Cousin Alex’s 6th Annual NBA Playoff Preview

Apr 16, 2017 by

The Masters is over, March Madness has come and gone, and the thrill of the first week of baseball has subsided. All this means is that it’s time to enjoy Easter and watch the best basketball players compete for the Larry O’Brien Trophy over the next couple of months. Let’s take a look at this year’s playoff teams….

The Eastern Conference

6  -Milwaukee Bucks  –  Of course we are starting with the Bucks…back in the postseason ladies and gents…playoff experience for our young team will be extremely valuable a couple years from now.  The Bucks are like a small/mid cap stock ready to burst into a large cap stock.  Giannis Antetokounmpo is going to dominate the league for years to come and the Bucks need to build everything around him.Everyone else see the tweet thatthe Greek Freak is the only player in NBA history to finish in the top 20 in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks?  He’s 22 folks…Also, the development of rookie Thon Maker, which has flown under the radar this season,has been quite impressive.  The Bucks are 33-20 when Greg Monroe scores in double figures..for an upsetover Toronto his offensive punch off the bench will be essential.Hopefully we left the all-too-often 4th quarter struggles in the regular season, although we have improved as the season unfolded.

 

1  –  Boston Celtics  –  5’9” Isaiah Thomas dominating the NBA would be like a 5’2” player shredding at the high school level.  The little guy ranks 7th in Player Efficiency Ratings (PER) in the entire NBA.  Not trading for Paul George or Jimmy Butler at the trade deadline takes them out of the serious contender category in my eyes, but Ainge knows what he’s doing and this team under Brad Stevens will be in contention for years to come…the least intimidating #1 seed I can remember in a long, long time.

2  –  Cleveland Cavaliers  –  The defending champs have been average the second half of the season and now they are just supposed to flip the switch and cruise to the Finals…and yes, that is probably going to happen barring a major injury.  They have playoff LeBron, the team is relatively healthy and they are again, the clear cut choice to represent the weaker, but improving Eastern Conference.  Statistically and through the eye test, they are average on defense and not playing with the same pieces too often this season could expose defensive rotations.  Personally, I think this is an excellent opportunity for LeBron – imagine if he leads the take-down of the loaded Warriors for a fourth NBA Title…the MJ comparisons would then have a stronger foundation in my eyes.

3  -Toronto Raptors  –  On paper, with Lowry now back, Toronto has the best chance to dethrone Cleveland in the East..DeRozan, Lowry, Ibaka, Valanciunas, and Carroll to maybe contain or somewhat slow down playoff LeBron…they have a solid bench and a strong home court advantage…just maybe.  Having Lowry out most of the second half of the season probably did not help this stat, but the Raptors average the fewest assists per game in the entire NBA.  I cannot see them ISOing the Cavs out in the second round…that is if they can beat my Milwaukee Bucks in the first round #fearthedeer

4  -Washington Wizards  –  It was a strong, bounce-back year for the Wizards.  Unless it were the Splash Brothers, I am not a fan of having your two best players be the point guard (Wall) and shooting guard (Beal) for a NBA team (in college it’s fine).  I prefer a 3 or 4 being the best or at least the second best player on a team.  A draw to the Eastern Conference Finals is there for the taking.  Do the John Wall…

5  -Atlanta Hawks  –  Doubt the city of Atlanta has recovered from Mr. Brady and Company’s epic comeback in the Super Bowl and this Hawks team won’t relieve those fans of those brutal memories.  To their credit the organization has been a model of consistency now making the playoffs for 10 straight seasons.  They are a team loaded with players who are slightly above average.Atlanta is 5th in defensive field goal percentage and relatively good in most categories. The 1st round matchup with Washington could be solid TV entertainment.

7  –  Indiana Pacers  –  Their regular season was underwhelming, but they have been better as of late.  They do have the much needed superstar in Paul George…I actually think they could have given the Celtics problems had they matched up, but maybe they’ll surprise the Cavs a couple times. They were 29-12 at home this season so grab one in Cleveland and try to defend the home court.

