With the playoffs fast approaching, people are starting to make their picks on who will beat who. It isn’t a hard argument to make for it to be the third battle of Golden State and Cleveland in the finals, but if someone was to upset the balance of power in either conference, who would it be?
After researching for days and watching a lot of film, I have picked the two candidates, one in each conference, that have the biggest chance of shocking everyone come the postseason.
Eastern Conference – Washington Wizards
While I love my Celtics, the Wizards would be the biggest surprise out East that is plausible. Sure Miami or Atlanta might make the better Cinderella story, but the Wiz have a good enough team that they could potentially challenge the Warriors or another team in the finals.
With their starting five of John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Makieff Morris and Macin Gortat, they have a well-rounded group that can space the floor and cover a wide variety of offenses. Their defense with this group is a little lackluster, but if they replace Morris with Bojan Bogdanović, their offense becomes even deadlier and they start shooting people off the floor.
They have one of the best crunch-time five man lineups in the NBA with the group I just mentioned. Their defense could use improvement, but their scoring ability is nearly unmatched. If they can hit their shots it isn’t impossible to imagine them taking the Cavaliers out in a seven-game series.
Unlikely? Very. But not impossible.
Western Conference – Utah Jazz
The Jazz might be my favorite team I never root for in the league. Gordon Hayward is my favorite player in the league and the depth of the team is actually very impressive. The key to the series won’t be either of those things however, it will fall solely to the Stifle Tower to make his team the threat they could be.
Hayward will almost always play well and sure the bench needs to play well for them to go far, but those are things every team needs, Rudy Gobert has taken a huge offensive load on for his team over the last three weeks, averaging close to 17 points and 14 rebounds a game with insane defensive numbers and close to three blocks as the cherry on top.
His play will largely decide the fate of Utah. Should his play continue to be otherworldly, combined with the Hayward’s consistency and the bench depth, this team could make some noise in the playoffs.
I think the x-factor will be Derrick Favors and his health. Should he continue to play like he can only rely on one leg, Gobert and H20 will need someone else to step up as the third option to break out of the West.
Out of the Wizards and Jazz, I think the Jazz would have the better chance of going all the way. Their depth and experience is greater than the Wiz. They have amazing defense and the depth to wear teams down over a game, which is even deadlier over the course of a seven-game series.
They need a lot of things to fall into just the right places and some stellar play from their guys, but it isn’t an insane thought to me that the Jazz might be crowned Western Conference Champions and maybe even NBA Champions by postseason’s end.