NBA Playoffs Round 2 Predictions – Western Conference

(Stats via Basketball-Reference.com)

NBA: Playoffs-San Antonio Spurs at Oklahoma City Thunder
Photo by Mark D. Smith/USA Today

San Antonio Spurs vs. Oklahoma City Thunder – Spurs in 6

I want to pick the Thunder to win this, so bad. The WestbrookDurant duo are so much fun to watch, and, as much as a SpursWarriors (or Spurs-Blazers?) Conference Finals should be enjoyable, watching the Thunder is just so entertaining, that I would much rather see them advance.

All that aside, this series is interesting because it’s another study in coaching talent and depth vs. superstar player talent. The Spurs obviously have incredible talent in Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge; Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli, Boris Diaw, Patty Mills, Danny Green, and David West still play at an extremely high level when needed; and, the rest of their roster can always compete. But, Kawhi is the only player on that team that (in 2016) can hold a candle to Durant and Westbrook. The problem for the Thunder is, the rest of the guys on the floor, including their coach, can be inconsistent. Serge Ibaka, usually the obvious 3rd best on the team, hasn’t been as good this year. Enes Kanter has had some great moments this season and post-season. But, he his defense is usually weak and his offense only makes up for it on his best nights. The biggest mismatch with the Spurs is the coaching. While not many coaches can compare to Gregg Popovich, Billy Donovan has really struggled adapting to the NBA, and now he’s headed to a playoff series against one of the best coaches in the league (many would argue, THE best). My hope is that Donovan can make the right adjustments and avoid 4th-quarter meltdowns, but I’m not optimistic for the Thunder.

NoahGraham-GettyImages-2
Photo by Noah Graham/Getty Images

Golden State Warriors vs. Portland Trail Blazers – Warriors in 5

It’s tough to say how this series goes without knowing when Stephen Curry comes back from injury and how he’ll play upon his return. That said, I think this is a great matchup for the Curry-less Warriors. Klay Thompson can be inconsistent without Steph to draw the attention of the best defenders on each team. But, the Blazers rely so much on their offense, that Klay (and others on the team) will likely do well against their weaker defense. The Blazers had such a bizarre season that it’s tough to say how good they really are. But, seeing as the Blazers were able to win one against a fully healthy Warriors in the regular season and one against a (reasonably) healthy Clippers team, I think the Blazers take at least one game in Portland, likely charged by a mega-game from CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard. But, ultimately, with Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Andrew Bogut, and Shaun Livingston on the floor, the Warriors defense can do a lot to contain the Blazers most nights. The Blazers will get one, but definitely not 4, even without Curry.

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NBA Playoffs – 1st Round Predictions

(Stats via Basketball-Reference.com)

NBA Playoffs – Round 1 Predictions

Eastern Conference

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Cleveland Cavaliers
Photo by David Richard/USA Today

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Detroit Pistons – Cavs in 5

This is similar to last year’s matchup with the Celtics, which resulted in a sweep. A young team with a great coach (Brad Stevens) facing LeBron James and two (previous) all-star caliber players in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. This year, the Cavs‘ younger players have playoff experience too. But, the Pistons have Reggie Jackson, who has been to the NBA Finals and played in the Western Conference Finals. The Pistons also have Andre Drummond, an NBA Allstar this year. But, a major difference between Brad Stevens and Pistons’ coach, Stan Van Gundy, is his playoff experience. He’s taken teams to the Finals and is no stranger to the first round. Tyronn Lue, on the other hand, has only coached half a a regular NBA Season; but is no stranger to Championship runs as a player (much like Steve Kerr last year). The Pistons are good enough to make this a competitive series. But, the Cavs know their best chance to beat the Warriors down the road is to be less  banged-up and better rested. They will be motivated to end this quickly. Also, if the Cavs can get this done in 4, Justin Bieber won’t have to move his Cleveland performance.

