Lately I’ve been working on my post-tournament prospect rankings which will be out very soon. After I post my big board I’ll start posting scouting reports. Since the NBA playoffs just began (Nets beat at Sixers, Magic beat at Raptors, GSW win vs Clippers, Spurs beat at Nuggets) I’ll post my scouting reports periodically. Interspersed with my scouting reports I’ll go over certain NBA matchups. But for me I don’t want to over analyze the NBA playoffs like some have. In the west Golden State is the clear favorite with home court advantage. The only team I could see give them trouble will be Houston. Houston has done a tremendous job of course correcting their season with mid-season acquisitions of Danuel House, Kenneth Faried, Austin Rivers and Iman Shumpert. An argument can be made that Houston is a deeper team now then they were last season. Last years version of Trevor Ariza was better than any player they’ve just acquired but the depth in comparison is better this year. The series versus Golden State last season was a 7-8 man rotation for the Rockets with Gerald Green getting major minutes. Now the Rockets can go 8-10 men deep with a better bench unit and possibly keep players fresher.
The next question becomes will the Golden State vs Houston series come to fruition? The major roadblock is of course Utah. Last postseason divisional round Houston beat Utah in five games. Houston really is a bad matchup for Rudy Gobert; make him play in space, on the perimeter and guard multiple ball screens per possession. The only thing that I could see derailing the Rockets would be Donovan Mitchell going off like he has over this past month. Over his last 15 games Mitchell is averaging 24.6 points, 4.5 assists, 4.3 rebounds, 46.6% from the field but most importantly 47.1% from three on 6.1 attempts per game. If Mitchell can continue his three point shooting barrage then that could affect the way Houston guards him on pick-and-roll. Maybe instead of switching they blitz him and as a result can bend the defense in favor of the Jazz. I could see the Jazz pulling off the upset if Gobert has a bigger presence in the paint offensively and Mitchell’s gravity changes the way Houston guards pick-and-rolls. I wouldn’t count on it though.
As far as the other series go in the west, I really could care less. Denver’s only chance at making noise in the playoffs was based off getting home court advantage throughout the playoffs. Now instead of playing the Clippers in the first round they get San Antonio which has been playing much better defense compared with their sluggish start to the season. The Spurs just beat the Nuggets game one. The Nuggets obviously aren’t out of it yet but the Spurs might have the upper hand due to the difference in experience and the lack of go-to scorers the Nuggets have. In the end does it really matter who wins this series? And it feels like everyone is picking Oklahoma City to beat Portland. The Thunder did beat the Trailblazers 4-0 during the season and without Jusuf Nurkic the series seems insurmountable for Portland to overcome. So naturally I’m picking Portland. They have home court advantage, Paul George is still dealing with shoulder issues and I trust Damian Lillard the most in this series. But again, neither team pose a serious threat to Golden State. Although, one of these four teams have to make the western conference finals. I’ll pick Portland for the sake that they’re underdogs against Oklahoma City and a nice redemption story after losing last postseason to the Pelicans.
In the East my pre-season pick was Boston then as the season went on I started to favor the Bucks. Out of all the eastern conference teams, Boston is best designed for the playoffs while Milwaukee has the best fit. Boston has a slashing, three point shooting scorer of a point guard, with a mismatch problem at center and a bunch of switchable big wings. Remind you of any team out west? That’s why I think they are best designed. Al Horford was and still is a mismatch problem for Joel Embiid and he will force Brook Lopez to exit the paint on defense. Kyrie is the do-it all offensive point guard and they have a slew of big wings that can switch, shoot threes and attack closeouts. Yes, Boston hasn’t been quite the team we expected them to be before the season began. Even though they might be well designed they haven’t been able to get on the same page all season. That is obviously my biggest reservation but then I remembered how everyone counted them out before last postseason began since Kyrie was hurt. They were one game away from making the finals. I kind of think when pushed against the wall this team finds ways to win. For Milwaukee it’s more simple. They’ve been the best team in the league all season due to fit. Giannis as the fulcrum of a 5-out motion offense that has shooting at every position. They have the pieces that fit the best out of all the possible eastern conference teams and they have home court advantage which helps too. I honestly can’t make my mind up. Boston or Milwaukee? The easy answer is Milwaukee since they have the best player in the conference and home court advantage. But I still like Horford being a mismatch problem to defend on pick-and-rolls. The injury bug is a problem for both teams as Marcus Smart is out for Boston and Malcolm Brogdon is out for Milwaukee.
The reason why I’m not talking Toronto and Philadelphia isn’t because they both lost their first series game. Overall I just think Kawhi has one foot out the door, OG Anunoby is hurt and Kyle Lowry’s playoff failures are still a thing. For the Sixers, Embiid is dealing with another knee issue, their bench stinks and the lack of shooting is a major flaw. I know that’s over simplifying both teams and if I’m wrong then I’m wrong but I think Boston and Milwaukee are best suited to win the east and give Golden State problems.
This postseason could be very interesting for this reason: I really think the two best teams in each conference will play each other in the divisional round and not the conference finals. Boston vs Milwaukee and Golden State vs Houston will both happen in the divisional round but both series could determine the actual winner of the conference. Or at least, that’s what I think.