1. Now that LeBron is gone, who comes out of the East?
Lebron James made the NBA Finals every year since 2010, but can you name the last team to make the Finals out of the East before the Heat/Cavs? The Boston Celtics. The Celtics this year are paced by former Lebron sidekick, Kyrie Irving. The Celtics would have to get through the Milwaukee Bucks, and the Philadelphia 76ers, and the Toronto Raptors. Coming out of the East, my choice has to be the Celtics due to Brad Steven’s system, and despite their injuries, the talented roster which includes last year’s playoff standout Jayson Tatum, the improving play of Gordon Hayward, Jaylen Brown, and of course, Kyrie Irving.
2. Does Giannis Antetokunmpo will the Bucks to the NBA Finals?
Giannis Antetokunmpo is one of the best players in the Association and leads the Bucks in points (27.7 points per game), rebounds (12.5 rebounds per game), and assists (5.9 assists per game). While there are other talented players on the Bucks, they all pale in comparison to the man known as the Greek Freak, so this is his team to carry to the NBA Finals on his back. Can he do it? The best teams in the East are standing in his way.
3. How much do potential runs by the Warriors and Celtics impact the decisions of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving?
Both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are expected to be big name free agents hitting the market with several teams clamoring for their services on July 1st. But first, they have to try to win an NBA title with their current teams: a potential third-in-a-row for Durant’s Warriors, and the first title since 2008 for the Irving-led Celtics. For much of this season, both players have been surrounded by rumors of unhappiness and potential messy exits. Prior to the season, Irving said to the Boston Celtics crowd, “If you guys will have me back, I plan on re-signing here.”
However, the Celtics star has softened his stance on that a bit during the season, inviting several rumors about his possible destination, including the New York Knicks or the Brooklyn Nets. Both teams and players will have to battle the distractions (as they have all season long) and try and deliver another championship to their teams.
4. Another early exit for Lillard and the Blazers?
The Portland Trail Blazers have made the playoffs every year since 2014. They have gotten swept in the first round for the past two years, and have only advanced to the second round twice in that span. This is a big year for the Portland Trail Blazers, as they are third in the Western Conference (the same place they finished last year), and Damian Lillard is in his sixth season in the league. It’s closing in on “put up or shut up time” for the Blazers and will face Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round. For Lillard and the 2018-19 Trailblazers, they will be hoping to avoid the same fate as their predecessors.
For The Thunder to win this series, they need to wear the Blazers down to their bench, with Portland struggling on the injury front. They are without CJ McCollum due to a knee injury, and Jusuf Nurkic, due to a compound fracture of the leg.
For the Blazers to win the series, they have to keep home court advantage and they have to shut down Paul George and Russell Westbrook. Both of those players can go off and if they do, good night Portland. PG and Russ lead the Thunder in every single category except for blocks, where Jerami Grant leads. PG leads the Thunder with 28.0 points per game, and Russ is second with 22.9 points per game. For the Blazers to win this game they have to shut down PG13 and Russ.
5. Do the Clippers have any chance against the Warriors?
BPI is giving the Clippers an 11% chance to beat the Warriors. While the Warriors are undisputed favorites, the Clippers are under no pressure to defeat one of basketball’s greatest dynasties. The Clippers are really good at closing games out, having a plus-65 rating in clutch time this season, which is first in the league. The Clippers need to get out to a quick start in this series to have any chance at upsetting Steph Curry an co.