2016 NBA Playoffs Preview: Star-Studded Teams in the Western and Eastern Conferences Vie For Title

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Kevin Durant will look to lead his Thunder through the NBA Playoffs as he and Russell Westbrook seek their first title. 

David Minster, Maroon-News Staff

 With the NBA playoffs underway, fifteen teams are trying to dethrone the Golden State Warriors. However, after obtaining the best record in the NBA history with a record of 73-9, the Warriors look to add to their historic season by winning the title for the second straight year. The Warriors face some tough competition in the Western Conference, especially from the No. 2 seed San Antonio Spurs and the No. 3 seed Oklahoma City Thunder. The Spurs have the best defense in the league thanks in part to Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard. San Antonio’s tenacious defense and fundamental offense could threaten the Warriors’ championship run in the conference finals. The Thunder are always a threat to both the Spurs and the Warriors because of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Having a former MVP in Durant and a triple-double machine in Westbrook always puts the Thunder in contention. As great as the Spurs and Thunder have been playing, the Warriors are still the team to beat. Whichever team faces the Warriors in the finals will have a tough time defending against the Warriors’ dangerous three-pointers and their roster depth. The other Western Conference teams don’t stand a chance against these juggernauts. 

Across the country in the Eastern Conference, Lebron and the Cavaliers seem to be the clear favorites. Finishing the season with the best record in the conference, the Cavs are trying to make it back to the finals after being ousted by the Warriors. 

However, the greatest difference is the Cavs will likely have both Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving for the entirety of the playoffs. Last postseason, Love dislocated his shoulder in the first round after getting tangled with Boston’s Kelly Olynyk, sidelining him for the remainder of the playoffs. Love-less, the Cavs managed to make it to the finals only to be without Kyrie Irving after Game 1 due to a broken kneecap. The return of Kevin Love gives the Cavs a big body down low to get boards as well as a three point scoring threat. Kyrie Irving adds a sharpshooting scorer and a playmaker, which could ultimately be the difference in any series matchups. The Cavaliers have their Big Three back together and are looking to blow through the rest of the Eastern Conference. 

The Miami Heat, Toronto Raptors and Atlanta Hawks stand in the Cavs’ way, but it doesn’t look like any of them can contain the Big Three. The No. 2 seeded Raptors, led by Kyle Lowry and Demar Derozan, look like the biggest threat to the Cavs’ championship campaign, but they’re already tied 1-1 in their series against the No. 7 seed Pacers, showing they need to change their gameplay if they want to advance and face the Cavs. Dwyane Wade and the Heat could also potentially face former Heat star LeBron James if their young players, such as Hassan Whiteside and Justise Winslow, step up to shine in the playoffs. The East and West both have powerhouse teams that could make a run for the championship, but it all comes down to which team wants it more.