Welcome back, folks! I got shivers just writing that sentence, because goddamn, the playoffs are fun. And one of the best parts of the playoffs? The wonderful, weird tradition that is this tournament. My shivering is quickly shifting to nostalgia, so before I start tearing up, let’s look ahead instead at what figures to be an epic playoffs and BSB(R) tourney.
Joe Bubar comes in as the favorite after taking home his first BSB(R) trophy last season. But this year, the tourney fields a record-high 36 contestants. Boobie’s chances of a repeat are about as good as a DeAndre Jordan three-pointer.
As long-time contestants know, the tournament is as much a place to consolidate playoff narratives as it is a contest. So before we take a look at everyone’s picks, let’s review the important storylines from each series.
In the East…
- Hawks-Nets: How good are the Hawks? How healthy is Paul Millsap? The Nets aren’t much in the way of competition, but if ATL dominates and Millsap looks healthy, they’ll suddenly look like the most underrated team in the playoffs. Also fun: Watching Joe Johnson take on his former squad.
- Raptors-Wizards: Neither of these teams has played well of late, but by virtue of Paul Pierce’s trash talk, a strong point guard matchup, and everything Drew Gooden, this series should among the most entertaining in the first round. In a perfect world, Wale hits the game winning jumper over Drake in Game 7 to advance the Wiz.
- Cavs-Celtics: How will Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving respond to their first taste of the playoffs? It’s the question every pundit seems to ask, but given how good they are individually, it’s a safe bet that they’ll be fine–especially against the C’s. More telling will be if they can play lockdown team defense.
- Bulls-Bucks: On paper this is the most talented Bulls team we’ve seen in the Derrick Rose era, but the Bulls will go as far as Rose takes them. For the Bucks, consider that they made the playoffs despite having a new coach, losing Larry Sanders and Jabari Parker, and finishing with the league’s worst record the season before. At this rate, they might win the Finals next year.
In the West…
- Warriors-Pelicans: Weirdly, the biggest story in this series might have nothing to do with the Finals favorite, the Dubs. There aren’t too many questions about them, other than what David Lee is doing nowadays. Most interesting, instead, will be watching Anthony Davis make his playoff debut. Reminder: He had the highest PER in the league, this year.
- Grizzlies-Blazers: A contrast in styles–Portland’s hyper-efficient, three-point heavy offense vs. Memphis’ grind-it-out three-point averse style should be the best story. Instead, injuries to Wes Matthews, Arron Afflalo, and Dorell Wright firmly prevent the team from attaining contender status and detract from what this series could have been. Also fun: Z-Bo getting revenge on his old team.
- Rockets-Mavericks: This series is the juiciest of the first round. For starters, these two teams have traded more barbs with each other than Pikachu and Jigglypuff at Hyrule. Basketball-wise, fans are wondering (among many other things) how elite Dwight Howard can be, whether Rondo can turn on his playoff magic, and who in the world can guard James Harden.
- Clippers-Spurs: Perhaps the best-ever talent in a first-round matchup, with the defending champs taking on the league’s most efficient offense. It’s unfair that they face off in the first round, but it will also be the best series. The biggest question: Can the Clippers’ bench hold their own against a deep Spurs’ team?
As for the everyone’s picks, y’all can check them out below (click on images to enlarge):
Before you seek therapy for spreadsheet overload, let me break down some of the trends in everyone’s predictions. (Every year, this is my favorite part of the tournament.)
- The 4-5 matchup in the East (Raptors-Wizards) was the only polarizing first-round matchup in the East. Even though the Raptors are favored, 21/36 contestants picked the Wiz to come out on top.
- Among the three first round series in the West projected to be close, our pool showed some clear trends. For Grizz-Blazers, 28/36 people picked the Grizz; for Rockets-Mavs, 26/36 picked the Rockets; for Clippers-Spurs, 28/36 picked the Spurs. Considering the Spurs don’t have home-court advantage, we may have collectively over-sauced (no offense, D-Rob!)
- Cavs-Bulls (aka”Thibodeau’s last stand”) is the highly anticipated second-round matchup in the East. 33/36 see this matchup happening, but only 6/33 predict the Bulls to win the matchup. If the Bulls win, Coach Thibodeau likely stays put and if they lose, he could be gone.
- Hawks-Cavs is the most common ECF pick: 26/36 predict this matchup to happen. Of those 26, only 3 people pick the Hawks to beat the Cavs. Taking a step back, the Hawks are ECF champs for only 4 people– a shocking lack of faith for a #1 seed. You can’t help but wonder whether everyone’s collective memory is too short regarding the Hawks’ midseason success.
- Warriors-Spurs was the most common pick for the WCF, with both teams managing to get there for 21/36 people. Of those 21, 16 picked the Dubs.
- The Cavs are the ECF Champs for 26/36 people, but only 3 of the 26 crowned them as champs. This speaks to a lot of things–the Cavs inexperience, the West’s dominance, and perhaps, an implicit lack of faith in LeBron. The only other team from the East ever crowned champs? The Wiz, with 1 (courtesy of Dr. Gary Sapphire).
- The Dubs are the most common WCF champ, making it to the Finals for 24/36 people. 22 of the 24 pick the Warriors to win it all.
- All of this leads matchup is Warriors-Cavs, occurring for 17/36. The next most common: Spurs-Cavs, which gets 6 votes. The other 13 were spread out among other reasonable predictions and some plain silly ones (I’m looking at you, Oli).
Anyway, I’m going to go nap until tonight when the next games start. Waking life without the NBA (or writing about it) is too painful. Happy playoffs, y’all.
Who are your picks to win, both the playoffs and the AGR tourney? Comment on the article or e-mail us at AGRbasketball (at) gmail (dot) com. Don’t forget to follow @AGRbasketball on Twitter and to like us on Facebook.