With only eight games left in the regular season, the NBA playoffs are right around the corner. It’s that special time of the year when 16 playoff teams set out to earn the champion- ship title. Will we see a third Cavaliers vs Warriors finals matchup? Could the Celtics or the Washington Wizards upset the heavily favored Eastern Conference Cavs?
In the West, the Spurs are always a vital threat, but do they have what it takes to defeat Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors?
All are favoring the Warriors to conquer and once again be crowned as the Western Conference Champions. The addition of Kevin Durant in the offseason really set the bar high for this team, but they lost him due to a knee injury in February. Still the Warriors are holding on the one seed, but the San Antonio Spurs are right behind them with vengeance.
James Harden, who took on the role of point guard this season, led the Rockets from being the seventh seed in 2016 to potentially being the third seed during this playoff run. He carried his team, and averaging roughly 29.2 ppg, 11.2 ast and 8.1 reb put him in the MVP race with Russell Westbrook, who is also having an amazing season.
Westbrook has been making history this year as he is close to averaging a triple double for the season. This hasn’t been accomplished since Oscar Robertson during the 1961-1962 season. He is averaging 31.8 ppg, 10.6 rpg and 10.4 apg. The Utah Jazz have also come from out of nowhere to make the fourth seed in the West this year. With the help of Gobert and Hayward, this team could be a problem for higher ranking seeds.
Right behind them is the Clippers led by Paul and Griffin. Another fantastic addition to this team is the remarkable talent of Deandre Jordan, who can really stretch the court late in the game. The Clippers are followed by the Thunder. With the historical season Russell Westbrook is giving us, the Thunder will be a dynamic force in the playoffs.
Finally, the Memphis Grizzlies at the seventh seed and the Portland Trail Blazers at the eighth. One note to add for the Western Conference is the New Orleans Pelicans being the tenth seed. The team was predicted to dominate the west following the addition of Demarcus Cousins immediately after the all-star break. They failed to do so. However, once Anthony Davis and Cousins click, this team could potentially be unstoppable.
In the East, usually the favorite would be the Cleveland Cavaliers However, injuries and sloppy play have dropped them to the second seed. LeBron James and his team have been on a decline for the past few weeks. Kyrie Irving is also an offensive superstar who can take over, especially in the fourth quarter. Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith are also key weapons for this Cavalier team, which makes them a fierce squad. One key addition to this team was the signing of Kyle Korver.
Cleveland struggled to get a three-point specialist. So with Korver coming from the Atlanta Hawks, the Cavs immediately became a top-ranked team.
The Boston Celtics have also been having a tremendous year with the help of key players such as Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford. The team has climbed to the top of the Eastern Conference and has great potential to reach the NBA Finals.
Following the Celtics is the Toronto Raptors, led by Kyle Lowry and Demar Derozan. Starting all-star this year, Derozan is averaging 27.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg and 3.9 apg. The Raptors also signed a key force to their team mid-season: Serge Ibaka. Ibaka, recently with the Orlando Magic, brings strong defense down low and three-point shooting to the Raptors.
One game behind Toronto is John Wall and the Washington Wizards. Wall, leading his team to the fourth seed, is known to be a tough force during the playoffs. The explosive point guard draws extra attention from the defense. His quick offense along with the sharpshooting of Bradley Beal ignite this team late in the game.
The Milwaukee Bucks, 40-37, have been led all season by the rising superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo. Giannis, standing at six feet 11 inches with a seven foot wingspan, is averaging 23.2 ppg, 8.7 rpg and 5.4 apg. He is the first player in history to lead his team in all three categories pf points, assists and rebounds.
The Bucks are the fifth seed, followed by the Atlanta Hawks, 39-38. Jimmy Butler and the Chicago Bulls are at the seventh seed. Butler and Dwayne Wade have been sparking this team all season and eye to be a tough team to go up against in a four game series.
With the eighth seed in the East, Miami has come from nothing after losing Lebron, Wade and Bosh within a span of three years. If Miami can hold the eighth seed, Eric Spoelstra will deserve Coach of the Year again for turning his unexperienced team into a competitive force. The playoffs are just around the corner. Come June, there will be two teams left contending for the title of world champions.