Part II.

Wizards Vs Hawks

Wizards in 6

The Hawks are an excellent defensive team, but the offense just hasn’t been up to it this season, particularly after the all-star break. This young Wizards squad on the other hand, has had one of the most potent five man offensive lineups in the league. Their bench was lacking for a lot of the season (just ask Gortat) but the added shooting off the bench with the acquisition of Bogdan Bogdanovic will play a massive factor.

John Wall should also have his way in this series with Schroeder. Either that or he will be guarded by Bazemore and Beal will have his way with Schroeder. Someone will exploit Schroeder, who sadly isn’t good enough. The rim protection of Howard could slow Wall down, but Howards lack of lateral movement will mean he struggles to contain Wall on most situations, so it shouldn’t be too concerning if you’re looking for production from Wall.

Millsap is the key to the Hawks offense. They won’t score without big contributions from him. But the question is, just how much does he have to offer? The responsibility on his shoulders will make him a great fantasy play, especially given the match-ups against Markieff Morris, Otto Porter or Bogdanovic – or whoever else they might throw at him. The Wizards will definitely struggle to contain his quick post ups, lacking a defender with the size or skill to stop him one-on-one.

Dwight Howard should also cause some damage, as rebounding and put back layups don’t often slow down in the playoffs. If anything they only become more important.

Ultimately, buckets will just be too hard to come by for the Hawks, with the Wizards talent and versatility getting them over the line in six. I don’t want to get too ahead of myself, but the funeral series in round 2 Vs Boston should be super exciting.

Blazers Vs Warriors

Warriors in 4

I really want to give CJ McCollum and Dame Lillard some respect here and say the series will be over in 5, but it’s hard to see it going past 4. The Warriors are a juggernaut and Steph Curry hit form just in time for the injury to Durant not to matter. I’ll go on record now in saying that the Warriors will win the title and Curry will be finals MVP ( I still think he’s owed  that one from 14/15). He roasted the Blazers last year on one leg, and it seems extremely likely that he continues that form to kick-start his 2016-17 playoff campaign.

Lillard and CJ will be good match-ups and Klay has no issues shooting over either guy, so the guard scoring will be immense in this one. I also feel comfortably in saying we will see an elite level of intensity on defense from Draymond. I expect hi to average 2+ steals and 2+ blocks. As KD eases his way back in, my fantasy money would be sent Draymond’s way.

If Nurkic somehow finds himself ready for game 1, he might be the match-up nightmare for the Warriors that pushes them to 5… He would make for a great fantasy option and the gentleman’s sweep would feel much more respectful.

Bulls Vs Celtics

Celtics in 6

It’s interesting to think that this might be a series, but there are a few factors that give the Bulls a chance. An engaged Rondo and an engaged Dwyane Wade are better than the regular season versions of themselves, while Jimmy Butler will be the best two-way player on the floor in every game. The Bulls have also found form at the right time, but it’d be silly to suggest that the Celtics aren’t the team to beat.

There are questions over Isaiah Thomas’s ability to perform in the post season (he’s faltered before), but he has a reason to perform after the tragic news about his sister. I for one hope he puts up a big game in her honour.

This also feels like the sort of series that guys like Crowder, Smart and Bradley will thrive in. Good luck having an aging backcourt in Rondo and Wade slowing those guys down. And once again the Bulls will be relying on the floor spacing of Paul Zipser and Nikola Mirotic.

I really expect this game to be over in 5, but out of respect for Butler I’ll acknowledge that anything can happen. He’s going to perform well and you should play him on your moneyball team. He’s the best two-way player on the court and he will impact the game in a variety of ways. If the bulls bench one of their other guards and give him the reigns then they might even have a chance. If not, the depth and defense of the Celtics should prove too much.

Thunder Vs Rockets

Rockets in 6

This series mirrors the MVP race in more than one sense – not only because the two leading candidates will be battling it out – but because it also invokes very polarising opinions. Some people think that Houston will take the series comfortably, while others believe that the likely MVP, Russell Westbrook, is capable of willing the Thunder to victory. Personally, I fall in the camp that thinks the Rockets should win comfortably (although being a Rockets fan might have something to do with that). But from an objective standpoint, I just don’t think the Thunder are capable of keeping up with the Rockets historic offense and they’re not quite good enough defensively to slow it down. They’ll have a crack at it, but ultimately the series should be over fairly swiftly.

The Rockets took the regular season series 3-1, taking comfortable leads in 3 of the 4 matches before letting the foot off the gas and giving the Thunder a chance in two of them. That seems less likely to happen with playoff intensity, but there’s always the question of just how good can Russ be? How far can he carry this squad?

With added stakes to play for, his usage and will to win will be high, but whether he can convert efficiently enough will be the key to the Thunders chances. His usage alone makes him one of the most reliable superstar plays in fantasy, while Harden’s match-up with Roberson may make him a better option to fade. Not to say that Harden won’t be the driving factor for the Rockets success, but it will be his ability to run the offense that proves the difference between the two MVP front-runners and the two teams.

The Thunder placed lot of attention on Harden throughout the regular season, keeping Roberson draped over him while Adams pressured the pick and roll well above the three-point line. This meant that Harden had to trust his teammates, dishing out 12 assists and adding 5 hockey assists in the last match-up against the Thunder. The Rockets would go on to win by double digits.

I expect this series to follow the same trend, with guys like Eric Gordon and Lou Williams crucial as secondary play-makers for the Rockets. Lou especially thrived against the Thunder, taking advantages of all the opportunities afforded to him by Harden’s gravity and quick trigger passing.

For the Thunder, Steven Adams and Enes Kanter will be pivotal in taking advantages of the Rockets rebounding deficiencies. But a well-rested Nene (probably playing more minutes) should combat that. The intensity of Patrick Beverley is another thing to watch, because if Pat is at full tilt he will impact the fantasy scoreboard with rebounds and steals.

This should be an intriguing series, but ultimately it should prove to be too much for Russ to overcome, with the Rockets role players and James Harden (who will continue to put his teammates in a position to succeed), proving to be too good for the Thunder.