ASA NBA PLAYOFF 1st ROUND SERIES
Jazz vs. Nuggets (Nuggets in 5 games) – With Mike Conley leaving the Bubble for a family situation the already depleted Jazz take a hit to their rotation. Donovan Mitchell can only carry a team so far. The Nuggets found another legitimate scorer in the restart with Porter Jr. who averaged 23PPG in the Bubble. With Jokic and Murray and a deep bench the Nuggets will advance in round one.
Nets vs. Raptors (Raptors in 4 games) – There weren’t many teams that played better than the Raptors in the Bubble which is how they’ve played all season long. Toronto is a legitimate contender and could come out of the East again in 2020. The Nets have played hard in the restart but are short-handed without several players who sat out of the Bubble games. The Raptors defensive efficiency numbers are second best in the league and will prove to much for the young Nets here.
76ers vs. Celtics (Celtics in 6 games) – Historically, if you want to win the NBA Championship you better rank in the top 11 of the league in both offensive and defensive efficiency ratings. The Celtics can check that box with the 4th best O.E.F.F and D.E.F.F. Boston has a three headed monster with Walker, Brown and Tatum that can compete with anyone in the NBA. Philly took a hit when they lost Simmons for the Playoffs with a knee injury and Embiid is constantly banged up (22 games missed this year). Tobias Harris is going to have to earn his salary if the Sixers hope to advance but in the end the Celtics have too much.
Mavericks vs. Clippers (Clippers in 5 games) – The Clippers are our pick to win the Title this year as they have all the intangibles it takes to win it all. This Los Angeles team has the second-best overall net efficiency number in the NBA and they play in the West. The top three other teams come from the East. The Clippers could have problems defending in the post in later rounds, but the Mavs do not have a dominate big man as Porzingis prefers to play on the outside. Mavs Luka Doncic has the potential to win multiple MVP’s in this league but does not have enough talent on this current roster to advance out of the first round.
NBA FINALS CHAMPS – LA CLIPPERS – We have written articles for years now on the NBA Finals and what it takes to win it all from a statistical standpoint. Once constant for the last 14 years is that the winner has ranked in the Top 11 in both offensive and defensive efficiency ratings during the regular season. There are several teams that fit that criteria this year with Milwaukee, Boston, Miami, Lakers and Clippers rounding out the list. In a nutshell: The Bucks have not figured out a way to move Giannis off the ball and teams have been successful building a wall against him. Boston is a serious threat in the East, but they are still a player or two short from winning it all. The Miami story is a good one, but the Heat will not even make it to the Eastern Conference finals. LeBron and the Lakers are already making excuses about the Bubble and the lack of fans and media cannot fuel LeBron James ego or drive to win it all. Yes, the Bubble games were essentially meaningless but that still does not explain how bad the Lakers offense performed in the restart (only Washington was worse in offensive efficiency and efficiency differential).
LONGSHOT – HOUSTON ROCKETS – The Rockets do not fit the criteria statistically in terms of offensive and defensive efficiency numbers but there is one caveat. The Rockets have the 8th best O.E.F.F. numbers on the season but were 14th in D.E.F.F. In the restart or Bubble games though the Rockets defense has been much better ranking 7th of the twenty-two teams. Two big keys factor into this wager: One, will Russell Westbrook be back soon enough to help the Rockets advance. Two, in the past, when we’ve gotten to the postseason, typically James Harden is exhausted from the regular season but that’s not the case here with the 5-month layoff. The small-ball version of the Rockets clearly worked for Golden State and if shots are falling this team could easily win the Championship.