The Step Back: Playoff storylines, hopes and dreams

By Michael Wu

As the rubble settles from the all-out gauntlet that was the NBA regular season, all sights are set on the postseason. With razor thin margins separating each playoff team in the East, and multiple heavy hitters in the West, it’s time to review the biggest storylines to follow as this year’s NBA Playoffs continue.

Who’s coming out of the East?

At the beginning of this season, the Brooklyn Nets were not only the clear-cut favorites to come out of the East, but overall championship favorites. Barring a miracle, the Nets now look to be swept out of the first round as they find themselves in a 3–0 hole. With Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving all but eliminated, what other team will ultimately prevail? Perhaps it’s the ferocious defensive juggernaut within the Boston Celtics. Maybe it’ll be the squad of the likely MVP Joel Embiid, the Philadelphia 76ers or the well-rounded Miami Heat. However, assuming health is not an issue, it’s hard to bet against the defending champions — the Milwaukee Bucks.

How will injuries impact the rest of the playoffs?

Like many other playoffs, injuries could, again, become the deciding factor of who ultimately comes out on top. Two of the league’s title contenders will be without key pieces for at least several weeks — the Bucks and their All-Star Khris Middleton, and the Suns and their superstar guard in Devin Booker. While both teams remain potent even without their respective players, healthier teams like the Celtics and Warriors have a real chance of capitalizing on the depletion of their opponents.

Which MVP candidate is most likely to make a deep playoff run?

The outlook for the NBA’s Most Valuable Player Award is officially a three-headed race. At the end of the season, Nikola Jokić, Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo each have legitimate cases to take home the award. Of the three, I once again believe Antetokounmpo has the best shot to make a deep run. He’s already a two-time MVP, NBA champion and Finals MVP, with one of the most objectively well-rounded supporting casts in the entire league. Perhaps Jokić and the Nuggets could make a run with a healthy Jamal Murray or Embiid could fire on all cylinders with superstar James Harden. However, this looks like another trip to the NBA Finals for Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks.

Who will be crowned champion? 

This NBA season has been full of pleasant surprises. The resurgence of the Golden State Warriors. The rise of the young Memphis Grizzlies and Chicago Bulls. The incredible mid-season turnaround by the Boston Celtics. However, with only two making it to the finals and one coming out on top, I have to place my bets on experience, depth and leadership. While it’s not the flashiest pick, I truly believe that we will see a rematch of last year’s NBA Finals between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Phoenix Suns. This time, however, I predict that the Phoenix Suns will be the ones to come out on top, avenging last year’s finals loss and capturing Chris Paul’s first NBA title.


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