There are still a few weeks left in the NBA regular season and plenty of time for teams to move in the standings, but what if the playoffs started today? What teams would have favorable match-ups, and who would have the potential for an upset in the first round?
Starting in the Eastern Conference, the 1-8 opening round series would be a rematch of the 3-6 opening round from last year, which the Pacers won. The Pacers would be obvious favorites again in this series, as they currently have nearly 20 more wins than the Hawks.
The Hawks were battling for the third seed earlier in the season, but a key injury to Al Horford slowed down their pace. It would be a tall task for the Hawks to take out the Pacers in the opening round of the playoffs.
The 2-7 series in the East would pit the defending champion Miami Heat against the Charlotte soon-to-be Hornets. This first round series would also be unlikely to have an upset, as the Heat swept the season series 4-0. The Bobcats are also the team that LeBron scored a career-high 61 points against earlier this season.
The current 3-6 first round series in the East features a pair of surprise teams this season. The Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards are both franchises that have struggled in recent years. Both Eastern squads have been in the midst of a playoff drought since the 2007-08 NBA season.
The Wizards and Raptors have some of the youngest rosters in the league and their fan bases have been waiting a long time to see playoff basketball. This would certainly be a hard-fought, exciting first round series in the East.
The final first round series in the East would be the fourth-seeded Chicago Bulls, against the fifth-seeded Brooklyn Nets. This would be a rematch of last year’s seven-game opening round series.
Chicago won that series as the fifth seed,but this year they would take home court advantage into their opening round tilt. Both teams are known for their gritty play style, and it would not be a surprise if this one went to seven games for the second year in a row.
Over to the Western Conference where, if the playoffs started today, a rematch of the 2011 opening round would be played between the first-seeded San Antonio Spurs and eighth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies came up big in 2011, upsetting the first-seeded spurs in six games.
The Spurs would be the heavy favorites in this one again, as they currently have the best record in the NBA and lead the season series 3-0 against the Grizzlies. But don’t hibernate on the Grizzlies – they were capable of pulling off the upset in the past.
The 2-7 first round series in the West would pit Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder against Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks. These two teams met in the Western Conference finals in 2011, where the Mavericks won in five games, en route to the franchise’s first-ever NBA title.
While the Mavericks have played well as of late, if this series were played right now, Kevin Durant would be favored, as they are one of the favorites to make it to the NBA finals. But perhaps Dirk Nowitzki has another magical playoff run left in him.
The current 3-6 match-up in the West would feature a pair of fast-paced, exciting teams in the Los Angeles Clippers and the Golden State Warriors. These two teams have been evenly matched this year as they split their season series 2-2.
Both these squads like to get up and down the floor quickly and score points at a premium. With Blake Griffin and Lob City against Steph Curry and the Splash Brothers, there is no doubt that this would be one of the most exciting series in the playoffs.
The final opening round series as of right now would feature the fourth-seeded Houston Rockets and the fifth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers. Both these teams surprised many people this season, as they emerged as legitimate outside threats to make it to this year’s NBA finals.
Both teams also feature All-Star big men in Dwight Howard and LaMarcus Aldridge, as well as All-Star scoring guards in James Harden and Damian Lillard. This series could go either way, as both squads would be looking to prove themselves in the competitive Western Conference.
The NBA playoffs do not start today, but this it what the first round would look like if they did. There is still plenty of time for teams to shuffle in the standings, but it is likely that many of these match-ups will stay the same. So get ready, because the NBA playoffs are coming.
Commentary by Eric Kummel