We have reached the midpoint of the NBA season and while most of the players and teams are in Los Angeles for the All-Star weekend, we will predict the outcome of the standings and who’s in and out of the NBA playoffs.
With two-thirds of the season already played, those teams in the hunt will be looking to make a final push into the playoffs.
But it raises the question as to how the competitive Western Conference will turn out. Can the Houston Rockets dethrone the Golden State Warriors?
Does the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers have what it takes to help LeBron James make it back to the finals for the eighth straight season, or will Kyrie Irving and the Boston Celtics be the team to beat?
Here are the standings as they head into the break.
1. Toronto Raptors: 41-16
2. Boston Celtics 40- 19
3. Cleveland Cavaliers 34-22
4. Washington Wizards 33-24
5. Indiana Pacers 33-25
6. Milwaukee Bucks 32- 25
7. Philadelphia 76ers 30-25
8. Miami Heat 30-28
9. Detroit Pistons 28-29
10. Charlotte Hornets 24-33
11. New York Knicks 23-36
12. Chicago Bulls 20-37
13. Brooklyn Nets 19-40
14. Orlando Magic 18-39
15. Atlanta Hawks 18-41
1. Houston Rockets 44-13
2. Golden State Warriors 44-14
3. San Antonio Spurs 35-24
4. Minnesota Timberwolves 36-25
5. Oklahoma City Thunder 33-26
6. Denver Nuggets 32-26
7. Portland Trail Blazers 32-26
8. New Orleans Pelicans 31-26
9. Los Angeles Clippers 30-26
10. Utah Jazz 30-28
11. Los Angeles Lakers 23-34
12. Memphis Grizzlies 18-38
13. Sacramento Kings 18-39
14. Dallas Mavericks 18-40
15. Phoenix Suns 18-41
Let’s start by taking a look at the Eastern Conference.
Toronto goes into the break winning seven straight games and holding a two-game lead for the top spot in the East. That will be difficult for them to hold onto with the Celtics expecting to get Gordon Hayward back before the season ends (at least that’s what they hope for).
LeBron James looks to lead his new teammates back to the No. 1 spot and is currently on a four-game win streak. Cleveland also tried to separate themselves from the middle of the pack in the East.
Washington, Indiana, Milwaukee and Philadelphia will be balling out to avoid the Cavaliers in the playoffs and maybe even pass them up in the standings.
On the other hand, Miami will be looking to stay ahead of Detroit and Charlotte for the last playoff spot but fell one game short.
New York and Chicago fought as hard as they could, but without an All-Star they could not reach the playoffs.
Where does each team finish in the conference? Who makes it to Finals?
1. Boston Celtics
2. Cleveland Cavaliers
3. Toronto Raptors
4. Washington Wizards
5. Milwaukee Bucks
6. Indiana Pacers
7. Philadelphia 76ers
8. Detroit Pistons
9. Miami Heat
10. Charlotte Hornets
1. Boston vs. 8. Detroit (in 6)
Assuming Hayward is back for the playoffs, Boston will edge out Detroit and their frontcourt attack of Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond. Without Hayward, Celtics still win.
4. Washington vs. 5. Milwaukee (in 6)
Who doesn’t want to see John Wall and Bradley Beal face the greek freak? Despite Bucks coach Jason Kidd being removed from his duties mid-season, they still manage to make playoffs and advance to the second round.
3. Toronto vs. 6. Indiana (in 7)
Although it won’t be Paul George vs. DeRozan and Lowry, we could see the Pacers their All-Star Victor Oladipo give the Raptors a hard time.
2. Cleveland vs. 7. Philadelphia (in 5)
LeBron James vs. Ben Simmons. Now that’s a matchup everyone would be excited to watch. Too much Sixers inexperience will only help the Cavaliers wrap up their first-round play. Simmons gets himself two Triple-Doubles as well.
1. Boston vs. 5. Milwaukee (in 7)
The Greek Freak will give the Celtics a run for their money and push them to seven games. But Hayward continues to battle back with Giannis and comes up big in the final moments of game 7.
2. Cleveland vs. 3. Toronto (in 6)
It’s King James, you really think he’s ready to give up the throne? Not to these Raptors. They just don’t have enough to stop the Cavaliers and LeBron James. Really who can stop James? He’s a freak of nature and too much for one man to guard.
