NBA Playoffs 2018 – Round 1 Predictions

Eastern Conference

 

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Photo by Nick Turchiaro/USA Today

Toronto Raptors (1) vs. Washington Wizards (8)

The Raptors might lose game 1, they might lose the series. But, despite the fact that I originally predicted the Wizards could be the best team in the East (before the season started), I think the Raptors have proven they can beat ALMOST anybody, and I think they’ll at least be confident in this first round. The Wizards are good enough to win a couple, and should make it a competitive series, but the Raptors should win this one.

Raptors in 6

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Boston Celtics
Photo by Bob DiChiara/USA Today

Boston Celtics (2) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (7)

The Celtics have a lot of injuries to deal with, and I’m not one of these people that worships at the church of Brad Stevens. But, after seeing how they won the series against the Bulls and Wizards last year (with a much different roster), I think they’ll be able to beat a team at a serious coaching disadvantage, even if that team has the best player on the floor in Giannis Antetokounmpo. This could be the year the Bucks get past the first round, but I think the Celtics will grind through it.

Celtics in 7

Ben Simmons, James Johnson, Goran Dragic
Photo by Lynne Sladkey/AP

Philadelphia 76ers (3) vs. Miami Heat (6)

The 6ers are clearly the more talented team, but inexperience will cause them to drop a few games they should win. I anticipate at least one vintage Dwyane Wade game and an inexplicable Kelly Olynyk game. I also think Spoelstra will out-coach Brett Brown (who I also think has done a fantastic job this year). If Embiid comes back, the 6ers might pull it off, but despite the fact that the 76ers have the clearly superior roster, it will be tough to be so dependent Ben Simmons and his poor shooting (again, despite the fact that he’s unbelievable in just about every other facet of the game). Embiid is the wildcard here, but I trust the Heat to pull this off.

Heat in 7

 

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Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Cleveland Cavaliers (4) vs. Indiana Pacers (5)

We’ve seen this before. The Pacers had an awesome season and won twice as many games as most expected. But LeBron James is here to annihilate the Eastern Conference again and the Pacers will be his first victim.

Cavs in 4

Western Conference

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Photo by Andy Clayton-King/AP

Houston Rockets (1) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (8)

The Rockets were clearly the better regular season team, but if Jimmy Butler can handle the minutes Thibs will give him and KAT and Wiggins aren’t afraid of the moment, I think they’ll at least put up a fight. The Rockets shouldn’t lose this one, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

Rockets in 6

 

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Photo by Ben Margot/AP

Golden State Warriors (2) vs. San Antonio Spurs (7)

They might come out stale in Game 1 or Game 3. I expect them to drop one, but ultimately, I don’t really think the Spurs even want to be there. They might want to win one for Pop, or win one for Aldridge, but that might be it.

Warriors in 5

 

Portland Trail Blazers (3) vs. New Orleans Pelicans (6)

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Photo by Layne Murdoch/Getty Images

The Pelicans will have the most talented player on the floor, and that counts for a lot. But Dame and CJ have won playoff games and Davis hasn’t, that might count for a lot too. Nurkic is the big wild card in this series. If he’s awesome, the Blazers should have a good chance of winning; and the same could be said fo Amini. But, the Blazers might be in trouble if they’re fully dependent on their backcourt.

Blazers in 6

 

Oklahoma City Thunder (4) vs. Utah Jazz (5)

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Photo by Sue Ogrocki

The Jazz are an unbelievable story this year and it’s been awesome to watch. The Jazz have the better coach (I know, I know, but for the NBA), but the Thunder definitely have the two most talented players in Westbrook and Paul George. Rudy Gobert is awesome, Donovan Mitchell has been unbelievable, Ricky Rubio and Joe Ingles have been great too. But, I don’t know if that’s enough against Paul George, Russell Westbrook, Steven Adams, and whatever Melo has left. I think the Jazz could definitely win, but the Thunder should.

Thunder in 6

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NBA Playoffs – Western Conference Finals Prediction

LaMarcus Aldridge, Stephen Curry
Photo by Darran Abate/Associated Press

Golden State Warriors vs. San Antonio Spurs

I’d love to see the Warriors sweep another round, but I just don’t see anyway the Spurs get swept. If Kawhi is still out or having trouble staying on the court, it might turn out that way. But, my guess is this team makes it another challenge Western Conference Finals for the Warriors, but don’t quite pull it off.

Warriors in 6

TBB’s Unsolicited NBA 2016-2017 Regular Season Awards

 

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Photo by Mark Duncan/Associated Press

(These are opinions, not predictions)

Most Valuable Player

1. LeBron James
2. Russell Westbrook
3. Kawhi Leonard
4. James Harden
5. John Wall

Defensive Player of the Year

1. Draymond Green
2. Rudy Gobert
3. Kawhi Leonard

Rookie of the Year

1. Malcolm Brogdon
2. Dario Saric
3. Jaylen Brown

Coach of the Year

1. Erik Spoelstra
2. Gregg Popovich
3. Scott Brooks

Executive of the Year

1. Masai Ujiri
2. Neil Olshey
3. Dennis Lindsey

Sixth Man of the Year

1. Andre Iguodala
2. Zach Randolph
3. Eric Gordon

Most Improved Player

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo
2. Nikola Jokic
3. Dion Waiters

Team Awards

All-NBA First Team

G – Russell Westbrook
G – James Harden
F – LeBron James
F – Kawhi Leonard
C – Rudy Gobert

All-NBA Second Team

G –  Stephen Curry
G – John Wall
F – Giannis Antetokounmpo
F – Kevin Durant
C – Marc Gasol

All-NBA Third Team

G –  Isaiah Thomas
G – Kyle Lowry
F – Draymond Green
F – Anthony Davis
C – DeAndre Jordan

All-Defense First Team

G –  John Wall
G – Chris Paul
F – Kawhi Leonard
F – Draymond Green
C – Rudy Gobert

All-Defense Second Team

G –  Klay Thompson
G – Avery Bradley
F – Jimmy Butler
F – Kevin Durant
C – Marc Gasol

All-Rookie First Team

Malcolm Brogdon
Dario Saric
Joel Embiid
Jaylen Brown
Patrick McCaw

All-Rookie Second Team

Thon Maker
Domantas Sabonis
Taurean Prince
Buddy Hield
Marquese Chriss

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.

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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.