2017 NBA Finals Prediction

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Photo by Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

I don’t think there’s a single outcome that would really surprise me in this Finals. Warriors could sweep, Cavs could win in 6, and anything in between seems plausible. Things would have to really go the Cavs way again for them to pull this off, but it’s certainly possible. Two key Warriors would have to sustain an injuries that limited their play, another would have to be suspended (possibly based on fouls being retroactively upgraded to flagrants between games), another would have to go through an unbelievable cold streak, forcing rotations to go seriously out of whack in a Game 7. But that all happened last year.

One thing that would surprise me would be another suspension to a key contributor on either team. The NBA doesn’t totally shy away from things that fuel conspiracy theories, but it would be an unbelievably bad look to have that potentially determine the Finals two years in a row.

Unless things align in a way that is truly awful for the Warriors, I think they win this one convincingly, but LeBron James singlehandedly saves the team from total embarrassment by winning one or two on his own.

Warriors in 5

NBA Playoffs – Eastern Conference Finals Prediction

Isaiah Thomas, LeBron James
Photo by Mark Duncan/Associated Press

Boston Celtics vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavs are on a mission and I don’t think they slow down and drop a couple like they did in Toronto last year. The Celtics are a good team, but I have a feeling they’ll get steamrolled 4 times in a row. Isaiah Thomas might just pull one out, but I’d be very surprised.

Cavs in 4

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

NBA Playoffs – Western Conference Semifinals Predictions

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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

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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 Playoffs – Eastern Conference Semifinals Predictions

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Photo by Greg M. Cooper/USA Today

Boston Celtics vs. Washington Wizards

The Celtics seemed to have found their groove after stumbling through the first couple games against the Bulls. It’s hard to know if they dropped those first two games because of the circumstances Isaiah Thomas was in or if the Bulls won those games because of Rondo’s play. It feels like the Wizards are the better team, but their struggles against the Hawks make them look more vulnerable and their bench is dismal. Despite their bench, I still think the Wizards are the better team and will pull this one off.

Wizards in 6

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Photo by David Liam Kyle/Getty Images

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Toronto Raptors

The Raptors seemed like they might be better this year than they were last year, and the Cavs seemed like they were worse this year (especially on defense) than they were last year. But despite each game being close, the Cavs still swept the Pacers and the Raptors struggled against the Bucks. It’s certainly possible that the Raptors could beat the Cavs 4 times in a 7-game series. But, the Raptors just seem to tighten and lose games and the Cavs tend to find a way to win, even when it looks like they’ve given a lead away. My guess is the Raptors find a way to win a couple, but the Cavs will definitely take the series.

Cavaliers 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 2016-2017 Season Predictions

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

NBA 2016-2017 Regular Season Predictions

Full Standings:

standings

Western Conference

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

2016 NBA Finals Prediction

TonyDejak
Photo by Tony Dejak/AP

Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers – Warriors in 5

Both of these teams are better than they were this time last year. The Warriors are better prepared for the Finals due to experience, especially after coming back from 3-1 against the Thunder in their last series. While there are questions about Curry‘s health, it seems he can be the player he needs to be when the time comes. The Cavs have Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving this time (hopefully for the full series) and a head coach that doesn’t seem to be getting in the team’s way in Tyronn Lue.

While the Cavs are definitely scarier this year than they were last year, and the Warriors showed some vulnerabilities in their 7-games against the Thunder, I just do not think the Cavs will be able to match-up well with this Warriors team. Last year the Cavs went big and slow to mess with the Warriors quick-paced game and take a 2-1 series lead. In the last series, the Warriors were forced to alternate between their smaller/quicker lineups and bigger/slower lineups to defeat the Thunder, making it a lot more difficult for the Cavs to find a style that will work.

One caveat here is Draymond Green‘s foul trouble. He’s two technical fouls from a one-game suspension and one Flagrant 1 foul away from a one-game suspension, a Flagrant 2 foul would mean a 2-game suspension. Any suspension would mean a much great chance of a loss for the Warriors and that could mean a lot in a 7-game series.

(Stats via Basketball-Reference.com)

NBA Playoffs Round 2 Predictions – Eastern Conference

(Stats via Basketball-Reference.com)

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Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Atlanta Hawks – Cavs in 6

I feel like my prediction makes no sense. When the Cavs swept the  Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals last year, the Cavs were without Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving was injured, only playing 2 games. This year, the Cavs are as healthy as a team can be by May. The Hawks on the other hand were a 60-win team last year and had DeMarre Carrol, albeit injured, who left in free agency for the Raptors last summer. That said, this Hawks team seems better prepared for the post-season. They’ve had success striking early and staying in close games. Paul Millsap and Al Horford have been incredible this season, and Jeff Teague has been great as well. Kyle Korver is certainly on the decline, but he was injured last post-season anyway. I could be wrong and this could just be another sweep. The King is in total playoff-mode and Kevin Love has certainly shown he can be effective on this team. Kyrie Irving was streaky in the last series and may struggle against the Hawks’ defense. But, overall, I don’t see any way the Hawks take this series, regardless of how many games it goes.

 

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Photo by Frank Gunn/Associated Press

Toronto Raptors vs. Miami Heat – Heat in 6

There’s a lot to suggest that the Raptors should win this series. They had a better regular season record (56-26) than the Heat (48-34) and a much better point differential (Raptors +4.5, Heat +1.6). Both teams had 1st round series that went to 7 games. The Raptors may have exorcised their lemon booty and might be relaxed enough to not get stunned early or lose leads like they have in past postseasons. Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng might break down towards the end of the series. But, I’m going with my gut after seeing both of these teams play in the their 1st round series, and I trust the Heat to get it done. The Raptors shot poorly in the 1st round and that may have been a nerves issue that has since been solved, or it could be that Kyle Lowry‘s elbow is hurt and that won’t improve this series. However, their other all-star, DeMar DeRozan, struggled with shooting in every game except for Game 5, but doesn’t appear to have an injury that would’ve made an impact. The Heat are obviously experienced in playing further into the post-season, and even their less-experienced players like Hassan Whiteside and, rookie, Justise Winslow contributed in the first round. I think it’s certainly possible the Raptors can win, but I trust the Heat more.

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.