It’s never to early to look forward to the NBA playoffs; even if the regular season kicks off tonight. LeBron is a Laker, Boogie is a Warrior, DeRozan is a Spur, Kawhi is a Raptor, Hayward and Kyrie are finally back, Melo is a Rocket, and Jimmy Butler will not be in Minnesota soon. Anything else doesn’t matter. So what will happen this year in the NBA?
The Eastern Conference
- Boston Celtics- As I said earlier, Hayward and Kyrie are finally back from injury. This team is filthy good and they’re scary. The Celtics were one win away from the Finals last year and would’ve been in it if it wasn’t for the greatest player of all time playing for the other team. I have to mention that they were without their two best players as well. They’re back with the team still intact, LeBron is gone; they’re now the clear favorite in the East. This is their conference title to lose for the next few years unless there are some drastic changes to the landscape of the East.
- Philadelphia 76ers- Yes, they’re behind the Celtics for now, but not particularly far behind them. Do they have the talent to win the East? Yes. Will they beat the Celtics in a 7-game series? I don’t think so. With Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid at the helm, they are poised for a successful season. There is one way, however, that the 76ers could even the playing field with the Celtics, and that is with the emergence of Markelle Fultz. If Fultz can turn into the player that he was expected to be this year, then the conference finals will be a series for the ages.
- Toronto Raptors- Sorry Drake, sorry Raptors fans, sorry Canada; renting Kawhi Leonard for a year doesn’t move you up or down the rankings. They still can’t compete with the 76ers or the Celtics come playoff time unless they make a blockbuster trade before the deadline. Otherwise, the third or fourth seed fits Toronto very well. They don’t have the bigs or the bench to compete with the two teams listed above.
- Milwaukee Bucks- Everybody better be scared and trembling in their boots right now because the Greek Freak is hitting threes. Nobody was ever going to stop him anyways, but now it’s just unfair honestly. If the Bucks can put some other high caliber players around him then this team would easily clump up the top three teams in the conference. This conference would be a bloodbath if somebody like KAT played for the Bucks. The Greek Freak is coming and your team will not stop him; do not be surprised if the Bucks steal the third seed from Toronto when it’s all said and done.
- Indiana Pacers- Myles Turner and Victor Oladipo are the knew dynamic duo in the NBA. This is a very solid team from top to bottom, but when it comes down to it, they simply just don’t have enough firepower to compete with the top two teams. I think they’ll break the 50-win barrier this season.
- Miami Heat- My beloved Miami Heat have done absolutely nothing this off-season. We brought back Whiteside, and Wade. We’ve been in trade talks with Minnesota for Jimmy Butler, but talks have stalled and maybe even broken up. If they do get Butler, that puts them right about at where the Raptors are at this point. Not good enough to win the conference, but good enough to make some noise. If not, then most likely another 45-50 win season is upon us barring how much better players like Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow have gotten. Please Pat Riley do something.
- Washington Wizards- Bradley Beal and John Wall can’t do it all. As big of a University of Kentucky fan that I am, I love rooting for John Wall; however, the fact of the matter is, he and Beal don’t have the supporting cast to make any noise in this conference. They’re one big piece away from being really competitive in this conference, but until that happens, they’ll be fighting the last few weeks of the season to secure their postseason spot.
- Detroit Pistons- With the King leaving Cleveland with practically nothing, they’re out and someone has to move into that spot. This year, that will be the Detroit Pistons. Andre and Blake will the best big guy duo in the league and that alone will give them the last spot in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. However, seeds 6,7, and 8 are interchangeable.
The Western Conference
- Golden State Warriors- Well, what the hell? As I sat at Cherokee Lake in Tennessee, I watched as Boogie’s agent tweeted that “A Boogie Bomb was coming.” So excited that I thought he was going to join LeBron on the Lakers, I was crushed to find out that he fell into the trap and joined the Warriors. This just makes the best team ever assembled even better. Easily the favorites in the West.
- Houston Rockets- The Rockets added Melo over the off-season and contrary to what many think, I think Melo is gonna do great things for Houston. In OKC, he was relied on to score, and he’s at the point to where he can’t handle that pressure anymore. Houston was one game away from beating the Warriors to go to the Finals last year, so Houston doesn’t have to rely on Melo scoring at all. Everyone will be focused on Harden and Paul, so this will give Melo some easy scoring opportunities.
- OKC- The Thunder struggled last year because they put to much responsibility on Melo. They’ve figured out their identity with his departure and OKC is in for a big year. Apparently Russ is back and better than ever. Apparently he is bigger, stronger, and somehow has become more explosive. We won’t get to see that tonight because the Thunder have ruled him out for tonight, but when he comes back, expect him to lead them to their best year yet without KD.
- San Antonio Spurs- They lost the Claw but gained a guy that will actually play for them in DeMar DeRozan. They still have Lamarcus Aldridge too so they’ll still be a very solid team. Rudy Gay will also have the best year in the past few years that he’s had. Pau Gasol might be 800 years old but he is still solid.
- Utah Jazz- The team in Salt Lake City is incredible defensively. Do they stand a chance against any of the teams listed above? Nope. They don’t have the firepower to make a huge difference in the standings. They are one offensive superstar from competing for the second and third seed in the West
- Los Angeles Lakers- We all know what we got with LeBron and the rest of the Lakers, except for one, Lonzo Ball. A lot of the team’s success will rest on the shoulders of Lonzo. Can he break out this year and be a major difference maker? If so, the Lakers are a top five seed easily. If not, then bottom tier of the Western Playoffs they’ll land. LeBron is still the best player in the world, so that alone will certainly put them in the playoffs.
- Portland Trailblazers- With the same cast of players coming back in Lillard and C.J., nothing much will change from last year to this year. No difference makers were added or dropped. They are still one more big piece away from being competitive in this meat grinder of a conference.
- Minnesota Timberwolves- Amid the Jimmy Butler chaos, this team is still really talented. I hope they can put it together because I like this team and think they can do some damage. They’ll make the playoffs for the first time since 2004, moving their franchise in the right direction.
Call me crazy, call me anything you want. This year’s NBA Finals will come down between the Boston Celtics and the…………..HOUSTON ROCKETS. Let’s all give ourselves a big reality check here and realize that the Warriors were bailed out by a Chris Paul injury, otherwise they were toast. The Rockets added even more scoring with Melo, Which will be what the series comes down to. I think Capela will defend Boogie very well, giving the Rockets a chance to steal the series from the defending champs. With that being said, the Boston Celtics will be crowned your 2019 NBA Finals Champions. They can score with any team in the league, to go along with arguably the best defense in the league returning from last year. Enjoy this while it lasts Boston, because the Warriors will probably be adding another disgusting piece next year, breaking the NBA once again.