Cousin Alex’s 7thAnnual NBA Playoff Preview

Apr 14, 2018 by

We are fresh off the excitement of March Madness, the buzz of Opening Day and the tradition of the Masters.  The NHL Playoffs have begun bringing great intensity while the NFL Draft is only a couple weeks away.  The Kentucky Derby is almost here… Oh, and the NBA Playoffs are ready to tip!  This year’s playoff race feels more wide open than previous years.  Competitive series and high quality television are about to begin ladies and gents!

 

Western Conference

 

1 – Houston Rockets

The last time Roseanne was relevant the Houston Rockets were winning NBA Championships…Roseanne has been revived..2018 NBA Champions?  The CP3 (All-NBA) and Beard (1st in PER – Player Efficiency Rating and most likely MVP) experiment turned out fairly well one would suggest.  They possess a roster where the pieces fit extremely well and they shot more 3-point field goals than 2-point field goals.  Firing all those 3 pointers and even the mere threat of shooting them created spacing and assisted in the Rockets shooting 55.8% on 2-point field goal attempts which ranks 2nd in the league.  Daryl Morey (GM) and Mike D’Antoni (Head Coach) are a match made in heaven for the regular season, but will this translate into a trip to the NBA Finals?  Can Harden and CP3 overcome their playoff shortcomings?

 

2 – Golden State Warriors

The defending champs have taken some haymakers in the form of injuries this season but they have somewhat withstood…3 of the core 4 are healthy now but will a healthy Steph emerge in time?  I say this every year it feels like but they remain my favorite team to watch given their unselfish ball movement as they rank 1st in the NBA with 29.3 assists per game.  Golden State also leads the league in 2-point field goal percentage, 3-point field goal percentage and free throw percentage.  Can the defense rise to the occasion and complement the historic shooting we almost take for granted at this point?  KD is the lead dog but Steph means the most if they want to repeat.

 

3 – Portland Trailblazers

Last year I said this and I will say it again…I long for the Bucks to land Lillard someday and team him up with Giannis…a man can dream ok!  A 13 game win streak lead them to the 3 seed and home court advantage in round one.  The guard tandem of Lillard and McCollum combined to average over 48 points per game, which means the Trailblazers will go as far as the guards can shoot them.  What I do not like is Portland ranks dead last in the league averaging only 19.5 assists per contest.  Their chances remain distant behind the Rockets and Warriors.

 

4 – Oklahoma City Thunder

We should appreciate Sam Presti’s off-season moves to try and improve the roster through blockbuster trades.  Although, people need to realize,and it seems more rampant in basketball coverage this year, that Carmelo is borderline washed up and finished the season shooting 40.4% from the field.  Russell Westbrook’s field goal percentage is nothing to write home about but he is an absolute freak and his haters do not hold much ground with me – (25.4PPG, 10.3 APG, 10.1RPG) – They are a scary opponent to face given their stardom but I am hard pressed to see them all of a sudden “click.”  Whether he stays or leaves in free agency at least Paul George stayed in OKC longer than a Calipari recruit in Lexington…

 

5 – Utah Jazz

The Jazz are on an absolute tear…for real though…they were 17-26 at one point this season and finished (48-34)…meaning they ended the season 31-8…no way even a biased Jazz fan imagined the playoffs were a possibility this year after losing their best player via free agency this past off-season.  They struck gold and found Gordon Hayward’s replacement in the draft pick of Donovan Mitchell who averaged 20.5 PPG in his rookie campaign.The Jazz defense ranked T-1st in fewest points given up per game and were T-5th in defensive field goal percentage.  They will need to ride this strong defense against OKC.  By the way, are there any Jazz fans outside of Utah excluding any family members of Malone and Stockton?

 

6 – New Orleans Pelicans

Anthony Davis is a monster and ranks 2nd in the NBA in PER.  Jrue Holiday is a nice piece.  At the end of the day there is simply not enough around AD to make noise in the talent-rich Western Conference, especially without Boogie Cousins (fellow Achilles Tendon rupture victim myself – I have no doubt he can come back as strong as ever).  I do think AD gets his first ever playoff win this year though – which is kind of crazy he has a big old doughnut thus far given his greatness…great reminder that basketball, even at the NBA level, requires a team to succeed.

 

7 – San Antonio Spurs

The streak has ended ladies and gents.  For each of the last 18 seasons the Spurs had won 50+ games …think about your favorite NBA team and go check how many times they won 50 games in the last 20 years…Bucks fans, do not waste your time…  A healthy and active Kawhi… maybe a trip to the Finals was possible but call me Doubting Thomas without him…I am still shocked a mini soap opera broke out within the usual steady Spurs organization and a player this season.  Anyways, the Spurs defense gives up the fewest points per game in the NBA (T-1st with Utah) while ranking 8th in defensive field goal percentage.  Can Coach Pop rally the troops one final time?

 

8 – Minnesota Timberwolves

The land of 10,000 lakes is back in the playoffs…have not been there since George W. Bush’s first term in the Oval Office.  The Jimmy Butler knee injury prevented them from home court advantage so they are better than their record of (47-35) would seem to indicate.  They have a good coach and plenty of talent to cause some issues for the Rockets.  The T’wolves will have to slow it down to create a competitive series and resist the track meet Houston will try to pursue.

