The 2019-20 NBA season is in suspended with no restart in the horizon, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, if they the NBA season does return with an immediate start into the NBA Playoffs, these are our Eastern Conference Predictions.
No one can truly predict when the NBA season will resume, or even if it will be canceled. For the purpose of this article, let’s just say that tomorrow Adam Silver made a major announcement stating that the NBA season will resume in Las Vegas and start directly with the playoffs. Who would win it all?
NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs Predictions
Eastern Conference Round 1 Predictions
1) Bucks vs 8) Magic
Regular Season Series: Bucks won 3-0
Analysis: The Bucks were one of the the most dominant teams in NBA history, before the NBA suspended play. They were beating their opponents by an average of 11.3 points per game, which is first in the NBA by almost four points per game. In fact, their average margin of victory would have been the fourth-best ever. The Magic, on the other hand, were a really good defensive team (10th in defensive rating), but never truly had that one player who could take over games. Nikola Vucevic was their leading scorer, with 19.5 PPG, and Evan Fournier was a close second, with 18.8 PPG. However, they were 27th in the NBA in scoring and 24th in offensive rating.
This should be a rather quick series for the Bucks. They beat the Magic by an average of 12 points during the regular season. No one on the Magic can stop the reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks’ defense will make the Magic’s terrible offense look even worse.
Prediction: Bucks 4-0
4) Heat vs 5) Pacers
Regular Season Series: Heat won 2-0
Analysis: The Heat have been a pleasant surprise this year, led by Jimmy Butler and first time All-Star Bam Adebayo. Miami is a very deep team, with seven players averaging double-digits in scoring and great defenders coming off the bench in Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala. If breakout rookie Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro struggle, they can be replaced by Goran Dragic and Jae Crowder and not miss a beat. The Heat have the third-best home record in the East, but are just 14-19 on the road. They have key wins over the Bucks, Raptors and 76ers.
For the last few years, the Pacers have been the definition of a good, but not great team. Their star, Victor Oladipo, missed more than half of the season with a ruptured quad tendon. He returned on January 29th, but has not been the same player, putting up 13.8 PPG and shooting 39.1% from the field. This is expected from a player who has missed about a year of action. Outside of Oladipo, they have first-time All-Star Domantas Sabonis, borderline All-Star Malcolm Brogdon and their best offensive player in T.J. Warren. Myles Turner failed to make the leap that so many have expected and their bench would have looked a lot better if Jeremy Lamb did not tear his ACL back in February. They are only 11-15 against teams above .500, compared to the Heat’s 14-10 record.
Oladipo could get hot one game and lead the Pacers to a win, but Miami’s defense, veteran leadership and depth should get the Heat to the second round for the first time since 2016.
Prediction: Heat 4-1
2) Raptors vs 7) Nets
Regular Season Series: Raptors won 3-1
Analysis: When Kawhi Leonard left the Raptors in free agency, many experts expected the Raptors to miss the playoffs and even trade some key assets, such as Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, so they could rebuild. The Raptors decided to do the exact opposite, and before the league suspended play, they were one of the hottest teams in the NBA and second in the Eastern conference at 46-18, despite being plagued with injuries. Pascal Siakam took a star leap and was voted to be an All-Star starter for the first time in his career. Fellow teammate Lowry got an All-Star nod for the sixth-straight season, and Norman Powell and Fred VanVleet both set career highs in scoring and scored a combined 34 PPG. Undrafted free agents Chris Boucher and Terence Davis have been pleasant surprises and even carved out roles in the rotation.
The Nets are a completely different story. If Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant were healthy, the Nets would probably have the advantage, but they are not and this Nets team is not that good without them. They are lead by Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert, who put up a combined 38.3 PPG. After them, there are some decent players (Joe Harris and Jarrett Allen) and a bunch of role players. Brooklyn is 9-19 against teams above .500 and their head coach decided to leave more than halfway through the season.
If home court was an advantage, Brooklyn could have stolen one game from the Raptors, but the Raptors are just better than the Nets on almost every aspect on the court. This should be a relatively short and easy series for the Raptors.
Prediction: Raptors 4-0
3) Celtics vs 6) 76ers
Regular Season Series: 76ers won 3-1
Analysis: Entering the 2019-20 season, some believed the 76ers could win the East and even the NBA Finals. If the regular season was any indication, the 76ers could fall very short of that goal. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons were All-Stars for the second straight season, even though there has been some concerns about their on-court fit. Al Horford, who the team signed to a four-year, $109 million deal, has not been as good as they thought; even getting sent to the bench for a couple of games. Tobias Harris, Josh Richardson, Shake Milton and Furkan Korkmaz were all having pretty solid seasons. Alec Burks was a nice addition at the trade deadline, but after him, the bench is bad and lacks shooters. While the 76ers were 10-24 on the road, which is worse than the Knicks, Timberwolves, Hornets and Suns, they were 29-2 at home, which is the best in the NBA.
