1. Boston Celtics
It just seems like Brad Stevens always can find a switch to turn on and his team follows his direction.
Veterans like Al Horford, Kyrie Irving, and Marcus Smart are wired for playoff basketball. Gordon Hayward has played better since the All-Star break, and while I’m nowhere near baptizing Jayson Tatum as the NBA’s next surefire superstar, he’s certainly a terrific shooter and offensive talent. Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier also had an unbelievable playoff series against the Bucks a year ago.
The Celtics understand disciplined team defense as well as any team in the league, and Horford is as smart as any big man on that end of the court.
While I heap praise, one must not overlook the circus of a season it has been thus far in Boston.
Kyrie Irving’s contract and free agency questions have loomed as a dark cloud over TD Garden. Gordon Hayward looks nothing like pre-injury Gordon Hayward. Jaylen Brown’s development seems to have taken a step back, likely due to the crowded wing rotation. Terry Rozier has also been a minutes-victim of a deep rotation. Marcus Morris is still a loose cannon. There are certainly challenges that Stevens must work through in a quick manner, but he certainly has the players and coaching competency to be extremely dangerous come playoff time.
Projected Series Result: 4-3 Bucks
The Milwaukee Bucks are the best team in the Eastern Conference, by both the metrics and the eye test. They have the best player, a deep roster, and a fantastic coach. Assuming full health, they should be the favorite in any series. That being said, they are not an NBA Final’s shoo-in, like the LeBron James days of weak Eastern Conference past. Roster health always looms as a threat, especially to one of the top players, however this is a reality for every team. We’re a little over a month away from finding out just how these Bucks will look in the playoffs, so stay tuned for more NBA playoff material.