By Travis Politakis
After a long 82 game regular season, the 2019 NBA Playoffs are set. After winning two of the last three NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors are looking to become the first team since the Los Angeles Lakers in 2020 to win three straight NBA Titles.
However, the 2019 playoffs will not be featuring a familiar face. LeBron James, who has appeared in eight straight NBA Finals, will no longer play. James and the Los Angeles Lakers failed to make the playoffs after an injury stricken and disappointing season. This gives new teams an opportunity to compete for a title, with James no longer in the picture.
The Golden State Warriors are the powerhouse team to beat in the 2019 NBA Playoffs. They are extremely hard to beat due to their fast offense and elite shooting. The Warriors have four superstars in their lineup with former MVP’s Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant and All-Stars Klay Thompson and Demarcus Cousins.
The Warriors are atop the Western Conference with a 56-24 record, clinching home court advantage throughout the playoffs. On top of their elite shooting, the Warriors have one of the loudest home courts in all of the NBA, making it that much tougher for opponents to play. The Warriors will face the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the playoffs.
Another team that can make some noise in the 2019 NBA playoffs are the Houston Rockets. Houston started off the season extremely slow, but began to pick up their play led by MVP candidate James Harden.
Harden went on a tear in the months of January and February, scoring at least 30 points in 32 straight games, which is second in NBA history behind Wilt Chamberlain. In addition to the elite Harden, the Rockets also have All-Star point guard Chris Paul, former three-point champion Eric Gordon and center Clint Capella to pair along with Harden.
Houston also has some underrated role players such as PJ Tucker, who can play solid defense and can shoot the three ball. Houston finished third in the western conference at 53-28 and will face the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the playoffs.
Over in the Eastern Conference, the Toronto Raptors are posing as a real threat to win the Eastern Conference. The Raptors have experienced superstar Kawhi Leonard, who is one of the best defensive players in the league and has a very crafted offensive game.
Leonard won a Finals MVP with the San Antonio Spurs in 2014 and has been one of the league’s best ever since. Leonard struggled with injuries with San Antonio in 2017 and 2018 and later was traded to the Toronto Raptors after his teammates accused him of faking his injury.
However, now that Leonard is fully healthy, he is producing mightily averaging 26.7 points per game, 7.3 rebounds per game amd 1.8 steals per game, landing him a spot in the All-Star game in 2019. The Raptors also have a very deep roster with All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry, sharpshooter Danny Green, young center Pascal Siakam and veterans Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol.
The Raptors finished second in the Eastern Conference with a record of 57-24 and are set to face the Orlando Magic in the first round.
A second team that can win the East are the Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers are an extremely talented team with a loaded starting five consisting of all-star point guard Ben Simmons, veteran shooting guard JJ Redick, three-time all- star small forward Jimmy Butler, a newly acquired young star power forward Tobias Harris and superstar center Joel Embiid.
The Sixers are a big team with four players of their starting five reaching over 6’9. They are led by superstar Joel Embiid who averaged 27.5 points, 13.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game.
The Sixers are a different team when Embiid is on the floor. He brings stellar defense, crafty offense and can even hit a three when called upon. They also rely heavily on floor general Ben Simmons. Simmons earned his first career all star nod in 2019 averaging 16.9 points per game, 7.8 assists per game and 8.9 rebounds per game.
Simmons also plays great defense and is one of the best players to watch in transition. The Sixers finish 2019 in the three seed in the eastern conference with a 50-30 record and are set to play the Brooklynn Nets in the first round.
Travis Politakis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org