The Milwaukee Bucks ended the regular season with the best record in the National Basketball Association. Giannis Antetokounmpo had an MVP-caliber season averaging 27 points and 12 rebounds per game. For their opponents, this will be Blake Griffin’s playoff debut with the Detroit Pistons. The once high-flying Clipper is now a three-point shooting, ball-handling playmaker. Despite this, he’s far from the player he was during the Lob City era. Detroit doesn’t seem to have an answer for Antetokounmpo’s length and athleticism. I expect the Bucks to win in four games.
Kawhi Leonard’s impact has made the Toronto Raptors a playoff contender. The Raptors have a solid bench led by Paskal Siakam. This should be a fairly easy series for the Raptors since the Orlando Magic don’t have many dependable playmakers outside of Vucevic and Fournier. I take the Raptors in four.
This year’s Brooklyn Nets team is a young squad led by first-time All-Star D’Angelo Russell. They face the Philadelphia 76ers, who after many acquisitions come into the playoffs with championship aspirations. Philly’s depth and Brooklyn’s lack of playoff experience will be key factors in this series. I take the Sixers in five.
This season has been disappointing for the Boston Celtics, as they were a heavy favorite to win the East.
The Indiana Pacers are coming into this year’s playoffs without their star guard Victor Oladipo, who’s out with a ruptured quad tendon. The team plays solid team defense anchored by Miles Turner. Despite much of the drama swirling around Boston this season, great coaching and superior talent will be enough for them to pull off a series win. It will take all seven games, but I take the Celtics.
In the West, The Golden State Warriors are clear favorites to win the championship (again), and will play the LA Clippers in the first round. The Dubs are well matched against the Clippers. Since Tobias Harris’ trade to Philly, the Clippers don’t have a wing to contain Durant and Thompson. I take the Warriors in five.
The Denver Nuggets have a balanced attack on offense led by Nikola Jokic. They will face a San Antonio Spurs team that runs their offense through DeRozan and Aldridge, two guys who are efficient mid range scorers. DeRozan has had a history of falling short in the playoffs, and the Spurs don’t have anyone to defend Jokic due to his offensive versatility. I take the Nuggets in six.
James Harden and the Rockets as the fourth seed are matched up with the Utah Jazz. Utah has solid role players around Donovan Mitchell who play good defense and shoot three-pointers. Not to mention, they have Rudy Gobert who provides elite shot blocking. Though the Rockets might struggle, they have a game manager in Chris Paul and shooters to stretch out the floor. It will be one of the more competitive series in the playoffs, with Houston coming out on top. The Rockets will take it after seven.
Paul George of the Oklahoma City Thunder has struggled recently after playing MVP-level ball for much of the season. That being said, the Westbrook-George combo can score in bunches on any given night. The Portland Trail Blazers will be without their star big man Jusuf Nurkic, who suffered a broken leg on Mar. 25. With Nurkic out for the season and McCollum suffering knee problems, Damian Lillard can only do so much. I take the Thunder in six.