Road to the Finals UPDATE 5/9/2017:
Okay folks, it has been an interesting playoff series, that's for sure. And for those wondering who will win the NBA Finals in 2017, well, it's still b/w the Cavs and Warriors. Now, going back to the playoffs: On the one hand, everyone is saying that this has been a boring playoffs, because we all know that the inevitable is happening: the Warrios and Cavs will face off again in the upcoming 2017 NBA Finals. Blah blah blah. That doesn't mean that the road to a championship is any less exciting!! Granted, the Cavs and Warriors have both swept each of their opponents rather easily (Pacers, Raptors, Blazers, and Jazz). This makes these two teams the first pair of teams to both start the post season 8-0. What this means is that the upcoming NBA Finals is shaping up to be an all timer.
However, in the meantime, let's not get ahead of ourselves, as there are still four other teams duking it out in their respective conferences. The Boston Celtics are doing their best to fend off the Washington Wizards, but regardless of the Celtics #1 seed, it looks like this is an even series right now. Washington could easily beat the Celtics, and then face the Cavs. Obviously with LeBron at full health, the Wiz ain't beating them, though they could take a game or two.
What is far more interesting is the West. The Spurs are battling the Rockets, and it looks like a toss-up right now. Obviously, whoever wins that series is not expected to beat the Warriors (now that Kevin Durant is at full health). However, both the Spurs and Rockets are muchhhh better teams than the Wizards or Celtics, which means the Warriors will have a tougher road to get through on their way back to the NBA Finals.
So, in summary, although the playoffs are interesting, the end result is still the same: Both the Cavs and the Warriors are on their way back to the Finals this coming June 2017. And if you're still asking who will win the Finals, it's too early to say. The Warriors are the favorites, but, LeBron is still the best player in the league and it's not even close. We will make an official prediction come June!
Which NBA Team will win the 2017 NBA Finals & Take Home a Championship Trophy?
2017 has been an interesting year for the NBA, and will likely feature the FIRST EVER GRUDGE MATCH between the last two champions. Consider how crazy that is! Never in the NBA have the two prior champions faced off in another matchup. Granted, it hasn't happened yet, but the Golden State Warrios and Cleveland Cavaliers are obviously heavily favored to face off in the NBA Finals in 2017, to the point that there is almost no reason for me to write about other fringe contenders such as the Toronto Raptors (they're not ready yet), Milwaukee Bucks (also not ready), the Houston Rockets (fun regular season team but that's it), San Antonio Spurs (they can't beat GSW), Los Angeles Clippers (they are the same exact team the last 3 years), and maybe mayyybe the Memphis Grizzlies (they don't have the depth to make it to the Finals).
2017 Eastern Conference Finals Contenders
Cleveland Cavaliers will Return to the Finals
Look, the East is certainly getting better, but it’s still the East. There is no reason that the Cavaliers should not make the Finals this year, unless LeBron James gets hurt. That’s right – even if Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love go down (only one of them), they will still make the Finals because Lebron is a top 3 all time player still in his prime. Sure, Toronto got better. And they will put up a fight. But the Cavs actually got better too – they resisted the urge to trade Love for Melo, and instead they picked up Deron Williams for free! Talk about filling their need for a playmaker, and finally filling Delly’s vacated position from last year. As for the Finals themselves, well, that’s another story, and we will revisit that the closer we get to May and June 2017.
Toronto Raptors Playoff Success
Toronto didn’t land a superstar, but they got better that’s for sure. Adding Serge Ibaka (borderline All Star) as well as PJ Tucker makes them a deeper team no doubt. I wouldn’t say that the Cavs are afraid of the Raps, but they should be worried. With Lowry back to full health soon, and DeRozan carrying their offense in the meantime, this is a formidable team, and probably the best Raps team that the Cavs will face. The series will go 6 games at least. But that means that the Cavs have to win in Toronto. LeBron won’t lose this series, but it will be tough.
Boston Celtics Not Good Enough
As we wrote about here, the Celtics didn’t acquire a big time player, and essentially gave up on this season. Had they acquired Jimmy Butler, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, or DeMarcus Cousins, then they could beat the Cavs. But they didn’t. Whether that was the right move is a question for another time. But as currently constructed THERE IS NO WAY IN HELL they are beating the Cavs. Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford are nice players, but they need 1 more bonafide star in order to be a real Finals contender in June 2017.
