It’s time for NBA Playoff basketball in the Eestern Conference! The Cleveland Cavaliers are looking to repeat as champions while the likes of Isaiah Thomas and the backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan look to help their teams dethrone the Cavs and get to the Promised Land themselves. For a look at the East’s playoff landscape, we gathered several of our writers for a roundtable discussion. Our participants are:
- Alex Fischbein (@ThatKidFisch)
- Alfonzo De Falco (@FonzyDeFalco)
- Ralph Cortes (@ralphjc)
- B.J. Boyer (@wcboyer24)
1.) Giannis Antetokounmpo is on the brink of superstardom. Will he have a 2012 Stephen Curry-esque breakout this postseason? (Warriors upset the Nuggets in the 2012 playoffs and gave San Antonio a tough six-game series.)
Fischbein: I believe that Giannis will have an explosion that proves he’s got next, but I do not believe that the team will get the upset. This will be the year that Giannis can take another team to seven games on his own, but next season will be when he can lead a team on a playoff run.
De Falco: This is the first time we will see the Greek Freak in the playoffs and it will certainly not be the last. While he has been terrific this season, I do not think it might not be enough to go up against the dynamic backcourt the Raptors have. They have a shot to win one or two games, but next year I can see the Bucks making a nice playoff run.
Cortes: Not Stephen Curry-esque, since his team isn’t as good as it needs to be to make noise, but something like an Anthony Davis kind of coming out party for the Greek Freak makes sense. If you recall, Davis was pretty solid in his playoff debut despite getting swept by Curry and company. I expect the same from Giannis; while he shows and dominates, the strength of the rest of the team will be why he can’t have a Curry-esque rise.
Boyer: I don’t think an upset is in the picture for the upstart Milwaukee Bucks, but the size of the Greek Freek’s blip on the basketball radar is sure to see some growth after this series against the Raptors.
2.) Which player in the Eastern Conference has the most riding on this postseason?
Fischbein: It’s a tie between Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. They’re known to throw up stinkers when it comes to the postseason. Now, they have Serge Ibaka and PJ Tucker on their side and it’s time for them to get over the hump. Obviously it’s going to be difficult since getting over that hump would mean beating LeBron James, but that’s also why they have the most riding on this postseason.
De Falco: I am going to agree with Alex. For years now Lowry and DeRozan, while great in the regular season, have shown to be completely different players in the playoffs. I think the mid-season additons of Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker can defineitly help them out, but it all goes back to Lowry and DeRozan and how they will do.
Cortes: In our Raptors-Bucks preview, I wrote that the pairing of Lowry and DeRozan have a lot of pressure this postseason. They have been known to not show-up in the postseason, causing people to doubt the two. If they overcome their struggles, the pressure should be taken off, but if they repeat their blunders, the pressure intensifies.
Boyer: Paul George. The way this postseason unfurls for he and his Indiana Pacers team may dictate the tone of how things will go in free agency.
3.) Out of the Raptors, Wizards and Celtics, who has the best chance of making the Eastern Conference Finals
Fischbein: The Boston Celtics have the best chance of making the Eastern Conference Finals. As the No. 1 seed, it means that they don’t have to face Cleveland, and they can face a familiar foe that they’ve beaten before in Washington. Plus, even though the Chicago Bulls have some experience on their side, they shouldn’t be too hard to handle in the first round.
De Falco: Boston because as the No. 1 seed, they will not face the powerhouse Cavaliers until the Conference Finals. They also have a lot of depth at every position and their leader Isaiah Thomas will look to shine in the postseason.
Cortes: The Raptors have the best chance at making the ECF. They have a complete team now that Lowry is back in the lineup. Adding Serge Ibaka and Tucker at the trade deadline made their team even stronger than it was. Adding a stretch four like Ibaka who can protect the rim and a solid wing defender like Tucker to a team with an elite backcourt will make any team better. Toronto is great all-around and that should give them the best shot at making the ECF.
Boyer: The Toronto Raptors. They were the only Eastern Conference team to snag two games from the defending champs in last year’s postseason, and they’re better equipped with the likes of PJ Tucker and Serge Ibaka. Factor in the experience they gained during last year’s run, and you’ve got a team that is ready to disrupt the hierarchy of the East.
4.) True or False: One of the aforementioned teams can take the Cavaliers to seven games.
Fischbein: True. The Toronto Raptors have the personnel and the drive to take the Cavaliers to seven.
De Falco: True. I think the Raptors can take the Cavs to seven games. The Raptors have two stars in the backcourt (Lowry and DeRozan), a paint protector (Ibaka) as well as quality depth to help. I also believe that Boston has a shot to take the Cavaliers to seven games.
Cortes: The Raptors for sure. They have the pieces to go toe-to-toe with the defending champs especially now with the additions of Tucker and Ibaka. They have pieces at every position and if they all play like they can, they should be able to take the Cavaliers all the way to seven games. It would be tough, but they could do it.
Boyer: True. The Raptors have an excellent chance, although that wouldn’t bode well for them in terms of trying to upset the Cavaliers. I can’t see the Raptors stealing a Game 7 in the Cavs’ building, but hey you never know with the way Cleveland has been playing.
5.) _____ will represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals.
Fischbein: Cleveland. It’s very hard to bet against LeBron James when going against the Eastern Conference.
De Falco: Cleveland. Yeah I know they struggled the last month or so but this is LeBron James we are talking about. Along with Kyrie Irving, a nightly double-double machine in Kevin Love and veterans on the bench, they are the favorites to represent the East.
Cortes: Cleveland hasn’t looked like the defending champs over a big stretch of games, but it is pretty difficult to bet against LeBron James and the impact he can have in every aspect of the game. Not to mention that Kyrie Irving is looking to continue to be a big-time player in the postseason while Kevin Love has started to look like old Kevin Love again.
Boyer: The Cleveland Cavaliers. If last year’s NBA Finals taught us anything, it’s that you cannot count out greatness. LeBron James is greatness personified and I refuse to doubt him no matter what the circumstance.
Bonus: Kyrie Irving and LeBron James will have another game this postseason where they both score 40.
Fischbein: I’ll go one further, Kyrie will drop 50, and LeBron will drop 40 in the same game.
De Falco: No question that can happen again. Maybe even LeBron James will also have a triple-double in the process?
Cortes: Yes. Kyrie is capable of exploding for big scoring games and LeBron James can score at will. When push comes to shove, they will explode for big scoring performances in these playoffs, just like the previous post-season.
Boyer: True. I think they’ll need it if Cleveland wants to have a chance of repeating.