Head-to-Head: 2019 NBA postseason predictions
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The 2018-19 NBA season is just under two weeks in, but it's never too early to start thinking about the Playoffs. And that's exactly what NBA PH bloggers Marco Benitez and Enzo Flojo do here, trading back-and-forth their predictions as to which teams are going to be playing come late April, to May, and even June. Agree or disagree with their selections? Let us know in the comments, or on social media.
4 teams in the West with home court
Enzo Flojo: Golden State, Houston, Utah, Portland
The Dubs and Rockets are the easy picks here for obvious reasons (i.e. star power, experience, coaching). Utah is also a popular choice given how Donovan Mitchell should be have a super soph campaign, and Rudy Gobert should be around for many more games compared to last season. I’m kinda rolling the dice on the Blazers, though. Dame is my guy, and I believe he is maybe the most underrated superstar out there. That “chip” on his shoulder should drive him and his team hard on their way to maybe the 3rd or 4th seed in the loaded West.
Marco Benitez: Golden State, Houston, Utah, OKC
I can’t argue with your first two picks. GSW and HOU will definitely end up having homecourt advantage. GSW only got better with Cousins while HOU, though they lost Trevor Ariza, still have two of the league’s best in Harden and CP3 to get them to the top 4. Utah is another team I can see finishing in the top 4. They’re well coached, solid on D, and Mitchell has superstar written all over him. But I’m gonna have to disagree on the Blazers pick. Dame and CJ comprise one of the best scoring backcourts in the league, but I think they’re still an All-Star forward away from the West’s upper echelon. OKC got much better with Schroder instead of Melo, such that their playmaking doesn’t dip when Russ takes a breather, or slides to the 2-guard spot; plus he’s another facilitator who’ll make life easier for Steven Adams.
4 teams in the West w/o home court
Enzo: OKC, LA Lakers, San Antonio, New Orleans
Melo’s leaving can only be good for the Thunder, while LBJ’s entry makes the Lakeshow instant postseason contenders. I still believe the Spurs are gonna be better than their “on paper” projections, and I like Anthony Davis too much to put him and his team outside of the Playoffs looking in. My odd men out here are Denver and Minny, though they are plenty good, too.
Marco: New Orleans, Portland, LA Lakers, Denver
You’re right, I can’t see the Lakers not making the postseason with the best player on the planet on their roster, but their young guys won’t be enough to get them home court advantage. Outside of LeBron, Anthony Davis is probably the next player I would choose to build a franchise around, and now he’s got the right pieces surrounding him that they may even be a darkhorse for a top four finish. Dame and CJ, along with Nurkic, will make sure that the Blazers are in the playoffs. And while I love the Spurs dearly and Pop is still the best coach in the league, without Tony Parker and now Dejounte Murray, I just can’t see how the pieces they have are enough to contend in the West. I’m going with Denver to round up my top 8 just cos they don’t have the drama that Minnesota has.
4 teams in the East with home court
Enzo: Boston, Toronto, Philadelphia, Milwaukee
Boston is a lock for the top spot in the East. I mean, book it. Toronto is gonna be crazy good, too, but I think the Celts are just slightly deeper than the Raps. Philly will have its share of highlights and should be among the East’s elite, especially with both Embiid and Simmons having a year under their belts. I think the Bucks are gonna be up there, too, what with Giannis having an MVP-esque campaign in 2018-2019.
Hard to argue with these choices. Outside of maybe Washington, these four are clearly the most talented teams in the East. Raptors so far have gotten the better end of the Kawhi deal. Not only are they able to space the floor better, but they’re a much better defensive team with Kawhi and Danny Green than they ever were with DeRozan; and it’s not even close. Milwaukee, I feel, are now better coached and have the potential to really unleash Giannis’ full potential as a playmaker for his teammates and scorer.
