I’ve had a pretty bad year prognosticating sports. My fantasy football team started Melvin Gordon almost half the season and my first-round draft pick was Dez Bryant. My March Madness bracket was so bad I cringe every time I think about it. I almost didn’t write a NBA playoffs predictions column because I didn’t want to achieve a triple crown of sports forecasting terribleness. However, I love the NBA too much to miss out on such an easy post. Plus, I can’t get any worse at this, so without further ado I present my 2016 NBA Playoffs predictions.
Warriors-Rockets (Warriors in six)- Frankly, if I were Steve Kerr I would be more worried about Patrick Beverly “accidentally” injuring Stephen Curry than the Rockets beating me. The Rockets have the perimeter defenders, e.g. Corey Brewer, Trevor Ariza, and Beverly, to slow the Warriors down and take a few games off them, but I don’t see how they can win this series.
Spurs-Grizzlies (Spurs in four)- Sorry Grizzlies fans, but I’m not betting on a team whose game one leading scorers were Vince Carter and Lance Stephenson in the year 2016. Merely being in the playoffs is an accomplishment for a Grizzlies team that battled a historic amount of injuries all year long. Advancing to the next round would be a miracle.
Thunder-Mavericks (Thunder in five)- I think it’s bad news for the Thunder that you can plausibly argue their second-best bench player is Dion Waiters. Even worse news is that their best bench player is Enes Kanter, whose former teammate Trevor Booker once described as a guy who “did what he always does. He got his stats. He didn’t defend. He took an L (a loss)” after Kanter returned to Salt Lake City as a member of the Thunder. It won’t hurt them versus an injury-plagued and overmatched Mavericks team, but we’ll revisit this point in a few paragraphs.
Clippers-Trail Blazers (Clippers in five)- I love what the Trail Blazers have done this season, but they are a two-man team that relies on Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum to outscore the opposition, of whom the latter only scored nine points in game one. The Clippers are going to get the benefit of the whistle, and they have a deeper and more experienced team. If you’re picking the Trail Blazers you are either a Portland fan or you are overthinking things.
Cavaliers-Pistons (Cavaliers in five)- Sorry Stan Van Gundy, but LeBron has been getting ridiculous calls for many years. Beating the Cavaliers in the playoffs will require star players who also get a friendly whistle, great team play, and luck. The Pistons may have number two and the may get number three, but they aren’t going to get the same calls. If they can take a few games off the Cavaliers that’s a victory in of itself and something they can build on next year.
Raptors-Pacers (Pacers in six)- I would call this an upset special, but it’s not really an upset when half the NBA is expecting it. Forget the fact that the Raptors always choke in the playoffs and that the players like Paul George thrive in April and May. I just don’t trust anybody on this Raptors team in the playoffs with the possible exception of Kyle Lowry and he did not look good in game one.
Heat-Hornets (Heat in five)- All year long I was leading the Heat bandwagon charge, so I’m not about to get off versus the Charlotte Hornets. The Heat are built for the postseason and the Hornets for the regular season. That’s not a terrible thing since you have to do relatively well in the latter to make it to the former, but it means the Hornets’ ceiling is a lot lower than the Heat. Also, I know it’s unlikely, but if there are any Hornets decision-makers reading this article please do not take a first-round exit to mean you should resign Nicolas Batum for a bajillion dollars. You’re the closest NBA team to my hometown and I don’t want to have to be subjected to a series of uninspiring first-round playoff exit teams.
Hawks-Celtics (Celtics in seven)- My biggest issue with first-round seven-game series is that most of the early NBA playoffs is utterly predictable and not fun to watch. However, this series makes me wish I still lived in the States and could watch it live.
Warriors-Clippers (Warriors in six)-The Clippers biggest assets versus the Warriors are that they are a veteran team with the two-way wings necessary to counter Curry-Thompson-Green. Oh wait, never mind, they traded away those players, so now they get to make decisions like if they want to play one of the worst defensive players in the NBA, Jamal Crawford, or one of the worst offensive players, Luc Mbah a Moute. Call me crazy, but I don’t think that’s a formula for success. Although, any team with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin is going to put up a good fight.
Thunder-Spurs (Spurs in seven)- Every year we (or at least most of us) underestimate the Spurs. Well, this year I’m not doing it. Then again I am the guy who picked Melvin Gordon over Todd Gurley, so what the hell do I know. I love KD and Russell Westbrook has had an incredible year, but I just can’t pick such a shallow team. They have probably the best top four in the NBA with the possible exception of the Warriors, but this is arguably the deepest Spurs team yet.
Heat-Pacers (Heat in six)- Paul George is great, but he’s not beating a locked-in Heat team by himself. They can throw too many defenders at him and have Hassan Whiteside protecting the rim. The Pacers’ best hope is that somebody like Monta Ellis goes off, but if you’re betting on Monta Ellis winning you a playoffs series you’re probably not winning your bet.
Cavaliers-Celtics (Cavaliers in five)-I’m not looking forward to this series because we’re going to be subjected to thousands of angry Celtics bloggers, commentators, etc. complaining about how LeBron is reffed. Sorry Boston sports fans, but your quarterback gets one of the friendliest whistles in all of professional sports, so deal with it. The series itself is unlikely to be close, if for no other reason than I don’t think the Celtics can score enough against a presumably locked-in Cavaliers defense.
Nobody is a bigger Brad Stevens fan than me, but it’s the playoffs and the Cavaliers are going to be hungry. Maybe the Celtics can win a few games by trying to play recreate the 80s Pistons and make this series ugly (it was pretty heated last year), but I don’t think they can win a seven-game series.
Warriors-Spurs (Spurs in seven)- After two series of being beaten up and chased around by Patrick Beverly and Chris Paul I would be worried about Stephen Curry if I were Steve Kerr. Plus, call me crazy, but all year long this Warriors team has reminded me of the 16-0 Patriots from a few years ago. Of course, watch the Warriors go 16-0 during these playoffs and make me look like an idiot. In that case I never wrote this.
Cavalier-Heat (Cavaliers in six)- The East may be better than in years past, but it’s still a one-team conference. LeBron is obviously a great player, but he has benefitted tremendously from spending his entire career in the Eastern Conference. I don’t think you can quantify it (although somebody has probably tried), but if you are going to get into one of those stupid arguments where you get red in the face while you yell at your friend (or even worse at a stranger in a bar) about whether Kobe or LeBron was better you shouldn’t forget this.
Cavaliers-Spurs (Cavaliers in six)- I’m sticking to the team I predicted would win all season long, even if it puts me at great risk of becoming the American Pharoah of terrible sports predictions.
Chris Linnan is currently a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Indonesia, who has a life-long basketball and politics addiction. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions, concerns, or thoughts.