After a 72-game season and six play-in games, the NBA Playoffs are finally here.
From here on out, there’s no more resting stars, no more blowing out terrible teams, and no more Stan Van Gundy. It’s just the 16 best teams in the NBA vying for the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Who will be this year’s NBA champion?
If you are a regular Sportscasting reader, you know that our team of writers covers the NBA from all different angles and with all types of opinions. It should then come as no surprise that as fired up as we all are for the next eight weeks of playoffs action, we all have our own thoughts on who will hoist the trophy at the end.
Here are the Sportscasting staff’s picks for the 2021 NBA Finals.
Sportscasting Staff Picks
Brooklyn Nets over Utah Jazz in six games
The Nets and Philadelphia 76ers should cruise to an Eastern Conference Finals showdown. It’ll go seven games, but Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and James Harden are just better than Philly’s best three.
In the West, upsets will abound in the early rounds, but the Jazz will get through from the No. 1 spot, beating the Denver Nuggets in the conference finals. In the end, the Nets’ overpowering offense will prove too much, and they’ll take home the trophy.
Philadelphia 76ers over LA Clippers in 7 games
After last season’s collapse against the Denver Nuggets, it’s hard to trust this Clippers team in 2021. But they should be able to use that as the driving force behind their NBA Finals run this summer. The Clippers finished the regular season with the second-best net rating in the NBA. Paul George has been incredibly efficient all year after months of being the league’s biggest internet meme. Serge Ibaka and Patrick Beverley are back in the fold just in time for a deep playoff run, and Kawhi Leonard, well, is still Kawhi Leonard. The Clippers should catch an exhausted Lakers team in the Western Conference Finals and triumph in the battle of LA.
As for the East, the 76ers are the only team with the horses to match up against the Nets in a seven-game series. Ben Simmons, Danny Green, and Matisse Thybulle make up a capable trio to slow down the three-headed monster of Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving. And who on this Brooklyn roster is stopping Joel Embiid from putting up 35 and 15 in the Eastern Conference Finals?
With home-court advantage on their side, the Sixers ride a full Wells Fargo Center to a Game 7 victory over the Clippers as chants of “Trust the Process” echo throughout the 2-1-5 and Sam Hinkie laughs maniacally from his evil lair.
Phoenix Suns over New York Knicks in five games
These are two teams of destiny who have made it back to the Big Dance after years of losing and general misery. Chris Paul and Devin Booker have formed a brilliant duo in Phoenix, and they’ll bring a championship to the desert. This just feels like the Suns’ year.
The Knicks have impressed all year and have the coaching, depth, and work ethic to sneak into the NBA Finals. But will they have enough to beat the Suns? Not quite.
The Nets might be a sexy pick, but everything will go out the door when Kyrie Irving opts out in the second round to fly kites on Instagram.
SPORTSCASTING QUALITY EDITOR
Utah Jazz over Milwaukee Bucks in 7
Critiques of the Utah Jazz typically center on Defensive Player of the Year front-runner Rudy Gobert and how James Harden’s Houston Rockets played him off the court a few years back (or last year’s playoff disappointment), but they overlook two critical points. The Jazz are actually healthy this time around — yes, Bojan Bogdanovic is a difference-maker — and have the offensive firepower to overcome difficult defensive matchups. Whereas the 2018-19 Jazz ranked Nos. 2 and 14 in defensive and offensive rating, respectively, this year’s iteration sits at Nos. 3 and 4.
This balanced Utah squad, led by Gobert and a well-rested Donovan Mitchell, set to return from a sprained ankle that could be a blessing in disguise, might not be the popular pick, but its status as the NBA’s best team by virtually every metric this season is no fluke.
The final test will come against another perennial playoff disappointment. The Milwaukee Bucks finally have the depth of talent and strategic know-how to advance through a topsy-turvy Eastern Conference slate, including a Brooklyn Nets team that has somehow made everyone forget about the classic “defense wins championships” mantra.
SPORTSCASTING STAFF WRITER/TEAM LEAD
LA Lakers over Brooklyn Nets in six games
In all sports, but especially professional basketball, I generally believe that talent will win out. Assuming everyone stays healthy, that puts the Lakers at the top of the heap. If LeBron James’ ankle doesn’t turn to Silly Putty and he’s able to play more than 30 minutes each night, it’s tough to pick against him and Anthony Davis.
As for the Nets, they should have the talent to get out of the Eastern Conference. But as a native New Yorker, I can’t be too confident in a team ending in “-ets” come crunch time.
LA Lakers over the Philadelphia 76ers in six games
The Lakers certainly won’t have the easiest road back to the NBA Finals, but they’re getting healthy at exactly the right time and are still the best team in the Western Conference when they’re at full strength. LeBron James is clearly already in playoff mode as he posted a triple-double and drained that clutch game-winner in the play-in game, and Anthony Davis now has that championship experience under his belt. And we all know defense wins championships, and there’s no better defensive team in the league than LA.
As for the East, the Nets are clearly the most talented team, but something tells me they’re going to fold at the wrong time, which will allow Joel Embiid and the 76ers to slide into the Finals, setting up a seventh matchup for the title between the two historic franchises.
SPORTSCASTING STAFF WRITER
Milwaukee Bucks over the Utah Jazz in six games
Everyone is sleeping on the Milwaukee Bucks.
Yes, they’ve folded in the spotlight the last two years, but so have Doc Rivers, the Sixers, and Kyrie Irving. The safe pick in the East is the Brooklyn Nets, but Kyrie is the one person in all of sports you don’t want leading the way. I don’t trust Rivers and the Sixers, so I’ll stick with the team that has the best player in all of basketball, and that’s the Bucks.
Giannis Antetokounmpo won’t win MVP, but he’ll claim the bigger prize. Utah is the No. 1 team out West for a reason, and it’ll get to the NBA Finals but come up short against the Bucks.
Philadelphia 76ers over Phoenix Suns in five games
Call this one the culmination of The Process.
The Utah Jazz had the NBA’s best record but were just 10-6 with Donovan Mitchell out down the stretch, and his ankle will be their Achilles’ heel in the postseason. Unlike Brett Brown, the right guy to lead the 76ers through their infamous rebuilding process, Doc Rivers has won a title before, and last year’s first-round sweep has been motivating Philadelphia all season.
Phoenix is the healthiest of the Western contenders, and Chris Paul will reach his long-awaited first NBA Finals. But Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons will power Philly past the Brooklyn Wounded Stars … I mean Nets … and will roll the inexperienced Suns from there.
LA Lakers over Brooklyn Nets in six games
As a Cleveland Cavaliers fan, this kills me. LeBron James and Kyrie Irving going head-to-head in the NBA Finals is essentially our worst nightmare, but both teams are absolutely stacked, and I don’t see either losing to anyone in their respective conference.
James has made it to the finals in nine of the last 10 seasons, and this Lakers team is even more talented than last year’s championship-winning squad. The Nets, on the other hand, just have three of the best scorers in the world in Irving, Kevin Durant, and James Harden. How do you beat that?
Well, the Lakers will figure out how to as their experience playing together will lead to victory. The Nets’ three superstars have hardly shared the court this year, while James and Anthony Davis have already won a title together. It will be a great series, but The King will show Irving that he should have never left him in Cleveland.