2020 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. Milwaukee Bucks
2. Boston Celtics
3. Toronto Raptors
4. Brooklyn Nets
5. Indiana Pacers
6. Philadelphia 76ers
7. Miami Heat
8. Orlando Magic
The final two spots are complete toss-ups right now as other teams including the Detroit Pistons, Atlanta Hawks, and Charlotte Hornets will all compete for the last two positions.
The Indiana Pacers have had back and forth surges over the past few years, and I feel they'll keep surging enough to secure the 5th of 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 several young stars remains a huge question mark. If they can stay healthy, then they'll put up a good fight in the first round.
Speaking of the first round, in this conference I believe Milwaukee will handily dispose of the Magic despite their talent. I believe Giannis will be up to par for the entire series and Atlanta should win in 5 games.
Celtics and Raptors 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 Nets vs Pacers.
Both teams could struggle this upcoming season, but I expect the Pacers to pull it out in a potential game 7. It will be further advantageous if the Pacers end up with the higher seed positioning to score home court advantage; right now I have them below the Nets.
Eastern Conference Semis and Finals
In the second round it will be Bucks vs Pacers and Celtics vs Raptors. Strongly feel Bucks 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 Celtics and Raptors with additional factors like whether or not Lowry will play a part in this. The absence of Kawhi will makes things a lot harder in the 2nd round.
In the end I believe the Celtics will come out on top and face the Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Despite the Bucks lack of deep playoff experience, if they play as well as they do normally during the regular season, then we could be taking about a 6 or 7 game series.
Whoever has home court advantage could be the victor if it comes down to a game 7, however both teams lack of experience may become a factor at some point.
Celtics have many good NBA players and a great coaching staff, so we can't ignore how deep they could go. The team has a ton of veterans and a strong basketball IQ, not to mention decades of glorious history.
They Pacers and Raptors also have a variety of talented players for all positions and a deep roster, but they don't have superstar players. You need good players but you won't win the title without a star.
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. Portland Trailblazers
4. Los Angeles Clippers
5. San Antonio Spurs
6. Utah Jazz
7. Denver Nuggets
8. Oklahoma City Thunder
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 8th spot because I believe in Chris Paul, and I'm hopeful the supporting players like Noel help string together a few late season wins. I have less faith in the Lakers because there's zero cohesion on that team, and Lebron is on the downside of his career.
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 the Thunder in 6 games. As for the other matches, I'll take a stab and say the Rockets beat Denver in 6 games. Rockets star James Harden alone will get things done, and Westbrook will give them a slight edge too.
Portland will take on the Jazz, and it could be a classic 7 game duel with Portland 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 Clippers in 6 games to advance; yes they have Kawhi but it'll take a season to get the team right.
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 the Spurs 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 have been having a lot of health issues, and I think the Spurs could score a coup this time in a grueling 7 game series.
The other battle will be between the Rockets and Portland and it should be an entertaining bout. In the end, I believe Portland will finally sputter out and lose in another potential game 7 series.
A drawn out season along with veteran players may finally be the straw to knock them out of the playoffs; only time will tell.
Finally, the Rockets will face off against the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals, and I predict Houston will get it done this time and advance to the finals after grinding out another 6-7 game series.
For the Spurs, their greatest challenge will be keeping their players healthy, and I strongly feel the Rockets are being underestimated out west. The Warriors will still be the favorites as they should be, but the playoffs are a completely different ball game.
The Western Conference Finals will come down to the Houston Rockets vs. San Antonio Spurs.
Who will come out on top? I feel the Bucks will make it out of the east, but I'm far more skeptical about the west.
Stay tuned to find out.