Time to talk all things NBA from across the Atlantic. I would love to hear any opinions of NBA fans, so give me your predictions for MVP, playoffs and next season.
With the regular season drawing to a close this week, the business end gets underway this weekend with Round 1 of the Playoffs. I think its pretty clear to see who I’m supporting, however, whilst my heart wants one thing, my brain is telling me another (Damn you KD). I can take comfort from the fact that Westbrook HAS to get the regular season MVP despite Harden’s excellence.
Russell has been different class and has single-handedly dragged the Thunder to playoffs with Oladipo and Adams not reaching their potential. Taj has added a touch in the paint, but they don’t have enough defensive IQ or alternatives to go much further this time around. Harden finally feels at home with a team that shows better cohesion every season with Capela having a breakout year. Despite a slow end to the season, Houston have exceeded expectations this season and Harden has been the conductor. He does love a Eurostep doesn’t he?! Lack of playoff experience may work against the Rockets further down the line, but they show great balance in the roster. Anyways, I will get to the playoffs in a little while, but I want to look ahead to next season first. From the eliminated teams this season, which teams are most likely to force a playoff spot next year? We constantly hear of “trusting the process” and “I like the path that we are on”. A deliberate ploy to keep fans on-board IMO. Who can make a breakthrough?
I have to admit that I was a bit surprised that they didn’t kick on as much this year. Karl Anthony-Towns had a breakout year, but they need to start putting runs together and learning faster than they are. Wiggins improved his PPG this season again, but they need more from him and others. I just have a feeling that next season is the make or break for them. Trade in a bit of experience at PG and give it a proper go! Otherwise, they will risk losing some of their top performers who will be itching to reach playoffs.
New Orleans Pelicans
Arguably, the most fearsome frontcourt in the league that never really got a chance to gel following the mid-season trade. A summer of much needed prep will certainly add offensive and defensive plays to smooth the transition of Cousins into the setup. The firepower is there, it just needs to be directed in the correct way. Shake up the coaching roster perhaps and you could be looking at them as a potential bolter next season.
I think they finished the season 30-12 which shows how much they improved as a unit throughout the season, narrowly missing out on a spot this time around. With no standout stars, they have relied on contribution from all members of the team. Whiteside is a presence and Dragic is a shrewd operator. It’s refreshing to see them play a style, post big 3 era, that can get them results. Can they keep the momentum going into next season? Spoelstra has the know-how to get them into the playoffs, I’d like to see them return.
Let’s take a look at the contenders and I’ll give you my two-cents on the whole showdown. Let’s start with the West.
Golden State Warriors (Prediction: Champions)
The favourites after yet another incredible regular season 67-15. With KD back in the fold after injury, their ability to shoot from the perimeter and make inside shots is enhanced even more so. They will go all the way and learn from last season you’d think. The only way that I see them being beaten is if they lose a few key players to injury or an individual opponent puts in a “MJ” or dare I say “King James” playoff series. Hard to look past them.
Portland Trail Blazers (Prediction: 1st Round exit)
Scraped through off the back of Lillard and McCollum. Dame says they will win it in 6… and then he woke up. Would be surprised if they got 1 win against GSW. Not enough in the roster to trouble them.
LA Clippers (Prediction: 2nd Round exit)
The nearly men who have never quite delivered in years gone by. They seem to tie up around playoff season. You’d think that with DeAndre, Griffin & CP3 that they should have a much stronger record than 51-31. I had written off the Clippers prior to the last month where they have shown some shapes. Promises to be fascinating clash with Utah. I can see it going the distance and I’m going to back LA based on form. GSW will prove a step too far.
Utah Jazz (Prediction: 1st Round exit)
I’d love to be wrong, but I just think that the Clippers will pip them in Round 1 with home advantage in the last game. An exciting team with an ever-improving Hayward and highly sought after Gobert, who provides exceptional defence which resulted in the best defensive record in the league. Keep the roster together and I can see them going deeper in years to come with a better seeding.
Houston Rockets (Prediction: 2nd Round Exit)
Can’t see them going past San Antonio in the 2nd Round, but will put up a good fight. Their ability to score, score, score is coupled with an inability to defend very well. A James Harden, who will be snubbed for the regular MVP, will be aiming to prove a point in round 1 with OKC (where his mate Westbrook plays). Like Utah, if they can keep this roster together and earn some valuable experience this year, I can see them pushing on a bit more next year as long as they don’t max out. A flair team who are exciting to watch. SA just too efficient.
