There is no question that there is no clear-cut potential NBA Finals matchup that most analysts can pinpoint as we approach the NBA Playoffs. While the Eastern Conference is top-heavy with the Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics, and Philadelphia 76ers, the Western Conference is very much up in the air. Even though the Nuggets are the top seed in the Western Conference, they are a vulnerable #1 seed that can quickly be overtaken by competitors such as the Grizzlies or Suns. There are so many intriguing possibilities for NBA Finals matchups. We will examine them in this piece.
Warriors vs Celtics
Storyline: A Rematch of the 2022 NBA Finals
This will be a match that the Boston Celtics and their fanbase will relish. It appeared that the Boston Celtics were poised to seize control of this series and take their next step toward greatness when the Celtics went up 2-1. However, the Celtics ended up paying the price for not having a true point guard.
The Warriors won the last three games by keying in on Jayson Tatum and forcing him to commit many turnovers. The Celtics needed to make more shots.
The dynamic would differ significantly if a Finals rematch were to take place. The Celtics would have a different man in charge in Joe Mazzulla. He has an excellent feel for this team, and it will be interesting to see how he’ll play chess against Steve Kerr. The Boston Celtics have greatly improved in terms of 3-point shooting from last year., especially by adding Mike Muscala at the trade deadline.
On the other hand, one can never count out the Golden State Warriors. Despite their struggles on the road, they have a proven championship formula that will take a lot of work for any opponent to figure out. The Curry, Thompson, and Green trio would be headed for a 5th ring. A 5th championship would put them on a level of immortality that few trios in NBA history have reached. This matchup would feature a team reloaded and on a quest for vengeance versus a team on the verge of immortality.
Suns vs. Bucks
Storyline: A Rematch of the 2021 NBA Finals, Kevin Durant’s Revenge Against the Bucks
There’s no doubt that the core of the 2021 champion Milwaukee Bucks would be present in a potential NBA Finals match. That core is Giannis, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday. Core pieces such as Brook Lopez and Bobby Portis will also be there as well. It was clear that Khris Middleton’s absence played a key role in not them making the 2022 NBA Finals.
With this main core (plus Jae Crowder) fully intact, the Milwaukee Bucks will be poised and ready to reclaim the Larry O’Brien trophy. However, they will take on a Suns team with a different dynamic. The key difference in that dynamic will be Kevin Durant.
A foursome of Devin Booker, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant and Deandre Ayton will present a different type of challenge for the Bucks defense. In addition to Durant seeking to reclaim championship glory for the first time since he was in Golden State, he will be looking for retribution after the Milwaukee Bucks eliminated Durant and the Nets in the 2021 Eastern Conference Semis.
Additionally, the Phoenix Suns are seeking retribution for the 2021 NBA Finals loss to the Bucks. Given Durant’s injury and CP3’s age, this may be the Suns’ last chance.
Lakers vs. Celtics
Storyline: Another Chapter in the Historic Lakers/Celtics rivalry
All avid basketball fans know the History of the Celtics/Lakers. It is one of the most historic rivalries in all of the sports.
This matchup features the two winningest franchises in NBA history, tied with 17 titles. Simply put, the winning team would now have the most titles in league history. The Jayson Tatum vs. Lebron James matchup would be intriguing. One of the greatest players in a generation would be taking one of the brightest young stars in the league.
This matchup may arguably be one of Lebron’s last chances at a ring. If James were to defy Father Time and win his 5th championship ring (2nd as a Laker), it would strengthen his argument as the G.O.A.T. On the other hand, Tatum and Jaylen Brown’s legacy would be cemented if they were to lead the Celtics to a world title over their storied rival.
Grizzlies vs. Celtics
Storyline: The Good Guys vs. the Bad Guys
Professional wrestling matches generally have good and bad guys in every game. In this case, the Boston Celtics will come into the finals as the good guys, while the Memphis Grizzlies will play the bad guys.
It is no secret that the Ja-Morant-led Memphis Grizzlies have established a bad-boy reputation among many in the NBA. They have become chippy, with many teams around the league and analysts such as Shannon Sharpe. Ja Morant’s off-the-court troubles have only added to the team’s dynamic.
Memphis have bonded by being the heels and having an “us vs. the world” mentality.
On the other hand, the Boston Celtics are synonymous with success and prestige. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are good guys with good reputations. They have a proud history and a fantastic reputation around the league. An 18th championship would add to their incredible legacy.
Lakers vs. Bucks
Storyline: Lebron James vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo
It is no secret that Lebron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo are two of the most recognizable faces in the game today. The best player in a generation would take on arguably the best player in the NBA today.
Giannis Antetokounmpo got his first taste of NBA Championship glory in 2021 after he led the Bucks over the Phoenix Suns. It will be a legacy-defining win if he defeats LBJ and the Lakers for his second ring.