The Wizards and Hawks are fine teams. But get real. They ain’t beating LeBron even if they were spotted 2-0 leads in their respective playoff series.
2017 Western Conference Finals Contenders
Warriors Can’t Be Stopped
This might be the greatest NBA team ever, and we won’t know until the Finals ends. This is because they just won 73 games, and then added the 3rd best player in Kevin Durant to their team!! Granted, they gave up some of their bench to do so, and might be top heavy. But Zaza Pachulia is filling in nicely, and Durant more than replaces Harrison Barnes. The question is, does Steph Curry get hurt again? Does Draymond Green control his temper and avoid suspensions this year? I’m not sure. The Warriors are the favorites to make the Finals and win it too, but it’s certainly no slam dunk.
The Spurs' Fine Tuned Machine
Every year we look at the Spurs and wonder when they will break down. Not this year folks. Kawhi Leonard has turned into a superstar, and LeMarcus Aldridge who was an All Star has turned into a pretty effective second fiddle. The question with this team is, how the hell can they match up the firepower with the Warriors. Leonard can’t be stopped, fine, but what else do they have? Can Aldridge step up and provide the 25 ppg needed to make them competitive? Does Tony Parker have gas left in the tank? I love the Spurs, but this might just be an impossible climb for them.
Are the Rockets for Real?
Head coach Mike D’Antoni wants them to shoot 50 3’s a game. That is literally insane. But considering they have the guys to do it: James Harden, Eric Gordon, Louis Williams, Ryan Anderson – well, it could happen. The Rockets actually have a higher chance of beating GSW than the Spurs do, and that’s because Houston can actually go toe for toe with the Warriors in terms of shooting and scoring. Assuming Harden goes off for 40+ ppg in 2 of the games, and I’d say the Rockets have a better shot than most people think.
Everyone likes to say the Clippers have a shot because they have 2 top 10 players. Get real. They get blown out by Golden State every regular season game. It’s not happening. They are simply not deep enough. The Jazz are also a nice game, but they aren’t making it past the first round.
The interesting teams are the Grizz and Thunder. (No, the Pelicans are not interesting just because they have the best frontcourt tandem since Duncan and Robinson, since they have zero guards). The Grizzlies are interesting because they do have that tough frontcourt, but with an actual All Star caliber player in Mike Conley. The Grizz style of ball is good for playoff basketball. I don’t care who they are playing – they will take any team in the NBA to 6 games. And if that happens, then all it takes is an injury or suspension and they can slip by. The Thunder on the other hand don’t really have a shot at making it to the NBA Finals in June 2017, but it will definitely be fun to watch Russel Westbrook in playoff mode, especially if he gets to go against former teammate Kevin Durant.
Vegas Betting Odds TO WIN THE 2017 NBA FINALS:
|Team & Odds|
JUNE 17th, 16-17 UPDATE: Wow, what a game for the Cavs! LeBron James turned in another 41 point performance, and Tristan Thompson came up huge with 15 points, 16 boards, and a handful of thunderous alleyoop slams. Kyrie had a few points as well. Interestingly enough for the Cavs, Kevin Love once again gave them zero production. Although to be fair, he did get in early foul trouble, but it was quite shocking to see his putrid stat line.
As for the Warriors, well, Steph had 30 and Klay 25 points, but they got nothing from Draymond Green, who had an underwhelming 8 points. Considering they lost by 14, it is imperative for Green to provide some offensive punch, especially considering that Harrison Barnes has been absolutely putrid in this NBA Finals, with an 0-8 performance last night, and 2-14 the night prior. As for who will win game 7 of the NBA Finals, I am sticking with my original bet, which is Cavs in 7. Sure, no one's ever come back from a 3-1 deficit. But the Cavs have momentum, as well as a top 3-5 all time greatest NBA player in LeBron James.
June 12th UPDATE: So many twists and turns in this year's NBA Finals! The Cavs romped the Warriors in game 3 and then gave the game away in game 4. But now, it seems that the NBA has given something back to the Cavs, in the form of a suspension for Draymond Green for his groin hit on LeBron James in game 4. There are two obvious questions here: Did Green deserve the punishment? And does his suspension really hurt the Warriors?
