The most exciting time of the year is around the corner for NBA fans. The NBA playoffs are set to start this weekend on Saturday. After another astonishing regular season, all the fans in the world are ready for the playoffs to start; but are you ? Here are the key things to know before you start making your predictions.
WILL THE NORTH BREAK THE ICE ?
What a year it has been for the first seeded Toronto Raptors. They have played amazing basketball and managed to be TOP 5 in Most points scored per game but also in least points allowed per game. The Raptors have now been to the playoffs for 5 years in a row but always seem to fall short. Last year, they were swept 4-0 in the Eastern Semi-Finals by the Cavs and the seemingly everlasting king of the eastern conference, LeBron James. However this year, Serge Ibaka (bottom) has been added to the superstar loaded backcourt of Demar DeRozan (top left) and Kyle Lowry (top right). This could finally be the year where the only Canadian franchise in the league will manage to breakthrough and earn a spot in the NBA Finals.
NO LUCK FOR THE IRISH
The Boston Celtics have had a terrific season with their young roster, bloated with potential. Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier who are in their first or second seasons respectively, have all had a breakout year, averaging more points and minutes played than ever before. The additions of strong squad-minded players such as Marcus Morris, Al Horford and Greg Monroe have proven to be valuable assets for the Celtics as they led the league for most of the season. However, their luck seemed to turn around at the end of March when supestar point guard Kyrie Irving (top) went down with a knee injury, which unfortunately required surgery. He will not be able to play for the rest of the playoffs, without forgetting the absence of Gordon Hayward who suffered a catastrophic leg injury in the first game of the season. Will this lead to their downfall or will their young future superstars shine to bring the 17th title back to Boston.
PHILADELPHIA, NEW CAPITAL CITY OF SPORTS ?
With the success of the Eagles in the Superbowl and Villanova in the NCAA championship. Philadelphia has the chance to become the most titled city in American Sports this year if their 76ers manage to go all the way. The sixers have been a surprise this year, they havent made the playoffs since the 2011/2012 but they have still managed to earn the third seed in the east. This was obviously due to the young frontcourt pair of Joel Embiid (bottom) and Ben Simmons (top), two young players which many believe will be the faces of the league in the near future. They have both suffered long term injuries in the past but have both fully recovered and seem to be on the right path for success. The addition of the excellent three point shooter, J.J. Redick, and the first pick of last years draft, Markelle Fultz, could give the 76ers a shot at the title.
STILL KINGS OF THE EAST ?
It has been a very tough year for the Cleveland Cavaliers; with the departure of Kyrie Irving, the injury of Isaiah Thomas, the Isaiah Thomas trade, Kevin Love’s mental health issues and now a new roster with young but inexperienced players (bottom). LeBron has never made the finals being seeded lower than third, so this will clearly be a challenge for him and his squad. But seriously, is there a year when LeBron James doesn’t make the NBA Finals ?
With eight Finals appearances in total, (7 in a row; since 2011), LeBron seems to bring whoever is playing along with him to the finals. So why should we doubt him this season, averaging 27/9/10 he could be in the midst of a fifth MVP season which would tie him up with all time great, Michael Jordan. Undeniably the greatest player in the league, arguably of all time, LeBron can turn any roster in the league into a definite Championship contender. Having missed the playoffs only once in his career, LeBron will use his experience to rally a young athletic team through these playoffs.
OLADIPO; A BIG SURPRISE.
A surprise for Victor Oladipo and the Indiana Pacers, finishing 5th in the east. It was widely thought that the loss of Paul George to Oklahoma City would hold them back this season. They still managed to finish higher than last yeat and win more games than OKC, George’s new team. Led by the young athletic guard in Oladipo who leads the league in steals, the Pacers will continue to push against the odds in the postseason.
WILL MIAMI HEAT UP ?
A good season for Miami has granted them a ticket to the playoffs. Will the exciting pick and roll duo of Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside step it up a notch to overcome the young Philadelphia team. Dwayne Wade is also back where he belongs, the legendary #3 of the Miami Heat is not what he was a decade ago but can, for sure still play. The American Airlines Arena is always a tough atmosphere to play in for the away teams as the fans in South Beach are some of the best in the world of sports.
BIG BUCKS ?
This Bucks team is surely worth more than a seventh seed, unfortunately this season was highlighted by many injuries for Milwaukee. Despite this, the squad is now full and healthy again. With the newest big sensation of the league, Giannis Antetokounmpo (left), the addition of the elite defensive guard in Eric Bledsoe (center), the young talented core of
Khris Middleton, Jabari Parker & Malcolm Brogdon and the valuable experience of
Coach Kidd (right), the Bucks could turn a seven seed into long playoff run.
JOHN WALL IS BACK FOR SOME MAGIC.
The Wizards were very lucky to earn a playoff spot this year. John Wall’s absence put a lot of pressure on his young wingman Bradley Beal (right) who has led the team in scoring with 22.8 PPG.
John Wall (left) having recovered from his injury, will be back to create for his teammates during these playoffs. Could he lift the Wizard past the Raptors for a big upset in the first round.
HOUSTON ON TOP OF THE UNIVERSE.
