By Teddy Campbell, Maroon-News Staff
There are two teams that are clearly the favorites in the NBA. But enough has been written about them. I’m sick of them, and you are too, unless you happen to be from Cleveland or the Bay Area. But statistically you’re probably from Greenwich or Westchester, so let’s hope for some upsets!
Let’s start with the Least, er, the East! The Cavaliers have represented the East in the NBA Finals the last three years, but to borrow a phrase from Game of Thrones, their watch has ended. Meet your 2018 representative from the East: the Boston Celtics. I have to acknowledge I am from the Boston Area, but just stick with me here. The Celtics gutted and reloaded their team. Kyrie Irving is free from the clutches of LeBron James and he’s ready to spread his wings; Gordon Hayward is free from the clutches of Utah. Yes, they do have a team out there.
The hope in the stacked Western Conference is that with so many good teams there are in the West, one of them can get lucky and take down the Golden State Warriors. Strength in Numbers, to borrow a phrase from frontrunners themselves. My pick here is the Thunder. Russell Westbrook remains the most pissed-off player in the league as well as the reigning MVP. With the help of his new buddy Paul George, the Thunder have a real chance at an upset.
By Jake Rosenstein, Maroon-News Staff
Predicting the NBA Finals in the era of the “superteam” is about as exciting as predicting the winner of bingo at an old folks home. There is little question to which teams are the favorites from each conference to reach the finals. The last three finals have featured the same two teams (an unprecedented occurrence) and the last seven have featured Lebron James. It is such an easy prediction to say that the 2018 NBA Finals will feature the Golden State Warriors vs the Cleveland Cavaliers. That is why I will take a much more radical approach to this question. The 2018 Finals will feature the Cleveland Cavaliers vs. the Los Angeles Clippers.
As hot of a take as this is, it is rooted in reality. Lebron will continue to own the dreadful Eastern conference that seems to have gotten weaker this offseason (despite a new Celtics core). The Clippers, despite losing their longtime MVP Chris Paul to the Rockets, will be able to take a step forward with the addition of Patrick Beverly, expert defender and skilled point guard. His ability to spread the ball to the combo of big men Deandre Jordan (who is playing in an option year) and Blake Griffin will undoubtedly keep the Clippers in contention. The addition of Danilo Gallinari fills a huge hole at small forward that has been vacant throughout all of Paul’s tenure there. Austin Rivers seems poised to take a leap forward in his career. If Doc Rivers can shake the consistent playoff disappointments that plagued Paul’s tenure, I believe they can make a deep run this year. While this is certainly a bold prediction, it beats the monotony of proclaiming the Warriors as Western Conference champions before the season begins.
By Eric Fishbin, National Sports Editor
Injuries happen in the NBA, and I really don’t want to write about how the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors are going to see each other in the NBA Finals again, so let’s assume Curry goes down, Thomas never gets healthy, LeBron/Durant play 40 games all year and J.R. Smith averages 31.2 minutes/game down the stretch of the season. If that were to become reality, I’m sorry in advance to the Bay Area and all of Cleveland but you’ve had your time and the rest of the NBA is ready to move on.
So, the matchup between the formidable Oklahoma City Thunder and the new Boston Celtics would be sick to watch in June. With no absence of stars, these teams feature players who are well-deserving but lacking in NBA rings. Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, Gordon Hayward and more have been in the league a long time but have been in the wide shadow of LeBron James.
Kyrie Irving knows all about the shadow of LeBron James, and it would be cool to see an Eastern Conference Final with them going head to head. Boston will likely have to beat the Cavs to get to the Finals, and they have some really talented young players in Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum that could help them do it.
In the West, there is basically no beating the Warriors. But, revenge-riled Russell Westbrook and Co. have extra motivation. Obviously, the whole Durant vs. Westbrook narrative will continue, but with the additions of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, the pressure is off Westbrook. He’s got his own superteam now and this year will be his best chance to take down the Dubs.