Which teams will make the NBA Finals this season?
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): There's definitely a case to be made for the Toronto Raptors and Houston Rockets making the NBA Finals this season, but I think it'll ultimately come down to the Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors.
The Warriors are still clearly the best team in the Western Conference when healthy and the addition of DeMarcus Cousins gives them the perfect answer to Houston's switchy-heavy defensive scheme that gave them problems in last season's playoffs.
As for the Celtics, they might have the deepest team in the league this season. While they still have a lot to figure out between now and the end of the regular season - will there be enough shots to go around for Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward and Jaylen Brown? - I think Brad Stevens will get the best out of his roster because he always does.
If so, sign me up for up to seven games of Celtics vs. Warriors.
Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): It might not be a cakewalk for either team, but this is the year we see an NBA Finals series between the Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics.
With a three-peat in sight, I think we'll see a laser-focused Warriors team that puts forth a dominant regular-season effort. A few teams in the Western Conference made improvements, but the Warriors added four-time All-Star DeMarcus Cousins, who will be healthy just in time for the season's stretch run.
Boston is back at full strength - provided it stays healthy, the C's roster is the deepest and most talented in the East. Last season's adversity forced the Celtics' young talent to grow up fast, which will benefit them when they're tested in the postseason because they've been there before.
It should be a good series, but the Warriors will ultimately prove to be too much, and I see them winning the Finals in six games.
Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13): I'd be floored if anyone other than the Golden State Warriors comes out of the West. While the East has several contenders, the Boston Celtics simply have too much talent from top to bottom for me to pick anyone else.
I think that last year was the year to beat the Warriors out West. With DeMarcus Cousins on board, they seem re-energized and poised to regain some of the swagger that was missing at times throughout last season's somewhat lethargic regular season.
Boston faces a stable of contenders that could give it issues. If Kawhi Leonard is fully healthy, he's the best player in the Conference and given that the best player in the East made it to the Finals each of the last eight seasons - even if that player just so happens to be LeBron James - there's something to be said for being able to lean on elite individual talent.
Giannis Antetokounmpo now has a better coach and supporting players that fit his style which makes the Bucks a dark horse.
And discounting the 76ers would be dangerous given the immense potential for Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, both of whom could make All-NBA pushes. That said... Boston will just have too much at the end of the day.
Sign me up for Warriors-Celtics.
Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_): It's going to be the Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics.
The Warriors are still the most talented team in the league and nothing will stop them from getting back to the NBA Finals. They've added one of the top centres in the league in DeMarcus Cousins, who will recover from his achillies injury conveniently before the playoffs. I think you'll see Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry take their game to another level with the three-peat on the horizon, also knowing there is an interesting 2019 offseason lurking as well.
The Houston Rockets, or maybe LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, might take a few games off the Warriors but ultimately, I cannot see any team ending their run in the West.
As for the Celtics, they're the most talented and deepest team in the Eastern Conference. I think the Toronto Raptors are right there with them, but Boston was so close to returning to The Finals last season that they won't allow anyone to keep them from getting there this year.
Their roster gained more experience than they ever could have imagined last postseason with Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward out, and that will prove to be invaluable down the stretch of this year's playoffs. As long as they can remain healthy, they'll get their shot to knock off Golden State.
The Finals will go seven games and anything can happen in a Game 7, right?
Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay): I think the playoffs will have competitive series in both conferences from the first-round all the way through the conference finals. In the end, the Houston Rockets will come out of the West and the Toronto Raptors will come out of the East. Both teams had their hearts broken a year ago and will be hungry to finally break through the glass ceiling. Kawhi was the missing piece that the Raptors needed to get them over the hump and Chris Paul won't go down at the 99th hour in the playoffs this time.
Although they're deep, I can't trust the Boston Celtics to be healthy enough to come out the East, and Golden State's fatigue will catch up to them.