The Rockets have had the best season in franchise history, tallying 65 wins. James Harden (right), averaging 31/9/5 will be the primary contender for the MVP trophy after his tremendous season, surely it will finally be his turn to be crowned MVP after so many years of excellence. Leading his team to the top of the Western Conference and the NBA, but also past the fan favorites Golden State Warriors. Chris Paul (left) has been very important for the team in his first season at Houston, helping with the orchestration of the offense and lifting some weight off James Harden’s shoulders. These Rockets seem that they can fly past anyone this postseason but will they be able to keep their elite level of play during the important moments.
GOLDEN STATE; STILL FAVORITES FOR THE TITLE ?
It has been one of the most competitive seasons we have ever seen in the history of the NBA and the Warriors don’t seem to be as dominant as previous seasons. The current title holders will try to defend what they manage to get their hands on last year. It will be a challenge for all-stars Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green to get through this year’s three playoff series before the Finals. Will we see a fourth Warriors v. Cavaliers finals matchup in a row, or will things be switched up. Golden State fans will hope that the team, one of the best NBA rosters of all times, will manage to slide past it concurrents and bring the third championship to the Bay area in the last 4 years.
DAME TIME ?
One of the big suprises of the 2017/2018 season was the come-back of the Portland Trail Blazer in the last couple of months. With a dozen weeks left in the regular season, Portland was still struggling to enter the playoff picture, standing 9th in the Western Conference. However a perfect month of March (15-0) meant the Blazers were back in the playoff picture but also 3rd in the West. Damian Lillard (right) and CJ McCollum (left) form an explosive duo, arguably the best backcourt in the league. Both of them combined for 40.8 PPG, the highest for two players in the same team. The Oregon State franchise hasn’t been to the NBA finals since the Clyde Drexler ere in the early 90s. Will this be the year for the 1977 NBA Champions.
THE WEST FOR WESTBROOK ?
Coming off, probably what was the best back-to-back of regular seasons for a single player in the history on the NBA in terms of numbers, Westbrook (right) will want to capitalise on his efforts and lead his team through this jam-packed west. The playoff experience of Carmelo Anthony (left) and Paul George (center) will be prove to be beneficial for the OKC Thunder. They seek success as since the 2010 season they have lost in the first round twice (2010,2017), in the west semis once (2013), in the west finals three times (2011, 2014, 2015) and lost their only finals matchup in 2012 against the Heat and LeBron James. They will be hoping to count on the new big three as they all combine for 218 playoff games in between them.
JAZZ ON TOP; HOW DOES IT SOUND ?
Many people in the NBA community believed the loss of Gordon Hayward to the Celtics would affect the roster and send them into a rebuilding spiral like many other teams out west. However, the Utah Jazz managed to 48 games and qualify 5th; 3 seeds higher than last year. This is mostly because of the 2017 NBA Draft, as the Jazz found themselves a gem with the 13th pick by selecting 20 year old Donovan Mitchell (top) form the University of Louisville. He has averaged 20.5 PPG this season, more than any other rookie and is the favorite to win the Rookie of The Year award. Additionally, talented frenchman, Rudy Gobert, has recovered from his ankle injury and will bring his shotblocking skills to the table.
AD WITH NO BOOGIE.
Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins are surely the best pair of big men in the league. Unfortunately, since January, Cousins has been sidelindes with a serious achilles injury that will keep him away from the court until next season. Anthony Davis will have to battle it out in these playoffs. But he won't be completely alone, the spanish forward Nikola Mirotic has managed to fit in since he has been traded from the Bulls. Mirotic scored 25, 31, 28 and 24 points in the last four games of the season. Jrue Holiday is also a strong piece to what the Pelicans have built this season. The playoff experience of Rajon Rondo will be helpful to contain the emotions of the young guys and keep them focused on the goal.
Tough season for Kawhi Leonard, an injury to his left ankle against the Warriors in the conference finals last year meant his season was cut short. He did make a come back around October but then suffer another injury to his calf. He hasn’t returned since then and many believe that this will eliminate any of the Spurs’ chances to reach the Finals. On the positive side, LaMarcus Aldridge has managed to pickup the slack by averaging 22 PPG. The 31 year old forward will be a strong asset for the Spurs. Even if this Spurs team is seen as old and on the decline, the legends of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili will want to prove that they still have something to offer at 36 and 40 years old. Gregg Popovich is one of the best and if not the best coach in NBA history; because of his genius, San Antonio has now been to the playoffs for 21 years straight, the longest streak in NBA history. Picking up 5 championships on his way, Coach Pop is always going to bring out the maximum of all of his players.
FULL MOON IN MINNESOTA?
An encouraging season for the young T-Wolves as they manage to steal the last spot in the west. Sitting 3rd for most of the season, many thought the Timberwolves would cruise to the post-season. However the knee injury of Jimmy Butler sent them into a losing spiral. Jimmy is back, healthy and ready to score some points for the Wolves. In fact, while tied for the 8th seed, his 31/5/5 performance in the last game of the season against Denver meant they sent the Nuggets home and qualified for the playoffs. This hasn’t been the case since 2004 and Kevin Garnett where the team managed to reach the Conference Finals.