Predicting the Entire 2018 NBA Playoffs Field and Seedings

Predicting what the 2018 NBA Playoffs will look like come April.

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Following one of the craziest offseasons in NBA history, it’s looking like things could go in an infinite number of ways once the regular season tips off. Several teams made numerous splashes in recent months, forcing many folks around the league to take notice of their eagerness to compete. While it’s still the Golden State Warriors‘ season to lose as we head into October, there’s no telling which other teams could emerge as contenders in 2017-18.

For now, let’s simply focus on what the playoff bracket could look like when April rolls around. With that in mind, here are my predictions for how the final postseason seedings will look in both the Western and Eastern Conferences when the 2018 NBA Playoffs begin.

East No. 8: Charlotte Hornets
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Things could get interesting as the race for the final spot in the East nears its end. There are at least a couple of teams worthy of the spot, even if they don’t stand much of a chance of causing a commotion when the playoffs begin. Even with a couple of worthy options for the eighth seed, I decided to go with the Charlotte Hornets. They’ve got a dangerous backcourt, and could see surprising benefits from the Dwight Howard trade. I’ll be looking for Malik Monk to give them the spark off the bench needed to earn that final postseason spot.

East No. 7: Miami Heat
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Are the Miami Heat going to be a serious threat to steal the East in 2017-18? Not really. I’m sorry to be honest with you, but that’s just not going to happen. With that said, I don’t think this Heat team will be a slouch either. Hassan Whiteside is a dominant force in the paint, and will continue to be all season long. Goran Dragic can still get the job done at the 1 spot, and there’s plenty of underrated talent throughout this roster. If Justise Winslow can finally play to his potential, I’m confident Miami will be playoff-bound in 2018.

East No. 6: Philadelphia 76ers
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It’s easy to count out the Philadelphia 76ers, a team that has been unmentionable in the playoff discussion for some time. However, now that the Process is nearly complete, it’s looking like they could actually earn some serious postseason consideration in 2017-18. It’ll all come down to health. Can Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons get healthy and stay there? If so, they could begin to break out as Philly’s own “Big 3” alongside Markelle Fultz. There’s so much for 76ers fans to be excited about right now.

East No. 5: Toronto Raptors
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Time is running out for the Toronto Raptors to make a serious run at the Eastern Conference crown. They have the pieces in place to compete with some of the other top teams, but always seem to fall short when it comes down to crunch time. After re-signing Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka, the pressure is on to make a move and topple one of the East’s other giants. Unfortunately, I’m not sure if they’ve made enough progress to take that next step that continues to elude them.

East No. 4: Washington Wizards
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On the surface, this Washington Wizards team seems to have all of the talent it needs to make a legitimate run at the Eastern Conference crown. The combination of John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr. on offense is just too good to ignore, right? That may be the case, but their underwhelming amount of depth in the frontcourt must be taken into consideration. It’s going to hurt them at some point down the line, especially with Markieff Morris already battling injuries.

East No. 3: Milwaukee Bucks
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I believe this is the year that the Milwaukee Bucks finally live up to their potential. Giannis Antetokounmpo has finally hit his stride as one of the NBA’s elite. Jabari Parker is set to return at some point this season, healthy and ready to wreak havoc. I’m also looking for a breakout season from Thon Maker, who figures to make his own unique mark for this franchise. All of the talent is there for the Bucks to crash the Eastern Conference party and prove their worth taking seriously this season.

East No. 2: Boston Celtics
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I’m sorry to burst your bubble. You were probably expecting the Boston Celtics to be listed as the top seeded team in the East. I get that. Unfortunately, they didn’t make quite as much progress this offseason as you might think. Sure, the signing of Gordon Hayward and acquisition of Kyrie Irving were awesome. In order to make both moves, though, they lost significant depth and parted with the heart of their lineup. Even if Jayson Tatum flashes star power early, I believe the Celtics fall just short of winning the East’s regular-season crown.

