2017 Eastern Conference Finals

2017 Eastern Conference Finals Preview

After 82 regular season games and two playoff series, it is time for the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals preview. The East is down to two teams fighting for a birth in the NBA Finals. The top-seeded Boston Celtics edged out the Washington Wizards 115-105 in game 7 to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have cruised to the Eastern Conference Finals going a perfect 8-0 in the playoffs thus far. Cleveland swept both the Indiana Pacers and the Toronto Raptors. Similar to their Western Conference rival, the Golden State Warriors, the Cavs seem to be on a mission to get to the Finals for a third straight matchup. The Celtics will have different plans as they try to knock off LeBron James and the Cavs.

Celtics vs. Cavaliers

Photo by SB Nation

The Celtics are making their first Eastern Conference Finals appearance since 2012 in which they lost to LeBron and the Heat 4-3 in an epic seven-game series. The Cavs won the regular season series 3-1. Most recently, they demolished the Celtics on their home court 114-91, hurting the confidence of Boston.

If the Celtics want to win this series, it is going to take a lot of great performances by Boston’s key role players. In game 7 against the Wizards, Kelly Olynyk had a career game, shooting 10-14 for 26 points. If he can duplicate that type of game consistently, then the Celtics will win the series.

The Celtics have gone as Isaiah Thomas has gone all season. He alone cannot carry the C’s past James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. If Boston wants to win this series, they will need big games from Marcus Smart, Jae Crowder and Jaylen Brown.

In the regular season, the Cavaliers dominated the glass. That has been the achilles heel of the Celtics all season. Of the 16 playoff teams, Boston is 13th, averaging only 38.3 rebounds per game while the Cavs are averaging 41.4. Any time the Celtics win the battle of the boards will go a long way in securing a win.

The Celtics are a good team, but will not have enough to truly threaten the Cavs in this series. Boston’s home-court advantage will extend the series longer than the Cavs may like, but it won’t be enough. Cleveland is averaging 114.5 points per game this postseason, and Boston can not outscore them over a seven-game series.

Until a team in the East actually proves they can beat a LeBron-led team in a seven-game series, there is just no logical reason to expect it.

Prediction: Cavs in 6

 

Featured Image by All U Can Heat

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Who Can Knock Off Cleveland

Cleveland Cavaliers’ Threats in the Eastern Conference

The Cleveland Cavaliers are the clear-cut favorites to win the Eastern Conference and make it to the Finals. It makes you think: Who can knock off Cleveland in the East? Most assume that the Warriors and Cavaliers will meet for a third-straight Finals but that assumption could be dangerous. There are teams who could beat the Cavs and mess up everyone’s dream matchup.

The first version of this short series looked at who could knock off Golden State. If you haven’t read it you can check it out here.

LeBron James has led his team to the Finals for six straight years. It is safe to say the road to the Finals goes through Cleveland. Because it has been so long since a team not featuring LeBron has been to the Finals, it is hard to see anyone beating Cleveland in the East. Here are a few teams with the shot to dethrone the Eastern Conference Champions.

Boston Celtics

Cleveland Cavaliers Threats

(Photo Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports)

Boston is just three games back of the Cavaliers for the number one seed and have one more game remaining against the Cavs. Getting that first seed could be the all-important factor in the Celtics’ chances of upsetting Cleveland as the home team has won every game this season. The Cavs have won two of the three games but all have been close contests.

In all three games, Isaiah Thomas has scored 30 points or more. They match up well all along the wing with valuable minutes coming from Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder and Jaylen Brown. Boston’s depth gives them a shot at the upset.

To beat Cleveland in a seven game series, Boston will need its frontcourt to play well. It is the weakest area of the team and they have the fourth worst rebounding differential (-3.6) in the NBA. In their recent win over Cleveland, they won the rebounding battle 47-41.

Getting home court can be helpful but the key to Boston upsetting Cleveland will be in the frontcourt play and they will have to win that rebound battle with a healthy Kevin Love who did not play in the last matchup.

Toronto Raptors

Cleveland Cavaliers Threats

(Photo Credit: Alex Brandon/The Associated Press)

Like a few other teams in the NBA, the Raptors are dealing with injuries. Kyle Lowry is a key player for Toronto and without him the Raptors have no shot at upsetting the Cavs. With that said, Lowry should be back in time for the playoffs.

Last season the Raptors faced the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Finals but lost the series 4-2. The Raptors struggled in the front court in that series.

The addition of Serge Ibaka was one of the most important in-season deals this year. Ibaka not only gives the Raptors a presence in the frontcourt, but he can stretch the floor on offense. He is a shot blocker on the defensive end and has lots of playoff experience.

Another addition that will help the Raptors chances of upsetting the Cavs is the addition of P.J. Tucker. Tucker provides a spark off the bench and impacts the game in multiple ways. It remains to be seen where this team will finish in the standings but this team should not be taken lightly. DeMar DeRozen needs to be a superstar for them to win a series against Cleveland as well.