Toronto Raptors vs. Indiana Pacers – Raptors in 5

Mykal McEldowney-IndyStar
Photo by Mykal McEldowney/IndyStar

The Raptors last 2 playoff appearances ended in first round exits. In 2014 they lost in 7 games to the Brooklyn Nets, then got swept in 2015 by the Wizards. They’re a better team this year, and they know they have to advance this year. They were in striking distance of the 1st seed for most of the season and have been great against the leagues best teams. The Pacers, however, will have the best player on the floor in Paul George. The Pacers had a great start this year but started declining as the season went on. I think Paul George will takeover a game in Naptown and win one of these by himself, but the Raptors will make sure that doesn’t happen again.

Miami Heat vs. Charlotte Hornets – Hornets in 7

ChuckBurtonAP
Photo by Chuck Burton/Associated Press

The Heat have the talent and the experience to win this series. Their problem is age. Dwyane Wade has been incredible in so many games this season. But, they’ll likely need to lean on the inexperienced players (in the playoffs) on this team to win 4 our of 7. Goran Dragic has been on and off this season. Hassan Whiteside has barely played a full NBA season before and Justise Winslow is a rookie. Luol Deng is in a similar situation to Wade, he’s been great, but it’s unclear how tired he’ll be a few games in. I have to assume Bosh won’t be playing, but if he is, he’ll still need time to get back into rhythm. The days off between games may give Deng and Wade enough rest time to stay fresh for this series, but I think the Hornets are good enough to keep it competitive long enough for those guys to wear down. Steve Clifford has done an incredible coaching job this year, but Kemba Walker, Nic Batum, and Jeremy Lin have all been great this season and propelled the Hornets to the playoffs when many assumed they’d be awful without Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. This series could swing either way, but I think the Hornets can pull it off and avenge their 2014 sweep (as the Bobcats).

Atlanta Hawks vs. Boston Celtics – Hawks in 7

MaddieMeyer
Photo by Maddie Meyer

These teams are evenly matched in being well-coached units with no single player required to make it work. Both teams certainly have all-star caliber players, but no one that specifically makes either the offense or defense work. While the Celtics have the better coach, Brad Stevens, I think the Hawks have big enough edge talent wise with the duo of Paul Millsap and Al Horford on both offense and defense to win this. But it’s entirely possible the Celtics survive and advance.

 

Western Conference

Golden State Warriors vs. Houston Rockets  – Warriors in 4

EzraShaw-Getty
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

I know the Rockets won one against he Warriors last year by sleepwalking through the first half. But, if Trevor Ariza doesn’t knee Steph Curry in the head, the Rockets would’ve gotten swept. The Rockets are a mess and there’s not much else to say about that. They backed into the playoffs by beating the Lakers and the Kingsbench. Against any other team, I would count on James Harden taking over a game and the Rockets winning one, but the Warriors have at least three guys who can take over in response. Assuming the Rockets don’t resort to reckless fouls (they probably will), there’s no way this is competitive.

San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies – Spurs in 4

RonaldMartinez-Getty
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

This is just going to be sad. Dave Joerger has done an awesome job with the Grizz-zombies. But the Grizzlies have a tough enough time getting their offense going against most teams, there’s no way they’ll be able to make it work against one of the most suffocating defenses ever in the Spurs. This one will be tough to watch and a bummer considering what the Grizzlies have accomplished short-handed.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Dallas Mavericks- Thunder in 6

RonMartinez-Getty
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

This is similar to the Cavs-Pistons series. A much more talented team with a (so-far) not-great coach against an incredible coach. The difference here is that the Mavericks have playoff experience and Rick Carlisle isn’t just a great coach, but one of the greatest of all time. The Mavericks do not have the talent or the legs to win this, but Dirk and Rick will take advantage of the Thunder‘s 4th quarter woes and win a couple.

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Portland Trail Blazers – Blazers in 7

KelvinKuo-AP
Photo by Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

Since returning from injury and suspension, Blake Griffin only got 5 games in before the post-season. But the Clippers won all of them. Only two were against playoff teams (the Mavericks and Grizzlies), but it’d be surprising if he’s fully ready for the playoffs and the team as a whole might be in a weird place. These teams seem to be on opposite trajectories. The Blazers surpassed all expectations and went from an 11-20 start to get the 5th seed with a 44-38 record. Damian Lillard is as determined as ever to prove he’s one of the best players in the league, and CJ McCollum has taken an incredible leap this year. The Clippers on the other hand went from briefly being title favorites in 2015 to having just a truly bizarre season. The Clippers obviously CAN win this. But, I predict an earlier implosion than last year’s.

