OKC Thunder: Predicting playoff seeds and first round winners

OKC Thunder (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
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OKC Thunder
JANUARY 9: Chris Paul #3 of the OKC Thunder and Russell Westbrook #0 of the Houston Rockets looks on during the game (Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Q30: Assuming NBA resumes play with some regular-season games who lands the 16 playoff seeds and which team wins each first-round series?

Tamberlyn Richardson:

My choices are based on the current 25-day plan that includes a shortened regular-season finish and best of five, first-round series. Cutting the first round to three games leaves too much room for the top seeds to get ousted which is the last thing the association wants.


In the East, the Bucks (+6.5), Raptors (+3.0), Celtics (+2.5) and Heat (+2.0) likely all retain their one through four current seeds based on how many games each club leads the team behind them (in brackets).  Conversely. the Pacers and 76ers each have 39 wins with Indiana up 2-1 on the season series. Likewise the Nets and Magic are a half-game apart with the Nets having played one less game. A mini regular-season finish would cement their seeds.

(1) Bucks vs (8) Nets: Bucks win 3-1 with one OT loss. Although the Bucks could easily sweep this series the fact Antetokounmpo hasn’t shot during the suspension could factor. There is also the outside chance Kyrie Irving and/or Kevin Durant could return despite what the Nets front office is saying.

(2) Raptors vs (7) Magic: Championship know-how is a real thing and finally with everyone healthy the Raptors win via a sweep. Pascal Siakam purchased an outdoor basketball goal so he’s getting up shots. And, while the players can’t go to the training facility I keep expecting to hear Drake has hooked up the young guys. Drake has discussed playing tournaments at his Toronto home so it wouldn’t be surprising if he has an indoor court — and he would have the resources to properly clean it between visitors.

(3) Celtics vs. (6) Pacers: The Celtics boast a strong starting unit with arguably the best wing depth in the association and the fourth-ranked defense. With Victor Oladipo back the Pacers aren’t an easy out and are also strong defensively (7th).

Nate McMillan is one of the better two-way coaches and the roster has several players who can get hot from outside. Malcolm Brogdon was perhaps the best defender of Kawhi Leonard last season so don’t be surprised if he is Jayson Tatum‘s primary defender. That said, the Celtics take the series 3-1.

(4) Heat vs. (5) 76ers: Truthfully, I think the Pacers will keep the five seed but I’m thirsting for a Jimmy Butler series versus his former team. The irony is neither Miami or Philly play well away from their home courts and since all games will technically be on the road it serves as an interesting dynamic.

Bam Adebayo should be in the mix for most improved and is one of the few big men physical and mobile enough to deal with Joel Embiid. This series has the greatest potential to go the distance of the East squads. Recalling what Jimmy Buckets did in Minnesota with the end of the bench imagine how easily he could get into the 76ers heads! Heat win 3-2.  series win.


The Lakers are a lock to win the conferences and the teams seeded two through seven are also locks but their positions aren’t guaranteed since no one team holds more than a 1.5 edge over the team behind them. The Grizzlies also likely take the eight seed since each of the Blazers, Pelicans and, Kings trail by 3.5 games which makes catching Memphis almost impossible barring a perfect storm of events.

(1) Lakers vs (8) Grizzlies – Barring catastrophe (read: injuries to LeBron James or Anthony Davis) the Lakers sweep

(2) Clippers vs (7) Mavericks – My head says Clippers and a rested Kawhi take this easy but my gut tells me Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis make this a series pushing Doc’s squad to the edge in several games. Although Doncic was nursing a sore thumb when the suspension hit the timing stopped the momentum the Mavericks were just beginning to recognize. If the duo picks up where they left off this could turn into a dog fight.

That said, this will be both youngsters first foray into the postseason so this year is all about gaining experience to use in their future domination of the West. The Mavericks Achilles heel is closing games in the clutch. If the Clippers keep games close that will play a factor. Overall this is the most difficult series to predict as it could just as easily go the distance or it could be a sweep with Kawhi Leonard winning any close game with or without four rim bounces.

(3)  Nuggets (6) Jazz  – Everyone can downplay the friction between Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell as much as they want but this team has a lot to fix when they return so they slide to sixth and the Nuggets win the series 3-1.

(4) Thunder vs. (5) Rockets – I mean let’s be honest, everyone would love this matchup and although the prospect of a rested James Harden and Russell Westbrook is scary I still think the best two matchups for the Thunder are the Jazz or Rockets.

And, let’s not forget a rested Danilo Gallinari will pose huge problems for Houston as will a motivated Chris Paul who’ll have more than simply winning on his mind!

The OKC Thunder is not an ideal matchup for the Rockets as they boast the fifth-ranked perimeter defense in the NBA and are 0.3 percentage points from being the second best.

Thunder win series 3-2 taking all three wins in clutch time!