With the NBA regular season wrapped up for another year, and packed with intriguing storylines and stat-lines, we now enter the business end of the season: the playoffs. Do or die ball. After Russell Westbrook and James Harden’s MVP battle, LeBron James maintaining his normal standards, and teams such as the Celtics and Bucks surprising many with just how swiftly they are rebuilding, the regular season was one to remember. But now teams do battle with the threat of their season coming to an abrupt end, and their quest for the Larry O’Brien Trophy being put on hold for another year.
I’m expecting Kevin Durant in particular to be clutch as the Warriors narrowly conquer the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals, while the Cavs will make light work of the Wizards in the Eastern Conference. From there, we get a glorious repeat of last year’s finals series. God I loved it. Enticing match ups of LeBron and Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Steph Curry, Klay Thomson and the top-tier defence of Iman Shumpert, and Draymond Green trying to kick the nuts of anyone in sight. The Cavaliers have shown that if they make it this far, by this point they are inevitably running as a beautifully oiled machine. So expect this series to both go to the full seven, and contain more iconic moments like LeBron’s block on Andre Iguoadala or Kyrie’s three over Curry.
To keep you in the loop, here’s a few key predictions for the playoffs:
Lebron James to Average a Triple-Double Throughout the Playoffs
Yeah yeah, Westbrook did this during the season (31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists) and Harden came awfully close (29.1 points, 11.2 assists, 8.1 rebounds) without potentially stat-padding, but LeBron is definitely in his zone come post-season, and averaged 29.7 points, 11.3 assists and 8.9 rebounds IN THE FINALS last season. The man truly is a contender with Jordan for the G.O.A.T. (greatest of all-time) and another ring this season would go a long way towards making that argument overwhelming.
Oh and there’s also the small matter of LeBron likely becoming the all-time playoffs leading scorer. Only Jordan (leading with 5,987), Kobe Bryant and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar have more points currently. Having knocked off 57 in the first two games against the Indiana Pacers, he only needs 358 more points to become the King of another throne.
Ryan Anderson to Shoot over .500 From Three-Point Range For The Houston Rockets
The Rockets outfit has built their playoffs charge on James Harden’s well thought out move to point-guard and a barrage of three pointers from the likes of Harden, Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson. Anderson will likely be given the sole roll of letting fly in the post-season, and expect him to up these numbers to .500 as Harden opens the floor with his distribution.
If Harden, as he likely will, wins the clash with Russ and our beloved Stevie in the first round then he comes up against Pop’s semi-arousingly structured Spurs in the second round. Outwitting Kawhi Leonard on defence will be the key here. Ha. Good luck.
Celtics and Wizards To Go To Seven
If they get past the Bulls and the Hawks respectively in the first-round, as they are expected to, then we get the beautiful John Wall vs. Isaiah Thomas collision in the second round. Although the Wizards rank fifth in PPG (points per game), the Celtics rank ninth in defensive least PPG given up. Al Horford, Avery Bradley and company will have to be working overtime on Wall (10.7 assists per game), Bradley Beal (averaging 2.9 three-pointers per contest) and the Wizards. Other stats which make this a mouth-watering contest are Marcin Gortat’s double-double average for the Wizards this season and Boston’s third ranking in three-pointers made.
At the time of writing, however, Rajon Rondo has just led Chicago to a 2-0 lead over Boston, and the road to even get to this encounter looks ominous. Watch this space.
So there we have it, a few predictions to help you look like you sort of know what you’re talking about around your friends who actually follow basketball.
Now for the season awards:
MVP: Russell Westbrook
Having joined Oscar Robertson (1961-62) as the only player to average a triple-double throughout the NBA regular season, his 42 for the season makes Westbrook the obvious candidate. Although James ‘The Beard’ Harden comes close with his phenomenal aforementioned stats, and having lead his Houston team to a surprise third ranking in the West, the pure iconic nature of what Russ has done ensures that the gong is his.
James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Isaiah Thomas
Rookie of the Year: Dario Saric
Pre-injury, Joel ‘The Process’ Embiid was a shoo-in for this. Now, however, it seems to be a two-man contest between the Philadelphia 76ers’ Dario Saric and the Milwaukee Bucks’ Malcolm Brogdon. Brogdon was fourth amongst rookies in scoring while shooting, over 45 percent from the floor and over 40 percent from three. The Bucks have huge faith in his perimeter defence and ability to take clutch shots. Saric, the 6 foot 10 Croatian monster, finally arrived in the NBA this year after being a stash-and-dash pick two years ago. Averaging 12.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game while showing a sweet jumper and post game, Saric’s victory here shows there’s life in European ball yet following the likes of Nowitzki, Parker, Ginobli, Gasol and Antetokounmpo.
Defensive Player of the Year: Rudy Gobert
Leading the league in blocks with 2.66 per game and fourth in rebounds with 12.8, the titanic Frenchman’s interior defence is a huge reason this Utah Jazz team are in the playoffs as the number four Western seed, as Utah allowed the fewest PPG of any team this season.
Draymond Green, Kawhi Leonard, Paul Millsap, Anthony Davis
Most Improved Player: Giannis Antetokounmpo
The stats say it all; his season averages per game are insane: 22.9 points (2015-16: 16.9), 8.8 rebounds (‘15-‘16: 7.7), and 5.4 assists (‘15-‘16: 4.3). Giannis went from a man desperately yearning to lead his team to the playoffs to a man who has done just that, and in some style too. At just 22, ‘The Greek Freak’ is the only player in the league to boast a top-20 finish in total points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals. He also led his team in all of these categories. From barely an all-star contender last year to an automatic selection this year, I really don’t need to say anymore. Honestly, just watch this guy play, you’ll really fucking enjoy it.
This wasn’t even close.
Sixth Man of the Year: Eric Gordon
Houston has been dropping major bombs from three this season, and having ranked second on the team behind Harden with 16.3 PPG, Gordon ensured that the Rockets didn’t skip a beat when the second unit took the court. Gordon was a major reason behind Houston having the second-highest PPG behind Golden State.
Lou Williams, Andre Iguodala, Zach Randolph
Coach of the Year: Mike D’Antoni
Taking the underachieving and dysfunctional Rockets to the third seed is an outstanding achievement, having used a masterful combination of screens and movement to utilize the vast array of outside shooters at his disposal. Here’s hoping they can make us laugh and beat the Warriors.
Brad Stevens, Quin Snyder