Lakers: Utah Jazz
Obviously, matching up with the Lakers is difficult for any team. They have two top 10, if not top 5 players in the league. However, I think the Jazz can make a difficult series out of this potential matchup. The Jazz are loaded with scorers and good shooters, and can get hot in a hurry. I also like the defensive matchups they can throw at LA, with Gobert slowing down AD inside, and Mitchell, O’Neale and others at least making things difficult for Lebron in this series.
Clippers: Dallas Mavericks
Like the Lakers, there are not a lot of teams who can match up well with the Clippers roster. They have two superstars and excellent depth. However, the Mavericks are a team who have a shot in this potential series. They have the league’s best offense, and can score on anyone. There is also an advantage on the interior for them, with Porzingis, Powell, Kleber and Boban, and not many bigs for the Clippers apart from Harrell and Zubac.
Bucks: Miami Heat
The Heat have proved this season that they can hang with the elite teams in the East. They have depth, great shooting, and a star in Jimmy Butler who can go toe-to-toe with any of the others in the East. With him and Adebayo usually on the floor, it gives them two very different, but effective defenders to throw at Giannis. They have enough quality defenders to try and slow the Bucks down, and enough scoring threats to disrupt the NBA’s best defense.
Raptors: Philadelphia 76ers
Despite the result from last season, the Raptors could certainly have trouble dealing with the Sixers in a series. Without Leonard, the matchup is very even if not, on paper, an advantage for Philly. The Raptors have the edge on depth, but Philly has the stars, as well as elite athleticism to more than make up for it. The 76ers could disappoint again, but this matchup seems like it would cause problems for Toronto.
Celtics: Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks are a difficult opponent for any team in the league, but the Celtics may have even more trouble than most given the current rosters. Horford is no longer there to guard Giannis, which could cause issues. The Bucks have the league’s best defense, and could slow down the balanced Celtics offense. The interior game is no contest, as Lopez and Giannis should be able to dominate on both ends. This seems like the year where the Bucks could finally knock out the Celtics if they meet up.
Nuggets: Houston Rockets
The Nuggets showed us a lineup that looked fresh out of 2k this past week, which seems unstoppable at first. However, if they do end up going with big lineups such as that one, the Rockets could be an achilles heel. Despite a huge height advantage on Houston, the Nuggets may struggle to contain the speed and shooting that the Rockets small ball offers. They also typically struggle to defend elite guards, so Russ and Harden could cause major problems.