The All-Star break is here! With no basketball for about two weeks, the only thing we can do is speculate how the playoffs will turn out. The majority of playoff teams are set. There’s a three-game gap between the #8 and #9 in the East, and a four-game gap in the West. Inside the playoffs, though, things are still going to be taking shape. Here are my predictions for the 2020 NBA Playoffs if they were to start today:
1. Milwaukee vs 8. Orlando
- Series: Milwaukee 4-0
This series wouldn’t even be a competition. Giannis is averaging 30.0 points, 13.5 rebounds, and 5.8 assists. He is joined by All-Star, Khris Middleton, and Point Guard Eric Bledsoe. The Bucks team is superior in every way aside from Vucevic, who is averaging 19.0, 10.8, and 3.7, who will be going against Brook Lopez. The Bucks will win this series by at least 15 every game the way they did against the Detroit Pistons last year.
2. Toronto vs 7. Brooklyn
- Series: Toronto 4-1
This series won’t be all that exciting either. Although the Nets did just recently end Toronto’s 15-game win-streak, that doesn’t really have any playoff implications if they were to meet again. Toronto, lead by Pascal Siakam who’s putting up 23.5, 7.5 and 3.5, will be a nightmare for Taurean Prince. Siakam will smoke him all series. Along with Siakam, vets Kyle Lowry and Marc Gasol give Siakam the help he needs as they are both great scorers and defenders. Lowry will be able to match-up with Kyrie Irving, who is averaging 27.4, 5.2 and 6.4. Irving is a great Point Guard, but Lowry is a great perimeter defender. Irving wins the matchup, but not by much. Irving’s help comes from Spencer Dinwiddie and DeAndre Jordan, but Vanvleet matches Dinwiddie, and Gasol is as good as Jordan. The Raptors have the clear better team, but they likely won’t sweep the Nets because Kyrie Irving occasionally wins games all by himself.
3. Boston vs 6. Indiana
- Series: Boston 4-3
Although Indiana is the six-seed, they’re better than they seem. The return of Victor Oladipo will give Indiana a huge boost in this rematch series. Boston still has the better team, however, and will win this hard-fought series. Kemba Walker, who is averaging 21.8, 4.0 and 5.0, has shown that he simply makes everyone around him better. He is a great teammate and gels perfectly with the team. He is accompanied by Jason Tatum and Jaylen Brown, both of whom are having break-out seasons and will be a nightmare for Indiana. With that being said, the Pacers, led by Sabonis who is averaging stats of 18.3, 12.5, and 4.8, became a first-time All-Star and has been a great help to this team. Joined by Oladipo and Brogdon, the Pacers have a great team to compete with the Celtics. The Celtics have more raw talent, however, and will take the series in seven games.
4. Miami vs 5. Philadelphia
- Series: Miami 4-1
Even though the series is between #4 and #5, the Heat are simply the better team. Jimmy Butler, who is averaging 20.6, 6.8, and 6.1, has the competitive drive needed in the playoffs. He is joined by Bam Adebayo and Kendrick Nunn. Both of these young players surprised everyone this season with their stellar performances. Unlike Butler, Embiid does not have that same fire that Butler has. He is averaging 22.9, 11.9, and 3.2, but he just doesn’t have that playoff killer mentality. Along with that, he is joined by Ben Simmons and Al Horford. Notice something about their three best players? Yeah, none of them shoot threes well. Their lack of floor spacing will be their demise, and this series will end much more quickly than expected.
1. LAL vs 8. Memphis
- Series: LAL 4-0
The Los Angeles Lakers are arguably the best team in the NBA. LeBron James and Anthony Davis are both absolute monsters. The two of them are both averaging at least 25 points per game and their chemistry is just perfect. They will clobber the poor Memphis Grizzlies, who are led by Ja Morant. The (likely) future Rookie of the Year is averaging 17.6, 3.5 and 7.1. His athletism is something to awe at, but he can only do so much. Dillon Brooks and Jaren Jackson Jr are also both really talented players, but this team is just too young for now.
