Not since our Intro to Sociology Class have we been presented with an easier question. Spoiler alert: Miami Heat. It won’t even be close. The gap between the Heat and everybody else is huge. Like Billy Fucillo HUGE. Seriously, who’s going to stop them? The Kobe-less Lakers? The Derrick Rose-less Bulls? The geriatric Celtics? The geriatric Spurs? But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s break it down by Conference.
Miami Heat. This must be the Safest. Bet. Ever. There is no one standing in between the Heat and a return trip to the NBA Finals. All signs point to a Heat/Knicks conference finals, which will be entertaining, but unless P.J. Brown and Charlie Ward are going to square off at halftime, there’s really no reason to tune in. And the Knicks are no shoe-in to get there. Melo’s a stud, but the Knicks play too much ISO. And sorry, but we’re not believers in JR Smith. As a general rule, we don’t trust anyone with neck tats, and JR’s no different. Sure, he’s hit some game winners this season, but he’s too streaky and plays too reckless to be consistently counted on. This is the playoffs son, you want Steady Eddie, not Quickdraw McGraw. Indiana’s a dark horse, but they’ll have an eventual match up against the Heat.
Remember the ’96 Bulls that blew through the Eastern Conference playoffs, losing only one game en route to the Finals? The Heat are likely to give that a run for its money.
Here’s where it actually gets interesting. There are three teams that have a legitimate shot to get to the Finals: OKC, San Antonio, and the Nuggets (heh heh, he said Nuggets), not surprisingly the Top 3 seeds in the West. OKC, the only team not named Miami to win 60 games this season, have a formidable (the best?) 1-2 punch in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. San Antonio, it seems, has had the same lineup for decades, but if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. And the Nuggets (he he) led the NBA in points per game and they don’t lose at home. Their last home lost was January 18.
So who makes it through? The Machine’s money is on San Antonio. This is it for the Spurs and I think they know it. Their lineup is aging, to be nice about it. This is their last stand before they hit the dreaded re-building phase (they’re about one year behind the Celtics in this regard). There’s enough left in the tank for one last hurrah…before Duncan completely breaks down and Ginobli’s male pattern baldness fully takes over.
However, all that gets them is a match up with the Heat, and, like the Seattle Supersonics in ’96, winning two games in that series would be an accomplishment.
Ad execs and David Stern may not like this: but there’s really no reason to watch the playoffs at all. Just watch a Sportscenter Playoffs montage and catch Game 4 of the Finals. That’s all you need. The Heat simply have too much firepower to be stopped. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, but get use to calling them back-to-back NBA Champions.