PRESS BOX: CT Sports staff presents, NBA playoff picks

Illustration by Lily Higgins

CT Sport Staff

The NBA finals are on the horizon, as the regular season of the NBA season comes to a close. Read along for NBA Finals predictions from The Commonwealth Times sports staff. 

The NBA playoffs will officially start on April 16, after the winners of the NBA Play-In Tournament are set. 

The NBA Play-In Tournament is when teams with the seventh-highest and eighth-highest winning percentages from the western and eastern conferences earn opportunities to acquire a playoff spot. 

The teams with the ninth-highest and tenth-highest winning percentages in each conference will also have a chance to earn a playoff spot, according to the NBA. Many analysts have been trying to predict the unpredictable of who will win it all when June comes. 

NBA analyst Tim Legler said he believes the Milwaukee Bucks will win the championship again, as they did last season.  

“The defending champs, Milwaukee Bucks, they’ve gotten their three stars healthy,” Legler said during an ESPN broadcast. “Your stars are there, and then here’s the final component … They know they’ve done it. They just did it a year ago. They can get this thing across the finish line.”

NBA analyst and former NBA All-Star Jalen Rose said he believes the Milwaukee Bucks and the Miami Heat are the two top choices to win the Eastern Conference.  

“The Miami Heat again — them and the Bucks are the safe choices for me in the east,” Legler said during a segment on ESPN’s Get Up

Arrick Wilson’s Prediction

The Milwaukee Bucks run the board this postseason, winning the NBA Finals. Fans have forgotten that the Bucks won the title just last year, being led by forward Giannis Antetokounmpo. Antetokounmpo has averaged 29.9 points and 11.6 rebounds per game this season, according to Basketball-Reference. Antetokounmpo will again be the Bucks’ spearhead, leading the team to another title.

Another note is that the Bucks have been in those finals and playoff settings before, earning the title last year. If the Bucks stay healthy and continue their success, they will raise the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy in June.

CBS Sports NBA reporter Michael Kaskey-Blomain stated that the Bucks will be the team to beat this playoff.

“No one is going to want to see Milwaukee in the playoffs, and similarly, no one should be surprised if they make it out of the East for the second straight season,” Kaskey-Blomain stated in an article.

JJ Hendrickson’s Prediction

The Phoenix Suns are the team most likely to win the NBA finals. At the time of writing this, they have a record of 64-18, which is eight games better than the Memphis Grizzlies, who have the second-best record in the league, according to ESPN

Historically, teams which had the highest level of playoff success have ranked highly in both the offensive and defensive rating statistics. Since the NBA and ABA merged in 1976, the average ranking of each of these statistics for champions is 5.6 and 5.2, respectively, according to the action network. This year, the Suns are fifth offensively and third defensively, as stated by the NBA. They are the only team to rank in the top five on both sides of the ball. If historical trends repeat themselves, the Phoenix Suns will be the team to lift the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy come June.

Olivia Dileo’s Prediction

My pick for the NBA Finals Champion is the Miami Heat. As someone who has not watched a single professional basketball game in my life, I solely picked the Heat based on how well they look on paper. The chances of winning will solely depend on if a really good-looking team, statistics-wise, wins it all.

The Miami Heat, when combining all players, have an impressive total of 110 points. They also have a total of 7.4 steals for the season and 25.5 assists this regular season, according to Basketball-Reference. These unique stats prove they are worth the hype and their placement in the playoffs. The Miami Heat have proven their worth throughout the season and show they will make it to the final championship.

Thai Wilson’s Prediction

The Milwaukee Bucks are my pick to win the championship this year. The matchup for the finals is going to be a repeat of last year, and I think the same result will occur as it did last year. The Phoenix Suns have repeated what they were last year, having the best record in the league and being a top offensive and defensive presence, according to ESPN. I expect Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo to have another insane playoff run, which will allow him a run in the playoffs. 

Milwaukee Bucks center Brook Lopez has to have better interior defense though. His current one block per game and lackluster perimeter defense, according to ESPN, will put more pressure on Antetokounmpo. Luckily, the Bucks signed center Serge Ibaka, who will give some effective defensive and floor spacing minutes. If things get down to a similar result of last year and the Suns meet the Bucks in the finals again, the Suns do not have an answer for Antetokounmpo’s interior offense. His overall dominance leads me to believe that the Bucks will come out on top and Antetokounmpo will be the Finals MVP once more. 

Tom Callahan’s Prediction

My pick for NBA Finals Champion is the Phoenix Suns. As someone who has not watched a single game of basketball, professional or otherwise, in about five years, I feel my greatest chance of picking the right team will depend on math and luck. As a baseball fan, we use a plethora of different statistics to determine which players are better than others.

My favorite baseball statistic is WAR, or “wins above replacement.” WAR evaluates the number of wins a team gained by having X player as opposed to an average free agent player in the same position, according to MLB. Using Python and per 100 possessions data from Basketball-Reference, I created a modified version of baseball’s WAR stat dubbed “bWAR.” The leaders in my new statistic, the Phoenix Suns, achieved an average bWAR of 4.75. The worst of the top six across both conferences were the Milwaukee Bucks, which may, in due time, put the shortcomings of my bWAR on full display.

With all being said, it will be interesting who will win the trophy come June, as we all know it is basketball and anything can happen. 

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