The NBA regular season is done and the “Real Season” is now underway. The Cavaliers open defense of their first-ever NBA title and other teams are looking to keep them at just one. Here are the teams that can or may make a difference on the path to an NBA championship.
Cleveland Cavs: #2 Seed
When you can begin by saying you have LeBron James, your chances for a title increase dramatically. Add Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love and you have the makings of a champion. Yet, the Cavs have been struggling on defense for most of the second half of the season. Their offense has been a completely different story as they have the best efficiency of any title winner in the last decade.
For the Cavs to make sure they are the only team left standing in the East, they will need to rely on their effective offense and make sure they do not lose ground defensively. If they can stay healthy, they should have little problem repeating as Eastern Champs.
Boston Celtics: #1 Seed
Isaiah Thomas is the example for all the little guys that were told they could not do it. He has grown into one of the most dynamic players in the league, but he and the Celtics do have their flaws.
The fact that they are the top seed will bring pressure all in itself, but when you have just one go-to guy, your offense becomes limited. The Celtics are dependent on the three-pointer but are not one of the better shooting teams from long range. The question is not will they get out of the first round, it is can they make a deep run with limited firepower and playoff experience?
Toronto Raptors: #3 Seed
They have the same record as the Cavs and are looking to go deeper than last year. This is a talented young team led by the likes of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. They got some new acquisitions in Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker, but do they have the chemistry needed to make a playoff run?
The good thing for them is they are primed to hit a new stride in the postseason. This will be the time for their young talent to shine and see if they can get past the Milwaukee Bucks and look towards a second-round showdown with the Cavs.
Golden State Warriors: #1 Seed
So they were “only” able to win 67 games this season and there was not as much Stephen Curry hoopla as there has been in recent years. The addition of Kevin Durant ran into a brick wall when he was injured. He is back and the most potent lineup in the NBA wants to see if they can get to the Finals for the third straight year.
They key will be players being able to hold their own in the clutch moments, to be able to get the stops needed defensively and keep their offense at a high level. It is very easy to pick the Dubs, but their vaunted lineup cannot miss a beat. Their epic collapse in last year’s Finals must stay stuck in their heads. They know they are the best team in the league over the course of 82 games. Now is the time to find out if they can get 16 wins when it counts the most.
San Antonio Spurs: #2 Seed
The Spurs continue to be the model all NBA teams should mold themselves after. They are still one of the best of the best and they show no signs of letting up. Still, it will take one colossal effort for this team to make a run for the title.
If a championship is to happen, Kwahi Leonard will have to be, well, Kwhai Leonard. He has become one of the most complete players on both ends of the floor. His ability to play cold as ice in any situation gives him the confidence he needs to take over a game. LaMarcus Aldridge must also come up big for the Spurs to go deep in the postseason. He will have to control the boards and hit the outside shot to keep his defender honest. Lastly, how much does Tony Parker have left at 34 and after a long regular season?
Houston Rockets: #3 Seed
For the Rockets, it starts and ends with “The Beard”, James Harden, their MVP. Harden will have to score often and at will for Houston to have a legit shot at the West. They will have to be the best defensive team in the conference to compensate for their lack of consistency.
Behind Harden, it will be Ryan Anderson and effort to earn his $18M contract in the playoffs. Players like Trevor Ariza, Patrick Beverly, and Eric Gordon play the best basketball of their lives. They will still have an issue with depth and keeping up with the likes of Leonard, Curry, Durant and more. It is high unlikely that this team will be able to hang with the class of the West, but that is why they play the games.