(photo courtesy of NBA.com)
It’s the moooost, wonderful tiiiiiime of the yeeeeeear. The NBA playoffs are finally here. Eight first round match ups, some good and some not so good. But they’re finally here. 82 games down and while many of us want round three of Cavs-Warriors, we still have three rounds before we get to that point. I’m going to give you the rankings of which match ups you should be setting a reminder to watch.
1. Rockets (3 seed) vs. Thunder (6 seed)
It’s the battle of the two MVP candidates, James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Harden is in the midst of a huge come back year in Mike D’Antoni’s run and gun system and Westbrook, not sure if you’ve heard this, is averaged a triple double this season. The hype for this series is surrounding those two but they most likely won’t be guarding each other. Patrick Beverly, the guy who knocked out Westbrook in the 2013 playoffs on arguably the Thunder’s best team, will be guarding him once again. Beverley is an annoying defender who is not afraid to be physical against opposing ball handlers and going up against a guy whose minimum speed is 120 mph is an interesting matchup. I don’t like the Thunder’s supporting cast enough to give them much of a shot in this series but there’s going to be a lot of points scored and I mean, cmon, it’s the two MVP favorites going up against each other.
2. Jazz (4 seed) vs. Clippers (5 seed)
I’m putting this second not because of really the match up now but for the implications on the future of both teams. Year after year we see the Clippers be good enough in the regular season but implode in the playoffs. Whether that’s by injuries or by monumental collapses, a la the 2015 playoffs against the Rockets, the Clippers haven’t been able to make it to the third round with their “big three” of Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan. This is the last stand for them. There’s a big possibility that two of those three aren’t on the team next year and Doc Rivers is gone as well. The Clippers are generally a good first round team. The Jazz, many people’s preseason darlings, are on the rise and this is the first year we really get to see what their core can do in a playoff setting.
3. Raptors (3 seed) vs. Bucks (6 seed)
My Toronto Raptors have their best team in years. Kyle Lowry is back, the trade deadline additions of Serge Ibaka and PJ Tucker have done wonders on both ends of the floor and DeKobe Derozan is having his best season as a pro. They’re in the same part of the bracket as the Cavs, which isn’t ideal, but this might be the year that they can actually put up a fight against them. I think the Raptors take this in five or six games but any series that has the Greek Freak playing is instantly a must watch. Also, what do the Bucks have to lose? They’re very young and very talented. I can easily see Jason Kidd throwing out whacky lineups in this series just to see if they work. Also, since I think the Raptors will handle this series fairly well, that almost assures that they won’t. Remember how great Paul George and Dwyane Wade played against the Raps last year? Giannis can just as easily put up those numbers and from multiple different positions.
4. Wizards (4 seed) vs. Hawks (5 seed)
I don’t have much to say about this series except that it’s a wild card. The Wizards were really good in the regular season, Bradley Beal actually stayed pretty healthy and John Wall was playing like an MVP for most of the season. But it’s Washington and getting trounced in the first round is very much on the table. The Hawks on the other hand, we have no clue what the hell is the deal with them. They might shoot the lights out one game and the next can’t hit anything. I put this at four because I have absolutely no clue what is going to happen but I’m here for whatever happens.
5. Cavaliers (2 seed) vs. Pacers (7 seed)
It doesn’t matter who the Cavs are playing. I don’t see the Pacers as a legit threat to the Cavs. What is going to make you tune into this is to see if the Cavs are actually in trouble or if they just mailed it in after the All Star Break because they’re the Cavs and they can do that kind of thing while still not dropping lower than second in the conference. Do they have the ability to turn it on whenever they want? Yes. Is this the same team that made it to two straight Finals? No. They have a weaker bench and an older, yet still incredibly efficient LeBron James. I’m watching this to see what kind of Cavs team my Raptors are going to be playing in the second round. You should be watching to see if you still really want Cavs-Duvs round 3 this year (you should).
6. Celtics (1 seed) vs. Bulls (8 seed)
I don’t want to watch this series. I have seen some Celtics fans actually worried about this series, mainly because the Bulls only seem to get up for big games. These happen to only be big games considering it’s uh, the playoffs. However there should be no desire in 2017 to watch a series with a team that’s starting Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade. The Celtics are vastly more talented but if there’s two flaws it’s their rebounding and IT4 disappearing in the playoffs. Don’t watch this series unless you have to.
7. Warriors (1 seed) vs. Trail Blazers (8 seed)
Hahahahahahaha, I mean it’s the freaking Warriors. You’re going to watch because of that aspect alone but from a series standpoint this won’t be close. The Blazers might win one game, which sucks for Chance the Rapper fans, but this won’t go more than five games.
8. Spurs (2 seed) vs. Grizzlies (7 seed)
DO. NOT. WATCH. THIS. SERIES. UNDER. ANY. CIRCUMSTANCES.