8  – Chicago Bulls  –  Unless MJ comes back and suits up…the offseason is right around the corner.  Maybe Jimmy Butler goes inner MJ and scores 63 at the Garden?

 

Western Conference

1  –  Golden State Warriors  –  The West is clearly the tougher conference to get through, but the Warriors will be on a mission.  Durant is back and Curry looks like the 2x defending MVP as of late.  GOLDEN STATE AVERAGES MORE THAN 5 ASSISTS PER GAME THAN THE NEXT CLOSEST TEAM. #ballmovement #spacing #shooters The bench is 2x better than any “expert” analyst ever suggests.  I mention the Bucks are a small/mid cap stock ready to jump…well the Warriors are like Apple and the ascent only continues.  Make no mistake, game 1 of the NBA Finals will be at Oracle in Oakland.

2  –  San Antonio Spurs  –  Lead by Kawhi’s MVP type season (3rdin PER, 25.5 ppg, and an excellent defender) the Spurs remain among the league’s best.  San Antonio lead the league in 3 point field goal % at 39.1%.  The Spurs won 3 of 4 against the Rockets in the regular season with each win by 6, 2, and 2 points respectively so the potential second round match up should be incredible TV.  Guessing after they bow out in round 2 or 3 Coach Pop will blame President Trump for it…

3  –  Houston Rockets  –  Vintage Mike D’Antoni coaching performance this year…“we’ll score, score again and hopefully score more than the opponent.”  The playmaking ability of James Harden, averaging a league-leading 11.2 apg and 2nd with 29.1 ppg, is incredible.  Eric Gordon staying healthy is also an essential boast for Houston.  They love analytics down there and understand 3’s are worth more than 2’s…who would have ever thought?

4  –  LA Clippers  –  They are healthy and playing very well going into the playoffs this year and one might assume this is the last go round for CP3, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan to try and reach the Finals as the key ingredients.  Utah will be a tough 1st round battle with the Warriors waiting for them…at the end of the day this team is a pretender once again.

5  –  Utah Jazz  –  This team does not get enough media attention, especially for winning 51 games.  They have the All-Star in Hayward, the rim protector with Gobert (leads league at 2.6 bpg) and the Mormons possess a strong home court advantage…50/50 shot in round one vs. the Clips.

6  –  Oklahoma City Thunder  –  Let’s not pretend this team would win more than 30 games without Russell Westbrook.  Obviously, Westbrook can only shoulder so much of the load and they are not actual contenders.  The Thunder simply struggle to shoot from the perimeter ranking dead last in team 3 point field goal %.…this does not bode well for them vs. the high scoring Rockets in round one.  OKC better enjoy Mr. Westbrook before he leaves town in the relative near future.  His MVP case – easily averaged a triple double while crushing everyone else in the league when it came to PER…also, 1st in ppg, 3rd in apg, 10th in rpg, and 11th in spg!

7  –  Memphis Grizzles  –  This grizzled, veteran team has the playoff experience required, but that alone does not win NBA playoff series.  They muck it up on defense, maintaining the second lowest defensive field goal % while giving up the 3rd fewest points per game.  40-year-old Vince Carter probably still has a higher vertical than 99% of younger millennials…crap, I think I just invented another reason for a space space…(eye roll)Anyways, don’t expect Beale Street to celebrate much postseason success for the Grizzles in the next couple of weeks.

8  -Portland Trail Blazers  –  Rip City rebounded well from a rough start earlier this season to make the playoffs.  Lillard is exceptional, but they have the same problem as the Wizards with their best two players being the point guard and shooting guard (McCollum).  Although,Jusuf Nurkić is only 22 and could develop into a star for them.  A healthy Nurkić would help in round one, but they play the Warriors…we know the drill.  On a side note, I’d love for the Bucks to somehow trade for Lillard!

I want to wish everyone a Happy Easter and thank you for taking time to read this year’s playoff preview.  Two years ago, I said Warriors over the Cavs in 6…hit it.  Last year, I said Warriors over Cleveland in 7…close but no cigar…now I’m hungry to get back on track.  Warriors over the Cavs in 5…wish I had the stones to call for the sweep.

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