It's finally that time of year again. In what has been a year full of teams that have greatly underachieved or have been surprising, 16 of them will have their season last for another season. That season is the NBA Playoffs. So looking towards another interesting playoffs, lets go over the field of teams who made it to the second season.
#1: Milwaukee Bucks - Thanks to career years from Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kris Middleton, and Eric Bledsoe as well as Brook Lopez and Malcolm Brogdon filling in as hole pluggers, the Bucks won 60 games. Coach Mike Budenholzer now has a real team to coach now that he isn't with the Hawks anymore and he's been taking advantage of the roster he has. With the best point differential in the league, a championship is likely for the Bucks.
2#: Toronto Raptors - Kawhi Leonard has officially regained his all star form that he had before he got hurt. With the help of a solid supporting cast of Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, and Pascal Siakam, along with an impressive job at the helm with first year coach Nick Nurse, it wouldn't be crazy to list the Raptors as NBA champions.
3#: Philadelphia 76ers - While this team in my opinion isn't good enough to win a title, they are good enough to make the Finals. They have arguably the talentest starting five in the league, all of them averaging above 15 points per game. As long as they don't play down to their competition, the process may be complete.
4#: Boston Celtics - Despite having the best overall roster in the league, this team can't seem to put the pieces together. Kyrie Irving has constantly seemed to indicate that he's leaving Boston which has been putting a dark cloud at some points in the season. If this team makes a deep playoff run however, it won't be surprising because all of their players were either on their playoff run last year, or were on a playoff run elsewhere.
5#: Indiana Pacers - They don't have the talent for a deep playoff run in all star shooting guard Victor Oladipo, but this season can easily be considered a success for the Pacers. Small forward Bojan Bogdanovic and center Myles Turner have led the Pacers to 48 wins. Beating teams without your best player is hard, but considering that Indiana was able to make it through most of the second half of the season without Oladipo, anything is possible for them.
6#: Brooklyn Nets - Listing this team as a playoff team 2 years ago sounds crazy, but hear we are. Their point guard D'angelo Russell has been playing arguably the best basketball of his career, averaging 21 points and 7 assists. His supporting cast is led by backup point guard Spencer Dinwiddie, big man Jarrett Allen, and sharpshooter Joe Harris. While a deep playoff run seems unlikely, this is definitely a foundation to build into the future.
7#: Orlando Magic - When they last made the playoffs, Zion Williamson was 11 years old! But here they are. Led by all star Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon the Magic played great basketball in the second half and won their division despite finishing 7th in the East. It'll be interesting to see if their road to the playoffs will be a fluke, or if they'll build off this season.
8#: Detroit Pistons - After falling apart in the second half of this season, the Pistons didn't repeat this year. With power forward Blake Griffin enjoying one of his best seasons, along with Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, and the coaching of Dwane Casey, the Pistons had a strong second half of the season. It won't be a surprise however if this team comes in battered considering that they went through a tough schedule starting midway through March. Or a rest could be what they needed.
1#: Golden State Warriors - This team has all of the resources that can win them a NBA Finals. They have one of the best starting fives in NBA history and an A+ coaching staff. But it's still hard to guarantee an NBA championship. They have the worst home record out of all of the teams in the west with home court advantage for at least one round. They also don't seem to be playing with joy, highlighted by Kevin Durant who will be a free agent. It's still hard to not have them as champions.
2#: Denver Nuggets - This team is one of the most formidable and talented teams in the NBA. The core of this team is Nikola Jokic. His ability to score, rebound, and pass is turning him into a generational player. Coach Michael Malone has emerged as one of the league's top coaches. Thanks to him, other players such as Jamal Murray and Gary Harris have developed key roles which have led to a 54 win season. The only question, is their experience, but this team is in good hands for now and the future.
3#: Portland Trail Blazers - I just don't know if this team can make up a deep playoff run. Damian Lillard has been continuing to ball out while C.J. McCollum has been getting a whole lot better. While they did add some serviceable depth in Enes Kanter, this team will have to come together and not back down from other teams who are probably better than them on paper unlikely last year's defeat to the New Orleans Pelicans.
4#: Houston Rockets - This has honestly been an interesting team. From tip-off to mid December, they were really looking disappointing. Then James Harden just didn’t care anymore. He scored 30 or more points in 32 straight games as well as 2 60 point games. Chris Paul despite being injured for most of the year has still shown why he’s one of the best point guards. As long as Harden balls out and this team is healthy, they could definitely win the finals.
5#: Utah Jazz - Like Houston, they also slumped up until mid December. Then, point guard Donavan Mitchell balled out in the later stretch just like last year. Center Rudy Gobert has been averaging career highs in points and rebounds while still being the best rim protector in the game. It wouldn’t be crazy to predict a deep playoff run with the talent and experience that this team has.
6#: Oklahoma City Thunder - Out of all the teams with the best shot at a deep playoff run despite no home court advantage for at least one round, it would be the Thunder. With Russel Westbrook and Paul George playing out of their minds along with a strong supporting cast led by Steven Adams, the Thunder despite winning only 49 games have looked like they’ve found their way. It’ll be intriguing to see if they’ll flop, or make a deep playoff run.
7#: San Antonio Spurs - I think that this team was dealing with a lot of distractions last year with Kawhi Leonard, but I think they will now be able to focus on basketball. Gregg Popovich hasn’t aged at all and he’s still one of the best coaches in the game. Led by Demar Derozan and Lamarcus Alderige, the Spurs won 48 games. A deep playoff run isn’t out of sight.
8#: Los Angeles Clippers - Once looked at as a team that was in the middle of nowhere, is now in the playoffs unlike the other team in L.A. They have a solid core led by Lou Williams and coach Doc Rivers after seeming like he lost his touch in coaching has regained his form this year. While a deep playoff run seeming unlikely, they can attract a marquee free agent this summer which could spark deep playoff runs in the future.
Bucks 4 Pistons 1
Bucks 4 Celtics 1
Celtics 4 Pacers 2
Bucks 4 Raptors 3
Raptors 4 Magic 1
Raptors 4 76ers 3
76ers 4 Nets 2
Bucks 4 Thunder 2
Warriors 4 Clippers 2
Rockets 4 Warriors 3
Rockets 4 Jazz 3
Thunder 4 Rockets 2
Nuggets 4 Spurs 3
Thunder 4 Nuggets 2
Thunder 4 Trail Blazers 3