he’s healthy enough to resume play when the season returns in late July. While you have to respect his choice, especially considering how quickly he got injured after returning last season. If Durant is healthy enough to play, he should be out there with his team helping them trying to win a championship. I do understand where he’s coming from though. I like the Nets and think they can make this series fairly interesting. They have a solid squad with some low-key good players in Dinwiddie and Harris. The Raptors will end up taking the series and should not need more than 6 games to do so. Siakam is a baller and this team is extremely solid overall. While Siakam is there leader, they are not dependent on him to win. Lowry and VanVleet are more than capable of picking up the load.
Raptors in 5
3. Celtics vs 6. Pacers
This should be a fun series. In my books, the Pacers have overachieved this year, especially when you consider the injury to Victor Oladipo. You don’t really hear anyone talk about Indiana, and if I was a Pacers fan, I’d feel disrespected. The Pacers are a good team, and Sabonis is enjoying a breakout year. Brogdon is a solid two-way player that seems to fly under the radar. And of course, you have Oladipo who continues to impress and exceed expectations. The Celtics are one of the most fun teams in the NBA. I love how they play as a team, and everyone seems to have their set role. I have a hard time identifying the best player, but I think that’s an advantage for them and exactly the way they like it. I think the Pacers will give the Celtics a run for their money, but their roster is simply not as deep as Boston’s.
Celtics in 6
4. Heat VS 5. 76ers
If the Heat and 76ers end up playing each other in the first round, this will be the most entertaining first round series in the East, and maybe even the entire NBA. As a Heat fan, I’m hoping Miami doesn’t have to play Philly in round one. The 76ers are an anomaly. Some games they look like the best team in the NBA and others like they would struggle to beat this year’s North Carolina team. Talent is not the issue with these guys, it’s consistency. I could make a case that they have the most talented roster in the East. Embiid is a nightmare for opposing teams and seems to get what he wants whenever he wants. The only knock on Simmons’ game is his jump shot, but he still finds a way to score over 16 PPG. Josh Richardson is a baller and people should start putting more respect on his name. Tobias Harris has got game and just needs to work on being a more confident player. Al Horford is, well, Al Horford… In case you didn’t realize, this year’s Miami Heat team is fun… very fun. Call me crazy, but I enjoy watching this team more than I did watching them back when they had the Big 3. Except for the fact Wade’s not playing…I love you D Wade!! This Heat team is filled with young talent and also has a good core of veterans. Jimmy Butler is the perfect leader for this team. He’s tough, savvy, hardworking, and an ultra competitor. Bam Bam has taken two steps forward this season, and deserves to be a nominee for most improved player. Kendrick Nunn has been an incredible story and finds a variety of ways to score. Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson are shooters who can heat up (pun intended) at any time. Then you got the veterans in Crowder and Iguodala who balance this team off. And don’t you dare forget about my boy Goran Dragic. Don’t know what this guy needs to do in order to get the credit he deserves… Most underrated player in the NBA!! Yes, I said it. I expect this to be a low scoring series as both teams are strong defensively. The Heat have the deeper team and a more reliable bench.
Heat in 7
Western Conference Quarterfinals
1. Lakers VS 8. Grizzlies
As much as I don’t think this will be a very close series, I think we’ll see some good quality basketball here. The Lakers are enjoying a great season and have the second best record in the NBA. LeBron and A.D. have these guys set to make a deep postseason run. The Grizzlies have surprised many people, myself included, because I don’t think many saw them making the playoffs this year. Memphis is built to be a playoff team for years to come, but do not match up well with the Lakers. Expect to see maybe one or two close games in this series.