The answers are yes and yes. In terms of the punishment, though it seems harsh, was actually the culmination of a number of flagrant fouls that Green had amassed in the playoffs. The 4th flagrant foul results in an automatic suspension. Although the hit itself wasn't so outrageous (LeBron needled Green by stepping over him), the collective acts of all of Green's fouls brought him the suspension. In terms of hurting the Warriors, I leave you this statistic, courtesy of Zach Lowe:
Basically, with no Green in the lineup, the Warriors lose their 2nd or 3rd best player, as well as the centerpiece of their "lineup of death". Sure, Curry and Thompson can get hot on their own, but it will be very difficult without their emotional leader Draymond Green.
June 7th UPDATE: Wow! Cavs are not looking good. I personally chose Cavs in 7 over the Warriors and I'm not going to pull out from that bet now. As I wrote below, the Cavs have the one player who can take over a game even when his shot isn't falling. In game 3, expect LeBron to put his head down and drive to the rim. Again and again. Expect Tristan Thompson to trail him so that he can clean up any messes. Expect Love, Smith, and Kyrie to spread out so that LeBron can kick it out for the open 3. This play is their one move in which they are superior than Golden State. As for the Warriors, they are looking good both offensively and defensively. Sure, Curry and Thompson haven't exploded yet, but so what? Credit Tyrone Lue for shutting them down. Additionally, I don't think Draymond will be able to maintain the torrid pace he is at. I know that most pundits have the Warriors winning the NBA Finals, I'm stick with Cavs in 7.
June 2nd UPDATE: Okay folks, the NBA Finals are here. And in the world of Steph Curry and friends, that means one thing: The Golden State Warriors are the favorites to win it all. Or at least that's what Vegas and pretty much every single sports outlet says. And though in my brain I think the Warriors will indeed win, I'm actually going to bet on the Cavs to win…in 7. Why?
First of all, the odds are really good. I think this series is going 7 games. And if you choose either team to win in 7, you can get really good odds. So I plan to bet on Cavs in 7, and I'll throw down a little on the Dubs to win in 7 as well, to cover my losses.
But the primary reason that I like the Cavs is simple: they are hungry. Can you imagine LeBron, who will go down as one of the 7 best players of all time, losing 3 Finals' in a row? Can you imagine the Cavs, better than last year's team (added Kyrie, Love, Frye, and Lue as coach) losing to the Warriors 2 years in a row? Did you know that out of the 9 last Finals rematches, 8 of them were won by the team that lost the previous year?? Yea, there's a reason for that. Because championship winners get hangovers. And if they are facing the very team they beat the year before, forget about it.
Sure, the Warriors had a thrilling comeback in their down 3-1 series against the Thunder. It was great to watch, and the Thunder were a much harder matchup than the joke Raptors. However, the Warriors are tired, and got rattled against the Thunder. Had Klay Thompson not drained 11 (!) 3's in game 6, the Warriors would be chilling in South Beach.
And although one popular theory is that the Cavs are actually a worse team against GS with Kyrie and Love back, because they are not defensive players, and the Dubs struggle against gritty, grind it out types like Dellavedova and Tristan Thompson, (and Mozgov to a degree, due to his size), that isn't the case necessarily. Lue is using Love in ways that Blatt wasn't. The Cavs have real spacing now, and their own lineup of death with Love at center, and LBJ at power forward is fascinating. I'd love to see Harrison Barnes chase around LeBron all game. Good luck.
In terms of defense, I do think that Delly will get more PT this series than the last 3 combined, because he did do a decent job on Curry in last year's NBA Finals. Even though Kyrie is not great on D, he'll get his PT. I expect to see Delly play alongside Kyrie in the backcourt, with JR or Shump playing at the 3, with LBJ at the 4, and Love at the 5. Tristan and Frye will rotate minutes at the 5 and 4.
I think the Cavs can win the NBA Finals in 7 games. It will be tough, and they are definitely the underdogs, but ultimately they want and need it more. LeBron can still take over a game or a series. Expect him to do this time. For himself, and for Cleveland.
May 24th UPDATE: The OKC Thunder have officially taken control on the Western Conference Finals, after blowing out the Warriors in game 3. They now lead 2-1. Now, before everyone gets into a hissyfit, remember that the Warriors were down 2-1 last year TWO separate times! They were down to Memphis and later to Cleveland. It's ridiculous that the ESPN NBA analysts all keep changing their picks after each game. Even Nate Silver has jumped on the OKC bandwagon and given them a 56% chance of beating GSW. LOL! As if the Warriors didn't just win 73 games this past year. Analysts are a joke!
