There was so much change in the Association this summer that watching Tuesday night’s Lakers-Clippers game was like watching a futuristic movie. The Clippers didn’t just look good. They looked bad-ass.
I’m biased. Kawhi Leonard is my favorite player in the NBA, and I think he’s the best player in the Association. He also led the Toronto Raptors to a title last year. For those of you who know me, I rooted for Toronto in association with the honeymoon my bride and I took to the city.
So, to my first question: Can Toronto repeat?
Yes, as Eastern Conference champs.
Pascal Siakam is a budding star, and the Raptors have chemistry oozing from their pores.
Milwaukee is still terrific
Philadelphia *I think* takes a step back minus Butler
Let me explain that. Yes, I think the Raptors take a step back without Kawhi. D’uh. However, Siakam is so good that the gap is closing. If you remember the Toronto-Philadelphia series last year, that was heavy on Jimmy Butler, who signed with the Miami Heat in the offseason.
I love Butler, and I love the Heat. They’re my sleeper to win the East. Tyler Herro is going to make a run at Rookie of the Year, even with Zion in the NBA. If he can stay healthy.
In the East, I like Toronto / Milwaukee / Philadelphia / Miami as a Final Four.
In the West, I think it’s Clippers vs. Denver for a spot in the Finals.
What about Houston?
As an Oklahoma City Thunder fan, I got to watch Russell Westbrook play for more than a decade. Harden, too. With Chris Paul’s departure, Houston’s defense will be even worse. Houston will go 57-25 and eventually get smothered by Kawhi and the Clippers.
To me, that’s it for the West. And, no, I don’t think the Lakers have a chance. Their roster, top to bottom, isn’t all that great. The Clippers are a wonderfully crafted team: skill guys, niche guys, old and young.
If I had to pick an NBA Finals, give me Clippers – Heat.
My dream is a Toronto – Clippers final. With the Raptors winning.
As far as the hometown Oklahoma City Thunder go, I think as long as Chris Paul and Danilo Gallinari are on the team, the Thunder will have a shot to win. Give me 38-44 for a final record.