Joe Sherman's Early NBA Playoff Predictions
With the NBA playoffs soon approaching, teams are frantically trying to squeeze into contention, fighting to keep their seed, or battling for home court advantage.
Competition is soaring in the league at the moment due to teams such as the LA Lakers trying to get an 8th seed. Many eyes are on Lebron James as he tries to lead his Lakers up two spots from where they are now. Still, experts predict the dynasty of the league, Golden State, to get to the finals and take home the chammpionship with relative ease. Golden State has played 38 playoff games in the last two seasons and has won 32 of them.
The buzz of the western conference surrounds concerns about Lebron’s ability to lead his team to an 8 seed, and who, if anyone, can upset the Warriors. There are many sleeper teams in the west who could make a serious impact if they were in the East but there is a very slim chance that these teams will have a mark in the West. Chances are the teams who play Golden State up until the Western Conference Finals will get swept with the exception of one or two games.
I interviewed Moeller basketball Star Alec Pfriem about his predictions these playoffs regarding the Warriors. Pfriem said that he thinks the Warriors will go 16-4 in this year's playoffs, losing games in the Finals and Western Conference Finals.
There will be feud in the West between the Houston Rockets and The Oklahoma City Thunder. Both teams have MVP candidates and powerhouse offenses that will surely be a highlight of the playoffs if they meet to duel before the Western Conference Finals. James Harden has been putting up offensive numbers that no one could’ve expected prior to this seasons debut. He is averaging nearly 36 points this season and leading a good Houston Rockets team. This is the most points anyone has averaged since Wilt Chamberlain in the early 1960s. Oklahoma City similarly has an MVP candidate Paul George, who has been playing out of mind recently with efficient box scores and game winners in the last two months. If these two teams end up meeting, you will want to sit down to watch. Russell Westbrook is having an off season by former MVP standards but still making a difference averaging around 20-10-10 this season. The story of the West is like how it has been the past two seasons with the Warriors winning out but with interesting duels of teams happening before the Conference Playoffs.
The East brings an interesting dynamic approaching the playoffs and experts are split on who will come out of the East making this seasons Eastern Conference play much more interesting than past seasons.
The Bucks are leading the league right now with a 48-16 record. The Bucks are the only team to have clinched a seed in the payoffs so far and they look to continue dominant play behind their sleeper MVP candidate, Giannis Antetokounmpo. Even with this powerhouse leading the East, many predict that the Raptors will actually be the team to go into the playoffs representing the Eastern Conference.
The Raptors are a team that has seen a lot of drama since the end of the season last year but they have quickly recovered with the addition of Kawhi Leonard. Kawhi has brought a defensive difference and consistent solid offensive numbers. However, the best part of the Raptors this season is the deep bench and few obvious weaknesses at any position. Steven Loung, sports writer over at SPORTSNET, made a prediction regarding the Toronto Raptors much earlier this season claiming; “ Thanks to both a very hot start from Raptors themselves and relatively slow jumps out the gate from some of their expected the rivals – the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers, in particular – Toronto finds itself in a blessed position to win the East and possibly finish with the best record in the NBA.”
The advantage that both top seeded teams in the East have is that they are projected to win more games this season than Golden State. This means that they will both have home court advantage in the Finals if they are to meet Golden State. Steven Loung of SPORTSNET seems to agree making another claim for the Raptors saying: “And having that home-court advantage will be vital for the Raptors in the Finals because, if all things go as most expect, they will be seeing the Warriors there. And no matter how much more vulnerable Golden State has appeared, they’ll still be a ridiculously tough out come playoff time.”
The East is very different this year with the loss of Lebron James to the LA Lakers. In the previous 9 seasons there wasn’t a question on who would go the playoffs out of the East because Lebron would just win every year.
The other team you need to look out for is the Boston Celtics. They have the best roster in the East however, they have not meshed yet this season as a good team and have faced embarrassing losses despite having players such as Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. A story will be to see if this team can get it together and make in impact in the East this year’s playoffs.
I see this year’s playoffs ending with Golden State securing the Championship and beating out the Raptors in 6 games. Kevin Durant will likely win Finals MVP and there will be a new story heading into the offseason on whether Golden State can keep their dynasty together.