Oklahoma City Thunder (Prediction: 1st Round Exit)
Can Russ continue to dominate? If yes, you could be looking at something of an upset, but in a post KD era, there is very little else for the Thunder to call on. Kanter and Gibson can score from the bench, but others don’t contribute enough to see them go much further. I’d like to see it go to Game 7, but the Rockets’ record against them in the regular season leads me to believe that it may be finished before then. I’d love to see an OKC vs. GSW Finals series, but it won’t happen.
San Antonio Spurs (Prediction: Semi Finals)
Highly efficient and experienced unit. Some call them boring, but I think the fact they have been reaching Finals for so many years proves their quality. Kahwi is arguably the greatest all-rounder in the league and has kicked on even more so this season. They will always be in with a shout. I can’t see them surpassing GSW, but they should reach the Conference final quite smoothly.
Memphis Grizzlies (Prediction: 1st Round Exit)
Having split their regular season series with the Spurs, you’d think this has the potential for an upset. I can see it going 4-2 in favour of San Antonio. Experience will count for the Spurs and with Tony Allen out indefinitely, they’ll be down one of their main men from the very start. Conley has started to live up to some of his max. salary outlay, but the Grizzlies don’t have enough in their roster to get past the Spurs.
And the East…
Boston Celtics (Prediction: 2nd Round Exit)
Very surprised that they managed to get the no.1 seed even if it was based on the Cavs’ failure to get an extended run together. They have exceeded all expectation so far and I think they should have too much for the unpredictable Bulls. Thomas has been exceptional and there have been good contributions all round. Not a team like the glory days of the past, but expect them to get through at least the 1st Round. With a points diff of only +2.7 (low for No.1 seed) for the season, expect a few close calls in their games. Can see Washington beating them in Round 2 in 7 games.
Chicago Bulls (Prediction: 1st Round Exit)
You just never know. With Butler, Wade & Rondo, there is always the potential for them to exceed their regular season stumble. If these 3 turn it on and click, they could go far, but the evidence so far doesn’t play in their favour. Boston should be able to get past them. A disappointing year for the Bulls. So far.
Washington Wizards (Prediction: Finals)
The Playoffs always throw up a surprise or two. This season, I just have a feeling about the Wizards. I can see them losing to GSW in the Finals, but I can also see the Wall-Beal combo getting them all the way to the finals. It would of course be a major upset for them to get past the Cavs, but when you have a feeling, you have a feeling. Potential to make me look like a complete eejit also.
Atlanta Hawks (Prediction: 1st Round Exit)
Not the force that they were the past 2 seasons. Haven’t been showing any consistent form to stake a claim for a long run in the playoffs. If Millsap is fit and on the ball, they could nick a 2nd round spot, but I’d surprised.
Toronto Raptors (Prediction: 2nd Round Exit)
Same record as the Cavs and have shown over the past few years that you can’t underestimate them. Think they should comfortably make it through to Round 2, but the Cavs should have too much Kyrieee and Lebron to get past them. Ibaka has been a good acquisition and DeRozan continues to score well. Will run the Cavs to Game 7.
Milwaukee Bucks (Prediction: 1st Round Exit)
Giannis Antetokounmpo has been THE standout performer this season and not just because he is a giant. He has given us some incredible plays and has given his team-mates a confidence boost which has seen them improve this season. However, an overall -0.2 differential shows that they are very much on the fence overall and unlikely to go much further this time around. A strong roster, with rookie Brogdon having an excellent season, will only continue to build and expect them to get a better seeding next season and go deeper.
Cleveland Cavaliers (Prediction: Semi Finals)
They haven’t been quite on it all season have they? Only a fool would write them off though. A Cleveland team that is coming in under the radar is very dangerous. Especially with all the firepower they have and how last year panned out. Whilst James has been ousted individually by the likes of Westbrook, Harden and Leonard, he won’t be too worried. His playoff record speaks for itself. I can Washington causing an upset if the Cavs aren’t quite at it. I’m almost wishing it to happen to shake things up a bit. Even if Cavs reach the Finals, I can’t see them winning back-to-back.
Indiana Pacers (Prediction: 1st Round Exit)
I’ve actually backed them to win Game 1 of the series, but I don’t think that they have enough to get beyond Cleveland. It is great to see Paul George back to his best and I can see Turner continuing to improve. This playoff experience will be huge for him. It will just prove a step too far for the Pacers at the moment.
And that’s that…
GSW to win out in the end 4-2 against the Wizards? Make your predictions and get involved. It promises to be an interesting few months ahead. More importantly, feel free to take joy out of how all my predictions will ultimately be incorrect!