Season Predictions: Cavaliers advance, Nuggets knocked off

Donovan Mitchell, Caris LeVert, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images
Donovan Mitchell, Caris LeVert, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images /

The NBA season has finally arrived. 82 games stand between the Cleveland Cavaliers and their chance at playoff redemption. 29 other teams hope to achieve their goals this year; for some that will mean developing young players and positioning themselves to add talent next summer, but for others it will mean postseason glory and a trophy at the end of the road.

We’ve been previewing the season from all angles here at King James Gospel, and this will be my personal third and final predictions piece. Check out my predictions for each individual award (Evan Mobley makes an appearance!), as well as my projections for each team’s win total for the year.

That leaves the playoffs, the true test of a team’s mettle. Can the Cavs avenge last season’s dispiriting loss? Will the Denver Nuggets repeat? The NBA is unpredictable, and injuries, breakouts and slumps will completely change the playing field.

With that being said, we can still take a crack at it. Here are our predictions for the playoffs and who will hoist the trophy at the end.

The West Playoff Field

The Top 6 playoff teams will be:

  • (1) Denver Nuggets
  • (2) Golden State Warriors
  • (3) Phoenix Suns
  • (4) Minnesota Timberwolves
  • (5) Los Angeles Lakers
  • (6) Memphis Grizzlies

The Play-In Tournament Field will be:

  • (7) LA Clippers
  • (8) New Orleans Pelicans
  • (9) Sacramento Kings
  • (10) Dallas Mavericks

West Final Four:

  • (1) Denver Nuggets vs (5) Los Angeles Lakers
  • (2) Golden State Warriors vs (3) Phoenix Suns

The East Playoff Field

The Top 6 playoff teams will be:

  • (1) Boston Celtics
  • (2) Cleveland Cavaliers
  • (3) Milwaukee Bucks
  • (4) Philadelphia 76ers
  • (5) Miami Heat
  • (6) New York Knicks

The Play-In Tournament Field will be:

  • (7) Atlanta Hawks
  • (8) Toronto Raptors
  • (9) Brooklyn Nets
  • (10) Indiana Pacers

East Final Four:

  • (1) Boston Celtics vs (5) Miami Heat
  • (2) Cleveland Cavaliers vs (3) Milwaukee Bucks

The Cavaliers win a playoff series

If the Cavaliers have the regular season that they are hoping to have, then attaining a Top 2 seed will be very possible. That’s important, because there are six teams in the East who should feel good about their chances of winning a playoff series this season. Landing in the Top 2 likely ensures an easier opponent, although last season the Miami Heat came out of the Play-In, so nothing is guaranteed.

The Cavaliers have a deeper, more balanced team this season. Darius Garland and Evan Mobley should both be better, and the entire roster is more experienced. Even if they don’t get a Top-2 seed they should be favored to win a series, but in our projection, they take down the Atlanta Hawks and advance to the Second Round.

New champion in the West

The Phoenix Suns have two of the most potent scoring threats in the league in Kevin Durand and Devin Booker, and Bradley Beal is one ferocious third banana. After that, however, their depth drops off precipitously, and while stars matter the most in the playoffs, fielding five two-way players matters too. They fall to the Warriors in the Second Round.

On the other side of the bracket, the Denver Nuggets are thinner than last season but still have the best player in the world. The Los Angeles Lakers deserve credit for building a competent team around LeBron James and Anthony Davis, but they were hapless against Denver last season and didn’t upgrade enough to change the ledger this time around.

That creates a showdown between the last two champions, the aging Warriors and the ascendant Nuggets. Golden State actually matches up well with the Nuggets, with versatile size to throw at Nikola Jokic on defense and multiple actions to draw Jokic out of the paint. It’s hard to win two years in a row, and the Nuggets’ inexperienced depth cracks enough of their facade to let in some light. The old lions have one more run in them, and the Warriors head back to the NBA Finals.

Celtics vs Bucks in the East

The Cleveland Cavaliers will be much improved this season and ready for a playoff showdown, but the Eastern Conference has another pair of much-improved teams, and they’re dominant contenders. The Cavs will take on the Milwaukee Bucks in this projection and give them plenty of trouble, but in the end, the Cavs will still be held back by their lack of two-way versatility across the roster, and the Bucks advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Meanwhile, the Boston Celtics avenge last season’s loss to a weaker Miami Heat team and make their way to a showdown with the Bucks. The Celtics have an elite Top 6, but they have some unanswered questions about their half-court offense. The Bucks, on the other hand, have some major depth issues to work out, but their two-man game between Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard may just be unstoppable.

Golden State wins one last title

In the Finals the depth issues of the Bucks come back to bite them, as well as the inexperience of their head coach (who has already lost his top assistant in Terry Stotts). Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard may trade blows, but the Warriors have numerous players to throw at Antetokounmpo and at least slow him down. Players like Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody can step up, while the Bucks don’t have any bench players to count on like that.

Next. What If: Are Cavaliers better if they don’t make the Mitchell trade?. dark

Curry, Green and Klay Thompson win one last ring to give them an even five, and teams like the Cavaliers continue to have a goal to chase after.