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Round Table: Playoff Seeding Predictions Following the NBA All-Star Break

As the 2018 NBA All-Star weekend has now come to an end, and the final stretch of the season about to begin, the focus has now shifted to the playoff race. The playoff race is very close this season, and any seed is up for grabs. Some key moves prior to the trade deadline have teams such as the Cavaliers, Pistons, and Clippers under a spotlight as they look to adjust for this final stretch of the season. However, no matter the team, every game matters down this stretch.

A lot of these predictions would come as no surprise to many, but there are a few that could catch some eyes. There are some intriguing differences in predictions in both conferences. Who will take the 1 seed in the East? Can Detroit shine down the stretch and grab an 8th seed? Will Utah stay on their hot streak and earn a playoff spot? Can the Clippers adjust to the additions of Avery Bradley and Tobias Harris and outplay other competitors in the West? How will the middle of the Western Conference shape out, particularly in regards to Minnesota, Oklahoma City, and San Antonio? Here are some 2018 playoff predictions from our contributors, Ryan Barone, Dylan Burd, and I:

Eastern Conference

Brendan Conahan                                  Dylan Burd                                          Ryan Barone

1. Raptors                                                  1. Celtics                                               1. Celtics

2. Celtics                                                    2. Raptors                                            2. Raptors

3. Cavaliers                                               3. Cavaliers                                          3. Cavaliers

4. Bucks                                                     4. Bucks                                                4. Pacers

5. Pacers                                                    5. Wizards                                            5. Wizards

6. 76ers                                                      6. Heat                                                   6. Bucks

7. Wizards                                                 7. Pacers                                                7. 76ers

8. Pistons                                                  8. 76ers                                                8. Pistons

Answering Questions About Our Predictions:

Brendan, opinions are scattered as to who will be atop the Eastern Conference when the season comes to an end, why do you give Toronto the edge over Boston or even Cleveland?

Photo Credit: Sportsnet.CA

“Toronto has really looked like a different team this year and behind names like DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. I expect them to continue to play as they were before the All-Star Break. DeRozan and Lowry are really an underrated duo in my book. Despite the presence of young talent in Boston with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, and of course superstar Kyrie Irving, the Celtics have slowed down this season and have been very up and down since coming off of their impressive win streak earlier in the season. As for the Cavaliers, I have been impressed with the level of play since acquiring what seemed like an entire new team on the last day of the trade deadline. They adjusted immediately and have been playing at a high level, but I expect them to see some struggles down the final stretch and in preparation for the playoffs.” – Brendan Conahan

Dylan, why are you so confident in the Miami Heat to nudge out other competitors in the Eastern conference playoff race and does the acquisition of Dwyane Wade play part in this?

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“I’m confident because of coaching and experience. The Heat are coached unbelievably well. I think that Erik Spoelstra is easily a top-5 coach in the NBA. Last year they were terrible and went on a crazy regular season run that put them 1 game short of the playoffs. This is that same team plus Dwyane Wade. I really think that having a Hall-of-Fame-caliber veteran to go along with this group of guys will be so helpful down the crucial stretch of the season. The Heat will outplay the Pacers the rest of the season to get a higher seed because I like the experience more on that team. The Pacers are a very young group, and while I like guys like Oladipo, Turner, and Sabonis, I am skeptical that they won’t hit a cold point sometime before the regular season ends. The same goes for the 76ers. We have seen a roller coaster ride from the 76ers thus far, and I expect that to continue. It happens with young guys. That’s really the main reason I’m giving the edge to the Heat over the Pacers and 76ers.” – Dylan Burd

Ryan, the playoff race in the East is very tight, what do you see in the Pistons that you are predicting them to be the 8th seed, especially considering their recent struggles. Does it have to do with the acquisition of Blake Griffin?

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“The Pistons are currently playing how the Pelicans envisioned their season before the DeMarcus Cousins injury. While Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond aren’t exactly Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, they still are a formidable front court tandem. The similarities move to the back court as well, where Ish Smith and Reggie Jackson (upon his return) will play as the athletic scoring guard that Jrue Holiday was for the Pelicans. In short, if it worked for the Pelicans in a tougher Western conference, I expect more of the same for the Pistons in the East.” – Ryan Barone

Western Conference

Brendan Conahan                                  Dylan Burd                                     Ryan Barone

1. Warriors                                               1. Warriors                                       1. Warriors

2. Rockets                                                2. Rockets                                       2. Rockets

3. Timberwolves                                    3. Thunder                                      3. Thunder

4. Spurs                                                    4. Spurs                                            4. Timberwolves

5. Thunder                                               5. Timberwolves                           5. Spurs

6. Trail Blazers                                       6. Nuggets                                      6. Trail Blazers

7. Nuggets                                                7. Trail Blazers                               7. Jazz

8. Jazz                                                       8. Jazz                                              8. Clippers

Answering Questions About Our Predictions:

Brendan, it will be very interesting to see how the Western Conference seeding plays out in regards to Minnesota, Oklahoma City, and San Antonio. Why do you give the Timberwolves the edge?

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“The Timberwolves have several offensive threats in Jimmy Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Andrew Wiggins. I really like the basketball they have been playing of late and I think these young guys will finish the season strong. As for Oklahoma City, this team really hasn’t shaped out to be everything they are capable of. The season has been very up and down for them and although they can compete with any team in the league they just aren’t getting it done on the floor. The Spurs will always be a threat in the West, but just do not have enough man-power to get a 3 seed this season, especially with superstar Kawhi Leonard out.”-Brendan Conahan

Dylan, the Utah Jazz are currently one of the hottest teams in the NBA with an 11-game- win-streak. What is going to allow them to stay on this hot streak and earn that 8th seed?

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“The Jazz really have some underrated talent. They play great as a team. Mitchell is a legit Rookie-of-the Year candidate and with guys like Gobert, Ingles, and Rubio around him I think they’ll stay hot.” – Dylan Burd

Ryan, the Clippers are one spot out of the playoffs right now. What is it about this team that makes you think they can beat out teams such as Denver or New Orleans for that playoff spot, especially after recently trading their franchise player in Blake Griffin?

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“While the Clippers did trade away Blake Griffin, there is still a ton of talent in the locker room. One could even argue they won the deal with the Pistons in receiving two high-quality starters in Tobias Harris and Avery Bradley. Pair those two up with a star like DeAndre Jordan and great glue guys like Danilo Gallinari and Lou Williams, you have a team that just has more depth at the moment than teams like the Pelicans and Nuggets.” – Ryan Barone


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