Cleveland will have the easiest road to the Finals, because the lEast is still a year or two away from True Interest. Boston still needs to find someone to give them a dollar for their shiny dimes. Toronto can only go so far with their guards that can only get worse, and weren't good enough at their peak. Milwaukee and Detroit are mildly intriguing, but not much more than that. Indy needs second-year C Myles Turner to be as good as borderline MVP candidate Paul George, and that may never happen; it would also be good if the backcourt becomes, say, as good as Toronto's. New York is always a mirage, Chicago is a blowup waiting to happen, Atlanta missed its window, and hey presto, we're suddenly talking about my Building Something Meaningful Sixers. If the rest of the conference consolidated and played the Cavs, you'd have a series. Until that happens, or LeBron James gets old, or someone young starts looking like the best player in baseball, James is in the Finals. Health permitting.
In the West, it's amazing how many top contenders got worse in the off-season, while the Warriors (maybe?) got better. OKC, you know about. San Antonio lost Tim Duncan, and he still mattered. Portland is intriguing, but health will make things complicated. The Clippers are always too thin because their management can't figure out the bench, and now we're into Houston (wow, the defense here is just, um, special), Dallas (is this the year the finally miss the playoffs?), Memphis (always tough, rarely dangerous), Utah (promising, but too young and brittle) and yeah, wow, this is a top-heavy league.
The Warriors aren't going to win 70+ again; they aren't going to be that lucky, there will be growing pains, and they are going to get no callas and everyone else's "A" game. The world hasn't decided that a great team are hissable heels like this since James led Miami, and that could also turn people like Draymond Green and Klay Thompson into mental cases. But if you have four of the best twelve players in the game *and* a bench that routinely turns their adversaries into pudding, the least you are going to is the Finals. Which team is in your highlight doesn't really matter.
But while the Association is top-heavy, it's far from weak to watch. New York's implosion will be spectacular as always. The Lakers have young talent and a clueless management, and I have no idea what to expect from them. Sacramento is a clown car of what the blue hell. Minnesota might be the most intriguing team in the league. New Orleans has bounce back written all over them, and anyone who isn't rooting for Jrue Holliday has no soul at all. Milwaukee has crazy length and intrigue, and I honestly can not wait to see what Joel Embiid can do, and all of the other young Sixer bigs. It's going to be a fascinating year, even if it ends with the 3rd straight LeBron v. Steph narrative, this team to decide which player est truly muy macho.
Hoop is back; life is good. And the first 10 to 20 games is going to teach us a lot that most people will miss. So dig in now, while the digging is good. It's going to be great.
East playoff teams: Cleveland, Toronto, Indiana, Boston, Atlanta, Milwaukee, Charlotte and Washington.
West playoff teams: Golden State, San Antonio, Memphis, LA Clippers, Portland, Utah, Minnesota, Houston.
Rookie of the year: Joel Embiid
MVP: LeBron James.
Finals: Golden State defeats Cleveland in six.
Enjoy the games, everybody!