This years NBA playoffs could potentially have serious ramifications for the entire league. For some teams, these playoffs are away to convince their star to stay, while for others this was supposed to be a rebuild year and they aren’t even supposed to be in the playoffs.
1st Round Matchup Previews
Warriors vs Clippers
Warriors (57-25): The question has yet to be answered, can anyone beat the Warriors? The team loaded with 5 former and current all-stars seemingly cruised to the 1st seed in the Western Conference, and when they are at their best, no one can beat them.
Areas of Concern: At some points this season it has seemed like the entire Warriors team was waiting for someone else to take over the game, and while they have the shooting ability to erase almost any deficit, it will be difficult to have those kind of lackadaisical starts in the playoffs. However, the Warriors have shown that when the game matters they can perform to their full capability.
How they make a deep run: Staying healthy. If the Warriors stay healthy it’s difficult to see anything besides a shooting barrage from the Rockets defeating them.
Free Agency: It seems like Kevin Durant will be moving on and it’s hard to see how to convince him to stay. He has taken a lot of heat for moving to the Warriors and it appears he wants to start a new chapter of his career and even another NBA title might not be enough to make him stay.
Clippers (48-34): This team was not supposed to be in the playoffs. They traded away Tobias Harris who averaged 18.2 ppg, and then they took off. After the All Star break the Clippers are averaging 118.2 ppg which is good enough for third place in the league only after Milwaukee and Atlanta.
Areas of Concern: Defense. It’s hard to outscore the Warriors, and it doesn’t seem like this team has the ability to compete for a 7 game series with the defending World Champions.
How they make a deep run: Play like they don’t belong. Considering this year was supposed to be a rebuilding year, the Clippers have nothing to lose by simply playing their hearts out. Making big stops and playing with a little risk is the only way they can defeat the Warriors.
Free Agency: This season has made the Clippers a much more attractive free agency destination, especially considering that they finished higher than the Lakers. For a player that wants to be in a big market, but not deal with the drama surrounding LeBron, the Clippers will be able to offer a lot this offseason.
Nuggets vs Spurs
Nuggets (54-28): The Nuggets only have 7 losses at home all season, the least in the league. This could be huge for them in the postseason considering they have home-court advantage unless they play the Warriors in the WCF.
Areas of Concern: Inexperience. This Nuggets team is very young and inexperienced in the playoffs, and it could be a difficult task coming up against Popovich, one of the NBA’s most experienced coaches of all time.
How they make a deep run: Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. Most likely Jokic will be doubled at some point and it will be up to Murray to take over the game. Also, if they can get the first two wins of the playoffs, it will be huge for their confidence going forward.
Free Agency: The Nuggets aren’t known for making a splash in free agency and it would seem like this year will be no different. However, for Isaiah Thomas, a playoff run and a solid playoff performance could mean a better deal for him in the near future.
Spurs (48-34): After trading away Kawhi Leonard for DeMar DeRozan, no one was really sure how this team would adjust. The Spurs haven’t missed the playoffs since 1997, and this year they ended up the 7 seed.
Areas of Concern: They can’t close out games. At one time the Spurs were known for their poise in the crunch time, but this season with 4 new starters, the results have been lacking.
How they make a deep run: Gregg Popovich will no doubt have his team ready to go and excited about a chance to play the Nuggets, a young, inexperienced team. The Spurs have defeated all the top teams in the West more than once, except for the Rockets, and when this team is at its best, they are dangerous to anyone.
Free agency: A strong performance this season could convince a star to come bolster this roster for the next season.
Raptors vs Magic
Raptors (58-24): This has been the season of Kawhi Leonard. The Raptors primary goal this season is to convince Kawhi to join them for at least another season. Heading into the 2018-19 season all signs pointed to Kawhi going to LA but the Raptors are certainly making a good case for him to stay.
Areas of Concern: Considering that the city has been nicknamed “LeBronto” for the past few season, Raptors fans should be overjoyed that the king has finally left the East. However, some lingering issues remain as we have yet to see a convincing playoff performance by the Raptors. Even last season when they were the top seed they were swept by LeBron and the Cavs.
How they make a deep run: Follow Kawhi’s lead. Kawhi has won the NBA finals and he was even the finals MVP that year. If the Raptors can start off strong in each series, it will be tough to come back against them.
Free agency: There are a lot of big names looming large in free agency this year and Kawhi Leonard is one of them. It seems like Kawhi might not give as much thought to team success, and more to moving to a bigger market, but if the Raptors were to reach the Finals, we could see Kawhi’s career in Toronto extended.
Magic (42-40): The Orlando Magic are all about defense and that is what brought them to the playoffs. They have been on a tear as of late, winning 21 of their last 30.
Areas of Concern: Their scoring has been a little suspect at times, and will need big performances off the bench to stay competitive against a Raptors team that needs to redeem themselves.
How they make a deep run: If they can contain the Raptors on offense and force Kyle Lowry to take bad looks, they could pull off the upset.
Free agency: This unexpected performance this season from the Magic has left them with the opportunity to improve during free agency, and now they might be able to convince some stars to join this young team.
76ers vs Nets
76ers (51-31): The 76ers dealt for Tobias Harris to hopefully make a deep run this postseason. Against playoff teams, the 76ers allow more points than they score, which does not give people a lot of reason to trust the process.
Areas of Concern: The 76ers have not done well in big games this year, only barely avoiding the season sweep to the Celtics with a few lucky breaks.
How they make a deep run: When Joel Embiid is on, the 76ers perform. Luckily, he will be able to play in game 1 as he was just cleared from his injury.
Free Agency: The last few seasons has been about trusting the process, and they finally have a team that they are satisfied. It doesn’t seem like the 76ers will make any big moves after losing out on the LeBron sweepstakes, but don’t be surprised to see them make moves during the offseason.
Nets (42-40): Expect the Nets to come out firing, led by D’Angelo Russell, the Nets have nothing to lose, and can put the 76ers on the back foot early.
Areas of Concern: Lack of experience. An inexperienced lineup in the playoffs can be costly and D’Angelo Russell is looking to turn some heads.
How they make a deep run: The bench. The Brooklyn Nets bench has been astounding while the 76ers bench has been abysmal. They can take advantage of this.
Free Agency: This is a team for the future and they can grow this offseason.