A very early look at the NBA playoffs

A very early look at the NBA playoffs

A very early look at the NBA playoffs
By Ted Sevransky

The Western Conference playoff race is basically settled before the All Star break. Heck, the playoff race was basically settled before Christmas.

There are nine Western Conference teams fighting for eight playoff spots. The Lakers are five games ahead of everybody else and a lock to make the postseason and my clear choice to earn the No. 1 seed.

The Spurs, Nuggets, Hornets, Blazers, Rockets, Mavericks, Suns and Jazz are fighting for seven spots. Minnesota is nine games behind Utah, the team currently sitting on the outside looking in. Golden State is eleven games behind the Jazz. The Grizzlies, Thunder, Kings and Clippers are all lottery bound teams once again.

There’s not much drama in the Western Conference this year and that’s reflected in the current betting numbers. The Lakers are in the -120 range to make the NBA Finals and I’d be hard pressed to find any reason or value betting against them. Either Phoenix, Dallas or Utah will be on the outside looking in when late April rolls around.

The Eastern Conference, on the other hand, is loaded with questions and drama as we approach the All Star break.

There’s a three-way battle for the No. 1 seed. That battle is even more important than usual this year, because the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds are likely to engage in a brutal series leading up to the Eastern Conference Finals. The No. 1 seed is likely to coast through the first two rounds, reaching the conference finals fresh and healthy.

I rank Cleveland and Boston a notch higher than Orlando. The Celtics won the title last year and the Cavs reached the finals the previous year. The key players on both squads know what it takes to reach that level of excellence in the postseason, while Dwight Howard and Co. have yet to reach the conference finals.

After the Big Three in the East, the rest of the conference is a jumbled mess.

The only team out of the dozen remaining squads that is absolutely out of the playoff picture is the hapless Wizards. That leaves eleven teams legitimately fighting for five playoff berths with only nine games separating the current No. 4 seed (Atlanta) from the current No. 14 seed (Toronto).

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