The wait is over. No, not that wait, the NFL won’t be back for a few months, but after a relatively uneventful last few weeks of the season where players seemed to rest more than actually played, the NBA Playoffs are here. That means intense, exciting, passionate, meaningful basketball every single night.
Just like we did for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, we’ll have some predictions for the first round of the NBA Playoffs before the games begin Saturday but until then, what are the most intriguing story lines heading into the post-season?
Win-Win For Boston
The Boston Celtics locked up the top seed in the Eastern Conference and because of some results below them over the last week of the season, they also have the best shot at the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. How did we get here? The Brooklyn Nets traded multiple First Round picks to the Celtics in 2013 and the C’s are still reaping those rewards. For a young team that has a chance to win now but could be even more primed for the future, this is a clear win-win for the Boston Celtics.
LeBron Chose His Own Path
Yes, the Boston Celtics did what they had to do to claim the top spot in the East but I’d like to think there is a method to the madness for LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The top of the Eastern Conference bracket is stacked and LeBron likely didn’t want to put his less than healthy, or impressive, Cavs through that murderer’s row. Instead, he opted for a slightly easier road, one that goes through Indiana and Toronto, instead of Chicago and Washington.
There Can Only Be One
There are a few other players that have been thrust into the MVP conversation over the last few weeks but the only two that hold any water, in my expert opinion, are James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Harden and Westbrook are pitted against each other in the opening round and after spending the year making triple-doubles commonplace and creating enough highlights each night to warrant their own Top Ten rundowns this will certainly be the most exciting battle in the opening round.
Wild, Wild West
While there was a shakeup in the East, with Boston stealing the top seed, the consensus is that LeBron and the Cavaliers will represent the East in the NBA Finals. The debates about who they’ll face though, seem to be endless. The easy pick, is that the Golden State Warriors and their super-team will return to a third straight Finals and reclaim their crown. The San Antonio Spurs, led by MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard, may have other plans. They are, hopefully, on course for a collision in the Western Conference finals and with all due respect to LeBron, whoever wins that matchup should be the last left standing when it is all said and done.