The Celtics were 20-12 on the road and 23-9 at home. Kemba Walker has been a great replacement for Kyrie Irving both on and off the court. Jayson Tatum took a star turn and even won player of the month in February. Jaylen Brown is putting up 20+ PPG, Gordon Hayward is shooting the ball better than he ever has and Marcus Smart has been a great sixth man/spot starter for them all year. The Daniel Theis/Enes Kanter/Robert Williams frontcourt was a risk that paid off. The bench is not a strong spot, but most of their bench is usually a hit or miss every night.
Simmons had a semi-serious back problem before the league suspended play and Embiid always has injury concerns, so if one of them goes down, it will be a pretty quick series. But if everyone is healthy, there will probably be a lot of close games and this series could turn into a classic. In the end, it is a flip of a coin, but since the 76ers were atrocious on the road and won’t have their home crowd, the Celtics get the slight edge.
Prediction: Celtics 4-3
Eastern Conference Semi-Finals Predictions
1) Bucks vs 4) Heat
Regular Season Series: Heat won 2-0
Analysis: During the regular season, it seemed like the Heat were the only team in the NBA who had the Bucks figured out. They even held the Bucks, who lead the league in points per game, to 89 points and held Giannis to 13 points on 6-18 shooting. But, given the small sample size, the Bucks are clearly the better team on offense, defense and in overall talent. The Bucks have the best defensive rating in the NBA and own the league’s best net rating, at 10.7 (next best is 7.1).
The Heat have a real chance of upsetting the Bucks due to great coaching and Bam Adebayo playing great defense on Giannis, but the Bucks are the best team in the NBA (record wise) and have one of the best players in the league in reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.
It will be a tough series for the Bucks and the Heat will give them everything they got every night, but Giannis and the Bucks should advance to their second straight Conference Finals.
Prediction: Bucks 4-2
2) Raptors vs 3) Celtics
Regular Season Series: Celtics won 2-1
Analysis: This series could turn out to be a defensive showdown, as the Raptors are second in defensive rating and the Celtics are fourth. The Celtics won the first two games, including a convincing win on Christmas, while the Raptors won the final contest, holding the Celtics to 39.7% shooting and 21.9% from three-point range. This series will entirely depend on Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Gordon Hayward. All season, the Raptors have had some amazing defensive schemes, such as a box and 1, full court press and zone, and one would assume their defensive game-plan would be to take the ball out of Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum’s hands and let the others beat them.
Kyle Lowry has always been a problem for the Celtics and this year he has scored 29 and 30 points against them. The Raptors could very easily win this series if the others do not step up, but given their regular season stats, Smart, Brown and Hayward should be more than capable of providing around 50 PPG. It will not be easy and every game could even come down to the wire, but the Celtics should advance to their third Conference Finals in four years.
Prediction: Celtics 4-2
NBA Eastern Conference Finals Predictions
1) Bucks vs 3) Celtics
Regular Season Series: Series tied 1-1
Analysis: Last year, the Bucks and Celtics met in the Conference Semi-Finals. After the Bucks lost Game 1, they dominated the rest of the series and beat the Celtics in five games. This year, both teams are different, but the result should remain the same. This Bucks team is too good and Khris Middleton has always shot lights out against the Celtics. Boston won’t lay down and let Milwaukee beat them with ease like they did last year.
This year’s Celtics are hungry and have rising stars in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. At the same time, the Bucks are out to prove something as well. They want to show Giannis, who can be a free agent at the end of the 2021 season, that they could make the Finals and that he could win in Milwaukee. Plus, Giannis wants to avenge last year’s Conference Finals, when his team led 2-0 and lost after the Raptors had a game-plan to shut him down.
An angry and motivated Giannis is something that no team wants to face. The Celtics could beat the Bucks, but it will be difficult since they do not have a big man like Al Horford or Bam Adebayo to defend Giannis. Marcus Smart did a good job defending him in their first meeting this year, but Giannis went off for 32 in their second meeting. Milwaukee has a better defense and have a proven star, which will be enough for them to advance.
The Bucks should make the NBA Finals for the first time since 1974.
Prediction: Bucks in 4-1