East No. 1: Cleveland Cavaliers
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I’m sure you were probably expecting the Celtics in this spot, and you’d have good reason to. However, we can’t overlook the fact that the Cleveland Cavaliers made their own moves this offseason. They may have lost Irving, but they brought in their own impressive haul that bolstered their depth and found them another outstanding point guard. When you consider the solid free agent additions of Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade, it’s easy to believe that Cleveland could find itself back atop the Eastern Conference in 2017-18.

West No. 8: Los Angeles Lakers
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I know — bold, right? By most accounts, the Los Angeles Lakers are nowhere near being a playoff team in 2017-18. This franchise’s hopes are pinned on the upcoming offseason, which promises nothing but superstars taking their talents to Hollywood. However, we seriously can’t overlook what the Lakers bring to the table this season. Lonzo Ball can be a gamechanger, while Julius Randle appears on the verge of a breakout season. If its outstanding bench play continues and Brook Lopez does his thing, Los Angeles will be right in the mix until the Game 82.

West No. 7: Utah Jazz
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Even after the loss of Hayward, the Utah Jazz are still a team worth taking seriously. They’ve got some tremendous young talents strewn about the roster, and have yet another opportunity to watch Rudy Gobert grow into the All-Star that he is. If Rodney Hood can have a breakout season and Donovan Mitchell shows us more of what he put on display during Summer League, this Jazz team shouldn’t have too much trouble booking a trip to the playoffs.

West No. 6: Denver Nuggets
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Based on what we see on paper, the Denver Nuggets may be a Top-3 team in the Eastern Conference. Unfortunately, they play in the West and find themselves sitting here as the sixth seed. Honestly, it’s a charitable choice with all of the other loaded teams vying for the final few spots in the West. Still, with an exciting young backcourt and one of the deepest frontcourts in the NBA, there’s no denying this Nuggets team can make plenty of noise this season. I believe the addition of Paul Millsap put them into contention territory.

West No. 5: Minnesota Timberwolves
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This is it — the year the Minnesota Timberwolves finally make their move up the Western Conference standings. They didn’t go out this offseason and add guys like Jimmy Butler, Jeff Teague and Jamal Crawford just to go on an early vacation. No, they’re done being stuck in Western Conference purgatory. With all of the young, exciting talent on this roster, I see them finishing right in the middle of the race. I even considered predicting the fourth seed for them, but couldn’t bring myself to make that call.

West No. 4: San Antonio Spurs
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It gets tougher and tougher for the San Antonio Spurs to compete. Sure, Kawhi Leonard will always ensure that they’re at least in the discussion in the West, but the rest of the roster leaves something to be desired. In fact, apart from signing Rudy Gay, no significant upgrades were made this offseason. Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Pau Gasol are all getting up there in age. Barring a resurgence from LaMarcus Aldridge, it’s looking like the middle of the pack is the ultimate destination for the Spurs in 2017-18.

West No. 3: Oklahoma City Thunder
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Honestly, I seriously considered giving the edge for the No. 2 seed to the Oklahoma City Thunder. After acquiring Paul George and Carmelo Anthony this offseason, their starting lineup is easily among the best in the NBA. My only concern with this team is the lack of exceptional depth. Apart from Patrick Patterson, most of their second unit is made up of underwhelming or unproven talent. If the bench can exceed expectations in 2017-18, though, the Thunder could make some serious noise during the postseason.

West No. 2: Houston Rockets
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There’s no denying that the Houston Rockets are going to be outstanding in 2017-18. That, however, doesn’t mean they’re ready to unseat the Warriors as kings of the West — at least not during the regular season. Still, there’s a lot to like about this Rockets team heading into October. The James HardenChris Paul duo should be nearly unstoppable, and I’m a huge fan of Clint Capelaand his underrated impact at center. Tie in their impressive depth across the board, and you’ve got yourself a definite contender.

West No. 1: Golden State Warriors
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The road to the 2018 NBA Finals goes through Golden State. They dominated their way through the playoffs a season ago, and may have actually gotten better this offseason. They didn’t suffer any huge losses, and added a couple of intriguing pieces such as Nick Young and Jordan Bell. As long as the gang can stay healthy and keep the chemistry working like it did throughout the 2016-17 season, we’ll see the Warriors atop the Western Conference by season’s end. I don’t think their trip back to the Finals will be as smooth, though.