West 1st Round:
Jazz vs Grizzlies- Jazz in 5
The Jazz offense and depth are simply too deadly for the Grizzlies to handle. This series should be quick work for the first seed.
Suns vs Lakers- Lakers in 6
Counting LeBron out is not a risk I’m willing to take this year. Once playoff mode is activated, I doubt that this high octane Suns offense can deal any serious damage to the defending champions.
Nuggets vs Blazers- Blazers in 7
In the playoffs last year, the Nuggets were led equally by both Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. Though Jokic has improved a lot, Murray is out for the playoffs with a torn ACL, and I predict that the inexperience of the Nuggets young core will show.
Clippers vs Mavericks- Clippers in 6
Just like last year’s first-round series, Luka will put on a show, but not be able to push the Mavs over the brink. The Clippers have too much depth and star power for the Mavericks to handle.
East 1st Round:
Sixers vs Wizards- Sixers in 5
This first-round series may truly be an upset and I would not be shocked if the Wizards manage to win in 6 or 7 due to the tremendous streak that they’ve been on. However, the Sixers will most likely be able to contain Westbrook and Beal with their suffocating perimeter defense to end the series in a definitive fashion.
Nets vs Celtics- Nets in 5
Tatum won’t have much help in this series and the Celtics will be entirely outmatched from a skill perspective. The raw talent of the Nets will lead them to an easy victory over the Celtics.
Bucks vs Heat- Bucks in 6
With the addition of Jrue Holiday and one more year of experience under Giannis’s belt along with the regression of the Heat, I believe the Bucks will be able to avenge the defeat of last season’s disappointing semi-finals exit.
Knicks vs Hawks- Knicks in 7
This series can really go either way. Both teams are extremely young and have barely any playoff experience. The deciding factor for me was the Hawks’ lack of a Randle-stopper, which I believe will put the Knicks over the hump.
West 2nd Round:
Jazz vs Clippers- Clippers in 7
Yes, it’s a miracle, I am betting on the Clippers. Will Paul George show up? History’s not on his side, but I sure hope so. And even if Paul George mimics his 2020 playoff performance, I believe that Kawhi himself can drag the Clippers to the conference finals.
Blazers vs Lakers- Lakers in 5
This series should be quick work for LeBron and the crew and should honestly serve as a warm-up for the Battle of LA in the Conference Finals.
East 2nd Round:
Sixers vs Knicks- Sixers in 5
Embiid’s dominance combined with the years of playoff experience that this team has together, the Knicks should not be able to pose a threat to Philly. I doubt this series goes past six games.
Nets vs Bucks- Bucks in 7
I chose Giannis over a superteam. It may seem ridiculous, but hear me out. The Bucks have silently made great improvements this season while the Nets have been exposed on several different occasions due to their lack of defense. Against Giannis, this won’t fly. The Bucks defense is stellar, and if Jrue and Giannis are able to limit Kevin Durant and James Harden, the Bucks have a great shot due to their depth at all positions as they’ll be able to run the Nets’ bench out of the building.
Western Conference Finals:
Lakers vs Clippers- Lakers in 6
This series is going to be very, very interesting. By the end of it though, I am confident that LeBron will be able to outduel Kawhi and, along with AD, rip apart the weak interior defense of the Clippers.
Eastern Conference Finals:
Sixers vs Bucks- Bucks in 6
The Bucks offer too much depth for the Sixers to match up well for 48 minutes every night. Giannis and Embiid will likely produce the same amount on both the offensive and defensive end, but with this, the rest of the Bucks, including Middleton and Holiday, should be able to make quick work of the Sixers.
Lakers vs Bucks- Lakers in 7
If this series happens, it will be one for the ages. LeBron, in his 18th year, doing everything in his power to not fall from his throne to the next generation’s superstar forward in Giannis. Against an athletic and experienced team like the Bucks, LeBron will have to squeeze out every bit of experience and knowledge to take advantage of weaknesses that the Bucks have, such as their interior defensive presence. Heavily relying on the LeBron-AD pick and roll combo, the Lakers should be able to eke out a series win to give LeBron his 5th ring.