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Your dormant teams in the East and West for these upcoming playoffs?
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Steve Aschburner: Miami to the east, Portland to the west. The designation of “sleeping teams” requires some parameters, doesn’t it? Are we talking about teams that are not considered title contenders, but could they really ruin a parenthesis? Or would it be a “spoiler”? Whatever … the Heat are so well trained and tied together that I think they are able to reach the Eastern finals and scare their opponents there. They have already exceeded many people’s expectations by sitting fourth in the East, no reason to stop now. They also added players not long before the arrest, such as Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala to strengthen the defense. As for Portland, everyone sees how much healthier they are now. And pushed to remedy how things went sideways with Jusuf Nurkic, then Zach Collins. Both are back (Rodney Hood is not), great defense resources. And determined Damian Lillard has made a few jerks on the proposed restart ideas, so he should be very motivated now that a playoff post is dockable via the play-in mechanism.
Shaun Powell: In the East, I will be curious about the Sixers and Celtics. Assuming Joel Embiid remains healthy, Philly rearranged the lineup by placing Shake Milton on guard duty and Ben Simmons at the starting point and thereby reducing his dependence on Al Horford, who was terrible near Embiid. As for Boston, I see them as a sleeping team to win everything; a healthy Kemba Walker and the next level Jason Tatum are proof of this. In the West, it’s best not to dismiss Melo, Dame, CJ and the Blazers Self Portland gets eighth seed from Memphis. Of course, that would mean a first round matchup with the Lakers … and if Jusuf Nurkic and Hassan Whiteside can deny the Lakers’ stature, I think Basketball Land could be shaken. If Portland doesn’t make the playoffs, the eccentric OKC will ruin someone’s big plans.
John Schuhmann: As for the differential point, the Bucks were almost double that of any other team in the East. So each team below them qualifies as a sleeper and there are four excellent candidates. The Raptors have the best chemistry, the Sixers have the highest limit (and the worst chemistry) and the Heat have been the best team (9-3) in the games played in the top six in the East. But, with a defense in the top five and such a great power, the Celtics should be the most dangerous team under Milwaukee. There is an argument for Oklahoma City is the most dangerous team below the Lakers and Clippers in the West. The Thunder set the third best record in the league after Thanksgiving and may be Orlando’s healthiest team. Their attack on three guards in my turn should translate well into the playoffs and a healthy Andre Roberson gives them something he missed: a great wing to watch over the best players in the West.
Sekou Smith: I don’t think anyone is sleeping on the Portland Trail Blazers, so I ask that they have been known since then as the wild card team of the west. A healthy Jusuf Nurkic paired in a facade jumbo with Hassan Whiteside is intriguing. When you pair them with a dynamite backcourt like Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum and a slender Carmelo Anthony, the Trail Blazers boast five initials that could cause problems for any team in a series of playoffs. They must actually capture the Grizzlies and steal that point # 8 for one of these to matter. In the East, Miami acts as a team with championship components that nobody talks about being in the mix. They have shooters, a punch of two All-Star stars in Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, versatility and a great blend of emerging youngsters and veteran leadership. They play with a collective advantage that usually serves the franchise well and Erik Spoelstra is easily one of the most underrated coaches in NBA history.
Michael C. Wright: I will limit myself to the teams we know who are already present, otherwise New Orleans or Memphis could be my choices in the West. In the East, give me the Miami Heat. They go to the seeding games sitting at 41-24, good for the fourth in the conference. Bam Adebayo and Kendrick Nunn have recently returned and have a lot of solid outdoor footage. Defensively, any lineup, including Adebayo, Butler and Andre Iguodala, could be suffocating. In the West, I like Oklahoma City as a sleeper because of what the Thunder have been able to do behind Chris Paul in clutch situations. That return against Philadelphia showed Sunday that the OKC clutch gene remains active. Also, I’m a fanatic of wellness stories, and I think we could see one emerge with Andre Roberson, who knocked down a couple of points 3 of the clutch against the 76er despite not having played since the beginning of 2018.