Home All Sports NBA Playoffs: Contenders vs. pretenders

NBA Playoffs: Contenders vs. pretenders

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Stephen Curry. Photo by Cyrus Saatsaz
Stephen Curry. Photo by Cyrus Saatsaz

The NBA season has provided yet another dramatic, entertaining, and anxious year for their fans.

San Luis Obispo, located almost exactly between the Bay Area and Los Angeles, provides a competitive rivalry between the sports fans. Add in students from across the country who are attending college in the area, which creates an even better competition.

Unfortunately fans will likely miss out on another potential California rivalry playoff series like Los Angeles Dodgers vs. the San Francisco Giants this past fall. However, the Golden State Warriors are right in the mix of things in the Western Conference, while the Los Angeles Lakers are now officially out of the playoffs.

This being said, there are still many other teams from across the league that have true Championship hopes.

Western Conference

1. Phoenix Suns

The Suns have quietly cruised to a historic 63 win season with a couple more to go in the regular season. Despite Chris Paul missing time with injuries the team has shown off their incredible depth proving they are the most well rounded team in the whole Association. 

Monte Williams is in the running for coach of the year and has seen incredible growth throughout the team and Mikal Bridges could win defensive player of the year. Cam Johnson, Cameron Payne and Landry Shamet all give incredible offensive firepower to a team with likely First Team All NBA guard Devin Booker. 

Booker leads the team, putting up 26-5-5, and Deandre Ayton averages a double double with 17 and 10 every night. 

The Suns are the odds on favorite to win the west, trying to prove their last season finals run wasn’t a fluke. The only thing getting in the way could be injuries. Chris Paul isn’t getting any younger but Booker and Ayton are more than enough to give Paul a helping hand.

2. Golden State Warriors

An up and down season for the Warriors has created many question marks. There is no doubt about Steph Dray and Klay’s championship experience.

With Curry scheduled to return for the playoffs, the Warriors will look to gel back together in order to make a run. The surprising surge of young talent in the organization between Jordan Poole and Jonothan Kuminga kept the Warriors above water.  

Pool has been amazing all year, but stepping up another level since March has been crucial. Kuminga looks to make an impact as a high-flying and explosive rookie in the playoff rounds to come. 

Although the Warriors lack size down low, they are still my second favorites to come out of the west due to their experience, and ability for Steph Curry and Klay Thompson to light it up at any given moment; as well as Draymond anchoring one of the league’s top defenses this year.

3. Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies are full of young talent that keeps getting better as they play more games. 

All Star Starter Ja Morant was lighting things up on the national level with flashy dunks and 50 point games this season. However with Morant out with injury for 24 of their games this year the team showed their depth and overall talent. 

Jaren Jackson Jr., Desmond Bayne and Dillon Brooks all feel as if they need more credit and are playing with a chip on their shoulders. 

Head Coach Tayor Jenkins has been more than impressive and looks to make a run and prove that this 55 win team in the regular seasons is the real deal for years to come. Many would be shocked to see this team go the distance in its first playoff run, but that’s why they play the games. In my eyes they are the third most likely team to come out of the west.

Sleeper: Dallas Mavericks

The Mavs are led by All Star Luka Doncic. While I don’t see them as a true contender, a deep and surprising run could happen. 

Doncic is almost unstoppable at guard, and we have seen him give serious trouble to a Clippers team with both Paul George and Kawhi Leonard in the past seasons. 

To say the Mavericks are hot right now would be an understatement. They just beat the reigning World Champion Milwaukee Bucks, and are 32-12 since January 1. 

Eastern Conference 

1. Milwaukee Bucks

The reigning NBA champs have been turning it on as their big three of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kris Middleton and Jrue Holiday have all returned to play together for the last stretch of the season. 

Antetokounmpo has improved his free throw shot, as that was one of his only negative critiques in last year’s playoff. 

The Bucks hope to see Middleton light it up in the playoffs like he did last season and be able to close games with contested jumpers and big three point shots in the clutch. 

Holiday and center Brook Lopez, at full health, are two solid defenders that add to the depth of this Scary Bucks team. Although they may not grab the one seed in the east there is no doubt that they will be the favorites to come out of this conference, while relying on Giannis being as dominant as he can be. 

When the Bucks big three is all together and playing to 90% of their abilities the only one who could realistically take them down would be a thriving Nets team or maybe the sketchy and questionable coaching decisions that Head Coach Mike Budenholzer has made in his history of playoff failure.

2. Brooklyn Nets

You may be wondering why a team that is going to have to compete in the tournament to even get into the first round of the playoffs would be one of the top contenders in the East.

The answer to that is simple, Kevin Durant. The scariest player in the league that no one wants to play. If it wasn’t for his size 700 shoe touching the three point line and James Harden playing on one leg in the Eastern Conference Finals, we would have seen Durant and the Nets most likely take home the Larry O’brien trophy last year.

Durant is joined by fellow star, Kyrie Irving, who has finally been cleared to play games at home and has championship experience. 

The rest of the team is where there are question marks. They are very small and will have to rely on a non experienced Head Coach, Steve Nash, to plug the right guys in with KD and Kyrie. These question marks are big but not big enough to have anyone shocked if the Nets do indeed go on a run.

3. Boston Celtics

After starting off the year 17-18, the Celtics have made a historic run that NBA history has never seen figuring out their rotation with first year Head Coach Ime Udoka.

The Celtics have one of the best defenses in the whole league which has skyrocketed them to the top of the conference as they fight for a top seed in the last week of the regular season. 

Jayson Tatum is a certified star in the league and is capable of scoring 40 or 50 on any given night. His playmaking has impressed as he has gotten his teammates involved as well. 

Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart have been laying good basketball but aren’t quite trustworthy at the end of a playoff game. 

With a meniscus tear, defensive anchor Robert Williams is supposed to miss the first round at least, which significantly decreases the odds of Boston making a deep run as he leads the league in blocks. 

The Celtics will hope to get a favorable matchup in the first round without Williams to advance and get him back. If they can get into the second round with full health they will be a scary team to face for either the Nets or Bucks because of Tatum’s abilities and the overall team defense. 

Pretender: The Philadelphia 76ers

Acquired James Harden midway through the year and attempted to pair him up with potential MVP Joel Embiid. Unfortunately they have not lived up to the hype with the Harden trade taking away from much of their depth. Harden is a known choker in the playoffs, and Embiid’s style of play limits him in crunch time of playoff games. 

The Playoffs start on April 12th, and the World Championship is wide open for many to take. Players, coaches and fans will all be ready to see if their team is up for the challenge of winning an NBA Finals.