I think the Celtics will struggle out of the gate. They’ve had poor playoff showings, and the Bulls can be good with enough rest, which the first round provides. I do think they eventually pull it off because they’re definitely the better team. But, I wouldn’t be totally surprised if the Bulls pull off the upset.
Celtics in 7
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Indian Pacers
It’s that time of year, LeBron will go supernova and make everyone feel silly for doubting they could turn it up in the playoffs. This might end up being a sweep, but I think Paul George wills his team to win at least one at home.
Cavaliers in 5
Toronto Raptors vs. Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks are great, and just having Giannis Antetokounmpo means they have a chance to win every game. In fact, the Bucks winning the series is totally plausible. But, I think the Raptors getting deep into the playoffs last year puts them in a better space and will give them the mental edge they’ll need to win a tough series.
Raptors in 7
Washington Wizards vs. Atlanta Hawks
It’s tough to trust either of these teams in a playoff series, but I think the Wizards have shown they’re the more consistent of these two. John Wall and Bradley Beal have been incredible this year and the Hawks have had great flashes, but I don’t think they can win four against this Wizards team.
Wizards in 5
Golden State Warriors vs. Portland Trailblazers
The Blazers kept the series somewhat competitive last year, and I think it’s possible they might’ve won one in Portland if Jusuf Nurkic was healthy, but without him, the Warriors biggest weakness isn’t much of a weakness at all against this Blazers team. The Blazers might get hot at the same time the Warriors go cold, but I wouldn’t count on it.
Warriors in 4
San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies
The Spurs and Grizzlies split the regular season series 2-2 this year. The Spurs are definitely the better team, but I think the mostly-healthy Grizzlies will make it a competitive series this year.
Spurs in 6
Houston Rockets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Rockets are the better team, but the “clutch” stats are where the Thunder have a major edge. Also, a lot of Harden’s game is getting to the line for fouls that get called less often during the playoffs. The Rockets could end up blowing out the Thunder and sweeping, but I think the Thunder take this series.
Thunder in 6
Los Angeles Clippers vs. Utah Jazz
I so badly want to pick the Jazz, but they seem to beat up on bad teams and rarely beat good teams. The Clippers can always find a way to blow it, but I think they’ll wait till the 2nd round to do that. I just hope the Jazz put up a fight.
If you’re unfamiliar with the current way the NBA All-star teams are decided, here’s a rundown:
-The two teams are organized by Conference
-Each Conference gets 12 roster spots
-The 5 starting players on each team are decided by fan vote.
-Fans vote in 3 “forwards” and 2″guards” for each starting team.
-The 7 reserve players on each team are decided by NBA coaches.
So, first things first, the 2016 fan-voted NBA All-star starters are:
Guards: Stephen Curry (GSW) and Russell Westbrook (OKC)
Forwards: Kobe Bryant (LAL), Kevin Durant (OKC), and Kawhi Leonard (SAS)
Guards: Kyle Lowry (TOR) and Dwyane Wade (MIA)
Forwards: LeBron James (CLE), Paul George (IND), and Carmelo Anthony (NYK)
I won’t get into who “deserves” to be an All-Star. I get that it’s a fan vote. These rosters are weird and for as many teams seem to be moving into “position-less” basketball, these rosters are just kind of bizarre. Kobe as a “forward” makes little sense. But, to be fair, Kerr started 3 guards last year with Klay Thompson, James Harden, and Stephen Curry in the game last year.