It will cement him as the greatest player in Milwaukee Bucks’ history. On the other hand, a Lakers victory will enhance Lebron James’s argument as the GOAT. Imagine if James held Father Time at bay with a win over Giannis Antetokounmpo and the powerhouse Milwaukee Bucks. It will be his 5th ring and his most impressive.
Warriors vs Bucks
Storyline: A Matchup Between the Last Two NBA Champions. Who Has the Better Big 3 Right Now?
This matchup would guarantee an NBA team that has won 2 of the last 3 NBA Championships.
The Golden State Warriors are the best team of the 2010s. With a win over the Bucks, the Golden State Warriors would also be the early favorite as the team of the 2020s.
This matchup would present a clear contrast in styles. The Bucks operate physically, slow-paced, and intensely, while the Warriors provide greater tempo and versatility. Each team would be in trouble if they allowed the other team to function at their tempo.
This will be a battle of championship-winning Big 3’s as Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green will match against Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday. Thus, this matchup will answer which team currently has the better Big 3.
Sixers vs. Grizzlies
Storyline: Can Joel Embiid finally break through?
Joel Embiid has been one of the best NBA players in the league for the past few years. He should have won MVP last year. He has gone above and beyond for the 76ers.
A championship will cement his legacy as one of the greatest centers in NBA history. At 33.0 PPG, Joel Embiid leads the NBA in scoring and will present a matchup nightmare for the Grizzlies. The Grizzlies don’t have anyone in the paint that can handle Joel Embiid. Since Embiid is also dangerous from the three-point line, he will be a handful for Memphis.
Given that the Bucks and Celtics will be contenders for years to come, the Sixers will need to cash in on championship glory when they can. Embiid will have to do his part and hope that he has enough help from a Sixers bench that isn’t always reliable.
Clippers vs Sixers
Storyline: Will Steve Balmer’s Investment Finally Pay Off
It is not easy residing in the same city as the prestigious Los Angeles Lakers. The Los Angeles Clippers are known as the inferior basketball franchise in Los Angeles. They are synonymous with getting in their way. If the Clippers were to take on the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA Finals, they would have an opportunity to throw a monkey wrench in their reputation as a snake-bitten franchise with a win.
Even though the Sixers have the dynamic duo of Joel Embiid and James Harden, the Clippers will have a motivated Russell Westbrook. Harden will not be able to match up with Westbrook defensively.
Additionally, Kawhi Leonard has had experience taking a franchise to championship glory for the first time as a Toronto Raptor.
Indeed, he could do it again for the hard-luck Clippers. In addition, Zubac will mitigate the advantage that Embiid will have matchup-wise on the interior. Regarding head-coaching matchups, I trust Lue over Doc Rivers any day of the week.
Nuggets vs. Bucks
Storyline: Nikola Jokic vs Giannis Antetokounmpo
The intriguing storyline is pretty simple here. It will be a battle between two MVP frontrunners. It will be an opportunity for Giannis to win his 2nd championship, while it will be Jokic’s 1st opportunity.
Here is a comparison of Nikola and Giannis’s stats:
Nikola Jokic = 24.9 points, 11.9 Rebounds, 9.9 assists
Giannis Antetokounmpo = 31.1 points, 11.8 rebounds, 5.6 assists.
The Bucks have the superior star in Giannis Antetokounmpo and the superior team. If the Bucks get Jokic in foul trouble, I don’t feel they have enough depth behind him to overcome Milwaukee. On the other hand, the Milwaukee Bucks have Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday, and a better core to work with. While Jamal Murray and Aaron Gordon are solid, I don’t believe they can measure up.
Suns vs. Cavaliers
Storyline: The Cavs Finally Move Forward Without LeBron
Whenever the Cleveland Cavaliers appeared on the NBA’s biggest stage, it was mainly due to the contributions of LeBron James. The Akron, Ohio native led the Cavaliers to four-straight NBA Finals appearances during his second stint with the organization.
They hoisted the Larry O’Brien trophy as champions for the 2015-2016 season when they faced the Golden State Warriors in a Finals rematch. However, James would leave for a second time when he decided to sign with the Los Angeles after the 2017-2018 campaign concluded. A potential trip to the NBA Finals for the current version of the
Cavaliers would signify that the team has finally built a viable roster without the presence of their hometown legend. But facing a team like the Phoenix Suns from the Western Conference would be a tall task. The Suns’ roster contains players such as Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Devin Booker, and Deandre Ayton. The efficient defense will be the key to winning a series between the Cavaliers and the Suns. Both rosters have personnel capable of scoring many points on a given night. The series would also be a legacy-defining moment for Cavs guard Donovan Mitchell.
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