The NBA postseason is almost upon us, with teams having only 15 or 16 games left each. It is looking to be a good one, with no real dominating contender in the East, while the top-heavy West prepares for some competitive late-round matchups. There are still many spots to be determined, but, if the season ended right now, this is how the 2016 playoffs would look, and here are some of my predictions:
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- Toronto Raptors
- Boston Celtics
- Miami Heat
- Atlanta Hawks
- Charlotte Hornets
- Indiana Pacers
- Chicago Bulls
Best First Round Matchup: Cavs vs. Bulls
Many would expect the defending Eastern Conference Champions, the Cleveland Cavaliers, to blow out their first round matchup. However, the Bulls are a scary 8th seed. Star guard Jimmy Butler has been out for almost a month, which has contributed to Chicago’s fall in the standings. With Butler, point guard Derrick Rose, and versatile big man Pau Gasol, they will force Lebron & Co. to seven games. However, Cleveland will eventually come out on top.
Best Playoff Performer: Paul George, Indiana Pacers
After missing all of last year due to a horrible leg injury, PG-13 is back, and better than ever. Once the 6-9 forward gets going, he’s hard to stop, and fun to watch. The Raptors do have the athleticism to control George, but Indiana’s star player will have the ball on every possession, and is sure to make the most of his opportunities. However, I do see the Raptors winning this series.
Eastern Conference Finals: Celtics vs. Cavs
In my opinion, these are the two best teams in the Eastern Conference. I do not see any other team in the East beating Boston or Cleveland in a 7-game series. However, that is where the similarities stop. The Celtics are made up of solid NBA players, with a 10-man rotation, who all play a certain role to help Boston win games. Cleveland is the exact opposite. Led by the Big 3 of Lebron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love, these stars do most of the scoring for this team, while the rest of the small rotation does the little things. This series will go 7 games but, sadly, I have to take Cleveland. The Celtics lack a consistent, legitimate wing scorer to be a threat for the Finals, and no one to match Lebron with big shots late in games.
- Golden State Warriors
- San Antonio Spurs
- Oklahoma City Thunder
- Los Angeles Clippers
- Memphis Grizzlies
- Portland Trail Blazers
- Houston Rockets
- Dallas Mavericks
Best First Round Matchup: NONE
The West is EXTREMELY top-heavy. The top four teams are leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of the conference. I don’t think any of the bottom-seeded teams have a chance for an upset. The longest series will be between OKC and Portland, which MIGHT go 6 games. At the most.
Best Playoff Performer: Steph Curry
I’m not sure how anyone can vote against him. Curry is having quite possibly one of the best individual seasons in NBA history, on a team that could go down as the best team in NBA history. He is a human highlight reel, dribbling through defenders, nailing 30-footers, and finishing extremely diffcult shots in the lane. No one has stopped him yet, and I don’t think anyone will.
Western Conference Finals: Warriors vs. Spurs
Not only will this be a matchup of the two best teams in the NBA, but is another matchup of contrasting styles: the young, fast and exciting Warriors against the experienced, methodical and blue collar Spurs. The Spurs are no slouch, with MVP contender Kawhi Leonard, along with veterans Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Lamarcus Aldridge. However, they can’t beat the Warriors in 7 games. The quickness, athleticism, and depth of the Warriors will be too much, and they will take the West again, in 7 games.
NBA Finals: Cavs vs. Warriors
Back to back. A rematch from last year’s Finals. The Cavs will have revenge on their mind, and Lebron will be hard to stop. However, the Warriors have Klay Thompson, a knockdown shooter who is becoming one of the best defenders in the league. And, again, there is no one who will be able to stop NBA Finals MVP Steph Curry. Back to back, the 2016 NBA Champions will be the Golden State Warriors, in 6 games.