The NBA regular season has come to a close, which now means we know all the playoff seedings and where teams will be headed in late April and early May when the first round of the NBA Playoffs commences. Some teams had little to worry about in the season finale, as the Miami Heat, New York Knicks and Oklahoma City Thunder all knew they had their playoff positioning set.
1. Thunder vs. 8. Rockets
2. Spurs vs. 7. Lakers
3. Nuggets vs. 6. Warriors
4. Clippers vs. 5. Grizzlies
But the same couldn’t be said for mostly everybody else and in the Western Conference we even had some drama at the bottom of the playoff seedings, as the Los Angeles Lakers needed all 82 games of their season to make it into the postseason. But both Los Angeles teams are playoff bound once again this season, albeit in opposite roles.
The Lakers have ruled L.A. for years now, but they enter the postseason as the 7th seed in the conference. Of course, the story they will hear beaten to death when it comes to analyzing their chances of reaching the Finals, will be about how Kobe Bryant’s knee injury greatly hinders their ability to be dominant. The Clippers rolled trough the season with only minor problems along the way, and find themselves sitting in fourth. But despite that strong season, and at times looking like the best team in basketball, the Clippers find themselves in the exact same position they were last season — battling the Memphis Grizzlies, albeit with the fourth seed rather than the fifth this year.
As for the rest of the conference, the road to the Finals goes through Oklahoma City for the first time in the franchise’s history. After two years of finishing behind the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference, the Thunder locked up the No. 1 seed in the West and are aiming to return to the Finals in consecutive seasons. Houston, who made a flurry of additions this offseason, fell behind the Lakers at the end of the season to grab the eighth seed and will try to use old Thunder guard James Harden to pull off the upset of the Thunder.
1. Heat vs. 8. Bucks
2. Knicks vs. 7. Celtics
3. Pacers vs. 6. Hawks
4. Nets vs. 5. Bulls
Over in the Eastern conference, things have been shaken up a lot more from last season than they were in the Western Conference. The Miami Heat locked up the No. 1 overall seed in the playoffs some time ago, but it’s who came in second that has people excited. The New York Knicks look to finally be back as they welcome the chance to play directly under the Heat in the first round rather than against them like last year.
Another surprise in the East is the Brooklyn Nets, who made a push to get better this offseason and have ended up as the conference’s fourth seed as a result. The bad luck there is they drew a no-quit Chicago Bulls team that is looking to prove the world wrong. Everyone wrote the Bulls off without Derrick Rose and after the team gutted their roster in the offseason for spare parts. But the Bulls are riding high and come into the postseason perhaps the most dangerous team in either conference.
The playoffs don’t kick off until Saturday, but the anticipation is already growing. We have a lot of the same familiar faces we always have, but things have been shuffled around dramatically. It’s looking like we are about to have a complete shift in power and a total change of the guard is on the horizon. But this is the NBA Playoffs, and like last year showed us, anything can happen and nothing is a sure thing.