Lakers in 4
2. Clippers VS 7. Mavericks
The Mavericks are not your average number 7 seed. These guys are good, and it just goes to show you how strong the Western Conference is. I keep waiting for Luka Doncic to slow down or show signs of immaturity in his game, but he just doesn’t. Porzingis needs to find a way to stay healthy, because the duo of him and Luka is deadly. Hardaway Jr. is a player to keep an eye on, he has the ability to go off at anytime and will need to step up his game if the Mavs have any chance of beating the Clippers. Speaking of the Clippers, just like the Lakers, they need to have a championship or bust mindset. Leonard and George are the main stars on for LA, but they have a variety of players who can take over a game. Mainly Lou Williams. Let’s be honest, he should be a starter, but seems to flourish in his role of coming off the bench. Montrez Harrell is a man on a mission this year and will definitely be in consideration for most improved player. I really do think that Dallas matches up somewhat well against the Clippers, but at the end of the day the star power on LA will be too much for the Mavs to handle.
Clippers in 5
3. Nuggets VS 6. Rockets
This has the potential of being the most entertaining series of them all. The Nuggets are what I like to call predictable. They’ll usually have a solid regular season and finish within the top 4 of the Western Conference, make some noise in the playoffs but it usually ends there. The Rockets on the other hand, are very unpredictable. Some games Harden lights it up and they blow teams out, and other times they lose to teams far inferior to them. At times, the Nuggets like to play fast paced, but also like to slow it down and let the big man Nikola Jokic work his magic. The Rockets seem comfortable playing small ball. Kinda cool to see a team play without a traditional center. Harden and Westbrook will produce, so I think it’s up to guys like Eric Gordon and P.J. Tucker to elevate their game. Gordon especially is someone who I can see improving on his game and becoming more than just a shooter. He’s my X-factor in this series. I think this series goes 7 games and comes down to whether or not the Rockets will be able to stop Jokic and his size.
Nuggets in 7
4. Jazz VS 5. Thunder
The Thunder really impressed me this year. After losing Westbrook in the offseason, I thought they were going to struggle to make the playoffs this year. Chris Paul has been exactly what they need him to be. Gallinari and Gilgeous-Alexander have been enjoying great seasons and have individually benefitted greatly from the departure of Westbrook. If the Thunder want to upset the Jazz, Steven Adams is going to need to impose his will from the get-go. He’ll be matched up for most of the series with Rudy Gobert. While Gobert is always atop the NBA in blocks, he’s not nearly as strong as Adams. The Jazz are a very well constructed team and do not seem to have many flaws. Donovan Mitchell is crafty with the basketball and can hurt you with his jump shot and his ability to finish at the rim. Joe Ingles spreads the floor and is an under appreciated part of this team. I think the Thunder will win a few games in this series, but I just can’t see them winning in a best-of-seven.
Jazz in 6
Eastern Conference Semi-Finals
1. Bucks VS 4. Heat
I’m really hoping to see these two teams meet up in the playoffs. I think it’ll be a bar fight all the way through. The only team in the East I can see beating the Bucks in a best-of-seven game series is the Heat. No, I’m not just saying that because I’m a Heat fan. The Heat are 2-0 against the Bucks this year and there last meeting wasn’t very close. What Miami did so well in those 2 games was limit Giannis and slow him down. Obviously you can’t completely take out someone as good as him, but the Heat held him to 29 points in their first matchup and only 13 in their second game. The Heat forced him to settle for difficult shots. He went 0-9 from three point range in both games combined. The Heat will let him shoot 10 threes a game if he wants, because that’s obviously not his game. Now the question is; can Miami hold him off for an entire series? Probably not. It’ll be mainly up to Bam Adebayo and Myles Leonard to try and stop the Greek Freak. Kris Middleton will need to play a big part in the series as well for the Bucks. He’s a very streaky player but I like his game. He forces defenders to play him tight because they need to respect is shot. This team is filled with shooters, and even get production from beyond the arc from their center Brook Lopez. I love it when your center can stretch the floor. Miami has two of their own big men who can do that for them in Olynyk and Leonard. Both of these guys have quietly had pretty good seasons. It’s gonna be the main guys though for Miami who will need to be at their sharpest in this series, mainly Kendrick Nunn. He has been very good all year but had a stretch of games where he couldn’t buy a bucket. Miami struggled in those games. As much as Butler is Miami’s superstar, if Miami ends up winning this series, it’ll be Nunn who’ll be the Heat’s scoring leader. Both teams love to shoot the three ball and that’s where this series will be won or lost.
