by Alex Kimble
Last season, the NBA playoffs were less dramatic than any in recent memory. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors combined for one loss throughout the playoffs. NBA fans are hoping the same won’t take place again.
The last three years, the Cavs and Warriors have met in the NBA Finals. This year, with the Warriors four stars (Draymond Green, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant) all being injured, questions of repeating are bigger than ever. The Cavs’ year has been up and down thanks to recent trades not going as planned. Will the NBA playoffs have new blood? Will the King go back to the Finals for the eighth consecutive year?
The Eastern Conference is wide open, however, I only see three teams that are capable of representing the Eastern Conference. I can see the Toronto Raptors surprising the world, but not when their star point guard Kyle Lowry plays poorly. Lebron and the Cavaliers have had the Raptors’ number in recent years. If it comes down to those two teams, you gotta’ go with the Cavs.
I believe the Cavaliers are still the favorite to win the Eastern Conference, but their biggest threat is Boston. Boston has struggled missing star player Kyrie Irving, and of course opening night injury of Gordon Hayward. Boston has been a surprise team in the East because the Celtics were expected to crumble once that injury happened. If there is any chance of new blood in the NBA Finals, it would have to be an upset by the Celtics in the divisional round of the playoffs. A Kyrie Irving-Lebron James headline matchup in the Eastern Conference Finals is what NBA fans have been dreaming of.
Kyrie wanted out of Cleveland and got his wish, but Cleveland trades have not worked out for the reigning Eastern Conference Champions. Cleveland has dealt with a great deal of drama with shipping of IT, Isaiah Thomas, out of town along with Dwayne Wade and others. Before the trade deadline, they decided to go with youth and athleticism over experienced players with agendas.
Does Lebron have enough to get back to another NBA Finals? Kevin Love is injured again so all-stars surrounding him is limited. Lebron James has played both the best basketball, statistically, but he has played some of the worst basketball in his career earlier in the season. A loss to Kyrie and Boston would definitely take a shot at Cleveland and Lebron. Can Lebron’s legacy afford another NBA Finals loss? Will he leave Cleveland this summer?
Portland is the darkhorse in the Western Conference. No one will pick them, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they took the Warriors with an upset in the divisional round. The Trail Blazers can upset Warriors with Stephen Curry not being one hundred percent along with other all-stars being hurt. This darkhorse alert is early, but I’m wanting to warn people beforehand that this is possible.
OKC must have a solid playoff performance to keep Paul George around. If they are upset in the first round, they might as well wave PG13 goodbye. The Thunder, led by Westbrook, have got to get to the divisional round and put up a good fight against the best team in the league, the Houston Rockets.
The Houston Rockets’ year has finally come. The addition to Chris Paul other solid players are paying dividends. They have home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. Fans are asking “Can Chris Paul finally play on a team in the Conference Finals?” “Will James Harden no-show another game seven like he did last year vs the Spurs?” “You can’t win with Mike D’antoni as your head coach!” They have all the motivation they need along with the hunger of a lion to get the job done.
The defending champion Golden State Warriors have been battling through injuries year round with several ejections. Coach Kerr stated that Stephen Curry will not be playing in the first round of the playoffs. Like it or not, Curry is the player that drives the Warriors to victories. Curry’s health will be a key factor if they end up failing to repeat as champions. The media and fans believe Warriors are still the favorites to win it all. They go as far to say, “I’ll take the Warriors over the field!”
The NBA playoffs should be more exciting than last year’s. We should have more competitive basketball than before. However, your NBA Champion will come out of the Western Conference. I’d love to see a shocking series victory by Portland or OKC in the divisional round. The past seven seasons, Lebron led team has made it to the finals. Don’t expect that to change, but expect a much tougher road to the Finals to get there. NBA fans are hopeful that new blood gets in the NBA Finals. Oddsmakers suggest, you’ll be seeing your 2018 NBA champions as the Warriors or the Rockets.