By Richard Pryor III
Q: Give me your NBA Champion prediction. Right now.
– Needy in Nabit
A: Well, Needy, I could make this article super short and just say who I think it is, but that’d be boring. So let me tell you who it’s not going to be first, assuming that the standings stay pretty much the same: any seed from fourth to eighth. No fifth, seventh, or eighth seed has ever won the NBA Finals, and only one-fourth seed (‘69 Celtics) and one-sixth seed (‘95 Rockets) have ever won. So that leaves us with Toronto, Boston, Cleveland, Minnesota, Golden State, and Houston.
We can move on and eliminate Minnesota because despite their success this season, they pale in comparison to both the Rockets and the Warriors. Minnesota is 10 games behind Houston in the standings and hasn’t beaten Golden State or Houston yet this season. However, I do think they have a lot of room to grow and this is a great spot for them now.
I am going to eliminate Boston and Toronto in one fell swoop for one reason – LeBron James. Now I do recognize that I am one of the biggest LeBron fans on this campus. And I suppose that is to be expected when I went to middle school in Akron during his prime. However, LeBron’s statistics improve during the playoffs. His minutes increase. He is playing more and leading the Cavaliers throughout the game. His usage rate also improves, which means that the play ends with him more often – either through shooting, turning it over, or being fouled. When the most dominant player in basketball is playing around 42 of the 48 minutes in an NBA playoff game, you need to watch out. As long as none of his teammates are sleeping with his mother.
By eliminating Minnesota earlier, that leaves us with the Western Conference Finals matchup for the ages – the Houston Rockets and the Golden State Warriors. The two most dominant teams in the NBA, they met in their first game of the season and for one of them, it’ll be their last. In the three games they have played this season, it reads more like an NFL victory list than a NBA list. Rockets by one, Warriors by 10, and Rockets by eight. The main lesson for the Rockets from their two victories this season are that they need to limit one of the Warriors’ “Big Four” of Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, and Draymond Green to under 10 points, and while that should be enough, they clearly need to look out for Nick “Swaggy P” Young, who has two of his highest scoring outings this season against the Rockets, with 23 and 16 points. Young has clearly found a way to the basket against Mike D’Antoni’s defense, so he needs to be shut down because any advantage can get a win in this series. However, I still think the Rockets will pull it out in a full seven games, leading to a Rockets and Cavaliers NBA Finals.
Who wins in an NBA Finals matchup between Houston and Cleveland? Considering Houston has won both games in the season series, I say them, but I’d give the Cavs one or two wins in the series due to the toll of a seven-game series haunting the Rockets. Unfortunately for the Cavs, they really don’t have an answer for Chris Paul. Kevin Love can match Clint Capela, LeBron can match James Harden, but none of the point guards on their roster (Jose Calderon, George Hill, and London Perrantes) can match up with one of the greatest point guards in the NBA. Unfortunately for me and the rest of the 216, H-Town will probably get their first NBA Championship since Hakeem this June.