(1) Chicago Bulls vs. (8) Philadelphia 76ers
Don’t let the eight next to the 76ers’ name fool you; they pose a much greater threat to Chicago than it would indicate.
The 76ers are a young, energetic bunch that does most of its damage off of the bench with Lou Williams, Evan Turner, and Thaddeus Young. Those three will need to play at a high level as well as starters Iguodala and Jrue Holiday if they want to upset the Bulls.
At the end of the day I still think the Bulls will get it done. Rose is back, albeit he still isn’t one hundred percent, but their overall depth will be too much for Philadelphia. C.J. Watson and Loul Deng could be the difference makers in this series with their shooting and defensive abilities.
Chicago in seven
(2) Miami Heat vs. (7) New York Knicks
The Knicks are the underdogs, and the Heat have the firepower to win it all, but the Knicks have a big advantage in one important area.
They have the leading three point shooter in the league in Steve Novak and added J.R. Smith in the middle of the year. They will be without Jeremy Lin, but Iman Shumpert and company have filled in nicely.
The Heat just needs to play their game and not let the Knicks beat them down low. They will hit their threes, but it’s important the Heat control the pace of play or else they could be sent packing early.
New York in seven
(3) Indiana Pacers vs. (6) Orlando Magic
This seems to be the most lopsided match-up in the Eastern Conference.
A month ago these seeds could have been switched and I would have said Orlando would win convincingly, but now Dwight Howard is injured, they lack stability as a unit, and haven’t looked good since Howard has been sidelined.
The Pacers on the other hand could make some noise this postseason. They have quietly been going about their business led by unheralded star Danny Granger, and won’t be stopped by the dysfunctional Magic.
Indiana in four
(4) Boston Celtics vs. (5) Atlanta Hawks
The Garnett- Smith matchup in the post as well as the Pierce- Johnson matchup could prove to be two of the best in the playoffs.
The ex-factor lies with the Celtics however, and Rajon Rondo is hungry to lead them to a championship as their best player. He has blossomed into one of the top point guards in the game, and he will need to continue that trend in order to beat a very talented Hawks squad.
Boston in seven
(1) San Antonio Spurs vs. (8) Utah Jazz
The Spurs seem to be like fine wine and only get better with age.
Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli are two ageless wonders than can still take over a game. Tony Parker may be the most underrated player in the league, which makes the Spurs that much more dangerous- they have been overlooked all season.
The Jazz have talent as well, and one of those talented players, Al Jefferson, will be looking to prove himself in the postseason; a place he’s never been before. Even with Jefferson and company the Jazz won’t be able to take down the experienced Spurs who look like a team on a mission.
San Antonio in five
(2) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (7) Dallas Mavericks
The Thunder should have no problem beating the defending champs.
The Mavs are getting older, and not in the good way like the Spurs. They look slow and aren’t producing at the level they were last year.
The Thunder on the other hand boasts the newly minted scoring champ in Kevin Durant as well as the explosive, but enigmatic point guard Russell Westbrook. Together those two can win a championship, but if one or the other decides they want to be the hero it could be a short playoff run for them too.
Oklahoma City in five
(3) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (6) Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets are a very unheralded team, but an upset wouldn’t be as surprising to me as it would to other people.
The Lakers have all the stars in Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum, but they lack the overall team depth of the Nuggets. Denver can play ten deep and hardly miss a beat with whoever is out there.
Even though I do like a team with a lot of depth opposed to a team with a lot of star power, it does pay off to have one big star, and Denver just doesn’t have one. Ty Lawson their speedy point guard could develop into one, but as of right now he is just a solid point guard on a team of solid players.
L.A. Lakers in six
(4) Memphis Grizzlies vs. (5) Los Angeles Clippers
Much like the Eastern Conference’s four/five game this one should be very even.
The Grizzlies had success last year beating the Spurs in the first round as an underdog, and will be the underdog again this year even though they have a slightly higher seed. With all of their young talent mixed with a few savvy veterans Memphis could make it to the conference final, but this first round will not be easy.
The Clippers really haven’t looked the same ever since Chauncey Billups went down with and injury. They have the two biggest stars in Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, but I don’t think that will be enough in this series.
Memphis in seven