2022-10-14 · 3 min read · NBA/Basketball
Milwaukee Bucks and Denver Nuggets

NBAE | Boston Globe via Getty Images

It’s that time of year…the NBA regular season is just around the corner, which means it’s time to make an official Finals prediction.
In the East…
For me, it’s the Milwaukee Bucks. I love what Boston did last year, and despite Head Coach Ime Ukoda’s well-documented dismissal, they still have a ton of talent. Especially with the addition of Malcolm Brogdon, who in the preseason has looked like everything they lacked last postseason.
Robert Williams’ knee is a major concern though, and with Al Horford likely having a considerably scaled-back roll to preserve his body, they’re very thin up front. And of course, how much will the coaching situation reflect on their on-court play? I guess we’ll find out.
Also lurking as a real contender is the Philadelphia 76ers, who’ve quietly had a solid offseason, and are heading into their first full year with James Harden in the fold. Speaking of Harden, all the talk out of Philly is that he’s in great shape and poised for a strong year.
I’ll believe that one when I see it, but beyond him, they have the emerging Tyrese Maxey, who should be primed for a big leap.
Joel Embiid alone makes them a contender, but he has the best supporting cast he’s had around him in years, with the addition of PJ Tucker, Danuel House Jr. and DeAnthony Melton.
The two big questions in terms of this team making a deep playoff run will be Embiid’s ability to hold up health-wise, as well as if Harden can really be what they need come May.
All that being said, Milwaukee remains the safest pick out of anyone.
Giannis is as good as it gets as a playoff performer, and his ability to dominate the floor on both ends physically is a matchup nightmare reminiscent to Shaq in his hay day. Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton both have lots left in the tank, and the addition of Joe Ingles could solidify their bench and secondary scoring if he can return to some semblance of his pre-injury form.
The Bucks may not be the sexy pick in the East, but they’re certainly the safest.
For those wondering, Milwaukee is +395 to win the East, and +700 to win it all.
In the West…
This one is tough, and I’ve been back and forth about it for weeks…I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m taking the Denver Nuggets.
It would be boring to take Golden State again, plus I question how their mental toughness will hold up amidst Draymond punch gate.
Winning two titles in a row is extremely hard, no matter how talented you are, it’s just a fact.
This group has been through a lot, so the Draymond stuff could blow over, but the West is better, and they’ll be hunted all year. I just see it being a draining season for the defending champs.
Another team in contention is the LA Clippers.
I know a lot of people are high on them, and they’re definitely talented and deep, but I can’t for the life of me bring myself to do it.
Maybe it’s because the franchise is cursed, maybe it’s because I don’t trust Kawhi Leonard or Paul George to stay healthy for 82 games and four playoff rounds, or maybe it’s because they have too many wings and guards that need minutes and shots.
Something just doesn’t feel right for me to take them as Western Conference champs.
So we move to Denver. Look, the recipe is all there.
They have a true top 5 player in the incredible Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray finally back in the fold, a returning Michael Porter Jr (hold that thought), and an improved supporting cast with the additions of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Bruce Brown.
Add all that to the steady Aaron Gordon and explosive yet erratic scorer Bones Hyland, and this team is flat-out loaded.
The caveat with the Nuggets is the question of whether Jokic can hold on enough defensively to not get exposed by great teams as the playoffs get deeper. It’s something that I think is a bit overblown.
He’s a better defender than he gets credit for first of all, and the straight-up brilliance on offence completely offsets any disadvantages he might present on the other end.
Look at what he did last year. Forget the numbers, the fact that he dragged the freaking Washington Generals to a 48-win season was nothing short of amazing.
The other question is whether Porter Jr’s back can stay healthy. That’s a legitimate one, but to me, even if he does get hurt, I still think this team is good enough to make a run. In other words, anything you get out of this is kind of the cherry on top in a lot of ways.
If he can stay relatively healthy? Watch out.
Denver is +824 to win the West and +1800 to win the title…pretty tasty if you ask me.
To win it all…
Give me the Bucks in 6. Giannis’ solidifies his legacy with his second finals MVP.
Sports Tree Profile

By: Eddie Huband


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