A few big picture thoughts on the playoffs:
- As of yesterday morning, Cleveland was slightly edging Golden State as the favorite to win the Finals, and because the Cavs play in a weaker conference those odds are not a huge surprise. At the same time, if the Warriors and Cavs do end up squaring off in the Finals, I expect Golden State to win.
The Warriors have been the best team in the NBA all season. They are historically great. Not many of us saw this coming, but the massive improvements compared to last year are real. Golden State is arguably the best offensive and defensive team in the league, as well as the fastest paced - in other words, they're a frigging juggernaut. Their two concerns - besides health, obviously - are the tough conference, and the fact that the Warriors have played so well this year they really haven't been punched in the mouth yet. They've had a magnificent, virtually turmoil-free season. I expect for Golden State to be challenged, but I don't expect any team to beat them in a seven game series.
- That said, there obviously are other excellent teams out there. Cleveland is the favorite in the East, but Atlanta could certainly challenge them if they get their mojo back. Chicago, too, could pose problems for the Cavs, if all their stars are somewhat aligned - which seems unlikely.
Cleveland has been on a great run the last few months, but this team still has serious concerns. David Blatt has not lived up to my high expectations - Kevin Love has never looked comfortable, and the defense is shaky. Cleveland has LeBron James, but Vegas might be placing too much on him in anointing the Cavs as favorites. I see an excellent, but flawed, team. Obviously, the playoffs might change my opinion.
- The Western Conference is brutally competitive, as we all know, but Golden State's main challengers - the Spurs and Clippers - have to play each other in the first round. I think that works as another advantage for the Warriors. There's some superb teams in the West, but Golden State appears to be a cut above this year.