Roundtable: NBA Finals Predictions
Courtesy of NBA.com
With the 2018/2019 NBA Finals right around the corner, we asked a few OTG staff members to make their predictions on the outcome of a historic clash between the Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors. There is quite a bit to consider, as the teams are well-matched, which should result in one of the most competitive Finals we've seen in quite some time. As you'll see below, however, dynasties can be pretty hard to vote against...
Marc Cantave: GSW in 6.
The Golden State Warriors will beat the Toronto Raptors in six games, with or without their best player Kevin Durant. There are a few reasons why. For one, Kawhi Leonard will be seeing a lot of double teams, and he’s not so good at passing out of them. Unlike the previous two teams that the Raptors have faced, the Warriors thrive off of turnovers, and Leonard’s inability to pass will be beneficial to the Warriors. Another reason is Stephen Curry. I believe that Steph has heard the noise of him struggling in the playoffs and he’s played better as of late. But I believe that we will see a different Steph in these finals. Finals MVP is the one award that alludes Steph and with this Finals being his best chance, you can bet he’ll seize the opportunity.The Raptors have been playing some great basketball, but the Warriors are just too talented even without Durant. The last two series have taken a lot out of Kawhi Leonard and I’m afraid he won’t have enough in the tank. But out of respect for his greatness this postseason, I’ve given the Raptors two games. Let the Finals begin!
Alder Almo: GSW in 6.
The Golden State Warriors, despite not having Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins to start the series, are the heavy favorites. After all, they have experience on their side and still has two-time MVP Stephen Curry, who has caught on fire since Durant went down with an injury. This series presents an opportunity for Curry to finally capture a Finals MVP and lay down to rest the narrative that he’s failed to perform at the highest level. On the other side, the Toronto Raptors’ chance will hinge heavily on Kawhi Leonard’s health and greatness. He’s shown he’s worth the gamble and the Raptors are looking to cash in with the jackpot especially with Durant out.Leonard though will need every help he could get against the Warriors’ small-ball lineup. If Pascal Siakam continues to grow; Kyrie Lowry makes Curry work hard on defense and get him to foul trouble; Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka bully the Warriors in the paint and occasionally stretch the floor with outside hits; Danny Green rediscovers his touch and slow down Klay Thompson; and Fred Van Vleet continues to knock down shots, then we have a series. If not, the Warriors will just run their way to their fourth title in five years.
Musaab Nadeem: GSW in 6.
The Warriors are on a roll, and haven’t lost in over three weeks. They are playing with the same unbridled energy that marked their pre-Durant days, and Steph has more than answered the bell since Durant went down. Now, the Raptors are not to be taken lightly, and I believe they’ll take a few games. But to me, what separated the Raptors from the Bucks was the Raptors’ ability to finish down the stretch. Milwaukee was not ready for it when crunch time arrived. That luxury won’t be afforded to the Raptors against these battle-tested Warriors. On top of that, the Warriors have most of the best players in the series, even without Durant. If the two teams are evenly capable in the clutch, the Warriors still have the talent advantage.
Nikola Cuvalo: TOR in 7. The Raptors will be playing the 73-win Warriors core of years past to start the series, and will at some point transition to playing the "inevitable" version with Kevin Durant back in the fold. Counting on Boogie Cousins for anything of substance this series is a seriously poor bet, as the 7-footer has suffered a torn quadriceps and torn Achilles over the course of the last year. When we last saw him, he appeared to be anywhere from 50-70% of his former self; with another injury compounding his previous rustiness, he may never see the floor this series. For the Raptors to give my prediction here any sort of credence, they will have to take both Games 1 and 2 at Scotiabank Arena, forcing the Warriors into a self-doubting, haven't-done-this-before 0-2 Finals hole on the flight back to Oracle. Kawhi, Lowry, Siakam, Gasol, Ibaka, Powell, VanVleet, and Danny Green will all have to play the best basketball of their lives over the course of this series to pull out a first-ever franchise championship against a team with superior talent. As we know from playoffs of years past, the way to neutralize superior talent is through scheme and utter determination. The Raps likely have the complacent-at-times Dubs beat in the latter aspect (and this make them dangerous, if slightly unbelievable), but the former will rest on the shoulders of Nick Nurse; can he figure out how to slow down the league's most unresolvable offence? Can he employ a scheme that mucks up the Warriors legendary pace-and-space rhythm, to a degree that the Raptors offence can stay within punching distance come crunch-time? The answer will have to be yes, for the Raptors to have a viable shot at pulling off the improbable. Here's to saying that they will.
