Round 1: East
Miami Heat (1) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (8)
The Sixers will be the team that just barely made it into the Playoffs. Just like last season, they might be able to steal a game at home, but the Heat would eventually win in 5.
Chicago Bulls (2) vs. Atlanta Hawks (7)
The Hawks last season had poor offense whenever Jamal Crawford was on the bench. Now that he’s with the Blazers, I don’t expect that offense coming back. Bulls in 4.
New York Knicks (3) vs. Indiana Pacers (6)
The Pacers’ depth will help keep them in the Playoff picture, but there is too much talent between Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire. Knicks win the series in 6 games.
Orlando Magic (4) vs. Boston Celtics (5)
The Celtics’ three future Hall of Famers will be well rested from some DNP - Coach’s Decision. This may be the last year in this Celtic team’s Championship window, so they’ll fight hard. Celtics in 7.
Round 1: West
Oklahoma City Thunder (1) vs. Denver Nuggets (8)
The Nuggets can win their two home games thanks to altitude and talent, but the Thunder will be too good to beat. Thunder in 6.
Dallas Mavericks (2) vs. San Antonio Spurs (7)
After not meeting in last year’s playoffs, the Mavs and Spurs rivalry will be back. This time around, I doubt Tim Duncan will make as much of an impact as before, and Odom will be great off the bench. Mavs in 6.
LA Lakers (3) vs. Portland Trailblazers (6)
The Blazers will be good, but LaMarcus Aldridge won’t be able to carry his team throughout the whole series. Kobe probably can. Lakers in 5.
Memphis Grizzlies (4) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (5)
This will be a playoff series to watch. Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol vs. Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan will be a wonderful sight to see. Chris Paul will be the biggest factor, though, and carry the Clippers late in games. Clippers in 7.
Round 2 - Conference Semis
Heat (1) vs. Celtics (5)
This series would more or less look the same as when they met last year. Heat in 6.
Bulls (2) vs. Knicks (3)
Don’t tell me you wouldn’t want to watch this series. The Bulls’ back court will carry the team to a series win in 7 games.
Thunder (1) vs. Clippers (5)
Great series to watch, but this will ultimately go down to Scott Brooks’ great coaching against Vinny Del Negro’s mediocrity. Thunder in 5.
Mavericks (2) vs. Lakers (3)
A sweet rematch from last year’s sweep. Kobe will be out for blood and I look for a very competitive series. Lakers in 7.
Round 3 - Conference Finals
East: Heat (1) vs. Bulls (2)
Both teams are amazing, and Rip Hamilton will help Rose a lot. With that said, the Heat will be playing better than last season. Heat in 6.
West: Thunder (1) vs. Lakers (3)
A matchup I’ve been waiting for since 2010 when these two teams met in the first round. This time, the Thunder are more mature and have a more dominant front court. Plus, this is when the Lakers will really miss Odom. Thunder in 5.
NBA Finals - Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Miami Heat
This will not be a popular choice but: OKC takes the Championship in 7.
Why the Thunder?
I think they will have it figured out this season. The role players will know what to do, especially James Harden. He will have a big year, and he helps this team create spacing, as well as taking offensive pressure off of Durant and Westbrook. Also, in recent history, Championship teams have great, defensive front courts. The 2008 Celtics had Kevin Garnett and Perkins. The 2009 and 2010 Lakers had Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, and Lamar Odom. The 2011 Mavs had Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler. This season’s Thunder have Ibaka and Perkins. I see Ibaka making a nice leap offensively and become another weapon that will make the Heat worry. Both are defensive studs that will protect the paint. They will be the keys to a Championship win.
But of course, Kevin Durant will win the Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP trophy.
Why not the Heat
Taking that front court argument that I used for the Thunder, who do the Heat have besides Chris Bosh? Their main two options at Center are Joel Anthony and Eddy Curry. Eddy Curry. Sure, Dwyane Wade and Lebron James can carry their teams and that is how they will obtain the best record in the NBA. That is what everyone thought in 2011 too, when the Mavericks ended up beating them. The Thunder have a lot of options with the pick n’ roll and pick n’ pop, and it’s just a matter of if they adjust. The Thunder have the ability to keep the Heat outside of the paint, and that may be key.