At the break, the Milwaukee Bucks hold the top spot in the Eastern Conference, just one game ahead of the Raptors. With the next three teams separated by just a game and some serious upset potential near the bottom of the top-eight, it’s tough to say who will represent the East in the NBA Finals. Will the Greek Freak-led Bucks hold on? Will the Celtics surge? Will the Nets shock the world? The DC Sports staff debates:
The Celtics. Because there’s no other reason why. The Celtics are the balls!
In all seriousness, despite all their current woes, the team has a supreme amount of experience in playoff basketball. They have great wing depth and versatility which goes a long ways. Brad Stevens has underwhelmed to some this season, but he beats Brett Brown head to head consistently, has done decent handling the Bucks and has much more chops than Nick Nurse at this point.
I’m going to go with the Toronto Raptors for one reason and one reason only: LeBron James is no longer in the East. For some reason, LeBron has been the kryptonite of the Raptors over the past few years. No matter how good their regular season was, they always found their season coming to end by bowing to the King. They won’t have that problem this year because they won’t have to play LeBron in the playoffs (unless the Lakers somehow make a miracle run at the Finals which is extremely unlikely). Plus, they have Kawhi Leonard now, a guy who has won on the game’s biggest stage. He makes everybody on that team better, and I think he will lead his team into the Finals this year and even possibly give Golden State a good series.
Who cares? Everyone knows that whichever team comes out of the West (most likely the Warriors) is going to win the finals, does it really matter who they are going to steamroll? The real winners in the East this season are the New York Knicks. They are executing full-tank mode perfectly, winning just two of their last 20 games. As long as they can beat out the Suns and hold off the Cavs, they have a very good chance of getting the No.1 overall pick and Zion. of course health (and shoe) permitting. They also cleared A LOT of cap space, and have the ability to sign two free agents to max deals this offseason. So yes, the Knicks are the real winners the East.
I gotta pick the Boston Celtics. They’ve had two straight conference final runs halted by LeBron, but guess who’s not in the East anymore? The Celtics came within one half of the Finals without Kyrie Irving or Gordon Hayward playing a single playoff game, and have proven that they are more than capable of battling the other big dogs in the Eastern Conference with both of them healthy. There’s plenty of reasons to like them to get over the hump to make the Finals and take a crack at the Golden State juggernaut.
Despite some lasting inconsistencies and the presence of other surprisingly dominant teams in the East, the Boston Celtics are still my pick to reach the finals. The Bucks, Raptors and Sixers have all improved this season, but the Celtics own a major advantage in the experience their young core gained on a gutsy run to the Conference finals last season without Kyrie Irving. The C’s have arguably the best late game play-calling coach in the East, the best veteran leader in Al Horford of any contending team and one of the most lethal clutch scorers in the league in Kyrie. Not to mention the fact that Boston is still an elite defensive team with six players averaging in double-figures scoring, all of whom could easily be 20 point scorers on any given night. Boston may not have itself completely figured out even still, but come April, the Celtics will have all their pieces in place and will be a nightmare matchup in a playoff series. I pray for any team that will be visiting the Celtics in the Garden in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
This is a real tough one because every team plays different in the playoffs than the regular season. The Boston Celtics don’t look the greatest right now, but I believe they will turn up the notch come playoff time, with the likes of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward now healthy. We do not know how the Sixers will fare because they got two new all-star caliber players to blend in and mesh with their system, with two young but talented stars in Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.The Toronto Raptors just made trades to bolster their bench and scoring with the trade for Marc Gasol and signing of Jeremy Lin and Jodie Meeks. The Bucks are the number one seed but we do not know how well they’re going to do come playoff time. With all that being said, I believe the Toronto Raptors will squeeze out on top and go to the finals. They have a lot of depth and experienced players such as Kawhi, Lowry and now Gasol in their lineup, and a deep bench. Experience is always an advantage come playoff time, and I think this will help them alot.
The Bucks are making it to the NBA Finals for one reason and one reason alone, they have one of the best big men in the league. An amazing player who can do it all on both ends of the court. That’s right, I’m talking about none other than… Brook Lopez. Lopez (aside from being a 7-footer who averages four rebounds a game) is having one of the best seasons of his career in terms of impact, and has without a doubt become the best shooting center in the entire league, making a career-high 2.4 three-pointers per game at a 37 percent clip. He’s also had a phenomenal season on the defensive end, averaging a career-high 2.1 blocks per game en route to becoming the best three-and-D player in the history of the NBA. Lopez will without a doubt lead the Bucks to the NBA Finals, welcome to Splash Mountain, enjoy the ride. And oh yeah, they have that Giannis kid too, I hear he’s alright.
The Toronto Raptors will reach the NBA Finals in June and it has nothing to do with the fact that LeBron left for Los Angeles. Toronto has a complete team. They have their established point guard in Lowry and superstar in Kawhi. What makes this team better is the overall talent of the Kawhi as opposed to Demar DeRozan. Regardless of what people say about the trade that went down last summer, he is better than DeRozan and it shows. The bench is arguably the best in the league which will be critical when the playoffs roll around. The addition of Gasol will prove to be the missing piece and will help the franchise reach the final stage for the first time.