As the season comes closer and closer to a return, fans around the world are restless to see who will be crowned the NBA finals winner.
Before the unfortunate hiatus, many people had their finals predictions locked in. Now that there are more factors put into play, many opinions have changed on who will play on the biggest stage in basketball.
Fellow analyst Nick St-Denis and I will now be giving our takes on what teams will be playing in this year’s finals.
Colin Wells: Milwaukee Bucks vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Although this pick seems to be one of the more popular ones, it’s probably the most likely to happen. Both teams are the number 1 seed in their respective conferences for a reason.
In Milwaukee’s case, the Eastern Conference is simply weaker than its counterpart. In reality, there are only two or three teams that can even compete with the Bucks and those teams don’t have a player with the first name Giannis and last name Antetokounmpo.
Most likely the MVP for this season and a possible defensive player of the year, Giannis Antetokounmpo dominated the regular season, leading the Bucks to 53 wins. This is not only seven more wins than the team with the second seed in the East, it is the best record in the league.
When looking at stats, Milwaukee’s dominance was unparalleled. Not only did they average the most points and rebounds per game of all teams, they made the fourth most three pointers on the season. Couple this with the fact that as a team they shot 47.7% from the field, there seems to be no holes in their game. The departure of Kawhi Leonard from the East also helps this team out a lot, since it seemed he was their kryptonite in last years playoff. Although playoff basketball and regular season basketball is much different, Giannis and the Bucks will find their way through and make the finals.
As for the Los Angeles Lakers, they have a bit of a tougher road. As many know, the Eastern and Western Conference have had quite the skill gap in these past couple of years, with the Western Conference undoubtedly having the better overall teams. That’s why it’s much harder to pick a team to win the West, but the Lakers will prevail.
When looking at the top seeds in the West, they are all neck in neck when it comes to talent. The Lakers have LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Clippers have Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the Nuggets have Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. The deciding factor that gives the Lakers the edge is none other than LeBron James.
Arguably having the best year of his career, James knows just how important this ring is to his legacy. Often criticized for his finals record, there’s no doubt whatsoever that he would love to win another championship trophy. Along with this, it’s no secret that LeBron James is dedicated to staying in shape no matter the cost. This will prove instrumental when other guys are showing signs of vulnerability because of the long break from basketball.
Just like the Bucks, the Lakers have been stuffing the stat sheet as well. They average the most blocks per game while also shooting the best out of any team in the league. Although this Lakers squad isn’t the deepest team in the West, the duo of Anthony Davis and LeBron James will push this squad into the finals.
Finals Prediction: The Lakers will beat the Bucks in the finals this year. Watching the Bucks play this season proves that Giannis’s favorite place to score is in the paint. Seeing as though Anthony Davis is one of the best paint protectors in the league, Antetokounmpo will certainly find it hard to score the way he usually does. Although Milwaukee still has an all-star in Khris Middleton, there’s no way that Middleton will be enough to beat the Lakers with a struggling Giannis. LeBron James will capitalize on a struggling Giannis and end up leading the Lakers to their 17th Larry O’brien championship trophy.
Nick St-Denis: Los Angeles Clippers vs. Boston Celtics
West: I’ve got the Clippers getting out of the West, beating the Lakers in a classic Western Conference Finals series. There are a few reasons that I have them winning the battle of LA, and making their first ever NBA Finals.
First off, their whole team will be healthy coming off quarantine, when this season Kawhi and Paul George have played minimal games together. These two will form such a formidable duo on both ends in the playoffs with their ability to defend multiple positions, attack the rim, and shoot the 3.
The Clips also have excellent depth, not matched by many other teams in the NBA. Lou Williams is one of the best 6th men of all time, and is a terrific scorer and shooter. Montrezl Harrell is a great rebounder, defender, and glue guy with his tremendous hustle. Shamet is a very underrated player, and a solid shooter. Marcus Morris adds toughness, shooting and defense, as does Pat Beverley. They’ve also added some veterans who can contribute whether they play or not, in Patterson, Reggie Jackson and even Joakim Noah. Their main concern will be guarding Anthony Davis, but their ability to mix up coverages, with Kawhi, PG, Zubac and Harrell likely all guarding him at one point will help them.
I see the Celtics surprising some people, and making the finals over the Bucks in an Eastern Conference Finals matchup.
I think Boston is more equipped this year than they have been for a long time to beat some of the East’s elite. For starters, they are extremely balanced, like the Clippers, with tons of offensive and defensive threats. Tatum is a superstar at this point, and should stay hot during this playoff run. Brown and Hayward are excellent supports for him on the wing, with an excellent ability to space the floor and create for themselves.
Walker is great for them as he can dominate the ball when Tatum is off the floor, and be more of a playmaker and spot-up shooter when he is playing. Smart is phenomenal defensively off the bench, and has certainly improved his offensive game as well. Their center tandem of Theis and Kanter leaves a bit to be desired on defense, but both have great offensive games that fit with the rest of the roster.
I think Tatum will be the best player in every series they play up until they play Milwaukee, where their superior depth will lead them to victory. Any of the top 5-6 East teams have a realistic chance, but I see Boston escaping and making their first finals in a decade.
This one could go either way, as both games this season went to overtime, but I see the Clippers winning it in 6 games. I just think their abundance of good defensive players can slow down Boston’s offense enough, and that playoff Kawhi and PG have enough to take them over the top. This will be by far the best defender (or pair of defenders) that Tatum will see in the playoffs, and he will struggle to takeover games, leading to more responsibility for Boston’s other starters.