Warrior Weekly: NBA playoffs

WSPNs Aditya Weling picks apart the top contenders for this years NBA playoffs. With this year being far from normal and filled with countless injuries, many teams are looking to step up and bring the hardware back to its city.

Credit: WSPN Staff

WSPN’s Aditya Weling picks apart the top contenders for this years NBA playoffs. With this year being far from normal and filled with countless injuries, many teams are looking to step up and bring the hardware back to its city.

With the NBA playoffs right around the corner, it’s time to start looking ahead to some of the top contenders and phoney pretenders in this year’s dance. In this unusual, and slightly shortened, 72-game regular season, title favorites have been rocked with injuries and young teams have shown out, shocking everyone but themselves. We all remember last year’s playoffs, in the Orlando bubble, a summer showcase that made up what it lacked in missing fans with next level intensity. Surprise, surprise, King James and the Lakers took home the crown, setting them up to be massive favorites coming into this season. However, things have changed, and with the May 18 Play-In games coming up, let’s take a closer look at some teams who are hoping to be the ones that lift the Larry O’Brien trophy at the end of the season.

Los Angeles Lakers:

When a conversation about the NBA is being had, it can’t be long before the name Lebron James comes up. The King is back at it again, as he started the season on fire, even being a consensus top two MVP candidate. However, whether it’s a sign of age for the 36-year-old, or just a string of bad luck, injuries have severely derailed his campaign, and thus the Lakers’ as well. The candidate has missed over 20 games this year with ankle problems, and it doesn’t help that his All-NBA sidekick, Anthony Davis, has missed over 30 games himself, due to calf problems. Thus the Lakers, who were a top-two seed in the West early on, have dropped all the way into the Play-In tournament at the 7 spot, causing many experts to jump off the bandwagon. However, if there is one thing we have learned in the past two decades, especially after the 2016 Finals, never count out playoff Lebron.

Brooklyn Nets:

The Nets are one of the most scrutinized teams in recent memory, and it isn’t hard to see why. Last year, after headlining the 2019 Free Agency period by picking up Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, and then seeing them both go out for the season, a plucky Nets team fought their way into the playoffs, only to get swept by a red-hot Raptors team in the first round. However, the basis of a team was clear, and coming into the season, Durant and Irving both obtained massive amounts of pressure on their shoulders to bring the first ever NBA championship to Brooklyn. To be fair to them, they have certainly done their part, as both started during this year’s All-Star game. However, injuries, and some other undisclosed personal reasons, have kept each out of the lineup for a significant amount of time.

To add to it all, we haven’t even mentioned the trade for James Harden in January of this year. The Beard has balled out, as always, showing an unselfish side to his game that we hadn’t really seen before. However, injuries have plagued him too, as he has missed a considerable amount of time. All in all though, the Nets have done more than stay afloat, as they have the 2 spot in the East locked up. The Nets defense might not be the NBA equivalent of the ‘85 Bears, but regardless, the talent on that team is overwhelmingly great, and, when healthy, they are as much a favorite as anyone else.

Phoenix Suns:

If you want a sleeper, then don’t look at the Phoenix Suns. They’ve arrived. While they may not be the biggest title favorites, or the flashiest team to talk about, they have certainly climbed their way from missing the playoffs last year to establishing themselves as contenders in this year’s postseason. While some might argue that the addition of All-Time Point Guard Chris Paul was the spark plug that moved the Phoenix Suns from a dormant to aggressive franchise, it could also go back even further from that. We all remember the Orlando Bubble, and the biggest shock of it all was by far the Suns’ 8-0 record in the remaining regular season games. While they did not end up making the playoffs, the foundation for a winning culture was set. Insert Paul into a situation with Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, and fantastic role players, and maybe you have something special here. The 2-seed Suns might have some early trouble if they end up having to face the 7-seed Lakers, but a win in a series like that could be huge if Phoenix is looking to make a real run.

Philadelphia 76ers:

To round it out, why not talk about the 1-seed in the East, the 76ers. If we’re being honest, the Sixers have been on fire since the opening tip in the first game of the season. 8-2 in their last ten, Philly is currently one and a half games over Brooklyn for the top spot in the conference. While no team functions because of one man, if you really want to dissect the reason for the sudden uptick in success for the Sixers, no need to look any further than Joel Embiid. He’s an absolute monster this year, posting MVP-type numbers at around 30 points per game to go along with over ten rebounds a contest as well. While Embiid has usually struggled with health and conditioning, it hasn’t been as much of a problem this year, which has allowed him to stay on the court for the most part. When you couple that type of production with his partner in crime, and my pick for Defensive Player of the Year, Ben Simmons, you get pretty great results. The 76ers’ previous playoff performances have been rather disappointing, however, the addition of championship head coach Doc Rivers may be able to change that.

There are plenty of other teams out there that you could write page-after-page on. You could ask yourself whether or not the Jazz are for real, whether of not the Bucks will finally get over the hump, or whether Kawhi and the Clippers will avenge the embarrassment of last year. However, what we know for sure, with all the teams that believe they can contend for a championship, is that this year’s playoffs aren’t going to disappoint.