Bucks in 7
2. Raptors VS 3. Celtics
What a heavyweight matchup this would turn out to be. The defending champs looking to go back-to-back versus a young and up-and-coming Celtics team looking to get over the hump. If home court advantage was a thing in these playoffs, I would have picked the Raptors without hesitation, but now I’m not so sure. The Raptors are a tough team to beat at home no matter who their opponent is. I’m not going to lie, it surprises me how well the Raptors have been able to deal with the loss of Kawhi. They haven’t seemed to have lost a step. Siakam has become their go-to man, but as I mentioned before, they have a whole team of ballers. I was never huge Lowry fan, but he does things your average point guard doesn’t. He hustles for every loose ball, can play hard-nose defense, grab rebounds, and as cliché as it sounds, the man does everything he possibly can to get his team a win. That’s what separates him from other players. The Raptors remind me a bit of the Celtics in that they both really do play as a team, which is why I think this series goes 7 games. I think Gordon Hayward can step up his game for the Celtics. He often gets overlooked because of how stacked the Celtics are. Credit to him though for how well he rebounded from that horrific injury. If he starts producing like we all know he can, the Celtics would be virtually unstoppable. His stats for the season are actually pretty good (17.3PPG on 50%), but just by watching him you know he has the ability to step it up a notch. All in all, this should be a tight series until the very end, and I got the boys from Canada coming out on top. Raptors in 7
Western Conference Semi-Finals
- Lakers VS 4. Jazz
The Lakers are 2-0 versus the Jazz this season, and have won both games fairly convincingly. This time around Avery Bradley won’t be there for the Lakers. He’s a solid player, but replaceable. His defensive efforts will be missed, but it gives my boy Dion Waiters a chance to step up. Waiters is great at creating his own shot, and I hope he can show the league some of the magic he showed with the Thunder and Heat. This series will come down to the big boys though. We know what we’ll get out of LeBron and Davis. It’ll be up to Donovan Mitchell to carry his team and keep doing his thing. You can’t really ask much more out of him, but to beat the Lakers, he will have to play the best basketball of his career. A lot of this series will come down to the matchup between the two defensive stars in Davis and Gobert. They won’t necessarily guard each other, but I still wanted to highlight each of them. In their last matchup Gobert was held to 8 points. The only way the Jazz win this series is if he averages a double-double. The depth of the Lakers will be too much for the Jazz to handle. I expect Kuzma and Green to contribute a lot to this series, while the Jazz will be too reliant on Mitchell to carry the load.
Lakers in 5
2. Clippers VS 3. Nuggets
As I mentioned earlier, I don’t really see the Nuggets as legit contenders. They fall under my category of “pretenders.” Beating the Clippers and advancing to the Western Conference Semi-Finals would definitely change my mind, but I just don’t see it happening. The Nuggets don’t have the firepower to match up with that of LA. The Clippers have 2, if not 3 game changers. Jokic and Jamal Murray are great players, but will need some help from guys like Will Barton to pick up the slack. The only way I see the Nuggets winning this series is if Paul George is off. Kawhi is as consistent as they come, and very rarely has a poor game, but George is more of a streaky shooter. Then again, even if George isn’t himself, there’s Lou Williams coming off the bench. Looking at the Nuggets roster, it’s kind of surprising to see them at the 3 spot in the West. They are solid, but need to show me more in order to be a believer.