4 teams in the East w/o home court
Enzo: Indiana, Washington, Detroit, Miami
Oladipo and Co. won’t be world-beaters, but they should be good enough to return to the Playoffs, while the Wizards’ fortunes will be hinged on the chemistry of their Wall-Beal-Dwight Big Three. The Pistons have started strong now at 2-0, and though they won’t really be able to sustain it, the Drummond-Blake frontline pairing will be good enough to scrape by. I think the Heat may take a step back in Dwyane Wade’s farewell tour, but Spo’s posse should still nudge its way into the postseason past the likes of Charlotte, Cleveland, and Orlando.
With the exception of Orlando, whom I think could pull off a surprise as a dark horse, Washington, Indiana, Detroit, and Miami round up my bottom four to make the playoffs. I still think John Wall and Bradley Beal are two of the best in the backcourt in the East, and if they can get solid and consistent performances from Dwight, Otto Porter Jr., Oubre, and now Jeff Green, they’re even a tough out for the top 4 spots. Austin Rivers is also a great backup to Wall; and it’s just a matter of Scott Brooks maximizing the talent that he has in a relatively “shallower” conference. Like you said, Blake and Drummond can carry the Pistons to the Playoffs. Indiana is a solid team with players who know their roles and grind it out just like the Pacers have always been known to do. As for Miami, I’m just too much of a DWade fan that I still think he has what it takes in Year 16, plus given Coach Spo’s brilliance, and the decent talent they have on that roster, to make the playoffs in the East.
West and East Conference finalists
Enzo: WCF: Golden State v Houston - Cannot wait for Round Two between these heavyweights. The Rockets know they were maybe one CP3 game away from winning the 2018 title, and they are raring to prove it with an impending WCF rematch. GSW will still be favorites, for sure, but they know that they cannot easily look past a determined Rockets team.
Marco: WCF: Same.
Houston is still the team that has the most talent and experience to get to the Western Conference Finals. The Warriors, still the most talented team, and arguably one of the best coached in the league, will be there waiting for them. If the Rockets somehow pull off some magic and are able to swing for Jimmy Butler this season, then they may have what it takes to beat GSW. Without him, and with no Trevor Ariza, I fear they’re just not good enough defensively to overcome the Warriors in seven games.
Enzo: ECF: Boston v Philadelphia - I love Toronto, but I just think when they reach the deep waters, they’ll cave again like before. That’s why I have Boston taking on Philly instead for the ECF banner. Brad Stevens’s wards will be the odds-on faves here, but the Sixers’ young guns are one year wiser now, and they will put up a bolder fight in the postseason.
Marco: ECF: Boston v Toronto - From what I’ve seen so far, Toronto is the big winner in that trade with the Spurs, and he and Danny Green have elevated their game enough to take them to the next level. Not only have they brought better spacing, and better defense, they have the championship pedigree that the city’s sorely lacked all these years. Philly will be exciting to watch, but a lot still rests on whether Embiid can stay healthy deep into the postseason, and even then, I still think the Raptors are more than ripe to make the conference finals.
Finals picks and prediction (# of games)
Enzo: Golden State over Boston in 6 - All roads will lead to this terrific titular tussle. The Dubs are aiming for their fourth Larry in the last five seasons and, perhaps more importantly, improve their case as the best team of all time. Standing in their way will be Boston’s collection of rising stars, with Jayson Tatum shining the brightest alongside vets Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, and Al Horford. The Celtics know they are the only team with the depth that can remotely match Golden State, and the Big Green will be pulling out all the stops to halt the Dubs’ winning ways. In the end, however, Curry, KD, Klay, Draymond, and DeMarcus will just be too big and too good even for the best head coach on an NBA payroll.
Marco: Have to agree. But I’m giving the Celtics the benefit of the doubt. GSW in 7. The C’s have managed to keep their roster intact enough that they pose a serious threat to the Dubs, assuming they are all healthy by the postseason. They have the right mix of amazing young talent (Tatum, Brown, Rozier) and vets (Kyrie, Hayward, Horford, Smart, Morris), and incredible coaching, to go toe-to-toe with the Warriors. Unfortunately, only a miracle will get them past four all-stars (possibly five when DeMarcus gets healthy), including two MVPs, all in their prime, and a champion coach in Steve Kerr. Probably not until the salary cap takes its toll and takes away a couple of their all-stars will we see anyone else hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy in June.
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