As for the Cavs, well, no one expects them to lose this series. It's cute that the Raptors tied the series up at 2-2, but I can tell you that the Vegas odds are going to be heavily slanted toward the Cavs returning to home court for game 5. LeBron is a top 7 all time player, and guys like that don't go down easy. He will take over the series and bring them to the Finals.
May 10th UPDATE: As we correctly predicted in this article, Steph Curry is officially injured with a tweaked ankle. The question that many fans have is, should Steve Kerr have played Steph Curry in game 4? In retrospect it's easy to say "hell no!". But even before it happened, the whole league and its fanbase (including this podcast host!) were practically shouting that Steph Curry is still a brittle player. Sure, he had a remarkable injury-free run last year, but that was and is bound to catch up with him. Additionally, I would argue that any #1 seed, especially a legendary one, should be able to beat an 8th seed even without their best player. The Warriors without Steph are still an elite team, and would have handled the Rockets regardless of how many points James Harden weasels his way to. At this point, Curry could rest a week, but he won't be 100% for the next series, and in the Conference Finals, the hungry and rested San Antonio Spurs will be chomping at the bit to take on the Steph-less Warriors.
Original Mid-season Finals Preview Article:
Most NBA pundits are predicting that the Golden State Warriors will win the NBA Finals in June, and that would certainly be the easy prediction to make.
However, I would like to argue that the road to the NBA Finals will be much harder than last year, and winning it is another story altogether.
Check out this awsome mini-movie about last year's underrated Finals:
The Golden State Warriors are Back
Last year, the Warriors lucked out with a few aspects: they avoided the San Antonio Spurs, who were defeated by the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers were then knocked out by the Houston Rockets, considered to be an inferior team.
This year, however, things will be different. The Warriors are almost certain to lock heads with the Spurs, since the teams will likely finish as the 1-2 seed in the West, meaning that as long as they win their first 2 individual playoff series, they will face each other in the conference finals.
The main question for the Warriors becomes injuries. Can they stay healthy again? It is quite remarkable and unbelievable that Steph Curry has remained healthy after early career ankle injuries. Remember folks, those ankle injuries were serious enough that he signed a below market value contract of 4 years for $44 million extension! The fact that they haven’t resurfaced is downright puzzling.
Additionally, Curry played over 100 games last season! That has got to start taking its toll on him as he continues toward another 100 game season. Remember, the playoffs are more physical – if Curry gets pushed around by a physical Clippers or Grizzlies team, then his injury risk jumps. We’ve also seen injuries to Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes this season as well.
The Hungry San Antonio Spurs
This is probably Tim Duncan’s last season, and it is safe to say that he is hungry as ever to win an NBA championship, especially in light of last season’s surprising first round flameout against the Clippers.
Of course, Duncan has finally started to show signs of decline, and might not even warrant being on the floor in the final minutes of the 4th quarter.
That’s okay, though, as the Spurs picked up a huge offseason acquisition in LeMarcus Aldridge, who is capable of hitting a bit shot or 2 when needed. Aldridge, is the ideal big man in today’s NBA: he can bang in the paint, play solid defense, but also hit long range shots. He might not be a reliable 3 point shooter, but the fact that he can drill 17 footers in his sleep gives more than enough range for the Spurs to operate around him.
The continued emergence of Kawhi Leonard is another great thing for this team. He has turned into a legitimate MVP candidate (if Steph Curry isn’t included), and provides underrated ferocious defense to go along with his suddenly very solid offensive game.
Leonard’s value is simply the ability to shut down an opposing player – whether it is LeBron James or Steph Curry. Sure – Kawhi had trouble against Steph when the Spurs faced the Warriors in the regular season, but that’s fine. Kawhi definitely slowed him down a bit, and is a weapon that most teams don’t have.
The Urgency of the Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavs are the favorites to make the Finals in the East, as they basically cruised their last season, and are now fully healthy and starting to gel. There are some risks with this team, however.
