The only three words in existence that supersede “I love you” happen to be “NBA playoff basketball.”
Thankfully, this year’s match ups show an interesting pair of dominance and high expectations, with the future of certain teams like the Los Angeles Clippers hanging by a thread.
Here are my personal predictions, for the first round stage of the 2017 NBA playoffs, regardless of the first game results.
Golden State Warriors vs Portland Trailblazers (Warriors in 4)
The Warriors are the favorites to win it all, it’s that simple. Dub nation boasts four all stars equally being four all NBA candidates, in Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green, who I like to call Donkey from Shrek.
Regardless of my personal dislike for the team, because of the fire power the Warriors possess paired with a top three defensive rating in the league, I think the Warriors down the Trailblazers in four games.
The sweep has nothing to do with the trailblazers necessarily being a bad team, because they have a top five back court in Damian Lillard and C.J Mocullum, in my humble opinion.
I think Rip City, led by Head Coach Terry Stotts, could make some noise, especially on home ground, but ultimately, I don’t think they can take a game from a Warriors team with arguably four of the NBA’s top 20 players.
L.A Clippers vs Utah Jazz (Jazz in 6)
The Clippers have an interesting team, with the power of Blake Griffin, intimidating defense of DeAndre Jordan, sharpshooting of J.J Reddick and veteran leadership of one of the best passing point guards ever, in Chris Paul.
With giving respect where it is due, I think the Jazz have a better overall roster, which is led by one time NBA all star, Gordon Hayward.
Hayward’s game has grown tremendously since he came into the league and now can boast to be one of the most versatile players in his position.
In addition, the man has great hair. He’s an underrated dunker who can finish in the paint, hit a mid range jumper and even shoot the three ball, which is important in today’s NBA.
Hayward, Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert, who may return from injury, can match, if not hold, the Clippers down defensively.
In addition, the Jazz have the veteran presence of Joe Johnson. “Iso Joe” has had an underrated career, but the veteran and seven time all star has the clutch gene in him. If you need any proof, you can check out how he closed out the first game against the Clippers last weekend.
The Clippers, led by Doc Rivers, are a good team, don’t get me wrong, but because of injuries that have plagued them in the past and lack of success in the payoffs in recent years, I personally don’t see them beating this strong Jazz team in a seven game series regardless of the big three they have.
San Antonio Spurs vs Memphis Grizzlies (Spurs in 5)
Kawhi Leonard. That, in my opinion, is the difference in this series, because he’s stepped up and shown that this Poppovich team isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
With the departure of Tim Duncan, the greatest Power Forward of all time in my opinion, Leonard has embraced the role to be the leader of the team. Because of him, Jonathan Simmons, great veterans around him and good shooters in Patty Mills and Danny Green, I can see the Poppovich discipline getting the upper hand against the Memphis Grizzlies.
For Memphis, it doesn’t help that Tony Allen, one of the best defensive two guards in the league is out with an injury.
Also, I think Chandler Parsons is the most overpaid player in the league, who consistently is either injured or below expectations.
They do however have Marc Gasol and Mike Conley who ARE a dynamic pair offensively. This may be the series that surprises me, but I truly cannot see a Greg Poppovich team getting bounced in the first round of the playoffs.
Houston Rockets vs Oklahoma City Thunder (Rockets in 5)
The two front runners for the illustrious MVP award face off in this match up and I believe that it’s important to give respect where it’s due.
Russell Westbrook is a force of nature and I don’t believe I’ve seen anyone in the NBA play with the veracity he possesses. He stepped up after Kevin Durant left and made what would be a lottery team without him a playoff team.
He broke the triple double record and ended up averaging a triple double, and although in my opinion, Stephen Adams and Enes Kanter intentionally leave rebounds for him to grab, it’s still an amazing feat.
Westbrook has done what people thought was impossible to see and the man is, in my opinion, un guardable.
James Harden has also elevated his game, especially compared to last year’s season where he wasn’t as good as he should have been.
Harden, to me, has proven that he can share the ball and get his teammates going, especially after being criticized of being a ball hog and a liability defensively. I’m not saying he should make any of the all defensive teams, but he has improved defensively as well.
In my opinion, one of the many reasons Westbrook may be picked over Harden for the MVP award would be because of the whole triple double fever. If you take out the term “triple double” and look at their stats, their numbers are virtually identical, with Harden shooting about five times less than Westbrook on average.
Some may say that Harden has more help in the shooters his team has, but I don’t think you can blame a good Rockets front office for providing a good team conducive to Harden’s success.
Regardless, I may still personally pick Westbrook as my MVP, but at the same time, I wouldn’t be devastated if Harden takes it home. After all, he was the runner up two years ago.
With a great pick and roll partnership of him and Clint Capella, coupled with the marksmanship of Eric Gordon, Lou Williams and Ryan Anderson, the Rockets have an arsenal of snipers at the disposal of Head Coach, Mike D’Antoni.
I truly cannot see the Thunder team outscoring a team like the Rockets, that are designed to easily put up 115 points a night, but I do believe that Westbrook can have a monster performance where he steals a game or two from the Rockets. I will give Westbrook that, because of the unstoppable force he proves himself to be.
I’ll do my Eastern Conference predictions next week, but what do you think? As always, please let us know what your predictions are on the Hope College Anchor website.