SIS students, staff predict NBA finalists

SIS+students%2C+staff+predict+NBA+finalists

Woojune Kim , Managing Editor

As the first round of the NBA playoffs comes to an end, the top contenders are beginning to separate themselves. In the West, the Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors are the heavy favorites. The Eastern Conference seems more balanced with each of the top four seeds—Miami, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Boston—having a shot at reaching the finals.

“I think the Suns are winning in the West,” Bryan Kim (11), avid basketball fan, said. “Their team chemistry is off the charts and they have two elite playmakers in Chris Paul and Devin Booker. You can trust both of them at the end of games because not only can they set their teammates up, but they can also get their own shot.” 

Phoenix cruised through the regular season with a 64-18 record, the best in the league by an eight-game margin. Phoenix is also the defending Western Conference champions, but they have encountered a major setback in the first round due to a hamstring injury to their star guard Devin Booker. Though he may return later in the playoffs, the Suns face an uphill battle to reach the Finals without him.

The Golden State Warriors are the other favored team from the West, given their playoff experience and movement-heavy scheme.

“Golden State’s play in the playoffs has been like clockwork,” Tim Munro, P.E. teacher, said. “Everything is in sync and their guys are hitting shots. Their movement style offense and defense are both on point.”

Several observers also commented on the emergence of Jordan Poole, Golden State’s third-year guard, as a breakout star.

“Golden State’s offense is complex and dynamic, and I think Jordan Poole has interpreted it so well at a young age,” said Bryan. “It is hard to expect a young player to mesh so well with veterans, and the fact that he has been able to play well without taking shots away from his teammates is crazy.”

In the East, opinions are far more divided. No team has been as consistent as the Suns nor has the playoff pedigree of the Warriors, making the conference harder to predict. Already, the Brooklyn Nets—the favorites before the playoffs started—have been eliminated by the Boston Celtics in the first round. 

“If Robert Williams [Boston’s center] is healthy, I would pick Boston to win the East,” Bryan said. “They are on a different level this year. Their ball movement has gotten much better, and all of their starters play great defense because they are so athletic.”

Williams, one of the most impactful defenders in the league, had been sidelined with a torn meniscus since March. He made his return on April 24, just in time for the Celtics’ sweep of the Nets. With such a strong performance in the first round, Boston is now considered the favorite in the East, according to several sources such as FiveThirtyEight, ESPN’s BPI Playoff Odds, and Basketball-Reference’s Playoff Probabilities Report. 

The Milwaukee Bucks, the defending champions, have received support as well.

“I believe the Bucks are going to make it out of the East,” Brandon Choi (10), NBA enthusiast, said. “They won last year, and Giannis is just too unstoppable this season.”

Barring a miraculous upset, the Bucks are set to face the Celtics in the second round. However, the Bucks are missing their all-star forward Khris Middleton, who played a huge role in their Finals run last year. Like the Suns, it is unclear how far the Bucks can advance without one of their biggest stars. 

The last team to get picked from the East was Philadelphia. Since trading for superstar James Harden at the trade deadline, the duo of Harden and MVP-finalist Joel Embiid has been one of the most efficient in the league. Aided by Tyrese Maxey—their young, dynamic star in the making—they also have the potential to win the East.

“Philadelphia is dominant because Embiid can control the game,” Mr. Munro said. “It’s hard for a big man to control a game these days, but Embiid is too good and versatile. There is nothing you can do—he is unguardable at times.”

Ultimately, parity throughout the league creates a better viewing experience for fans, as it keeps matchups close and unpredictable. 

“This year’s playoffs have been fun because the teams are more evenly matched,” Andrew Ham (11), basketball follower, said. “There have been multiple one-point games, and even the Nets-Celtics series, which was the only sweep in the first round, was full of close games. So, it has been way more fun to watch.”