Golden State Warriors – Steph Curry and the Warriors have broken many records already, but they aren’t done. Some questioned the legitimacy of last year’s championship—blaming Cleveland’s injuries. But this year, Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are pushing for the best NBA record in history and a back-to-back championship.
San Antonio Spurs – The Spurs have had a spectacular season, losing only once at home all year. Kawhi Leonard has improved greatly from behind the arc, and offseason signing LaMarcus Aldridge has been outstanding.
Oklahoma City Thunder – All-star duo Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant are hoping to lead their team deep into the playoffs. They haven’t been to the Finals since 2012, but it will be tough to overcome Golden State and San Antonio in the Western Conference.
Los Angeles Clippers – Even though Chris Paul was their only all-star this season, don’t be fooled. This gritty team is star-studded and, with Blake Griffin healthy, will be a tough team to beat in the playoffs.
Portland Trail Blazers – Even though they lost LaMarcus Aldridge (Spurs) to free agency, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum have had great seasons in Portland. They are a dark horse in the West and will be looking to shake things up from last year’s loss in the first round.
Memphis Grizzlies – Despite not having any all-stars, the Grizzlies have hovered in the middle of the contenders in the West. Mike Conley and Marc Gasol are looking to lead this team of veterans deeper than the first round.
Dallas Mavericks – Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks are just a shade of their former self. They have faded into a team that stays just good enough to make the playoffs, but not good enough to actually do anything—also preventing them from quality draft picks. They will need to rebuild their roster in the near future. Don’t expect a run from them in the playoffs, especially if they face the Spurs.
Houston Rockets – All-Star James Harden leads a Rockets team that will have a very difficult matchup against the Warriors. They will have a long shot of making it back to the conference finals again this season.
Cleveland Cavaliers – No one will deny this is a talented team; however, they do not have the chemistry that they should have by now. Will LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love be able to figure out their team’s identity and get back to the Finals? LeBron’s track record of getting to Finals certainly makes it look that way.
Toronto Raptors – The Raptors have proved themselves to be a much better team than many expected. With one of the best backcourts in the East, Kyle Lowry and Demar DeRozan, they will look to make their presence felt in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Atlanta Hawks – Paul Millsap and Al Horford led a great regular season team, but will have to prove their talent in the playoffs, as they failed to convert in last year’s playoffs. They definitely have something to prove this year.
Miami Heat – After missing the playoffs last year, all-star Dwayne Wade will be looking to lead the Heat deep into the playoffs.
Boston Celtics – Lead by Isaiah Thomas, this well-coached team hopes to make a playoff run this year. They shattered many experts’ predictions for how their season would go, and they hope to carry their team focused basketball into the playoffs.
Charlotte Hornets – Kemba Walker and the Hornets hope to make an impact in this year’s playoffs. After signing Jeremy Lin in the offseason, they have improved a lot even through injuries to Al Jefferson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Jefferson is healthy again, and they should be ready for the playoffs.
Indiana Pacers – Rookie Myles Turner has been big for a team that is led by Paul George. George can take over games and will be expected to do so for the Pacers against the Raptors in the first round.
Detroit Pistons – Don’t count out the up-and-coming Detroit Pistons. All-star center, Andre Drummond, led the league in double-doubles and the young squad can get hot and light it up from behind the arc. Their matchup with the Cavaliers will be interesting.
Western Conference Finals – Warriors beat Spurs in seven games. In what will be regarded as one of the best conference finals in NBA history, the Spurs will not be able to get the job done on the Warriors’ home court.
Eastern Conference Finals – Cavaliers beat the Hawks in five. The Cavaliers will find their identity and won’t be able to be stopped, except for a Hawks win at Game 3 in Atlanta. LeBron James will return to the NBA Finals for the sixth straight season.
NBA Finals – The Warriors will beat the Cavaliers in seven. After the Cavaliers go up 3-1 in the series, the Warriors will win three straight to deny Cleveland a championship.