These six NBA teams look set for finals

“With the third pick in the 2014 NBA draft, the Philadelphia 76ers select Joel Embiid from the University of Kansas.” That was nearly three years ago, and little did we know Embiid would become such a powerful star for the newly surging 76ers. Embiid played his first game in his career this season after missing his previous two with injuries. “Trust the process” has become a quote that both the star forward and organization are running with. Through the month of January, the Sixers have outplayed great teams like LeBron’s struggling Cavs and once promising Knicks.

6. Though the Sixers are battling it out for the last spots in the standings, the organization is on the up and up. The Jazz, however, are in the same boat, just competing for a high playoff lock. The Jazz, who were once the joke of the league, are starting to find success with after a long wait. Gordon Hayward is 24th in the league with 21.6 points per game, which is seven points above his career average. Along with huge center Rudy Gobert, the two are providing for a surprising and deadly duo. Gobert is averaging a 12 point 12 rebound game and is a fortress in the paint, but these two up and coming teams still aren’t the best in the league. The downtrend Cavs finish on the cusp of my top five, with the obvious Spurs and Warriors. The other may surprise you, or not depending on if you’ve actually followed basketball this year.

5. The Cleveland Cavaliers finished off 2016 strong, hosting the best record in the east and a commanding lead over the next best team, the Raptors, and let’s not forget that controversial win over the Golden State Warriors, but since the change of the new year, the Cavs have been anything but dysfunctional. James has been calling out organization bigwigs for not doing their job, including owner Dan Gilbert, and James has expressed his frustration with the team’s lack of performance against easily beatable teams and the fact they still don’t have a backup point guard. Don’t get me wrong. Cleveland is still a great team, but as of right now their play and chemistry are among the worst teams in the league. If they can get their act together in time for the playoffs and return to their beginning of season form, they have a very high chance of going 2-1 in the Finals.

4. Number four I have the Boston Celtics, or should I just say, Isiah Thomas. Don’t get me wrong; there are still other guys on the roster, but Thomas is perhaps the best guard in the league right now. Thomas’ ability to control games with his size is remarkable. His fourth quarter heroics are unmatched by anyone else in the league.  His clutch play has really propelled this team to where they are today, and closing out close games with a win can be a make or break trait in the playoffs. 

Playing the two spot, Avery Bradley can guard anyone in the league. He’s the best defender in this era of soft defense and zone coverage. Against anyone, that can provide a great asset. Whether it be shutting down Steph or Kyrie or D Wade. His undervalued asset would definitely be his scoring. Bradley is averaging about 17 points per game and is shooting a decent 47 percent from the floor. Bradley is an OK shooter on a great shooting team. Jae Crowder is one of the better perimeter shooting big men in the game. He is a deadeye from the corner and when Thomas or Avery go cold, Jae can shoulder the load. The Celtics didn’t get too far in last years playoffs, but look for them to make some noise this season.

3. The Toronto Raptors last season were a team that came out of nowhere. Derozan and Lowry started to click and showed the league why they are the Eastern Conference’s version of Steph and Klay. Derozan is mainly a mid range and inside finisher. Derozan is a fierce finisher with defenders in his face and can get fancy with acrobatic lay-ins inside the paint. Lowry is an underrated three-point shooter. He’s shooting a decent 41.5 percent from beyond the arc and 43 percent from mid-range.

Lowry and DeRozan can both be hard threats to handle, and if one goes cold the other will pick him up. Teams will have to respect DeRozan’s driving game, which opens up Lowry on beyond the arc, and vice versa. It will be interesting to see how teams handle these two during the playoffs. If teams find a way to shut both guards down, it will be hard for the Raptors to put up points. Against a team like the Celtics, who have great defending guards, it will be a challenge.

The Raptors need to make a serious splash before the trade deadline comes up. If Toronto can get a great post big man, then they will be a serious contender and a nuisance in the Eastern Conference down the stretch.

2. The San Antonio Spurs are a team that has been consistently great team ever since long time coach Gregg Popovich took over. The Spurs now are having a change of the guard so to speak. Tim Duncan has retired and to take his place is young superstar Kawhi Leonard. Kawhi is great in the post like Tim; he can shoot the ball if he needs to, and he is one of the greatest defenders the game has ever seen.

Aside from the fact that they have the next LeBron in their lineup, they also have two great forwards in Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge. Both are good solid defenders and consistent scorers from 15 feet to the basket. Pau is a great rebounder and against smaller teams, he’s really been put on a clinic. He’s averaging almost eight rebounds a game and 1.2 blocks per game. Although his scoring touch is slowly disappearing, Gasol is still a force to be reckoned with in the paint.

Aldridge to me is going to be a dark horse in the playoffs. He’s having his best three-point percentage season yet, and with Tony Parker still able to dish him the ball both inside and out of arc. Aldridge’s presence is mainly felt on the offensive side, and his defensive ability will need to improve against big time opponents like Draymond Green. San Antonio is a playoff built team, and I think they have the keys to go far. They have the veteran leadership from both players and coaches. They have young and old talent, but the only thing in their way is the Golden State Warriors. There’s a 90 percent chance that the Western Conference Final is between these two. If things fall into place, the Spurs might be able to beat them.

1. It’s no surprise that Golden State is number one. As much as it pains me to say, they are the best in the league. Steph is starting to look like himself after this rocky first half of the season. The Warriors are still under 10 losses halfway through the season. That doesn’t beat last year’s record, but they are just as good. Steve Kerr is healthy, along with Draymond and Klay. If things can keep going the way they are, then a championship is certainly in their grasp. Let’s not forget about Kevin Durant. The man has silenced his haters and is having one of the best seasons in his career. He’s leading the team on his mission to finally get that ring. He’s first in the team’s offensive stats, points per game and field goal percentage, with Draymond in the lead for defensive stats: eight rebounds, seven assists and two steals. Steph is right behind KD with 25.6 points per game but surprisingly not leading the team in assists.

Overall, the Warriors are just as good as they were last year, breaking the single-season wins record. The Warriors have all the right players to continue their dynasty throughout the decade.

If I had to pick a Finals winner at this point in the season, it’d probably have to be Golden State. Kevin Durant would finally get his ring and a Finals MVP trophy, and all the critics would be silenced, but then again it will most likely be a three peat of the Cavs and Warriors Finals matchup, and you do remember what happened last year? It will definitely be an interesting end to the 2017 season.

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