The NBA regular season ended this week, and now, the event every fan has been eagerly awaiting since the start of the season is upon us: the playoffs. While the last few seeds were not decided until the very end, most have known which teams were going to make up the majority of the playoff picture since the all-star break. The question everyone wants answered is who is going to come out on top?
In the Eastern Conference, the Cleveland Cavaliers are in complete control. After struggling at the start, the Cavs have settled in and hold the second seed. The midseason acquisitions of Timofey Mozgov and Iman Shumpert have worked out as well as it possibly could have. The only real threats to the Cavs are the third-seeded Chicago Bulls and the first-seeded Atlanta Hawks. While the other teams in the picture might provide for some entertaining playoff series, none of them stand a chance at making a run at the title (sorry Bucks fans).
The Hawks have been the surprise team of the year. Coach Mike Budenholzer has them playing an incredibly entertaining, up-tempo style of basketball and has him as a leading candidate to win coach of the year. But in the end, a team that comes out of nowhere in the NBA rarely wins a title in their first year as an elite team, and they simply lack the star power.
The Bulls might have the roster to beat the Cavs, but all year, they’ve seemed to be missing that competitive edge that was part of their identity the past few years. Also, they haven’t been healthy and never settled in as a team. So, I see Lebron James continuing to dominate the East and winning the conference title for the fifth straight year.
In the West, the Warriors have dominated all year as Stephen Curry has launched himself into superstardom and Coach Steve Kerr has taken them to the top of the conference. Every series in the Western playoffs will be competitive and any of the eight teams can be seen winning any series. Every team has playoff experience, the scoring and the star power needed to advance in the playoffs. However, I think we will see the same faces come out in the West that we’ve seen the past two years. The Spurs may be getting old, but they just keep winning and appear to be hot at the right time. They’ve won 11 straight and with their chemistry, I see them finding a way in every series.
A third straight meeting between Lebron and the Spurs in the finals? That’s my prediction; and judging by the last regular season game played by the Cavs and Spurs, who wouldn’t want to see this again? Tough to bet against the Spurs though, and it’s even tougher to pick a team coached by David Blatt to defeat a team coached by the great Gregg Poppovich in a seven game series. I’m picking the Spurs winning in seven to further their legacy, as well as haunt Lebron’s.