NBA Season Recap and Playoff Preview

NBA Season Recap and Playoff Preview

By Ian Shimizu, Reporter

The words “Russell Westbrook” would sum up about 70 percent of all conversations concerning the NBA. While he definitely deserves every positive word said about him, his insane performances have overshadowed a lot of other things this year. I will provide a short breakdown of all playoff teams and who I think is deserving of each award.

Eastern Conference

1. Boston Celtics  (53-29)

The Celtics are in first in the East with just 53 wins, and are one of the weakest one seeds in the history of the league. The team is led by 5’9″ sharp shooter Isaiah Thomas, who had an insane season, pouring in 29 ppg, good enough for second in the league. But the C’s are way more than just Thomas’ scoring. Al Horford, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, and Marcus Smart provide Boston with a wide arsenal of weapons and stiff defense. Could this be the year Boston gets number 18? I don’t think so at all. Off a tough Game 1 loss at home, I see the C’s falling to the 8th seeded Bulls in 7.

2. Cleveland Cavaliers (51-31)

The Cavs’ season has fallen short of expectations. But as we all know, Lebron always has something up his sleeve when it matters most. Mix in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, and you obviously have one of the best trios in the league. Can the Cavs go back to back? I don’t think anyone in the East is good enough to force a seven-game series with the Cavs, let alone beat them. Off a Game 1 nail biter to the Pacers, they march their way into Lebron’s 7th straight finals appearance.

3. Toronto Raptors (51-31)

The Raptors in recent years have always been a great team, but not quite title contenders. Even though they reached the Eastern finals last year, no one really gave them a chance over the Cavs and that was correct. With one of the best backcourts in the league in top 5 scorer Demar Derozan and Kyle Lowry complementing the inside presence of newly acquired Serge Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas, I think they will continue to narrowly miss this year. I like them in seven over the Bucks, despite the first-game stumble at home. However, I see Cleveland disposing of them in a sweep.

4. Washington Wizards (49-33)

A possible under-the-radar team, the Wizards are lead by superstar John Wall and offensive machine Bradley Beal. If their interior brings their A game, I really like the Wizards to make a run. I’m predicting they make the Conference Finals- Beating the Hawks in 6 and the lackluster Bulls in 5. Eventually, Wall and Beal have troubles against the Cavs, and their season ends in a six-game series.

5. Atlanta Hawks (43-39)

The Hawks have been an interesting team this year. All of their starters are averaging double-digits, but they don’t really have a guy that they can count on in the clutch. Dwight Howard is still a beast inside, but is just a shell of his former self. The Hawks fall due to Beal and Wall’s scoring in 6 in the first round.

6. Milwaukee Bucks (42-40)

Giannis Antetokounmpo is leading the Bucks in all major statistical categories. The 6’11” “Greek Freak” is truly a freak, and will probably be the best player on the floor against the Raptors. Jabari Parker complements him well, but the Bucks lack all-around talent. Giannis’ talent gets them three games, but nothing more.

7. Indiana Pacers (42-40)

The fact that Myles Turner is the second-best player on the Pacers should say enough about their opening matchup with the Cavs. Paul George should squeeze out one for the Pacers, but the Cavs overwhelm the Pacers with their talent, winning in 5. The Pacers again fail to make serious noise in the playoffs.

8. Chicago Bulls (41-41)

In my opinion, an underseeded 8 seed against an overseeded 1 seed spells disaster for the higher seed. Led by Jimmy Butler and D Wade, I think the Bulls will somehow pull this one out in 7, especially after a game 1 upset. I don’t see them beating the Wizards, but you never know.

Western Conference

1. Golden State Warriors (67-15)

With a worse record then last year, many people are criticizing (as if they weren’t already) Kevin Durant’s switch. But ultimately, I think the new team will shine in the playoffs. With the Splash Brothers and an all around star in Draymond Green to complement Durant, the Warriors will be the most stacked team in the playoffs. They have a major weakness inside, but I still like them to cruise to the Finals–setting up a rematch with the Cavs for the third year in a row. I like them to get revenge after a horrific 3-1 collapse last year, winning in 6, and for KD to get his first ring. There is strong bias here, but I just don’t see anyone overcoming the Warriors pure star power, despite the countless entertaining 3-1 jokes.

2. San Antonio (61-21)

A team that has been overshadowed this year are the 61-win Spurs. Honestly, with MVP contender and the best all-around player in the league in Kawhi Leonard plus a strong supporting cast, the Spurs have a decent chance to beat the Warriors in a series. After their stomping in game 1, I think the Spurs will make quick work of the Grizzlies in 4, cancel out James Harden and the Rockets in 6, and fall to the Dubs in 6.

3. Houston Rockets (55-27)

In my honest opinion, my MVP is not Mr. Triple Double. That’s because James Harden has had a season equally impressive all year, falling just two rebounds a game short of a triple double, and dishing out a ridiculous 11 assists. Harden also shoots 44 percent to Russell’s 42, and the main reason I’ll take him over Russ: the extra wins. In The Beard’s own words, winning is the most important part of a good player. Harden makes those around him much better. Oh and yea, the Rockets team as a whole. I think they handle the Thunder in 5, but run into a tough test and fall to the Spurs and 6. With James Harden though, anything is possible, including an upset over the Spurs.

4. LA Clippers (51-31)

A team that always makes the playoffs but always fails to break through, we have the Clippers. Could this be the year they reach the Western conference finals? In my opinion, definetly not. With a bad game 1 loss at home, I see them falling to the Jazz in 7. The high powered trio of Blake Griffin, Deandre Jordan and Chris Paul again waste another year.

5. Utah Jazz (51-31)

Another possible under the radar team, the Jazz have the pieces to “upset” the Clippers and contend the Warriors. If Rudy Gobert returns soon, they have one of the best cores with him, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and George Hill. Give me them in 7 over the Clippers and then falling to the Warriors in 5.

6. Oklahoma City Thunder (47-35)

Yes,  Russell Westbrook is not the only player on the Thunder. The season he’s had is arguably one of the best ever, with a monstrous 32-10-10 line. Unfortunately, I think some of this is due to stat stuffing and forced because of his sub par teammates. I see them running into a wall against the Rockets in just 5 games.

7. Memphis Grizzlies (43-39)

Known for blowing money on fairly average players among other things, the Grizzlies again finished the season good but not great. That put them up against the Spurs and yea, that’s that. They will likely be swept after an embarrassment after starting off hot in game 1.

8. Portland Trail Blazers (41-41)

Overlooked by the 3-1 choke and rally combo, the Warriors had some serious problems with the Blazers last year, putting them away in six after a few nail biting wins. Damian Lillard and Cj McCollum provide enough offense for the Blazers to keep pace in any shootout. However, this is the Warriors that they were unlucky to draw in the first round. Give me the Warriors in 5.