Conference Finals
PHOENIX, ARIZONA – JUNE 20: Fans react in the second quarter as Rajon Rondo #4 of the Los Angeles Clippers handles the ball against the Phoenix Suns during game one of the Western Conference Finals at Phoenix Suns Arena on June 20, 2021, in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

First Time in a Long Time

Since the beginning of the super-team era with the formation of the big 3 in Boston in 2007-2008, we have not had this unpredictable of a conference finals. Of the remaining teams left, NONE have won an NBA title since the 1976-77 NBA/ABA Merger. Yes, there are still favorites to win, but at this point, no team for sure is set in stone to advance.

No LeBron/Curry = More Uncertainty

Adding to this level of evenness among the last 4 teams is the fact that this year’s NBA Finals will be the first since 2010 to not include Steph Curry or LeBron James. This is great news, people. For the past decade, the NBA has been one of the most predictable leagues mainly because of these two guys. With both of them out of the picture, it has given other teams the chance to shine.

Favorites to Win

These are the current odds for each remaining team to win the Larry O’Brien Trophy:

West

Although the Bucks are the favorites, I believe that the Suns are the best team remaining. With the leadership of Chris Paul, they’ve developed great chemistry, plus they have great complementary pieces. They’ve coasted their way to the conference finals, dismantling the less than 100% Lakers in 6 and sweeping the Nuggets. Without Paul, due to Health and Safety Protocols, they were able to take Game 1 of the WCF. With this win, Phoenix proved its ability to respond to challenges which inevitably happen over the course of a playoff run. When CP3 gets back in the mix, they’ll easily be favored to win over the Kawhi-less Clippers.

Speaking of the Clippers, they received great news when Leonard’s injury was announced as a knee sprain. However, they are still unsure if he’ll be able to return in this series. If he isn’t able to, they will have no chance of advancing. What they got from Terrance Mann in Game 6 of the conference semis isn’t something that can be repeated. If they want any chance this series, they’ll need the Klaw.

East

Predictions for this series, just like the first two for the Hawks, will greatly favor their opponent, the Bucks. As I said before, the Bucks are currently the favorites to win it all. First, they’ll have to get past Atlanta, who has greatly defied expectations not once but twice. Let me say this, Milwaukee has the clear talent advantage in this matchup. Their core of Jrue Holiday, Khris Middleton, and of course Giannis Antetekounmpo greatly outweigh the Hawks’ 3 best players.

If there’s anything the Hawks have taught us so far is that you can never count them out. Their resilience has been one of the biggest surprises in these playoffs. Look for them to take the Bucks to 6 or 7 games, but at the end of the day, I don’t think they make it to the finals. This will probably be the better of the 2 conference finals if Kawhi Leonard does not come back.

Best NBA Playoffs in Years?

Regardless of what ends up happening in the conference finals, I think it goes without saying that the 2021 NBA Playoffs have been one of the best we’ve seen in recent memory. Competitive games and historic performances by Damian Lillard, Donovan Mitchell, and Kevin Durant, among others, have made this an extremely entertaining postseason. This, added with the fact that we have no idea how the rest of it will play out, should make everyone very excited about the final two rounds.

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