Eli Horowitz | Medium Talk Co-Creator
Can you blame anyone for getting caught up in the Western Conference? The East had five teams make the playoffs with a winning record. Compare that to the West, which had 9 teams that are arguably better than everyone in the East (save for LeBron’s Cavs).
Columnists have the called the Eastern Conference unwatchable, a joke, the minor leagues, the B-league, and it’s not far from the truth. Following suit, the Eastern Conference playoffs have been a forgettable display of defensive struggles, deplorable offensive play, and monotonous storylines. If not for three buzzer beaters by Pierce, Rose, and James respectively (and now Pierce and Rose are not even left in the playoff field) the Eastern Conference playoffs have been about as compelling as a 4th consecutive turkey sandwich for lunch.
The West is both higher quality basketball and more entertaining basketball. It’s no surprise the Warriors are favorites both in the court of public opinion and by the Vegas odds-makers. Yet, there is one 6 foot 8/250 pound factor analysts are underestimating: the LeBron James factor.
This morning the Warriors were named Vegas favorites to win the title. As of May 18th, the odds are as follows: Warriors at 4-7, then the Cavs at 5-2, the Hawks at 8-1, and finally the Rockets at 12-1 (yes, somehow the Hawks who have to face LeBron have better odds than the Rockets…smh…)
These odds are a mistake. Vegas and most people I’ve read or spoken with are overlooking just how dominant Lebron James is. Ask Bulls fans, who have seen Lebron eliminate their Bulls teams in four out of their last six playoff appearances. Ask Heat fans, who saw Lebron lead their team to four straight NBA finals. Ask Warriors fans, who saw LeBron score 42 points and lead the Cavs to a 110-99 victory over Golden State on February 26th. When LeBron is motivated, he is on par with the all-time greats and there is no coaching, strategy, or adjustments that can stop him.
Sure, the Warriors have had a historic season: they won 67 games, Stephen Curry won MVP, Steve Kerr was runner-up for Coach of the Year, Bob Myers won Executive of the Year, and Draymond Green was runner up for Defensive Player of the Year. Still, the Warriors haven’t won anything yet. They are where they’re supposed to be, a #1 seed in the Conference Finals. Now they have to prove it against a Rockets team that has James Harden and is rolling after an improbable three game rally to beat a tough Clippers team.
Assuming they beat the Rockets, they have to then go up against 2-time World Champion Lebron James. I am not saying that they can’t prevail and I’ll be happy to eat crow if they do. But lets not become unhinged and say anyone but LeBron is the favorite. We are going too easy on LeBron by not putting the highest expectations on him to win the championship, and we are being careless with the Warriors, crowning them before they’ve even made the Finals.
The Warriors may have had a historic season, but they will go up against a historic player (and the Rockets first). This is not a seasoned San Antonio Spurs team coached by Gregg Popovich. This is a talented, young team that has to earn the right to be the favorite.
As a Bulls fan, I am both a LeBron James hater as well as someone with the utmost respect for his abilities. While I’d love to see the Golden State Warriors win it all, they have a freight train awaiting them. A freight train that now has the disrespect of Las Vegas, fans, and analysts to add even more fuel to the engine.
Playoff Predictions: 9/12 Overall
1st Round: 6/8
Hawks over Brookyn--> Correct
Cavs over Celtics--> Correct
Bulls over Bucks--> Correct
Wizards over Raptors--> Correct
Warriors over Pelicans--> Correct
Grizzlies over Blazers--> Correct
Spurs over Clippers--> Incorrect
Mavericks over Rockets--> Incorrect
Conference Semifinals: 3/4
Cavs over Bulls--> Correct
Warriors over Grizzlies--> Correct
Rockets over Clippers--> Correct
Wizards over Hawks--> Incorrect
Cavs over Hawks--> ?
Warriors over Rockets--> ?