2015 NBA Finals Preview
It's that time of year again where all of the focus in the sport's world shifts back to basketball. We're getting down to the wire and the playoffs are almost here.
I have my own predictions for this year's finals and potential matchups. The conference debates are severely skewed towards one being a snap to figure out while the other is a nightmare.
First I have my list of teams from both conferences, who will make the playoffs, and their subsequent possible seedings.
The Eastern Conference First Round
In the east my predictions for the 1-8 seeds are as follows:
1. Atlanta Hawks
2. Cleveland Cavaliers
3. Chicago Bulls
4. Washington Wizards
5. Toronto Raptors
6. Milwaukee Bucks
7. Indiana Pacers
8. Miami Heat
The final two spots are complete toss-ups right now as other teams including the Charlotte Hornets, Boston Celtics, and Brooklyn Nets are all competing for the last two positions.
The Indiana Pacers have had a huge win surge since the NBA All Star Weekend in mid February, and I feel they'll keep surging enough to secure the 7th seed or maybe even the 6th seed.
The Miami Heat have enough talent and emerging young talent to secure a spot over some of the other teams though the health of star Dwayne Wade remains a huge question mark. If he's healthy they'll put up a good fight in the first round.
Speaking of the first round, in this conference I believe Atlanta will handily dispose of the Heat despite their talent. I don't believe Wade will be up to par for the entire series and Atlanta should win in 5 games.
Cleveland and Chicago should advance fairly easily with both possibly winning in 5 games in their respective series though an additional game for either series wouldn't surprise me. The biggest battle in the first round of the east will be the Toronto Raptors v.s. Washington Wizards.
Both teams have struggled this season, but I expect Toronto to pull it out in a potential game 7. It will be further advantageous if Toronto ends up with the higher seed positioning to score home court advantage.
Eastern Conference Semis and Finals
In the second round it will be Chicago v.s. Cleveland and Atlanta v.s. Raptors. Strongly feel Atlanta should take care of business in a relatively easy 5 game series.
On the other hand we could see a game 6 or 7 series between Cleveland and Chicago with additional factors like whether or not Derrick Rose will play a part in this. Even if he does, his contributions will be questionable at best.
In the end I believe Cleveland will come out on to and face Atlanta in the Eastern Conference Finals. Despite the Hawks lack of deep playoff experience, if they play as well as they did during the regular season, then we could be taking about a 6 or 7 game series.
Atlanta will have home court advantage if it comes down to a game 7, however their lack of experience may become a factor at some point. Cleveland has the best NBA player in the world with Lebron James who is already a two time champion, and we can't ignore his strength and basketball talents as well as his basketball IQ.
They also have a variety of talented players for all positions and a deep roster even though Atlanta is pretty loaded as well. The Hawks may not have superstar players, but they do have a plethora of very good players and that will aid them nicely throughout their entire playoff run.
Western Conference First Round
That's it for the east, and now we'll move on to the wild wild west where figuring out who will come out on top is nearly impossible.
In the west my seeding predictions are as follows:
1. Golden State Warriors
2. Houston Rockets
3. Memphis Grizzlies
4. San Antonio Spurs
5. Portland Trailblazers
6. Los Angeles Clippers
7. Oklahoma City Thunder
8. Dallas Mavericks
I just want to say you'll likely have a better chance at picking the right lottery numbers versus figuring out how seed positioning will end up. A few wins or losses by any of those teams could cause spots to shift by 3-4 places.
The west is so superior to the east that you can pick any of those top 8 teams to make it to the NBA Finals, and it'll be difficult to argue your decision.
I have the Oklahoma City Thunder surging to the 7th spot because I believe in Russell Westbrook, and I'm hopeful Kevin Durant returns to string together a few late season wins. I have less faith in Dallas because of point guard Rajon Rondo though it's possible they'll finally get it together in the last couple weeks of the regular season.
There's a small chance that the New Orleans Pelicans sneak into the 8th spot, but they're not quite talented enough to hold up in this murderous conference. Had they been in the east, it would've been a different story.
In the first round, the Warriors will take on and defeat Dallas in 6 games. As for the other matches, I'll take a stab and say the Thunder beat Houston in 6/7 games. Rockets star James Harden alone will not get things done, and Dwight Howard would only give them a slight edge when he returns.
Memphis will take on its rival Clippers, and it'll be another classic 7 game duel with Memphis winning at home. Finally, I can't go against San Antonio because they always manage to pull a rabbit out of the hat and surprise us all, so I have them defeating the Trailblazers in 6 games to advance.
Just like last year I expect numerous game 6's and 7's and a lot of overtime games in the first round.
Western Conference Semis and Finals
In the second round, the Warriors will challenge Oklahoma City Thunder, and I smell an upset. Mind you this is all dependent on the health of either team's star players.
Both teams have a similar style of play but the Warriors lack the size to go beyond the second round. I believe the Thunder will advance to the Western Conference Finals in a grueling 7 game series.
The other battle will be between Memphis and San Antonio and it should be an entertaining bout. In the end, I believe the Spurs will finally sputter out and lose in another potential game 7 series.
The long drawn out season along with veteran players may finally be the straw this time to knock them out of the playoffs. Only time will tell as the Spurs have defied all expectations time and time again.
Finally, the Thunder will face off against the Memphis Grizzlies in the Western Conference Finals, and I predict Memphis will get it done this time and advance to the finals after grinding out another 6-7 game series.
For the Thunder, their greatest challenge will be keeping their players healthy, and I strongly feel the Grizzlies are being underestimated out west. The Warriors will be the favorites as they should be, but the playoffs are a completely different ball game.
The finals will come down to the Memphis Grizzlies v.s. Cleveland Cavaliers. Who will come out on top? I feel Cleveland will make it out of the east, but I'm far more skeptical about the west.
Stay tuned to find out.