By Kevin White
The National Basketball Association (NBA) playoff seeding came down to the final day of the season. The Timberwolves played the Nuggets for the final playoff spot on Tuesday. The only seeds that had been determined at the time of the writing are the one and two in each conference, and the five-seed in the East (good job, Indiana Pacers!). While the actual matchups have yet to be determined, let’s talk about the storylines of the playoffs.
Success for Raptors and Rockets?: Both these teams grabbed the one-seed in their respective conferences, but both have a history of imploding in the playoffs. Famously, Rockets guard Chris Paul has never made it past the second round. The Rockets have been historically great, and have the probable Most Valuable Player (MVP) in James Harden. They should easily win the series against the eight-seed and whoever comes out of the 4-5 matchup. The Raptors, unfortunately, look scheduled to face the Cavaliers in the second round.
The Process!!!: The Philadelphia 76ers have arrived. Riding a double-digit game streak as of writing, the team has taken control of the three-seed. They also look to match up with an injured Celtics team in the second round. Philadelphia should be getting All-Star Center Joel Embiid back at some point during the postseason. Could the Process result in a finals berth?
Year of the Rookie: The Sixers have been driven by Rookie of the Year contender Ben Simmons. In the Western Conference, the Utah Jazz have gone 31-9 in the last 40 games, largely behind Rookie Donovan Mitchell. The Celtics may have to lean on their own rookie, Jayson Tatum, to score with the team’s injury issues. Those three players should make up 60 percent of the all-rookie team, and seeing the next generation of players enter the playoffs will be a treat.
Lower seed chaos: Imagine having to face Giannis Antetokounmpo in the first round. Or Russell Westbrook and Paul George. Those are top 10 players. While the NBA typically goes chalk, this year’s playoffs have the best chance for first-round upsets.
This probably doesn’t matter: LeBron James fears nobody in the East. He has shown his ability to beat the Raptors late this season. The Sixers have been great, but they are missing important playoff experience. In the Western Conference, the Warriors are still the Warriors. While Steph Curry’s injury is concerning, they still have Kevin Durant. I don’t know if I trust Houston to make a potential Western Conference Finals matchup competitive, let alone trust them to win a Game 7 against the Warriors.
76ers versus Rockets would be a fun change of pace. However, I have to base my picks off of history. When it comes to winning finals, one team reigns supreme: the Boston Celtics will win banner 18.
(Warriors over Cavs in 6. I stop caring about playoffs by game 2 of conference finals and start looking at the draft and free agency).