 

Eastern Conference

 

1 – Toronto Raptors

Oh Canada has deservedly earned the #1 seed and were led by the usual combo of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry…I love the Wichita State alum, Fred Van Vleet is getting more run.  The bench is strong, their 34-7 home record is tops in the league and they rank 2nd in the NBA with 6.1 block shots per game.  Can our NAFTA friends up north finally get through LBJ and company?

 

2 – Boston Celtics

Losing your two best players in any sport would be brutal to overcome and make a playoff push…in the NBA playoffs, this difficulty is only enhanced.  On a positive note, the injuries to Hayward and Kyrie have helped accelerate the development of their younger talent in Tatum and Brown.  Shorthanded, they will not beat the Bucks, 76ers, and Raptors/Cavs.  They are a -155 favorite over the Bucks (+135) in round one…hmmm. Barring significant future injuries, Coach Brad Stevens will have this team in the NBA Finals within two years, but for this year’s sake, they are pretenders.

 

3 – Philadelphia 76ers

If Joel Embiid helps lead the 76ers to the NBA Finals, we can all anticipate another tweet or two towards Rihanna.  They are not exactly built with a list of historically proven winners, (their current 16 game win streak would suggest otherwise),but they are loaded, present match-up nightmares, and are the biggest question mark within the Eastern Conference.  The Sixers rank 1st in rebounding with a +5.2 differential.  As long as Embiid comes back healthy,a long playoff run appears to be in store.  Second year rookie Ben Simmons has been exceptional and runs the show.  Fultz is back… Trust. The. Process. (if we only had a $1 for every time we heard that in the last 4 years)

 

4 – Cleveland Cavaliers

Normally the #4 seed is not favored to win the East but if LeBron is suiting up for the Cavaliers they will remain the team to beat(they are +110 to win the East). LeBron ranks 3rd in PER and his durability and efficiency in his 15th season is beyond comprehension – when will his body through all these seasons and playoff runs breakdown?  It is a shade alarming LBJ has played in every game, compiled the most minutes played, and they are still only the 4 seed.  With Kyrie, they did not have enough last year. Now no Kyrie, and a bunch of new parts…makes it tough for me to believe they can win it all.  The endless coverage and campaigns to land LeBron will then commence.  Aside from playoff basketball, it was great but also important in my eyes to see Kevin Love come out and bring light to mental health through his article within The Players Tribune.  The praise and credit he has received is 100% deserved.

 

5 – Indiana Pacers

Trade the disgruntled star in Paul George and have a better record and seed than last year…goes against most NBA outcomes where talent prevails but give credit to Oladipo…The Pacers are T-2 in steals per game at 8.8 – they will have to turn Cleveland over in round 1 to pull off the shocker.  My annual ritual goes to the Indiana Pacers –No true star power, no true staying power.  Fans of the Pacers will soon forget their brief playoff run and quickly revert to dreaming of their local high school basketball team winning the 2019 State Championship in the Hoosier state!

 

6 – Miami Heat

Coach Spoelstra is underrated…But they will be able to call up Jesse James Decker soon and start their South Beach Diets early this off-season…unless D-Wade from 2006 resurrects.

 

7 – Milwaukee Bucks

Everyone is now healthy which makes developing a good rotation harder especially given the nature of shortening the bench and rotations come playoff time.  We need to build everything around Giannis and what fits him best – he is a transcendent superstar.  Unless the unexpected happens and we get to the ECF some moves need to be made.  Surround him with 3-point shooters and on the defensive end we need a physical rim protector. Giannis is only 23, absolutely loves Milwaukee and I continue to be extremely optimistic about the future!  The new arena looks better than Carrie Underwood…well, not really but you get the point!  To beat the Celtics in round 1 defending the three point line will be critical as Boston averages 37.7% from beyond the arc which ranks 2nd in the league only behind Golden State.

 

8 – Washington Wizards

Losing John Wall to injury destroyed any chance they had at home court advantage in round one.  They will be a tough out, have some legit pieces, but we have seen this band play before…a run to the Finals would be historic to say the least.  “So you’re telling me there’s a chance!”

 

Honestly, even with recent success in predictions, I have to be truthful and admit I am not confident with this year’s prediction but shooters shoot right – Warriors over the Cavs in 5…my gut says one of these teams will not make it but my NBA common sense will not allow me to pick any other teams.  Houston (Vegas co-favorite w/ the Warriors to win the West and the popular pick) and the Raptors/76ers are legit candidates this year to make the NBA Finals.  This is why they play the game…Enjoy the action!

 

 

 

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2 Comments

  1. Scott Cayo

    Love the love K-love is getting too…much deserved! Good points on LeBron. I don’t think picking against harden in the playoffs is difficult, and like the warriors pick. The Cavs one is more interesting…I would take the raps/sixers combo (if you could bet that in Vegas) to beat the Cavs, but picking one team to beat the Cavs is rather difficult. My gut says this is the first year in the last decade LeBron isn’t in the finals, but I can’t fault your pick. Shooters shoot! #DBAP

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