Clippers in 6
Eastern Conference Finals
1. Bucks VS 2. Raptors
A rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Finals. People forget, the Bucks were up 2-0 in the series last year and had all the momentum. We all know what happened after that… The Bucks will be seeking revenge and won’t have to worry about Kawhi Leonard this time. I expect this to be a high scoring series with the Bucks hitting their fair share of 3s. The only guy on the Bucks who has yet to develop a 3-point shot is Giannis. Bledsoe isn’t a 3 point shooter, but you should still respect his shot. The key for the Raptors will obviously be to stop or at least slow down Giannis. We’ve seen the way to do that is making him become a shooter. Once he gets to the paint, he is virtually unstoppable. Toronto will have to play physical against him and not allow him to get easy baskets. Force him to make 2 free throws. He struggles from the charity stripe, making only 63% of his free throws. Obviously, this is easier said than done considering how long the Greek Freak is and how easily he gets to the basket, but if Giannis is able to bully the Raptors and get what he wants, the Raptors won’t be making another trip back to the finals. My guess is when OG Anunoby is on the court he will be on Giannis. For Toronto, it’ll be up to Lowry to win them this series. This is his eighth season with the Raptors and while he main not be their best player, he is the heartbeat of this team. As weird as it sounds, I still feel like he has a lot to prove. How do you classify Kyle Lowry? Is he just an all-star? A game changer? A player who can lead his team to another final appearance? This series will provide some light on who he REALLY is. As I eluded to before, the Bucks have a great shooting team and I think offensively they’ll be too much for the Raptors to handle. Bucks finally make a finals appearance.
Bucks in 6
Western Conference Finals
1. Lakers vs 2. Clippers
LA VS LA. Doesn’t get more exciting than that. I think this is the Western Conference Finals matchup everyone wanted to see. I expect this series to go the distance, but wouldn’t be surprised to see a few blow-out games. When one of these teams has momentum, they don’t look back. When Davis and LeBron are feeling it, there’s not much you can do as a defense, and the same goes for Kawhi and George. Watching this series is going to be like watching the all-star game seven times in a row. In many ways, I see this as being the actual NBA Finals… Sorry Milwaukee. I look forward to seeing Leonard on LeBron. For the most part I feel like Kawhi can contain LeBron, but the Lakers are so deep that I don’t see that as being much of a problem for them. As we all know the unibrow can do it all. He’s got handles, a reliable jump shot, can play defense and grabs his fair share of rebounds. When he hits his long-range shots, I’m not sure how you can defend him. I remember watching him play versus Miami this year and he was hitting shots from the parking lot. It actually wasn’t fair, he’d get doubled, still get a shot off and score. My ex-factor in this series for the Lakers is Danny Green. Good shooter and defender. It’ll be his job to spread the floor for the Lakers. The Clippers are the 2 seed for a reason and will not make this an easy series for the Lakers. The Clippers are fun to watch, and have an abundance of talent, but I trust the Lakers more to bring home the Bill Russell trophy.
Lakers in 7
1. Bucks VS 1. Lakers
Nothing too surprising here. Number 1 versus number 1 for your NBA Title. They split the season series 1-1 and will not play each other again in the regular season. The Greek Freak averaged 33PPG in those 2 matchups. Don’t expect him to average that in this series. Giannis may have his way early in this series, but I expect coach Vogel to adjust his Lakers in order to frustrate Giannis as the series goes on. Like I mentioned before, Middleton is a big part of this team. I’ve used the word “streaky” a lot, but I’d say he is as streaky as they come. I love seeing him shoot in people’s faces and scoring. He can do that. Unfortunately, there are also games where he makes Ben Simmons look like a shooter. Ok, obviously I’m exaggerating but you get the point. The only way the Bucks win this series is if he averages AT LEAST 20PPG. He’s averaged just over 21 this year, so it’s possible. The Bucks have an 81.5% win percentage, but I feel they are missing something in order to bring a title to Milwaukee. Sadly for the Bucks, I don’t think they have what it takes to beat LA. LeBron will be looking to improve his finals record to 4-6 and Davis will be doing everything he can do get his first ring. Rondo has the playoff experience you want in a point guard, and I for-see him being a calming presence to the Lakers while making all the right decisions. The Lakers are simply the better team and we will see that in this series. LeBron wins his 4th championship and brings the title back to LA.
Lakers in 6