Even early into the season, the predictions for the playoffs came flying in. Defending champs in the Lakers versus the big trio in the Nets seems to be the consensus when it comes to who will battle for the Larry O’B in the playoffs, but who are the top NBA playoff sleepers?
I’m going to play the devil’s advocate for a bit and argue a different potential matchup. Anything can happen in this year’s NBA season, so let’s have fun with it.
Western Conference: LA Clippers
Currently sitting in second in the Western Conference, the Los Angeles Clippers are trying once again to make a deep playoff push. They’ve had close games against better teams such as the Brooklyn Nets and the Utah Jazz.
Communication between players on the court has proven to be one of the key factors in the Clippers’ success, as shown in the highlights of their most recent game against the Memphis Grizzlies below.
The Kawhi Leonard + Paul George duo is averaging about 50 PPG together. If the Clippers are going to make a push in the playoffs, they’re going to need help from their other players as well.
In one of Serge Ibaka‘s higher-scoring games of the season, he put up 17 PTS & 11 REB against the Thunder. Ibaka can be a really consistent player on both ends, giving you those 12 extra points you need per game while helping out on the defensive end as a big. His experience and chemistry from playing with Kawhi Leonard have definitely helped with communication on the court.
Eastern Conference: Philadelphia 76ers
Full disclaimer: the Nets have been sneaking up on that first seed, so this take may age horribly; however, I’d like to give Philadelphia their flowers, especially after they went through some health and safety protocol drama at the beginning of their season. The 76ers currently have 22 wins and 11 losses, and their best player is in the MVP conversation.
Joel Embiid has been averaging 29.6 PPG, just fourth behind Bradley Beal, Stephen Curry, and Damian Lillard. He’s greatly improved and has become more of a dominant player, earning him his fourth All-Star appearance and as a starter.
At 14:48, you can see Embiid use his size against another big, Richaun Holmes, to muscle his way to the rim. This is a part of his game that he’s elevated this season. Taking advantage of uneven matchups will help this Philly team in the playoffs and might even give them the defensive edge against an offensive team like Brooklyn.
“I do feel like I’m the best defensive player in the league.” How often have we heard Ben Simmons say that? This time it was only a day after the 76ers stifled the Mavericks 111-97. He has the stats to back up his confidence- just take a look at Luka Dončić‘s numbers against Simmons versus other teams (0:40).
If any team is going to take down the Brooklyn Nets in the playoffs, they’re going to need to have a defensive identity first and foremost. Whether it’s Lakers-Nets, Clippers-76ers, or any other combination, this year’s NBA playoffs could be just as unpredictable.
A final reminder, the health and safety of the players should be the first priority. In the current global state, being able to witness sports leagues continue is a privilege, not a necessity. So since we still can, let’s just enjoy the matchups we do get.
Overtime Heroics – Basketball (@oth_basketball) has you covered when new article drops, and if you’d like to see more basketball content, you can shoot me a follow too Crina Mustafa (@crinamm). Stay safe, folks.
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