2. Denver vs 7. OKC
- Series: OKC 4-2
Call me crazy, but I do think the Thunder would upset the Nuggets. Chris Paul is going to be beyond determined to prove himself to the NBA once more. He is averaging 17.5, 5.0, and 6.6. Along with Paul, Gilgeous-Alexander and Steven Adams are great players to have. Adams has been having a surprisingly solid season, while Alexander is looking like a future All-Star. Adams would hold his own against Jokic, who is averaging 20.6, 10.2 and 6.9. Jokic is good on offense but not great defensively. Jamal Murray is also inconsistent and Paul Millsap isn’t known as a scorer. Anything can happen in the playoffs. Expect this to be something that does.
3. LAC vs 6. Dallas
- Series: LAC 4-1
Doncic has been having one hell of a season, but nothing is going to stop Kawhi Leonard in the playoffs. Leonard is averaging 27.1, 7.4 and 5.3 this season. He is joined by Paul George and Lou Williams to make one of the most dangerous teams in the NBA. Doncic is averaging 28.9, 9.5 and 8.7. Impressive stats, but he doesn’t play great defense. Porzingis is a solid defender, but he’s not going to be doing much against Monterzl Harrell. This series will not be close as the Dallas Mavericks just aren’t there yet.
4. Utah vs 5. Houston
- Series: Utah 4-2
Utah is arguably the most complete team in the NBA. Lead by Donovan Mitchel who’s putting up stats of 24.3, 4.3 and 4.3, Utah is going to be a contending team for many years. Joining Mitchell is Rudy Gobert and Bojan Bogdanovic. Both are vital to the team’s success for scoring and defensive purposes. Mitchell’s matchup against Harden will be the best matchup of the series as they are both the best players on their team. Harden is averaging 35.3, 6.5 and 7.3. Although his stats are inconceivable, his selfish style of play hurts the team. Joined by Russell Westbrook and 6’5 Center, PJ Tucker, they won’t have the firepower to keep up with that team. Tucker will get murdered by Gobert in the playoffs, while Russ won’t be able to do his thing because of Harden.
1. Milwaukee vs 4. Miami
- Series: Milwaukee 4-2
The Bucks will not have the same easy ride as they did against the Magic. Jimmy Butler is the most competitive player in the game and he is going to prove it in this series. The Bucks still have Giannis, and Giannis is a free ticket to the Conference Finals for the next 10 seasons, but the Bucks will struggle against the Heat. Every player on the Heat is a good scorer, and Tyler Herro will be coming back soon. Butler will lock-down Middleton while Bam does the best he can in the paint, where Giannis will be trying to dunk. The Heat will fight as best they can, and maybe give the Bucks quite a scare, but the Bucks do still have Giannis, and that should be enough to get them the series.
2. Toronto vs 3. Boston
- Series: Toronto 4-1
The Raptors should win this series because their Centers will simply dominate. Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka will tear Theis and Kanter to pieces. Lowry will hold his own against Kemba while Siakam can take on Tatum. Anunoby will be able to compete with Gordon Hayward and Vanvleet, although he will lose to Brown, can still put up a fight. If the Celtics had a Center, this series would go to seven, but they don’t, so they’re going to get their sorry asses kicked in the second round.
1. LAL vs 4. Utah
- Series: LAL 4-1
The Lakers will simply be too much for the Jazz. Bogdanovic doesn’t stand a chance against Anthony Davis, and Ingles has no hope against LeBron. Gobert will be tied up with Howard and Mcgee, so the only player left for the Jazz is Donovan Mitchell. Mitchell will have an incredible series, but it will all be in vain. The Lakers will simply prove to be too much for the Jazz and LeBron and AD will make quick work of them.
3. LAC vs 7. OKC
- Series: LAC 4-0
The Thunder may be able to sneak past the Nuggets, but the Clippers are a different story. Gilgeous-Alexander will get dominated by Paul George. Chris Paul will be up against Patrick Beverley, who is a great defender. Adams will be up against Montrezl Harrell and Ivica Zubac and Gallinari will see plenty of Harrell as well. The Thunder simply don’t have the assets to take on the Clippers this year, and it will show in horrible fashion.
