It may be only Day 1 of the 2016-17 NBA season, but a quick gaze into the crystal ball has revealed these upcoming playoff match-ups when April rolls around.
(1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (8) Chicago Bulls
A matchup between King James and his former teammate Dwyane Wade is as enticing of a playoff story as possible. The new-look Bulls may struggle for consistency in the regular season, but the postseason is what they’ll build for. Still, Cleveland is stacked, and is happens to feature the best player on the planet, who doesn’t lose first-round series.
Cavaliers advance 4-1
(2) Toronto Raptors vs. (7) Atlanta Hawks
Toronto got its first taste of competitiveness last year, reaching the conference finals and giving Cleveland some problems. Consistency is the name of the game now, and Dwight Howard’s Hawks are the first step for that. While he should be gelling by then, the Raptors can run up and down the floor.
Raptors advance 4-2
(3) Boston Celtics vs. (6) Detroit Pistons
The Celtics are revamped, and the Pistons are young and growing in experience. The Celtics made a little noise with last year’s roster, and with Horford are looking to climb up the East. From a matchup perspective, they look to have the answers for the Pistons, who are a year away from making the kind of noise they want to.
Celtics advance 4-2
(4) Indiana Pacers vs. (5) Charlotte Hornets
The Pacers are totally revamped, and will meet the defensive-minded Hornets. The Hornets will have MKG back and should be the epitome of a three-and-D team with Marvin Williams, Kemba, and Nic Batum. However, they don’t have near the offensive firepower to keep up with Indiana over a seven-game seriers.
Pacers advance 4-3
(1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (4) Indiana Pacers
Cleveland meets Indiana in a rekindling of some bad blood between LeBron James and the Pacers during his years in Miami. This time around, the offense is potent and lethal, and should be able to score with Cleveland. This may be their toughest threat, but Cleveland is too talented to be stopped before the Finals.
Cavaliers advance 4-2
(2) Toronto Raptors vs. (3) Boston Celtics
Toronto has all the pieces to stay a contender in the East, but with the losses on the bench, they can’t go into the second unit quite like Boston can. In a long seven-game series, if Boston can steal one on their superb defense, the series will shift. I think that’s what happens down the stretch, and the Celtics upend the Raptors.
Celtics advance 4-3
Eastern Conference Finals
(1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (3) Boston Celtics
Cleveland can run and gun with the best of them, and getting a matchup with a Boston team that’s going to want to do the same will be a nice change of pace. Horford will test Tristan Thompson, and James will get blanketed on defense. But there’s too much star power for the Cavs, who will still rule the roost.
Cavaliers advance 4-2
(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (8) Portland Trail Blazers
In a rematch of last year’s second-round tilt, the Blazers bring back a slightly improved roster, while the Warriors bring in a fresh star. Barring injuries, it won’t be as close as last year, and the Warriors overpower Lillard and the Blazers.
Warriors advance 4-1
(2) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (7) Minnesota Timberwolves
Every young team earns their stripes somewhere, and the upstart Wolves have their chance against the LA Clippers. The Clippers will live inside the paint, but could see trouble on the wing against a more talented Wolves guard and wing combo. Experience wins out, but the Wolves are going to make some noise.
Clippers advance 4-2
(3) San Antonio Spurs vs. (6) Houston Rockets
San Antonio has proved to be a defensive force, and should see their offense open up from the unit we saw a year ago. Aldridge and company should be able to score, and Harden will get shadowed by Kawhi. I just don’t know where the other playmaker is on the roster for Houston. The Spurs overpower them.
Spurs advance 4-1
(4) Utah Jazz vs. (5) Oklahoma City Thunder
The Jazz surprises everyone as a top-four seed, but run right into the worst possible matchup with OKC. Russell doesn’t have anyone that can guard him over a whole series, and they have the big guys to pummel Utah. This one is an upset, and raw deal for the Jazz.
Thunder advance 4-3
(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (5) Oklahoma City Thunder
This will be a battle of the ages, with Kevin Durant returning to OKC to face his new enemy in Russ. The series will be filled with drama, but probably little action. The Warriors have way too much for the Thunder to handle, but Russ will pull out a win or two.
Warriors advance 4-2
(2) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (3) San Antonio Spurs
If the Clippers are healthy, they are dangerous. But they’re another year older, and a thin roster doesn’t help against a more athletic and deep Spurs team. The Spurs just have too many weapons and the Clippers don’t have enough
Spurs advance 4-2
Western Conference Finals
(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (3) San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs will test the Warriors more than they have been all season. And they match up very well. Durant and Draymond will be covered well by Aldridge and Leonard, but it’s the point guard problem and shooting guard that’s the issue. The Warriors will find a way to move on.
Warriors advance 4-2
Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavs and Warriors part 3? It certainly looks that way, with the two most stacked rosters in the NBA again being featured in GS and Cleveland. The rematch will be one for the ages, and should see both teams come down to the wire again. However, I just don’t see Golden State getting toppled again. It’s Steph and KD’s league, now.
Golden State Warriors win the NBA Championship 4-3