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NBA 2018/19: Analyzing each team's chances at the Playoffs

Kevin Chase
CONTRIBUTOR
Feature
344   //    02 Mar 2019, 15:09 IST

Boston Celtics All-Star Kyrie Irving in a win against Wizards
Boston Celtics All-Star Kyrie Irving in a win against Wizards

The NBA Playoffs are quickly upon us. We have seen plenty of surprises so far in an unpredictable NBA season, from the Brooklyn Nets being competitive to the Lakers not even qualifying for the postseason if the regular season ended today. Here's my take on each current NBA playoff team, and a few that are on the bubble:

Eastern Conference:

Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks are currently the top team in the East lead by MVP candidate, the Greek Freak. Giannis is the player that everyone wants on their team.

There's never been anyone quite like him in the NBA, as far as physique, length, athleticism, ability to finish, the only thing he's missing is a three-point shot. Imagine if or when he gains the ability to shoot consistently and at a high clip.

How would anyone be able to guard this team with Giannis and a bunch of shooters around him? Khris Middleton is his underrated all-star running mate, with Brook Lopez out there looking like Steph Curry, the recent addition of Nikola Mirotic will help them even more.

Eric Bledsoe also just shined on "contract signing day", leading the team to a win against the LA Lakers. The Bucks should be a formidable team entering the playoffs as the favorites to get to the Conference Finals.

Toronto Raptors

Toronto is one of the most intriguing teams in this years playoff hunt. This is without a doubt, not the same team we are used to seeing.

First, LeBron is no longer in the East, automatically improving the Raptors chances of advancing.

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Second, they made a lot of moves that have worked out in their favor. No disrespect to Derozan, but Kawhi is an obvious upgrade.

Throw in Gasol and here we go. The Raptors are ready, everyone on this team plays at a high level, and that should be able to continue into the playoffs as this is a much better squad than what they rolled out there the past couple of years.

Keep your eye on Kyle Lowry, he's struggled in recent years once the playoffs arrive, lets see if it's more of the same or if his playoff struggles come to an end.

Indiana Pacers

Everyone wrote off this team just about two seconds after the Victor Oladipo injury that will sideline their best player for the rest of the year.

They've gone 7-3 in their last 10 games and are currently chilling in third place, on their way to home-court in the first round. This might be the hardest playing team in the entire NBA, but look for them to do little damage in the playoffs, maybe a first-round win, with a second-round exit.

The outlook for this team could be better if they had their star player. That's what is needed in this league to win in the playoffs, and the Pacers are lacking.

Philadelphia 76ers

Philly was one of the more aggressive teams at the trade deadline, dealing away the former No. 1 overall pick in Fultz. They also made a move I'm guessing not many people expected in bringing in Tobias Harris.

That makes for quite a starting lineup now with Simmons, Embiid, Butler, Harris and JJ Reddick.

This team has yet to prove themselves in the playoffs, but with a new cast of players, they could make some noise in this year's playoffs. If they stayed right where they are, we would have a first-round matchup of 76ers-Celtics, who isn't here for that?

Boston Celtics

Here we go, the leagues most inconsistent and underachieving team. The Celtics are so hard to figure out. One night they're out beating teams like the 76ers and the next they're losing to the Chicago Bulls.

This is a team we have seen perform well at home and against good teams, minus their recent game against the Raptors, although we have seen the C's win two games against them already this season.

If the Celtics had to play the 76ers in the first round, it would definitely be tough for them, but also one of the most interesting series of the playoffs to watch.

Maybe Ben Simmons will even attempt a three-pointer. Nevertheless, I seem to be one of the few people that isn't completely giving up on the Celtics this season, and they could rally together come playoff time.

Like Kyrie said, he doesn't think there's a team that can beat them in a seven-game series. As of now, there's nothing to suggest that would be true.

You know, other than the fact that this team went to the Conference Finals last season and then added two all-star caliber players to the mix.

Brooklyn Nets:

Who would've guessed that the Nets would finally be back in playoff contention as early as this season?

The organization has done a great job in drafting (with the few picks they actually owned) and made what turned out to be one of the great moves in the past few seasons with the trade for DeAngelo Russell, who by the way was an all-star this season.

With a supporting cast that features 3-point contest champion, Joe Harris, a young stud in Caris LaVert, whom they just got back off of his scary injury, the Nets could be in prime position to get their first playoff series win since the 2013-14 season.

This perfectly sets up what could actually be a super intriguing first-round matchup with the Pacers. Two teams that play hard and take on the underdog role entering the playoffs, get the popcorn ready.

Detroit Pistons

Need we say more? The Pistons are the Pistons. Sure Blake Griffin is having an all-star season, but this team isn't winning a playoff series, especially against Toronto or Milwaukee. Expect nothing from Detroit.

Orlando Magic

See above.

Miami Heat

While currently sitting 10th in the standings, look for the Heat to get into the playoffs ahead of Orlando. This team features no stars, but a lot of grinders, guys who are veterans, and know how to play.

Led by Flash and Coach Spo, this is a team that can defend, shoot, and is well coached. Still, don't expect anything other than a better fight than Orlando would put up in the first round, should they make it there.

Western Conference


Golden State Warriors

Hey remember when the sky was falling in Golden State and KD and Draymond had just got in that huge argument and hated each other? Water under the bridge.