1. Boston vs. 2. Cleveland
Yes, why not have Kyrie vs. LeBron. It’s what everyone really wants to see. But who wins in a seven-game series?
Before I give away any more spoilers, let me catch you up with the Western Conference.
Houston and Golden State are dominating the West. They will quickly finish as the top two teams in the league. Each will get over 60 wins this season.
The San Antonio Spurs will likely finish with the 3rd seed as long as they continue to play well with LaMarcus Aldridge. Hopefully, Kawhi can add to their success when he comes back from injury. But let’s be honest, it’s coach Pop that’s making the magic out there and continuing to be one of the best (if not the best) head coaches in NBA history.
Minnesota and Oklahoma City will continue to battle for the 4th spot in the playoffs, and the loser will get the 5th seed. But after watching the games, these two teams play against each other. They might be able to bring that to us again.
Denver and Portland are looking to jump over both Minnesota and Oklahoma City wit teams 4-9 two or three games apart.
New Orleans, Los Angeles Clippers, and Utah will all be looking to claim a playoff spot as well, and it will come down to how well the new additions to their teams continue to play.
Lavar Ball’s prediction from his son, Lonzo winning Rookie of The Year and leading the Lakers to the playoffs, won’t come true this season. Lakers are close, but fall behind in the standings and remain at 11.
Let’s take a look at who does make the playoffs in the West though.
1. Golden State Warriors
2. Houston Rockets
3. San Antonio Spurs
4. Minnesota Timberwolves
5. Oklahoma City Thunder
6. Portland Trail Blazers
7. Los Angeles Clippers
8. New Orleans Pelicans
9. Denver Nuggets
10. Utah Jazz
1.Golden State vs. 8. New Orleans (in 5)
Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday have the best playoffs of their careers, but the defending champions proved to be too much for the Pelicans. They don’t have anyone to stop the shooting.
4. Minnesota vs. 5. Oklahoma City (in 7)
We’ll be watching this one very closely. This comes down to the play of the point guard, and the advantage is indeed in the Thunders favor. We expect Steven Adams to have a good series as well. Karl Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins will quickly grow into superstars in this series as they keep pushing for a significant seven-game series.
3. San Antonio vs. 6. Portland (in 6)
LaMarcus Aldridge has led his Spurs all the way to the playoffs just to face his former team. We do expect to see Blazers dynamic duo, Damian Lillard and C. J. McCallum, take advantage of the Spurs backcourt. But they still don’t have an answer for Aldridge and Pau Gasol, regardless of what Kawhi does.
2. Houston vs. 7. L.A. Clippers (in 7)
Who doesn’t want to see this? Even though Blake Griffin is now in Detroit, Austin Rivers is still in L.A. Rivers did not play in the game where the Rockets and Clippers got into it with each other that led to a locker room meet up. Will Rivers get in Trevor Ariza’s head again and cause him to get suspended or will cooler heads prevail and we get an exciting battle in the playoffs?
1. Golden State vs. 5. Oklahoma City (in 7)
Come On! You can’t tell me you don’t want to see Westbrook vs. Durant in the NBA Playoffs. There’s no better series for this season. With the addition of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, Westbrook has what it takes to knock out Kevin Durant and the Warriors. They have proven it this season, and we already know that Westbrook leaves it all on the floor.
2. Houston vs. 3. San Antonio (in 6)
Regardless of the Rockets having 10 more wins than the Spurs, it will find themselves in a nail-biter. Spurs coach, Greg Popovich, is one of the best (if not the best) head coach in NBA history. Coach Mike D’Antoni and the Rockets just have too much talent for the Spurs team to handle. Rockets’ Chris Paul finally gets past the second round for his first career conference finals.
5. Oklahoma City vs. 2. Houston (in 7)
What we see in front of us now could change the landscape of the NBA forever. Both the Rockets and Thunder made plenty of trades in the offseason to get to this point. The reigning MVP Russell Westbrook looks to continue leading his team in the playoffs. However, they fall short to the 2018 MVP James Harden.
Houston Rockets vs. Boston/Cleveland
You decide who wins a best of seven series between Kyrie and LeBron. With both teams healthy, we are set for an exciting battle between two former teammates.