Predicting Next Year’s NBA Playoff Seeding

After an offseason filled with player movement, a brilliant draft class, and more rumors every day, where do the teams fall?

First, some ground rules:

I’m writing this on July 12th. Carmelo Anthony has not yet been traded. Dwyane Wade is still with Chicago, despite a likely buyout. I am going to assume that they both stay on their current teams for the sake of this article.

Keep in mind this is not my ranking of teams, it is how I think they will finish in their respective conference. For example, the Cavs are the best team in the East, however, it is unlikely they will come away with the number one seed.

Argue with me on Twitter @JWharff11.

Western Conference

(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (8) Los Angeles… Lakers?

Golden State is the no-brainer here. I’m guessing anyone making this list would have them as the one seed.

The Lakers however, are a bit of a surprise here. LaVar Ball guaranteed the playoffs and he’s right a lot.

That’s not why I picked them here though. I think that Brandon Ingram, who is still growing, takes a huge leap this season, Julius Randle stays healthy, and Brook Lopez actually makes a difference. People forget he is the type of player that can lead his team in scoring night in and night out. Plus, Lonzo is pretty damn good.

The Lakers, for whatever reason, have pulled off regular season wins against the Warriors in the past two seasons. Don’t expect that to continue if they meet in the playoffs, but you should expect some LaVar Ball trash talk.

(2) Houston Rockets vs. (7) Utah Jazz

The Rockets added Chris Paul, and despite all of the negative talk (there’s only one ball), I love the move. The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor made an excellent point on the Ringer NBA Show, the Rockets, if planned correctly, can have either James Harden or Paul on the court at all times. Some of the Rockets’ troubles last year came when Harden was off the court and they lacked a floor general. Also, if Harden has another historically bad performance in the playoffs, he finally has another superstar to pick up the slack.

I don’t think that the Utah Jazz lost a whole lot in Gordon Hayward. The internet fell in love with him when he had a Durant-like decision day on the Fourth of July. I think they retained their best player, Rudy Gobert, and the only issue they may have is picking up the scoring that Hayward took to Boston.

(3) San Antonio Spurs vs. (6) Denver Nuggets

The San Antonio Spurs will be a top three seed. I’m not even sure how, but they will. LaMarcus Aldridge sucked last season, Tony Parker is 73, Pau Gasol is 67, and they will win 55 or more games. What’s that? Facts.

Denver added Paul Millsap to a core of budding stars that missed the playoffs last season. Nikola Jokic will be better, Gary Harris will be better, and hopefully Emmanuel Mudiay starts to figure out how to play basketball.

(4) Minnesota Timberwolves vs. (5) Oklahoma City Thunder

Any other year, I think the T’Wolves would make a leap from missing the playoffs to a top three seed. But, the Warriors are the best team ever, the Rockets just added a top 5 point guard of all time, and the Spurs… well they’re just the Spurs. Although people are talking a lot about it, I still think that the Jimmy Butler addition is being undervalued. Plus, somehow people are forgetting that Wiggins and Towns are still young and improving. It’s about time they become an elite team.

The Jimmy Butler trade was a complete heist, allowed by one of the worst front offices in basketball, the Bulls. But an even bigger robbery was the Paul George trade. This trade certainly helps the Thunder, but I don’t like the fit of Westbrook and George together, and the rest of the conference improved just as much. That’s why I think the Thunder only improve one spot from last year’s six seed.

Side note: If the Thunder would win this matchup, they would play the Warriors, which would be unbelievably entertaining.

Eastern Conference

(1) Boston Celtics vs. (8) Detroit Pistons

Boston will be the one seed for the second consecutive year, and their fans will be incredibly confident for the second consecutive year. Actually, they will be more confident, after adding Gordon Hayward (a move I think was cancelled out by losing Avery Bradley). Another regular season show, only to be outdone by the Cavaliers in their head to head matchups.

Trust me, LeBron wants it this way.

The Pistons, on the other hand, acquired Avery Bradley, and he will be enough to push them into the final spot in a dying Eastern Conference.

(2) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (7) Philadelphia 76ers

The Cavaliers are right where they want to be in this matchup. They have let LeBron rest for 20 games, and still end up near the top of the conference.

Philadelphia could be a lot better than the seven seed. I am accounting for Embiid missing 40 games, Simmons missing 25, and Fultz missing some as well, because he is a Sixers rookie, and that’s just what happens. JJ Redick and Amir Johnson will give the team a big enough lift while the youngsters are out to give them a playoff berth. The process is working.

(3) Milwaukee Bucks vs. (6) Miami Heat

I could not be more all in on Giannis Antetokounmpo (yes, it’s spelled right, I checked). He is going to be an MVP in the next three seasons, and with a healthy Jabari Parker and Khris Middleton, the Bucks are making the leap to the three seed. Expect Giannis vs. LeBron in the second round to be better than the Eastern Conference Finals.

Miami came on strong at the end of last season, but fell short of the playoffs. They haven’t made many moves this offseason though. They drafted Bam Adebayo, who everyone has fallen in love with in Summer League, and signed Kelly Olynyk, the LEGEND of Boston-Washington Game 7.

They didn’t do enough to improve drastically, but the rest of the East is worse than last year, so they’ll creep up to the six seed.

(4) Toronto Raptors vs. (5) Washington Wizards

The Raptors have maintained their spot as a consistent top four team in the East. It’s too bad for them that the top teams are distancing the gap while Toronto is standing still. They should stay in the top four teams this season, considering they have almost the exact same team.

John Wall and Bradley Beal are incredible to watch. Unfortunately, the rest of the Wizards are not. With Washington prepared to give Otto Porter a max deal, don’t expect that to change any time soon. John Wall will grow increasingly frustrated as the year goes on, and will likely leave after the season.

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