Nostra-Dan-us’ Way Too Early NBA Playoff Predictions

… or “How the Golden State Warriors Will Win the 2019 NBA Finals”

If you spend your free time like I do this time of year, skimming through the internet searching for NBA news, you’ve probably run across a few “regular season predictions”. You may have even seen a few posts on Twitter with someone’s “end of season award predictions”.

Let’s not kid ourselves. The NBA is insanely easy to predict. It’s even easier when you understand which story-lines the league wishes to see, and what is within the realm of possibility for them to orchestrate.

The Golden State Warriors will be your 2019 NBA Champions. Kevin Durant will join Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal as a Three-Peat NBA Finals MVP. Everyone knows that. But how will we arrive at that conclusion? More importantly, when the outcome is already predetermined, does anyone even care anymore? (I hope so, I have a lot of writing to do).

Follow me, reader, as I, Nostra-Dan-us, gaze deep into my crystal ball. Deep, past the end of the regular season and all of those other prediction posts you have read. All the way to the NBA Finals!

Western Conference

Golden State finishes first overall, and easily completes their first round sweep of the Portland Trailblazers. The NBA and it’s fans are treated to an exciting end to the season, as the rest of the West elites spend their final games furiously jockeying for home court advantage in the playoffs. Houston and OKC will fight for the second and third spots, while Lakers and Utah race for four and five. Anyone of these teams can flip flop, as anyway you slice it, the end result will ultimately be:

#1 Golden State Warriors vs. #4/5 Los Angeles Lakers

#2/3 Houston Rockets vs. #2/3 OKC Thunder

Warriors vs. Lakers

The league gets what they have been dreaming about, ever since that fateful preseason game in October, which shattered preseason viewing records. The Warriors/Lakers series goes on to be the highest rated second round matchup of all time, with the Warriors having bested LeBron, once again, this time in six games; However, LeBron does give a performance for the ages in Game 3, furthering his case for a fifth NBA MVP, when he scores 13 of the Lakers’ final 14 points of the fourth quarter (save a Lonzo Ball free throw), collecting a win for the Lakers and a surprising 2-1 series lead. The scapegoat of the series will be Brandon Ingram, who, having played valiantly all regular season, smashes back to Earth against Kevin Durant and the reigning champions. Draymond Green also gets Lance Stephenson ejected in Game 4 and suspended from playing in a crucial Game 5 at Oracle, which the Lakers lose badly.

Had the Lakers finished with the #2 or #3 seed, the league would have fought tooth and nail to place them in the Conference Finals against the Dubs. Oh well, maybe they get their way next season?

Rockets vs. Thunder

I’m not sure who has home court advantage in this series, but the deciding game will be in Oklahoma City. All of the big games are in Oklahoma City (Lakers 2010, Warriors in 2016). We will have already seen the Rockets struggle mightily against their first round opponent, [insert Denver or New Orleans], clearly missing Trevor Ariza’s playoff heroics. And now without their starting point guard Chris Paul, who will not play past Game 2 of this series due to injury (just like every season), the team will look to Carmelo Anthony to pick up the slack. In the Rockets final game in OKC, Melo shoots 2-15 for 5 points and no assists, Westbrook averages a triple-double for the series, and the Thunder advance to the Western Conference Finals.

Warriors vs. Thunder

The Warriors hold serve at home, surviving an epic performance from Westbrook when he becomes the first player in NBA history to record a 30/15/15 post-season triple-double. Up until this post-season, Kevin Durant had managed to avoid having to play his former teammate and city. With the series shifting back to OKC, the story now becomes “How will Kevin Durant handle the rabid Thunder crowd, that wants nothing more than to see his head on a stick?” The answer? Game 3 is Kevin Durant’s highest scoring playoff game in his career, when he scorches the Thunder for 50 points. Adding further insult to injury, the Warriors surprisingly sweep the Thunder, in OKC, where Durant proudly basks in the grief of his unappreciative former fan base.

Eastern Conference

Boston and Toronto flip flop, with Boston in the driver’s seat for the entirety of their conference playoff run; However, this will not be the cakewalk everyone seems to think it will be. Milwaukee is the fourth seed, battling it out with Indiana, who again lands at five. Giannis Antetokounmpo leads his team past Indiana in a Game 7 at home, where Milwaukee fans go wild, and then quickly forget who he is again, making their “hero” wait outside for his celebration dinner. Boston completes their first round sweep of Cleveland, who are just happy to make the playoffs, so, don’t bother breaking to them how terrible the rest of the conference is in allowing this reality to materialize. Second seed Toronto and third seed Philly also sweep their opponents, who are [insert trash], and [insert garbage], respectively. Your Eastern Conference semi-finalists are:

#1 Boston Celtics vs. #4 Milwaukee Bucks

#2 Toronto Raptors vs. #3 Philadelphia 76ers

Boston Celtics vs. Milwaukee Bucks

Last season, the Boston Celtics barely squeaked by a Milwaukee team with a young Giannis entering his first season as a bonafide stud. And now, Giannis looks like this. One might come to the conclusion that Milwaukee finally gets over the hump, especially after the Greek Freak stuns the Celtics in Boston, netting that post-season triple-double he flirted with so much last season, and giving the Bucks a 1-0 series lead. But, just like a young Michael, just like a young LeBron, young Giannis is not yet ready to eclipse the Celtics. These Celtics were also without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward last season, and their presences have been felt all year long. Kyrie will miss time during the regular season, sure, but this team has so many weapons and proved just how resilient they are in last year’s playoffs. Tatum has a huge Game 7, recording 29/10/5, prompting a vow from Giannis to become an elite defender next season. Yikes.