They got off to a horrible slump against the Cavs last year but with those two additions they are a better team then they were last season. The Cavs cannot take them lightly or this season the Cavs will be sent home early.

Washington Wizards

Cleveland Cavaliers Threats

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

John Wall and Bradley Beal are both having their best seasons of their careers. It can be argued that they have the best backcourt in all of basketball. Yes, as good as Golden State’s backcourt. Wall is second in assists per game with 10.9. Both guards average 22 points per game. These two stars carry the Wizards but the role players are they key to upsetting the Cavs.

Marcin Gortat is a veteran who plays big inside the paint. He could give the Cavs problems in a seven game series. Along with Gortat, the Wizards get big contributions from Markieff Morris, Jason Smith, and Kelly Oubre Jr.

The Wizards are also getting a career year out of Otto Porter who is averaging a career-high in minutes (33.8), field goal percentage (52.6%), three-point percentage (45.7%), free throw percentage (80%), rebounds (6.6), steals (1.6), blocks (0.6), and points (14.1).

This team has been playing well, especially at home were they are 25-9. Washington also signed veteran point guard Brandon Jennings will have a big impact off the bench when giving Wall some rest. They also traded for Bojan Bogdanovic who has played in five games with Washington and most recently dropped 27 points on the Raptors. As he finds his role with the Wizards he will become a valuable player. These two additions together will be huge in their pursuit of the Eastern Conference Championship.

It will take a team effort but with how well the Wizards play at home all they need to do is steal a game on the road. If they steal a game in Cleveland and John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter continue their amazing season they will upset Cleveland.

 

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Some Crazy (And Not-So-Crazy) Possible Trade Deadline Move

As the trade deadline approaches, it’s time to start thinking about some of the moves teams could make. With so many teams in the no-mans-land of not being elite, but not quite being terrible either, this trade deadline has the potential to be exciting. For the same reason, it also could lack intrigue and big moves.

Teams with young talent and no chance at a title may try to acquire picks or more young players. Teams on the cusp of being elite may try to bolster their roster. Here are some crazy (and not-so-crazy) deals teams should try to strike as the deadline approaches.

 

Oklahoma City Thunder:

Rudy Gay

Ben McLemore

Sacramento Kings

Alex Abrines

Kyle Singler

Andre Roberson

Cameron Payne

The Thunder get a deadly scoring threat to pair with Russel Westbrook. The Kings clear up cap space and are able to acquire more young talent (especially in Cameron Payne). Payne has a ton of potential and is wasting it as a backup in Oklahoma City. A change of scenery and a chance to get more minutes could do wonders for the second year player.

 

Sacramento Kings:

Goran Dragic

Miami Heat:

Rudy Gay

Ben McLemore

This move would be making the exact opposite decision for the Kings. In the above move, they would be gearing for the future. This move would allow them to make a run at the 8th seed this year with a consistent point guard threat. They would also acquire their point guard for the net few years. For the Heat, they would free up cap space, allowing them to make a run at a big free agent this year. They might even be able to leverage some kind of future pick from the Kings.

 

Portland Trailblazers:

Marcus Smart

1st Round Draft Pick (From Philadelphia)

 

Philadelphia 76ers:

CJ McCollum

 Boston Celtics:

Nerlens Noel

Now these start to get a little crazier. The Sixers have a stockpile of picks, and could use one of them to land an offensive star. With McCollum, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, the Sixers would have their core to build around. The Trailblazers have been disappointing this season, and may decide it’s time to refocus their team. With a high draft pick and Marcus Smart, they could kick-start that rebuild. The Celtics could use Noel or Okafor on their team, but Noel would add a defensive presence that would be vital to this team. It wouldn’t make them an immediate contender, but it certainly would help.

Sacramento Kings:

Amir Johnson

Marcus Smart

1st Round Pick

Boston Celtics:

Demarcus Cousins

If the Celtics try and leverage their 1st round pick, that they can swap with the Brooklyn Nets, they may become an immediate contender for the Eastern Conference title. They are one star player away from being a title contender, and Boogie Cousins could certainly be that star. For the Kings, they could start their rebuild with a top 5 pick and a solid young player in Marcus Smart. They may require more to even consider this deal (Jae Crowder or Jaylen Brown) but a trade of the Kings’ star may be beneficial for both teams.

 

Charlotte Hornets:

Brandon Knight

 Phoenix Suns:

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

Frank Kaminsky

1st Round Pick

The Hornets need to help Kemba Walker in the back-court if they want to succeed in the East. Brandon Knight may be the solution. Knight’s value is as low as it has been in years, and for a pair of young players and a pick they may be able to snag the guard. He is still a solid player and fully capable of making this team relevant in the Eastern Conference.

 

So, how many moves will we see go down at the Trade Deadline? Who will be the winners and losers? With so many talented players in the rumor mill, we can only hope it will be an eventful one.

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