Injuries to Kyrie Irving are always liable to pop up. Kyrie is a very brittle player, and was unable to contribute in last year’s Finals trip. Kevin Love has had back issues in the past, and the Cavs can only hope that he remains healthy. LeBron James has a ton of miles and plays at a bruising pace. His physical play makes him liable to get hurt, and he too remains an injury risk.
The shocking midseason coaching change from David Blatt to Tyron Lue has begun to pay dividends, as the Cavs are cruising, and their uptempo offense has Kevin Love finally finding his groove.
The Cavs are expected to win the East with modest ease. The question for them is whether or not they can beat the Warriors or the Spurs in the Finals. If LeBron can replicate his insanely amazing performance from 2015's NBA Finals, then the Cavs are in good shape:
Although the Spurs, Cavs, and Warriors are the three current favorites to win the NBA Finals in June, there are a few other teams that have punchers’ chances. Fortunately for the Cavs, one of these teams is a longshot from the East, while the West has two other formidable teams which have a very outside shot of crashing the Finals in June.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Remember the Finals from 2012
Ever since they traded away James Harden to the Houston Rockets, the Thunder have been very good, but simply not as good as they used to be. Remember, they made the Finals in 2012 with Harden, and they have since replaced him with spare parts which have not gotten the job done.
However, when a team had two players who arguably top 5 in the league, it is hard to dismiss them as legit contenders. Kevin Durant is back to his MVP-self, averaging over 27 points per game with 51% shooting from the field. Oh, and he is knocking down 39% from 3. Combine that with Russell Westbrook’s 24 points and 10 assists per game, and you have a devastating combination.
One issue with the Thunder is depth. Beyond the front court muscle of Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams, it gets thin very quickly. Sure, they have a low post scorer in Enes Kanter, but his complete lack of defensive acumen is embarrassing. Their guard situation isn’t great either, with Dion Waiter s and Andre Roberson providing erratic scoring. Anthony Morrow can hit 3’s but he’s only getting 14 minutes per game.
In a one game playoff, the Thunder can beat anyone. And possibly a 3 game series. But in 7 games, I simply don’t think they have the depth to compete with the deeper Spurs or Warriors.
The Los Angeles Clippers Need Depth
The Clippers are also possess two incredible players, both of whom are in the top 10, in Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. But, much like the Thunder, the Clippers have a stunningly empty bench. Lance Stephenson did not turn into the rotation player that Doc Rivers gambled on, and Paul Pierce is a shell of his former self. And even though Dandre Jordan is a huge cog in the paint for rebounding, blocking shots, and help defense, he simply can’t stay on the floor at ends of games due to his horrendous foul shooting.
There have been talks of trading Blake Griffin for a piece that makes sense on this team, such as Kevin Love or Carmelo Anthony – two guys who have better offensive range than Griffin. However, until they do that, the Clippers are unlikely to make or even win the Finals this coming summer.
The Miami Heat Are Lurking
Although the Miami Heat are only in 5th place in the Eastern Conference, teams know that their starting 5 makes them a force to be reckoned with. Additionally, starting point guard Goran Dragic has underplayed thus far, and if he turns it on before the playoffs, it would not be outrageous for the Heat to find themselves returning to the NBA Finals, which they won 2 years ago.
There are two factors that can affect the Heat: Chris Bosh’s health, and his starting frontcourt mate Hassan Whiteside. The former has battled blood clot issues and might be benched yet again. Whiteside, despite a very good season thus far (a league-leading 3.9 blocks per game!), is considered to have a bad temperament, and unlikely to be resigned by the Heat this summer. There have been significant rumors stating that Whiteside may be traded straight up (along with salary cap filler) for Dwight Howard. If that trade happens, the Heat may very well shake up the East, and depending on how Howard fits, might give actual fits to the Cavs.
If the Heat can land Howard, I would not be shocked if they give the Cavs hell for 7 games and could have a decent chance at making the NBA Finals this June. Winning the NBA Finals, however, is unlikely, as both the Spurs and Warriors would still be able to handle the Heat.
Who Will Win the NBA Finals?
That question is hard to say. Most people point to last summer with the Cavs winning 2 games against the Warriors despite missing their 2nd and 3rd best players in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. However, a fully healthy Cavs team just got blown out by the Warriors during a regular season game, thereby blowing that logic out of the water.
It remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure – the Warriors are currently the favorites to win the NBA Finals come June.
Who do you think will win the NBA Finals in June?