Toronto Raptors vs. Philadelphia 76ers

The Raptors in some ways are a better team this year and it shows during the regular season. After their first round shellacking of [insert trash], it becomes popular belief that Kawhi Leonard is a definite upgrade over DeMar DeRozan, and that the man who has historically held them back  (LeBronto) now plays in the West. This series serves as yet another reminder, when Kawhi locks up Ben Simmons, taking away his passing lanes and daring him to become a shooter. In a must win Game 6 for the Raptors, Simmons finally obliges him, but his lone career attempt clangs off the left side of the rim. The Raptors close out the 76ers at home in seven, despite monster performances from Embiid, who destroys a hapless Jonas Valanciunas, and collects a playoff high 22 rebounds in Game 7. Every game from the series will be decided by three points or less, making this the most entertaining series of this year’s playoffs (even if more people tuned in to watch Warriors/Lakers).

Two second round exits in a row to two different teams also spells doom for 76ers head coach Brett Brown, who will be terminated in the off-season.

Boston Celtics vs. Toronto Raptors

It took a while, but the loss of reigning Coach of the Year Dwane Casey will finally be felt. Brad Stevens, this season’s odds on winner for Coach of the Year, draws circles around… wait, who is the Raptors coach again? Nick Nurse? Holy shit… yeah, Brad Stevens fucking kills that guy. The series result, combined with the angry Toronto fan base and the franchise’s over-willingness to appease Kawhi, prompt Toronto to terminate Nurse immediately following their season-ending Game 5 loss. Kyrie looks better than ever, averaging 25 points and 2 steals per contest, but is lost for the year in the series final game (again).

2019 NBA Finals

Golden State, who are not only playing against a weakened Celtics team, also manage to cleanly incorporate Boogie Cousins into their lineup. Up until this series, when Cousins had a good game, it appeared to come at a cost to the Warriors, as he would often lead the team in scoring when they lost. In the sixth and final game of the series, Cousins will lead the charge, registering a 22/10/11 triple-double, nearly stealing the Finals MVP from Durant. Durant will be the constant for the Warriors all series, however, and is more than deserving of the award. He manhandles the Celtics to the tune of 32/10/7 with 1 steal and 2 blocks per contest, while also shooting his usual 50/40/90 in the Finals, easily securing his third straight Finals MVP.

The series is not without it’s dramatics, as both Tatum and Hayward explode for a combined 55 points in a must-win Game 5 at Oracle, sending the series back to Boston, where the Celtics haven’t lost since Game 1 of the semi-finals; However, the order will prove to be too tall, allowing the Warriors to become the second team in NBA history (joining the 1985 Los Angeles Lakers) to celebrate an NBA championship on the parquet floor in Boston.

Boy, I hope I’m wrong.

The above was not necessarily a prediction, more than it was an excuse to poke fun at how badly the NBA wants a Lakers/Warriors series, and how both Chris Paul and Kyrie Irving are always hurt. Follow me on Twitter, for more of my zany “predictions”, as well as some other takes on the NBA season. Personally, I’m hoping for an outcome I do not see coming. As awesome as it would be to call all of these events nearly a year before they occur, it would be even better if the Warriors don’t three-peat as champions (I would also prefer if the Celtics, Rockets, Thunder, 76ers, Raptors and Bucks don’t win either. You do the math).

The James Harden Rule

Charles Barkley and Reggie Miller forced the NBA to change their rules. Should James Harden receive the NBA MVP this season, Commissioner Dan thinks it’s time to make another revision.

Last season, Russell Westbrook won the NBA MVP Award because he averaged a triple-double. As of this writing, he is 16 rebounds away from averaging a second triple-double, and becoming the only player to ever do so twice in their career; however, something tells me that even if he somehow is able to do this (edit: He did), James Harden is still going to be league MVP. Which boggles the mind the more you think about it. Scoring aside (Harden is leading the league, upping his average by 1.5 PPG), his assists (8.7 compared to a league leading 11.2) and rebounds (5.4 compared to 8.1) are all way down this season. Meanwhile, Westbrook’s numbers have only dipped slightly, and should he record the necessary 16 rebounds to complete the triple-double, does the argument for Harden as MVP truly exist? Continue reading “The James Harden Rule”

Vitamin D

James Harden is in the MVP discussion, but it should come as no shock to anyone paying attention to the coaching history of one Mike D’Antoni.

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When the Rockets hired Mike D’Antoni, no one would have asked you to stifle yourself if you snickered.  He was only 2 years removed from the 2014 debacle in Los Angeles, when he coached the Lakers to a 27-55 record and out of the playoffs for the first time in 20 years (edit: Geez, that actually sounds pretty good now).  Yup, all his fault.  It didn’t matter that Kobe Bryant had only played 6 games or that Steve Nash had only played in 15, someone needed to be held responsible, and D’Antoni’s head was the one everyone wanted to roll.

That’s why when this season started, it was funny, to me anyways, hearing Laker fans and their supporters alike stating how “fun” the team was playing under first year coach Luke Walton.  They were 10-10, the rookies were developing, and Nick Young pulled his best Walking Dead impression, coming back to life, when he seemed doomed to follow in the footsteps of Lamar Odom.  He’s actually going to be in the 3-point contest this coming All Star Weekend.

But didn’t this team play a familiar style to anyone watching them?  Perhaps not, the team has been almost unwatchable for years now.  But to anyone that has hung around during these dark times to pay attention, they are actually mimicking the D’Antoni coached 2013-2014 Los Angeles Lakers.  Look at the stats: Continue reading “Vitamin D”