Roundtable: 2016-17 NBA Title Predictions
The past two seasons have ended with the Warriors and the Cavaliers clashing in the NBA Finals. Will this year make it a third? Or will a rising team (hello, Celtics) or lurking contender (hello, Clippers) crash the party?
With the 2016–17 NBA season tipping off this week, The Crossover paneled its NBA experts to get their NBA Finals and conference finals predictions. As expected, the Warriors and Cavaliers are heavy favorites to meet in a Finals trilogy, but there's also some new blood in the mix.
For more bold predictions, check out our NBA awards picks. You can also find previews for all 30 teams, flop and surprise squads, 71 reasons to watch this season and more preview coverage at The Crossover.
2016-17 NBA Finals Predictions
It feels overly cute to pick against LeBron in the East—I'd prefer Cavs-Warriors Part Three, for the record—but I really believe the Celtics will make the Finals. They'll be excellent on both ends of the floor, they have decent depth, and they have more looks to throw at LeBron than any team he's faced in the East the past few years. Granted, if LeBron and Kyrie are at full strength, it probably won't matter. But I'm not sure I trust both of them to be 100% by the end of May. If Kyrie struggles to hold up, or LeBron slows down, Boston is perfectly positioned steal it.
As for the Warriors ... Recent history has taught us to be cautious with superteams. Remember when everyone was expecting the Love/LeBron Cavs to have the best offense of all time? That 2012 Lakers cover? The Heat Index tracking their progress next to the '96 Bulls? It's important to remember those scars.
I just don't think any of those precedents apply to what's coming in the Bay Area. Here's to betting it works better, and earlier, than anyone imagines. If anything, most basketball fans have been underplaying what's about to happen. This is Year 1 Ubuntu, not Year 1 Cavs. They'll need to keep Draymond healthy, but assuming he does, Steve Kerr will be meticulous about staggering lineups to maximize scoring and rest, and there's only so much the league can do. The Warriors shouldn't have a problem running through the West, and whoever they face in the Finals—Cavs, Celtics, Knicks Superteam—is going home in five games, tops.
I’d like to make a sexy pick, but barring catastrophic injury, it’s tough to envision any other scenario. The Warriors are going to cruise again, they’re going to be more prepared physically and mentally in May and June, and they have more offensive talent than probably any team ever. The Cavs are theoretically a bit more vulnerable, but who in the East is really beating them in seven games? Last year was a reminder why it’s unwise to pick against LeBron.
I’m as excited as anyone for a rematch, but the odds of Golden State defying all comparison and rolling to another title are better than Cleveland’s chances to grind out four more improbable wins. Boring as it seems, this is probably not the year to think outside the box.