The defending champions sit atop the Western Conference at 43-19, which is only a game ahead of the second place Denver Nuggets.

Let's face it, this team is lightyears ahead of anyone else, with the greatest shooter anyone has ever seen, another top 5 sharpshooters of all time right by his side, a guy who is 7-foot, can handle it and pull up from 30, averaging 30 points in his sleep.

Put that on the court with the former defensive player of the year and a guy who, before getting injured, was seriously looked at as a top-3 big in this league. A guy who was about to get paid 30 million dollars a year had he not got hurt.

Instead, he took 5, and the Warriors are back, ready to deliver championship number four this decade to the Bay Area.

Denver Nuggets

This is actually one of my favorite teams of this NBA season. You've got guys on this team across the board that can really play. The Joker being their main guy may be a problem, as they don't really have a second "star" player.

While they certainly play by committee, not having any experienced guys other than Paul Millsap will hurt them.

Yes, I.T. has gotten it done in one of the greatest performances in NBA playoff history against the Wizards following the death of his sister, but his miniature size and the fact that he's just getting back into the lineup worries me.

This team has been pretty underwhelming on the road, posting just a 15-14 record. Home court advantage will matter for this young and inexperienced team as they're 27-5 when playing in Denver, the NBA's best home record so far this season.

Oklahoma City Thunder

I love what the Thunder are doing with this team. Russ has finally deferred to Paul George more, and as he should be. George is having an MVP-like season, and alongside Russ, has made for an elite combo.

Steve Adams does a lot of the dirty work for them as well. The addition of Markieff Morris will only help them as they add another gritty grinder.

Look for a first round win from this team, and an extremely intriguing second-round matchup with whoever it may be.

Portland Trail Blazers

It always feels this way for the Blazers: they are a great regular season team every year for the past, well, since Dame arrived really (7 years).

They have a player down low in Jusuf Nurkic who has been steadily improving every year he's been in the league, along with a great scorer next to Dame in C.J. McCollum. The recent addition of Enes Kanter has also paid dividends.

But still, this team doesn't give off that "championship vibe". If the standings hold the Blazers could potentially be looking at a first-round exit against the...

Houston Rockets

Iso ball may be the worst thing to watch in NBA history, but get this, it's working for the Rockets.

James Harden is one of the most elite, prolific, and efficient scorers the game has ever seen. His recent streak of games with 30 or more points has recently come to an end (he still had 28 in that game) but with the additions they've made, he isn't so by himself anymore.

Harden and the Rockets welcomed CP3 back to the lineup after he, and several others including Eric Gordon and Clint Capela, had missed time. Add in the "Manimal" Kenneth Faried and this is a squad that can't wait for the playoffs to get here.

Look for the backcourt to be playing at an elite level, and for James Harden to redeem himself of his past playoff woes. How far the Rockets can go relies on the health of Chris Paul.

History is not on his side, but if healthy, look for the Rockets to go back to the Conference Finals.

Utah Jazz:

This Utah team doesn't feel like last years really. Are they a good team? sure. 6th in the West is nothing to sneeze at, but when you look at the other teams in the conference, you get the feeling that they're just a bit outmatched, even by teams below them.

Mitchell can't do it all by himself, even with guys like Gobert and Ingles (who can ball, don't sleep) don't expect much from the Utah Jazz this postseason.

San Antonio Spurs

It feels out of place to be talking about the Spurs being so far down in the playoff seeding, but the post-Duncan/Parker era has had its effects.

As a team now led by Demar Derozan and LeMarcus Aldridge, I don't see them doing much in the postseason given their matchup they would have in the first round against either of the top teams.

Home court would help their chances as they are 23-7 at home, but a measly 11-22 on the road.

LA Clippers

The Clippers started out this season as one of the hottest teams in the NBA and up near the top of the standings. They since traded their best player in Tobias Harris along with fan-favorite, Boban, to the 76ers.

This team has some really nice pieces to go into the summer with as they look to land two max free agents. Maybe next year is the year of the Clippers.

On the Bubble

Sacramento Kings

Just a note about the Kings, this team could be scary in the next decade with a roster loaded with young talent. Look for them to either make the playoffs as an 8-seed this year, or be back next year in sort of the Jazz, but better, type of setting.

LA Lakers

Finally, the team we all want to hear about. The team that can't possibly miss the playoffs with LeBron James on their team, right?

Right. The Lakers are going to make a playoff push, and it will be because of that man. Because of the greatest basketball player of this generation. The road ahead for the Lakers is pretty tough with games against, well, all of the NBA's top teams.

They have two games against the Bucks, one of which they lost tonight in a hard fought game that was close until the Bucks went on an 11-0 run as the Lakers were up by two points with three minutes to go.

They have tough games against teams like the Clippers, Nuggets, Celtics, Raptors, Nets, Kings, Jazz, Thunder, Blazers and Warriors all coming up. The schedule is not in their favor by any means.


LeBron James looks to lead the Lakers to the Playoffs
LeBron James looks to lead the Lakers to the Playoffs

But if there's one guy in the NBA you'd look at and get behind to go through this stretch and into the playoffs with, who else would it rather be?

I mean this is the guy wrapped his arm around Matthew Dellavedova and said "let's go" before losing to the Warriors in the Finals. That team had nobody. This Laker team is easily far more talented than that. Watch out for the Lakers, and if they get in as a 7-seed, watch out Denver, LeBron is coming.

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