With the NBA Playoffs approaching at a rapid rate, there’s quite a lot that’s already written in cement come Spring. The Bucks have already punched their ticket to the playoffs with a record of 50-8 in the East. The LA Lakers, Clippers, and Denver Nuggets sit atop the West in convincing fashion as well. For what it’s worth, I don’t think much changes in the East outside of the 3-6 seeds, but the West could have some drama coming down the pipeline. Just because we can, let’s have some fun and draw some hypotheticals…
If the playoffs started today, here are what the first-round matchups would be:
#1 Milwaukee Bucks vs. #8 Brooklyn Nets
– The Bucks sweep this one 9 times out of ten. With no Kyrie and Durant on this team, I don’t think that Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert, and company have enough firepower to take one of the games. Series over in 4.
#2 Toronto Raptors vs. #7 Orlando Magic
– Similar to the Bucks/Nets matchup, the defending champion Raptors have just too many studs on both ends of the floor. The Magic don’t have enough playoff experience to make any sort of dents here. Series over in 4.
#3 Boston Celtics vs. #6 Indiana Pacers
– This is where things get a little more interesting. While I think Boston has Eastern Conference Finals aspirations, the Pacers are very stingy and could present some major problems for Boston on the defensive end. I think Indiana has enough to take 1 or 2 home games, but Boston advances to the next round.
#4 Miami Heat vs. #5 Philadelphia 76ers
– The most interesting matchup of the first round on either side of the bracket is the Miami Heat vs. the Philadelphia 76ers. First of all, you get the revenge story of Jimmy Butler against the team that chose Tobias Harris over him as their ‘title contender’. Second, you get to see another ‘Embiid or Simmons?’ debate unfold. Third, you get to see an ultimate blood-bath of trash-talking and physical play between two heavily defensive teams. I have no doubt this one goes seven, and ultimately, I think the Miami Heat move on and Philly is left shell-shocked.
#1 Los Angeles Lakers vs. #8 Memphis Grizzlies
– While it would be an awesome story for a young Grizzlies team to make the playoffs off strong performances from Morant and Jackson, I honestly think that the Pelicans actually play in this series against the Lakers. Either way, the Lakers most-likely sweep either team, but it’ll be fun to watch young stars in a playoff series against LeBron and AD.
#2 Denver Nuggets vs. #7 Dallas Mavericks
– Denver is a sneaky #2 seed and have been cast in the shadows with the talk of both LA teams all year, but they have the upper-hand in a lot of series for several reasons. Their depth is insane, playing in Denver is extremely tough for everyone, and Nikola Jokic has a chance to take the next step. We’ll have to see if KP and Luka have some magic in them, but I think their time (while coming in the next few seasons) is just not here yet. This series goes 5-6 games, but Denver wins handily.
#3 Los Angeles Clippers vs. #6 Oklahoma City Thunder
– I really hope that the OKC Thunder get another team, as I’m a huge fan of what CP3, Shai, and co. have done in what was supposed to be a lost season. The Clippers have yet to put their foot on the gas this season, as they’ve been cruising comfortably all year long with both of their stars resting for periods of time. If healthy, I don’t see why LA can’t sweep this series. Like I said, if OKC plays anyone else, they could win a few games, but I don’t see them hanging with PG13 and Kawhi.
#4 Houston Rockets vs. #5 Utah Jazz
– The 4-5 matchup in the West is just as good as the East, as the Rockets and Jazz have had several good games in the regular season. Both teams know each other well, as they see each other a ton in the regular season and have faced each other several times in the playoffs over the last 5 years. The Rockets have played the Jazz twice since transitioning to the ‘small ball’ lineup without Clint Capela and have defeated the Jazz both times. I do think that this series goes seven, and we’ll most likely see some last-second heroics from somewhere along with a teeny bit of controversy along the way. Ultimately though, I do think Houston’s star power goes the distance, but it’s very, very close.
Things are going to shake up a little bit over the next month and a half, but don’t be surprised to see some of these exact first-round matchups in April!