With eight teams left in the NBA Playoffs, it’s time to rank the remaining teams to figure out where they stand in the championship race. However, rather than ranking teams on how good they are, I’ll be ranking teams based on their chances to win the championship. Therefore, a team with an easier road to the Finals might be ranked above a better team that has a tougher matchup in the upcoming rounds. Let’s begin.
- The Golden State Warriors
The Warriors are the best team in the league right now and it’s not even close. They haven’t lost a home game since January, and have a home record of 42-2 including the regular season and the playoffs. With home-court advantage locked up for the playoffs, it’s clear the Warriors are on the right track to winning the Finals.
- The Cleveland Cavaliers
Even without Kevin Love, the Cavaliers are still the best team in the East. They have LeBron James and Kyrie Irving to run the offense, and serviceable big men in Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov. Losing Love hurts their flexibility to space the floor and run different lineups, but they’re still my favorite to win the East.
- Los Angeles Clippers
- Houston Rockets
Both of these teams are very good, and I think they match up interestingly. Chris Paul and James Harden are the guards who run their team’s offenses from different guard positions. DeAndre and Dwight are athletically imposing, defensive centers who can’t make free throws. The reason I like the Clippers in this series is that I think Blake Griffin is better than the combination of Terrence Jones and Josh Smith, and that J.J. Redick is better than Jason Terry. Their ranks would be switched if I thought Paul wasn’t playing, but while he’s listed as questionable, the MRI on his hamstring came back negative, so I’d err on the side that Paul will push through it.
- Chicago Bulls
In my mind, the Bulls have the best chance to beat the Cavs in the East, and unless the Bulls win this series, that’s something the rest of the Eastern Conference will need to do to make the Finals. The loss of Love is a break for the Bulls, and they have the talent in the frontcourt to take advantage. The real challenge for Chicago will be guarding James and Kyrie Irving. If Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose are up for the task and the Bulls can contain the Cavs’ primary scorers, they have a better chance than anyone to stop Cleveland from winning the East.
- Washington Wizards
- Atlanta Hawks
I’m giving the edge to the Wizards for this matchup because they already have a one-game lead on the Hawks. Neither of these teams looked like championship teams yesterday. There was a possession at the end of the fourth quarter where Atlanta got five offensive rebounds before missing its sixth shot of the possession. I’m not sure if either of these teams can beat Chicago, let alone Cleveland, let alone the Warriors or any team to come out of the West.
- Memphis Grizzlies
Maybe Mike Conley will be able to come back and help shore up the Grizzlies’ perimeter defense, but it really doesn’t look good for Memphis to get out of this one. The Warriors are just too good of a shooting team for the Grizzlies to handle. The Warriors shot 13-28 from behind the three-point line while the Grizzlies shot 3-12 in Game 1 on Sunday. If the Grizzlies can’t stop the Warriors from burying them in threes, this is going to be a very short series.