With game one behind us and the playoffs truly upon us, here are eight thoughts on the first eight games.
Hawks X Wizards (G1)
The Thought: John Wall is amazing, why isn’t he seen as such?
Wall is the best point guard in the east, and there’s no doubt about it. After a down year and offseason knee surgery, Wall put on a show this year. Overshadowed by the play of other players , Wall’s game is often gone uncovered. Wall and Bradley Beal, when healthy, have been an unguardable backcourt combination. Wall is still searching for new sneaker deal after feeling being under-represented by the brand and feeling some type of way about other point guards not on his level getting contracts that mirror his own. If there were ever a platform to grow his brand, it would be making it to the Finals. Although, for Wall, this will be a very steep uphill climb. With the Cavs and Celtics seemingly ready to fall apart at the seems, this may be the time for the Wizards to push through.
Prediction: Wizards in five
TrailBlazers X Warriors (G1)
The thought: The Blazers are one star away from being a dangerous team.
The Blazers have been surprisingly accomplished team considering they blew up their roster two seasons ago. They have made the most out of a relatively mediocre roster and have managed to make the playoffs each year since. With Damian Lillard and CJ Mccollum, both fringe all-stars, they have one of the best back court duos in the league. They’ve been one of the few teams that have matched up well with the Warriors, but there’s always something missing. Whether it be a reliable big or wing that can be consistently effective off-ball, ‘Rip City’ needs a bit more from its supporting cast. Jusuf Nurkic could potentially be that difference-maker, but he’s played just 20 games with the team. Mo Harkless, Allen Crabbe, and Evan Turner are decent role players but have yet to show their potential.
Prediction: Warriors in six
Celtics X Bulls (G1)
The thought: Is Jimmy Butler that good or are the Celtics that flawed?
After a close game one loss to the TNT Bulls, Boston has to regroup as the team’s role players underperformed. Isiah Thomas had another stellar performance, and Al Horford filled up the stat sheet getting close to a triple double. Although, for the rest of the team, only Avery Bradley scored more than 9 points and is this just another game in the stretch of inconsistent play. The Celtics need a solid team performance every game if they are going to get out of the first round. The Celtics team has thrived in the regular season, but as their team continues to revolve solely around Thomas’ offense, their offense continues to grow more predictable. On Tuesday, Boston will have the opportunity to get a home split before heading to Chicago.
Prediction: I would like to plead the ‘fifth.’
Clippers X Jazz (G1)
The Thought: Chris Paul is going to look good in a Spurs jersey next season.
The Clippers flame out in this round because their team is like a game of Tetris that has gone all wrong. The “Clips gon’ clip” sentiment has reached new levels because they’ve found a way to miss out on a championship. Paul has spent six years in L.A trying to win a title and almost did, but unfortunately, when the going got tough they blinked and found themselves ousted before they could recover. Well, Paul is now 31, and he’s coming up on free agency and has decisions to make. Close friends with both Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James, Paul should look over at what Anthony is currently going through in New York after resigning with the Knicks with no real infrastructure and a minimal future, James has moved teams to get the best chance to win a title.
If Paul is interested in winning a title he needs to consider looking around the league for a team that requires a great Point Guard but can also support him as he ages. Even if the Clippers can resign Blake Griffin, they won’t be able to afford Paul, and J.J. Reddick whom is essential to the Clippers game. The Clippers salary cap will be maxed out if Paul resigns so with no money and no picks, the Clippers will find it problematic to improve their team beyond what they are right now. Paul should consider his options this offseason as if there was ever a chance for him to win a title (other than as a backup on the Championship Timberwolves teams of 2023-2027) it will be with Greg Popovich and Kahwi Leonard.
….Or if the Cavs trade Kyrie Irving for Carmelo Anthony and then sign Chris Paul through some David Stern level cap shenanigans then there’s a chance.
Prediction: Jazz in six
Spurs X Grizzlies (G1)
The Thought: Mike Conley should have left Memphis.
Mike Conley is a phenomenal guard that took on Golden State with a broken face when they were on their way to their 14-15 Championship. The guy cracked a vertebrae and came back in a month. The problem with anyone playing in Memphis is he will never get the acclaim and appreciation by the national audience. Conley is an exciting player, and it seems to be going unnoticed in Tennessee.
Prediction: Grizzlies in six
Rockets X Thunder (G1)
The Thought: The Thunder might not win a game, and that doesn’t mean anything.
The Rockets blew out the Thunder and was the most predictable thing that’s happened so far. James Harden and Russel Westbrook both put on first half performances Harden was the only one to return. Westbrook went 6-23 from the field, and just seven assist Westbrook could not get his team past 90 points. Judging only off what they did in the regular season it’s unlikely this won’t happen in-game two, three or four. Westbrook’s game has continuously broken down against teams like the Rockets and Warriors, and when that happens, the team falls apart.
However, when it comes to their image, this series will change nothing. Harden’s team is built to amplify his strengths. The Thunder are the ruins and remains of a hodgepodge of solid role players that without a backup point guard. The argument for Westbrook as the MVP should have always been that he’s doing what he’s doing with a team of misfits. There’s no pressure on Westbrook who will undoubtedly be forgiven for any playoffs misfortunes by fans and media alike. Harden is a different story, as Harden and the Rockets have themselves been…rocketed…out of the playoffs three straight years. Any poultry performance in these playoffs will be another stain on Hardens image.
Prediction: Houston in Five
Raptors X Bucks (G1)
The Thought: Kris Middleton is the Key to the outcome of the series.
The Bucks are a playoff wild card and could serve as playoff Cinderella story if they get past the Raptors. With Middleton out for most of the year and two rookies playing significant minutes, we can’t know how good they’ll be. The same can be said for the inconsistent playoff Raptors. Even with the additions of Serge Ibaka and P.J Tucker, the Raptors are still a giant question mark. Kyle Lowry and Demar Derozan have seen their shots disappear in mid-April every season.
Kyle Lowry has the 15th worst playoff FG% in NBA history.
(At least 1,000 minutes played)
— Justin Jett (@JustinJett_) April 17, 2017
Giannis Antetokounmpo is incredible and will be the one who leads the team to the next round if they make it, but Middleton’s play is what will push them over the edge. Middleton’s versatility is key to the way the Bucks Play. As a larger two guard, Middleton can defend multiple positions, but more importantly, he is the ideal guard for Derozan. Derozan being a far better shooter when being guarded by smaller guards, i.e., Isiah Thomas.
Prediction: Bucks in six
Cavaliers X Pacers (G1)
The thought: The Pacers are the more enjoyable team to watch than the Cavaliers.
Lance Stephenson, Playoff Paul George, So much less background noise. Watching a single game of the of the Cavaliers is like watching seven hours of ‘The Americans.’ The amount of drama on and off the court is exhausting. The entertaining part of Cavaliers games is often their opponents. The interest level in the Cavs has deteriorated because of the redundancy James teams in the east.
Prediction: Cavaliers in 7