 

TBB’s Unsolicited NBA Awards

(photo by Soobum Im/USA Today Sports)

Please note: These are opinions, not predictions.

Individual Awards

Most Valuable Player

1. Stephen Curry – Golden State Warriors
2. LeBron James – Cleveland Cavaliers
3. Kawhi Leonard – San Antonio Spurs
4. Kevin Durant – Oklahoma City Thunder
5. Draymond Green – Golden State Warriors

Defensive Player of the Year

1. Kawhi Leonard – San Antonio Spurs
2. Draymond Green – Golden State Warriors
3. Paul Millsap – Atlanta Hawks

Rookie of the Year

1. Karl-Anthony Towns – Minnesota Timberwolves
2. Nikola Jokic – Denver Nuggets
3. Kristaps Porzingis – New York Knicks

Coach of the Year

1. David Joerger – Memphis Grizzlies
2. Steve Kerr – Golden State Warriors
3. Terry Stotts – Portland Trail Blazers

Executive of the Year

1. Neil Olshey – Portland Trail Blazers
2. Chris Wallace – Memphis Grizzlies
3. Masai Ujiri – Toronto Raptors

Sixth Man of the Year

1. Andre Iguodala – Golden State Warriors
2. Will Barton – Denver Nuggets
3. Jamal Crawford – Los Angeles Clippers

Most Improved Player

1. Kemba Walker – Charlotte Hornets
2. C.J. McCollum – Portland Trail Blazers
3. Draymond Green – Golden State Warriors

Team Awards

All-NBA First Team

G – Stephen Curry – Golden State Warriors
G – Chris Paul – Los Angeles Clippers
F – LeBron James – Cleveland Cavaliers
F – Kawhi Leonard – San Antonio Spurs
C – Anthony Davis – New Orleans Pelicans

All-NBA Second Team

G –  Russell Westbrook – Oklahoma City Thunder
G – Damian Lillard – Portland Trail Blazers
F – Draymond Green – Golden State Warriors
F – Kevin Durant – Oklahoma City Thunder
C – Andre Drummond – Detroit Pistons

All-NBA Third Team

G –  Klay Thompson – Golden State Warriors
G – Kyle Lowry – Toronto Raptors
F – Paul Millsap – Atlanta Hawks
F – Paul George – Indiana Pacers
C – Karl-Anthony Towns – Minnesota Timberwolves

All-Defense First Team

G –  Jimmy Butler – Chicago Bulls
G – Chris Paul – Los Angeles Clippers
F – Kawhi Leonard – San Antonio Spurs
F – Draymond Green – Golden State Warriors
C – Rudy Gobert – Utah Jazz

All-Defense Second Team

G –  Klay Thompson – Golden State Warriors
G – Danny Green – San Antonio Spurs
F – Paul Millsap – Atlanta Hawks
F – Tim Duncan – San Antonio Spurs
C – Al Horford – Atlanta Hawks

All-Rookie First Team

Karl-Anthony Towns – Minnesota Timberwolves
Nikola Jokic – Denver Nuggets
Kristaps Porzingis – New York Knicks
Justise Winslow – Miami Heat
Emmanuel Mudiay – Denver Nuggets

All-Rookie Second Team

Devin Booker – Phoenix Suns
Frank Kaminsky III – Charlotte Hornets
D’Angelo Russell – Los Angeles Lakers
Myles Turner – Indiana Pacers
Trey Lyles – Utah Jazz

2016 MLB Predictions

Predictions from (pretty much) the start of the season:

(I probably should’ve posted these a couple days ago, but here we go)

Division Winners

American League

American League – East

Toronto Blue Jays

TOR.png

American League –  Central

Cleveland Indians

CLE

American League –  West

Seattle Mariners

SEA

National League

National League  – East

Washington Nationals

WAS

National League – Central

Pittsburgh Pirates

PIT

National League – West

San Francisco Giants

SFG

 

League Champions

American League

Toronto Blue Jays

TOR

National League

Pittsburgh Pirates

PIT

 

World Series Champion

Pittsburgh Pirates

PIT