The best corner of the internet is back: the annual BSB(R) tourney. There’s a lot to look forward to in this year’s NBA playoffs, but nothing gets me going like narratives concerning the parallels between Dave Attewell and Steph Curry (for starters: they both like reverse layups, have pretty eyes, and will be going for back to back rings).
Before we take a look at everyone’s picks, let’s size up what we have coming for us in the first round of the playoffs
In the East…
- Cavs-Pistons: The Cavs come in as heavy favorites, but the Pistons might have the necessary ingredients to stage an upset. They have a talented roster, defenders equipped to slow LeBron (Morris, Johnson, and Harris), and a coach with experience dethroning the King. For the Cavs, this will be the first test of whether they are at the level necessary to compete for a ring. If they aren’t showing laser focus from the get go, this could be a long playoffs for the wine and gold.
- Hawks-Celtics: Most don’t realize this, but this matchup pits the league’s 2nd-ranked defense (Hawks) vs its 4th-ranked defense (Celtics). The two teams collectively feature a host of All-Star caliber players–do people realize how good Jae Crowder is?–but their starpower reaches about as far as the stadiums they play in. All that said, the stars in Atlanta are a bit older and have played together longer, giving them the edge even if they didn’t win the 60+ games they did last year.
- Heat-Hornets: The Heat went into this season as dark horses to take the East, but for the second consecutive year, Chris Bosh will be sitting out with blood clots. The Heat still have impressive talent, but the Hornet have reversed their fate by improving from deep–a movement spearheaded by the development of Kemba Walker. Don’t be surprised if Charlotte returns to the second round for the first time since basketball returned to the Queen City.
- Raptors-Pacers: The Raptors have been right on the Cavs’ heels all season, boding well for a team that seems to be upset in the first round every year. Considering Lowry’s status as a 10 player this year and Derozan’s every-season improvement, there’s a case to be made that this is the league’s second-best backcourt after the Splash Brothers. Meanwhile, the Pacers have somehow had the league’s 3rd-best defense despite losing Hibbert and West. Credit Paul George for a strong comeback season and Ian Mahinmi for this season’s most underrated defensive campaign.
In the West…
- Warriors-Rockets: A rematch of last year’s Western Conference Finals won’t feel much like last year. For the Warriors, the goals are to sweep and stay healthy. For the Rockets, their attitude and quality of play–regardless of it results in them getting a game or two–will set the stage for how the franchise moves forward this summer.
- Clippers-Blazers: Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan have kept the Clippers elite in Blake Griffin’s absence, but with Blake Griffin back in the lineup the team has a nonzero chance of making noise. Portland has also defied the odds, overcoming the loss of LaMarcus Aldridge and nearly all the other players that have led them through the playoff in recent seasons. Credit craft guard play from Lillard and McCollum, Stotts’ coaching, and underrated seasons from Mason Plumlee and Ed Davis.
- Thunder-Mavericks: The Thunder will be heavy favorites to take out the Mavs, which isn’t surprising when you consider that the Thunder have two top-6 players in their primes while the Mavericks’ best player is a 37 year-old who doesn’t even crack the league’s best 30 players anymore. And despite the facts, there is a small part of me which sees the Thunder choking under the pressure of Durant’s free agency and savvy veteran basketball from the playoff-battled Mavs.
- Spurs-Grizzlies: The Grizz upset the Spurs in 2011, the world (as well these two teams) look much different nowadays. Leonard transformed into an MVP candidate, Aldridge fits better by the day, and the Big 3 should be rested for yet another deep run unto the post season. It’s no wonder the Spurs turned in one of the best regular seasons in league history and now are in their element as under-the-radar assassins ready to battle the Dubs. Meanwhile, the two best players on the Grizz–Marc Gasol and Mike Conley–are injured through the playoffs. This one has sweep written all over it.
As for the BSB(R), you can check out all the picks below (click on images to enlarge):
And now, for my favorite part of the BSB(R)–an unnecessarily in depth analysis of the trends in people’s picks:
- Who won the sweepfest (i.e., which team was most predicted to sweep in the first round?) The verdict: 10 picked the Cavs to sweep, 20 picked the Spurs to sweep, and a bold 21 picked the Warriors to sweep. This might be the sweepiest BSB(R), yet.
- For the first round, the East had three “uncertain” first round series. For Hawks-Celtics, 17/28 picked the Hawks; for Heat-Hornets, 19/28 picked the Heat; and for Raptors-Pacers, 22/28 picked the Raptors. This reflects the depth of the East this year.
- Picks for West’s first round, on the other hand, were insanely homogenous–everyone picked the Spurs to win, and for each of the other three series the underdog was only chosen once to best the odds (even for 4-5 matchup). While this seems odd, it shows that our contestants were really in tune with the relative dominance/quality of the West’s top four.
- In looking at who makes it to the conference finals, most people predictably picked Warriors-Spurs (22 out of 28), although the Thunder got a little love with 5 people picking them to upset the Spurs. No one picked the Clippers to upset the Warriors, but that series might prove to be surprisingly close. As in the first round, the East was more variable, with only 17/28 picking a Cavs-Raptors ECF. Other votes mainly went to the Heat, but the Hornets and Pacers got some surprsing love. The Hawks/Celtics tandem was the East’s version of the Clippers, insofar as everyone picked the Cavs to beat their second-round matchup; again, I think either team could give the Cavs a tough series.
- Re: making into the Finals, 20 people picked the Warriors, 7 picked the Spurs, and one brave soul picked the Thunder. In terms of making it out of the East, the Cavs were picked by 26 out of 28, with the only two other votes going to the Raptors. Remarkably, only 2 of those 26 people picked the Cavs to win the Finals. It’s interesting to see that while picks in the East were more variable than those in the West in the early rounds, they became less variable than the West in later rounds. This speaks to the gap between these other teams and the Cavs, as well as the fact that we’ve seen LeBron make it to the Finals for 5 straight seasons.
- Among our 28 participants, 18 of them picked a Cavs-Warriors Finals. Not a single one of those 18 picked the Cavs to prevail. The next most common series–Spurs-Cavs–was predicted 7 times, with the Spurs predicted to win in 6 of those 7. Maybe we should send our spreadsheet the way of the Cavs to give them some extra motivation.
That’s all I got for now, folks. The first round has been fun so far–when it’s over, expect a first round summary and BSB(R) update.
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.