With the restart bubble in full swing, and the playoffs set to start later today, it’s time for some NBA playoff prediction.
Last year the Toronto Raptors won the franchise’s first NBA Championship while possibly ending the Golden State Warriors dynasty. Defeating Golden State was no small feat, as the Warriors had won three of the previous four titles. Toronto managed to topple the NBA giants due to former NBA Finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard, who averaged 28.5 points per game.
But Leonard no longer suits up for the Raptors, neither does former teammate on another championship team, Danny Green. Leonard headed straight for the comfy confines of California to join forces with Paul George on the Los Angeles Clippers.
While the Raptors look a little different from last year, their first-round opponent in this year’s playoffs the Brooklyn Nets is dramatically different from the team that suited up just before the NBA shutdown.
Nets sinking ship:
Kyrie Irving and Nic Claxton injured their shoulders, DeAndre Jordan came down with COVID-19, as did Spencer Dinwiddie, Wilson Chandler and Taurean Prince opted out. If that was not bad enough, the team signed Michael Beasley as a replacement player, only for the contract to void when he tested positive for COVID.
Tyler Johnson, Jamal Crawford, Justin Anderson, Donta Hall, Jeremiah Martin, and Lance Thomas were all brought in to plug the holes in the Nets sinking season.
Surprisingly, Brooklyn went 5-3 in the bubble, finishing out the regular season 35-37, good enough for the seven seed in the eastern conference. Toronto finished the season 53-19 while winning seven of their eight seeding games in the bubble.
Toronto MVP of the restart: Marc Gasol
Gone is the overweight and out of breath Gasol, after arriving in Disney looking toned and healthy. Gasol spearheaded one of the best defenses in the restart, something the Raptors will require to continue come playoff time.
Pascal Siakam took a massive step forward last season, walking away with Most Improved Player. Heading into the 2019-20 season, everyone expected him to ascend the ladder once again and become a bonafide All-Star, which he did, even starting for the Eastern Conference.
If Siakim can produce near the level which Leonard did in last year’s Finals, the Toronto offense should have no issue against the depleted Nets.
Nets MVP of the restart: Caris LeVert
LeVert put up a state of 25.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 6.7 APG, 1.5 SPG. That’s a full-on attack of opposing teams. With talk of the Nets looking to trade for a third star to pair with Irving and Kevin Durant, the team may not need to look outside the organization.
According to the Caesars Casino and Sportsbook, Brooklyn’s odds of winning the Eastern Conference Championship are +30,000. That means a $100 bet wins a person $30,000. Vegas believes the Nets are target practice for the Raptors, somewhat of a continuation of the seeding games. But that may not be the case.
NBA Playoffs Prediction: Raptors in five
Toronto will not sweep the Nets. LeVert will have at least one game where he goes off, and the Raptors defense is unable to hold him, and everything goes right for Brooklyn. But injuries and scrapheap players for the Nets will not be enough to hold off Toronto. Siakim, Gasol and, Kyle Lowry are near locks to move on in the playoffs.