1. Milwaukee vs 2. Toronto
- Series: Milwaukee 4-1
Yes, the Raptors are a very good team, but Giannis is Giannis. We all saw what happened last year when Siakam guarded Giannis, and this time they don’t have a Kawhi to throw at him. Giannis is also a year better and more mature. He knows better than to get cocky this season. Siakam will essentially be invisible in this series and that’s all that really matters. Antetokounmpo will destroy the entire Eastern Conference and will sail to the Championship this season.
1. LAL vs 3. LAC
- Series: LAL 4-3
The series we all want to see. The Lakers and Clippers Conference Finals will be remembered in the history books. AD and LeBron against Kawhi and PG will be the most epic series in years. The series will be long, hard-fought, competitive, and any other adjective possible to use. Kawhi guarding LeBron like the days of the Hear-Spurs era will be completely insane. Davis will struggle against Monterzl Harrell, but Harrell won’t have a picnic against AD either. Avery Bradley is a very underrated defender and would hold off PG13 better than most would expect. The matchup between Mcgee/Howard and Zubac/Harrell will be marvelous. The Centers battling it out like in the old days will be crazy. In the end, the Lakers do have the two more talented players, though. Playoff LeBron and Anthony Davis will squeeze out a narrow, seven-game series. All of the games will be very close and it will be the best series of the decade.
The NBA Championship
1. Milwaukee vs 1. LAL
- Series: LAL 4-3
Another incredible series, the Lakers and the Bucks are likely everyone’s choices for the NBA Finals. The area where there’s less agreed upon, however, is who would win the series. Many say the Giannis is too much of a beast for the Lakers to stop, but others say that the Lakers have the big men to get the job done. The match-up would be intense and the competitiveness would be at an all-time high for both teams.
Eric Bledsoe and Avery Bradley would be a very interesting match-up. Bledsoe is a better offensive player, but Bradley is known for his defense. Bledsoe has the edge here, but not by much. Bledsoe will struggle to get past Bradley on the perimeter, but he is an incredible offensive player and will likely manage to get the advantage in the series.
Wesley Matthews and Danny Green would be about even in the series. Green is the better offensive player, but Matthews is a great perimeter defender. Unlike Bledsoe in the other match-up, though, Green is not on the same level as Bledsoe. Green is a great three-point shooter, but Matthews is a great perimeter defender. Matthews is a solid three-point shooter, while Green is a solid perimeter defender This match-up is as even as it gets, and despite being one of the less important match-ups, it will be one of the most fun.
The Khris Middleton and LeBron James match-up show two All-Stars going head-to-head. LeBron James would likely take out Middleton in most games, but Middleton won’t just stand aside. Even though James is the clear better player, Middleton is used to being the underdog and won’t crack under the pressure of guarding the King. Middleton will play his heart out and hold off LeBron the best he can, but LeBron will come out victorious over Middleton as there’s only one King.
Giannis Antetokounmpo and Anthony Davis is the match-up to watch. The two best Power Forwards in the league going at it will be marvelous. The two MVP candidates will try to dominate each other for the entire series. Both are incredible at defense from anywhere on the floor. Giannis is slightly more athletic and has better ball-handling, but Davis is the better perimeter shooter. This match-up is the highlight of the NBA season that will have countless dunks and blocks from both of them. The outcome of this match-up will have a huge effect on the finals. Giannis does likely win the match-up by a finger, but this is pretty even as well.
Lopez and Mcgee will also be a very intense duel. The two Centers are both wildly underrated and underappreciated. Mcgee is essential on the defensive end because he allows AD to guard the perimeter more, or play help defense. Lopez stretches the floor so that Giannis can drive to the basket. They’re both incredible shot-blockers and their defensive presence is key to the success of the team.
In the end, the Lakers win the series in seven. Giannis is great, but AD would lock him down, while LeBron torches Middleton. The series would be brutal, competitive, and intense, but in the end, the Lakers would come out victorious against the reigning MVP and the Bucks.
Here’s what the bracket would look like: