NBA Playoffs – Western Conference Semifinals Predictions

920x9201

Photo by Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

Golden State Warriors vs. Utah Jazz

It’s weird that the Jazz lost two at home in the last series and still managed to win.  They had to win Game 1 in LA after Rudy Gobert went down in the opening seconds and then Game 7 with Gobert in foul trouble (he played only 13 minutes). But, they lost 2 games at home, one of which Blake Griffin didn’t play at all, and the other being the game he went down in. But, while playing in their arena might not be a huge advantage to the Jazz, they’re certainly mentally tough enough to step up to a challenge and won’t be scared, even when the Warriors go on big runs. The talent gap is too wide for the Jazz to have any real shot at the series, but I won’t be surprised if they’re able to take one, which is more than I could have said for the Clippers.

Warriors in 5

920x920
Photo by Darren Abate/Associated Press

San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets

There are so many X factors in this series, it’s hard to say how the Rockets as a team will shoot, how James Harden, specifically will play after not being great in the last series against the Thunder, despite beating them in 5. On the Spurs, Kawhi Leonard has been the only reliably great player so far. Tony Parker has had flashes of his previous greatness and LaMarcus Aldridge has been good at times. I think Kawhi Leonard has another great series the Spurs dominate Rockets unless Harden comes back into his early-mid season form.

Spurs in 5

NBA 2016-2017 Season Predictions

(most stats from Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted)

NBA 2016-2017 Regular Season Predictions

Full Standings:

standings

Western Conference

gsw-2017

1 – Golden State Warriors – 67-15

So much has been written about this Warriors team, so I’ll keep it brief. This team probably COULD win 73 (or more), but I feel like they will be resting a lot, especially down the stretch. I assume they’ll make sure they lock up the #1 seed, but I don’t anticipate them chasing 70+ to break their own record.

lac-2017

2 – Los Angeles Clippers – 56-26

I couldn’t decide if this team was better than the Spurs, but age and continuity are on the Clippers‘ side. I think this team will be lights out when they keep Blake, CP3, DeAndre, and JJ on the court, and probably still pretty good if (when) Blake has to miss some time. But they will probably be a (distant) second in the West.

sas-2017

3 – San Antonio Spurs – 53-29

The Spurs should round out the obvious top 3 in the West. I might’ve had them 2nd, but with Danny Green starting the season injured, and many of their most important players aging, I see them coasting to just over 50 wins because they will still be an excellent team with Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge.

mem-2017

4 – Memphis Grizzlies – 47-35

Health will need to be on the Grizzlies‘ side, which certainly isn’t a given. But, I think this team will be pretty good. Chandler Parsons can help bring this team some shooting in their starting lineup, and as much as it pains me to see Z-Bo on the bench, I think it might be for the best. I do think Dave Joerger is a great coach, but a change might be what this team needed and having a new leader in Dave Fizdale help give this team a boost.

por-2017

5 – Portland Trail Blazers – 45-37

The Blazers‘ defense concerns me, but Terry Stotts is such a great coach that I think he’ll find a way to keep this team from giving games away and leaning on their offense to get the job done. Both Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum were great last year, and will probably improve even more this year. If this team can be halfway decent on defense, they’ll definitely be in the playoff mix.

uta-2017

6 – Utah Jazz – 44-38

I’d have the Jazz a little higher if it weren’t for the Gordon Hayward injury. Adding great players and smart veterans Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw should take this team to the next level. They’ll be great defensively and when Hayward gets back, they should have a great offense. If they can stay around .500 by the time Hayward gets back, they may even be playing for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

dal-2017

7 – Dallas Mavericks – 42-40

I thought the Mavericks might miss the playoffs last year, but I learned not to doubt the duo of Rick Carlisle and Dirk Nowitzki. Having Andrew Bogut at center makes this team even better than last year and I think Harrison Barnes might have a better year than people expect now that he won’t be a 4th option on offense. This team will at least be good enough to make the playoffs, and could possibly win in the high 40’s, but I don’t expect that just yet.

okc-2017

8 – Oklahoma City Thunder – 41-41

Despite losing KD, the Thunder still might make the playoffs with the West being so top-heavy now. Steven Adams was great last year and will likely improve. Victor Oladipo might prove to be a much better scorer with Westbrook as his point guard and Billy Donovan as his coach. I’m expecting wins in the low 40’s and a playoff spot as long as the Rockets don’t figure out how to defend and the Pelicans have their usual health issues.

hou-2017

9 – Houston Rockets – 40-42

The Rockets, much like the Blazers, should be a top team on offense, but I think the Rockets’ defense will be bad enough that they’ll only be able to win against bad teams. The team is pairing infamous non-defender, James Harden, with Mike D’Antoni, also infamous for de-valuing defense. This team will have no problem scoring, but unless they can stop other teams from getting easy buckets, they’ll have a tough time beating any good teams.

nop-2017

10 – New Orleans Pelicans – 39-43

The Pelicans have so much talent, it just hurts to see them have so many injury troubles. I’m hopeful Anthony Davis can play most of the season healthy. If he can, they might be able to make the playoffs. The other major questions are whether or not Alvin Gentry can be an effective coach, especially on defense, when Jrue Holiday will be able to return, and if rookie, Buddy Hield can be as great an NBA player as he was in college. If things break right, they can make their return to the playoffs and Anthony Davis might even be an MVP candidate.

min-2017

11 – Minnesota Timberwolves – 37-45

I think the Timberwolves will be much better this year than they were last year, and I think they do have a chance to go to the playoffs. But, I think it’s more likely they make a great, not an unbelievable improvement in Thibs‘ first year as their coach.

den-2017

12 – Denver Nuggets – 34-48

The Nuggets won’t be great, but they should be decent. Jokic and Mudiay will hopefully improve and another season under Mike Malone might make this team more comfortable as a whole.

sac-2017

13 – Sacramento Kings – 31-51

I would love to see the Kings improve, especially because I do think their new coach, Dave Joerger can help manage the personalities on this team. But, they have major problems at point guard with Darren Collison suspended 8 games for domestic abuse and Ty Lawson already having issues showing up. Unless they figure out what they’re doing at that position, they find some stability at that position, I do not anticipate them making the leap this year, which sucks, because Boogie deserves better.

lal-2017

14 – Los Angeles Lakers – 29-53

The Lakers will be better under Luke Walton than they were under Byron Scott/Kobe, but they’ll need some time to figure out how to play with such a young team. Hopefully (for Lakers fans) Brandon Ingram and D’Angelo Russell can take the reigns and get this team headed in the right direction.

pho-2017

15 – Phoenix Suns – 26-56

The Suns are going to be very bad (probably by design). But, Devin Booker and Eric Bledsoe will be fun to watch.

Eastern Conference

cle-2017

1 – Cleveland Cavaliers – 56-26

The Cavs probably could win 60+ games, but I expect them to mostly coast through the regular season and make some effort to get the #1 seed. The only caveat here is if LBJ decides he does want to go all out and get another MVP. But, I think he knows he’d rather save himself for the playoffs again.

bos-2017

2 – Boston Celtics – 55-27

The Celtics made a big leap last year and adding Horford should put them into the mid-50’s this season and probably right between the Cavs and Raptors. I’m not sure if Jaylen Brown will be able to contribute right away, but if he does, this team could make a run for the #1 seed if the Cavs let them.

tor-2017

3 – Toronto Raptors – 52-30

The Raptors should be about the same last year, I think they win a few less games due to some of the other teams getting a little bit better and Jared Sullinger‘s injury. I would be surprised if they’re not a top 4 East team.

ind-2017

4 – Indiana Pacers- 47-35

Part of me wants to say the Pacers will be worse without Frank Vogel, but having Nate McMillan will keep continuity. Jeff Teague and Al Jefferson could be great new contributors for this team and Myles Turner will probably improve. This team could end up a anywhere in the 40-50 win range, but upper 40’s seems likely.

cho-2017

5 – Charlotte Hornets – 45-37

The Hornets might miss Jeremy Lin and Al Jefferson, but I think Roy Hibbert might still have something left in the tank and hope he can contribute. I’m not so sure about Marco Belinelli, but I trust Steve Clifford to find a way to make him effective. This (along with a lot of other East teams) is another team that could be anywhere in the 40-50 win rage.

atl-2017

6 – Atlanta Hawks – 44-38

I don’t think the Hawks be quite as good without Al Horford and Jeff Teague, but I really hope it works with Dwight at center and Dennis Schröder as their starting point guard. This team has a high ceiling, but I’m not totally confident they’ll reach that.

was-2017

7 – Washington Wizards – 43-39

I think the Wizards will make it back to the playoffs. Adding Ian Mahinmi feels like a step in the right direction. Hopefully Bradley Beal can stay on the court for most of the season. If not, they may end up back in the lottery.

det-2017

8 – Detroit Pistons – 41-41

The Reggie Jackson injury will hurt the Pistons. I don’t think it will knock them out of the playoffs, but it’s possible. Hopefully Drummond can keep up the great play he started off with last year and make it last throughout the season this time.

nyk-2017

9 – New York Knicks – 38-44

It is so hard to know how the Knicks will do. Not just with injuries, but general cohesiveness. While some of these teams are in 30-40 and 40-50 win ranges, this team is in a 25-50 win range.

orl-2017

10 – Orlando Magic – 37-45

The Magic have a bizarre too-big lineup that might keep them ultra slow. But, it might also work best for Frank Vogel. Serge Ibaka had a weird last year with the Thunder, but he might thrive being a top 2 option on offense. I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up in the playoff mix, but don’t expect them to.

chi-2017

11 – Chicago Bulls – 35-47

The Bulls and Knicks are in similar positions, both have a weird mix of over-the-hill stars with injury history and some young talent. The Knicks at least have some guys who can shoot. The Bulls will have a really tough time with perimeter scoring and don’t have guys that will be durable enough to make it through the season if they have to attack the rim on every possession. This team has the talent to be around .500, but probably won’t be due to injuries.

mil-2017

12 – Milwaukee Bucks – 33-49

I would love to see the Bucks back in the playoffs, but I think the Khris Middleton injury is going to put them too far behind. Giannis will be a whole lot of fun and I hope Jabari makes a big leap this year. But, I would be surprised if this team makes it to .500.

mia-2017

13 – Miami Heat – 27-55

This is going to be a very weird Heat team. No Wade/no Bosh is one thing, having Hassan Whiteside as your franchise player is… dangerous, to say the least. Whiteside, Dragic, and Winslow might all be good. But, I would not be surprised if Riley punts on this season if things aren’t going well.

phi-2017

14 – Philadelphia 76ers – 25-57

Even if Ben Simmons‘ injury keeps him out all season, the 6ers should still be fun (and a whole lot better than last year). Dario Saric and Joel Embiid will be fun to watch, I just hope Embiid can stay on the court for most of the season.

brk-2017

15 – Brooklyn Nets – 21-61

I hope Nets fans will enjoy the wins when they come. This team won’t be as exciting as some younger teams, but at least their fans know they aren’t TRYING to lose.

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.