Jeremy Freed: GSW in 6.
Back in February, OTG tried to identify the Warriors’ biggest threat; I picked the Raptors, so we’ll see how that prediction holds up - I came short of picking the upset, however, as I will now. I liked that Kawhi could cancel out Durant, but until Durant gets back, Kawhi is now free to check Klay Thompson, which is good because I had liked Danny Green to try and do his best imperso-Klay-tion, and he has regressed to being a near non-entity. I liked that Kyle Lowry was the type of hard-nosed player that usually gives Steph Curry a hard time, but no one is giving Curry a hard time right now; after incinerating the Blazers, Curry is out for blood and trying to fill the one gap on his resume: Finals MVP. I liked that Pascal Siakam stood a chance of matching up with Draymond Green, and while Siakam is holding his own in his first big playoffs role, Draymond has returned to “Peak Draymond!” in the playoffs, and reminded the league of what a singular force he is. I’m not sure Siakam stands a chance. Toronto was extremely impressive in storming back to oust the Bucks, but they are running into a generational team. I think see them staving off elimination in Game 5 at home, before the Warriors close out at Oracle Arena in style.
Tyler Yates: GSW in 5.
Another year and another Golden State Warriors Final appearance. Who do they play? Doesn’t matter. The Warriors are looking great despite missing Kevin Durant and Demarcus Cousins. Steph is looking like his MVP self and the Warriors are moving the ball wonderfully. Draymond Green has been a huge contributor through the postseason. With Green looking shaky throughout the regular season, his resurgence in the playoffs is pretty demoralizing for the league. The Raptors don’t stand much of a chance due to their inconsistent bench. Their only hope – Kawhi Leonard - has been willing Toronto through the East, but unfortunately has a leg injury that doesn’t seem to be getting any better.
Will Jackson: TOR in 7.
I’m going against popular belief here, and riding the red hot hand in Kawhi Leonard. Nobody on the Warriors has dominant as good as Kawhi this postseason. You’d have to combine Curry on offense and Draymond on defense to get what Kawhi has provided so far. The former Finals MVP is averaging 31.2 PPG and 8.8 REB in the postseason thus far, and has come up clutch time and time again these last two months. With the loss of Kevin Durant, the Warriors look how they did in 2016, when they blew a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals. If KD were playing, my thought process would change, but Kawhi has taken out a dynasty before. I have no doubt that solid performances from Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam can aid Kawhi in repeating history, giving Toronto their first ever championship.
Cameron Tabatabaie: GSW in 6.
Already this prediction feel shaky. Betting against the Warriors is a fools errand, and Draymond Green and Steph Curry have been absolutely ballistic as of late. We saw in the Raptors-Bucks series how important big game experience was for Toronto's key players. Surely Golden State has the "been there, done that" chops to make quick work of a decidedly less decorated Raptors team. That said, there are two factors that make me believe this will be a competitive series. First, Kawhi Leonard just vanquished the second-best team in the NBA, and on one leg, no less. He's a true NBA champion, and surely he'll know how to expose the KD-sized hole in Golden State's roster. Likewise, this team is riding the momentum of some very hard-fought battles. Toronto has the grit to dig in for a long battle. All things being equal, though, I still like Golden State here. If either Durant or Boogie return to action, perhaps this will be an even shorter series.