Basketball is coming, and thank goodness for that. The preseason will be coming to a close on Friday night and the regular season will begin on Tuesday. But why wait any longer than we have to before getting to the real heart of the NBA season: the playoffs. Forget the regular season, I’m starting the playoffs now, and hopefully we can crown a champion before the New Year.
Because you’re a reasonable reader of Today’s Fastbreak, you’re probably wondering how I’m even going to select the playoff teams without any regular-season records. I’m going to use the preseason records, of course. “But wait!” you interject, “The preseason hasn’t even finished yet, isn’t it a little premature to be giving away playoff seeds when there are still games to be played?” You’re absolutely right. It’s too early to be starting the preseason playoffs today, but that’s the point. Welcome to the premature playoffs, the only place where the Charlotte Hornets have the home-court advantage all the way through the Finals.
Without further ado, here are the seedings for the first round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs (based on games through Oct. 21):
- Charlotte (7-0) vs. 8. Atlanta (4-2)
- New York (4-1) vs. 7. Washington (4-2)
- Boston(4-1) vs. 6. Toronto (4-2)
- Orlando (5-2) vs. 5. Indiana (4-2)
Isn’t this already more fun than having us slog through the regular season just to see which teams the Cleveland Cavaliers will face before moving on to the Finals? Any of these teams could come out on top, and the New York Knicks get to know what it’s like to feel hopeful again! Sure, a lot of the best teams in the conference aren’t playing, but maybe they should’ve taken the preseason more seriously before I capriciously and retroactively decided these games are important.
Now let’s take a look at the first round of the West:
- Memphis (6-0) vs. 8. L.A. Lakers (3-4)
- Sacramento (5-1) vs. 7. Houston (3-4)
- Oklahoma City(5-1) vs. 6. Portland (3-3)
- Denver (4-2) vs. 5. Phoenix (4-2)
This is a little less interesting than the East race, but Kobe Bryant’s back in the playoffs! Can he beat the Memphis Grizzlies, Denver Nuggets/Phoenix Suns and then likely the Oklahoma City Thunder or the Houston Rockets in the conference finals on his way to ring No. 6? Probably not, but he has a better chance here than in a realistic playoff field that’d include the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers.
This is mostly a three-team race between the Grizzlies, Thunder and Rockets, but we get DeMarcus Cousins playing at least one full playoff series against Dwight Howard, and that’s worth denying the Spurs their millionth consecutive playoff run.
In the West, I’d expect the Thunder to overwhelm the other teams with the combined talent of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, and then beat the Grizzlies, who were barely tested on their way to the conference finals.
As for the East, I have the Hornets upsetting the Atlanta Hawks, continuing their hot streak into the next round against the Indiana Pacers and onward into the conference finals where they’re stopped by the Boston Celtics, whose depth and quality coaching is perfectly suited to exploit the holes of the other teams in the East playoffs.
Then the Finals happen and Durant is so fed up with the new, tyrannical playoff system that he storms off the court in protest. Always the good teammates, Ibaka and Westbrook follow suit. The Celtics overwhelm the depleted Thunder roster and raise banner No. 18. Was all of this just a convoluted way for me to get the Celtics an imaginary Finals trophy? No comment. (Yes, it was mostly exactly that).