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RealGM's Playoff Predictions

Here are the playoffs predictions from eight of RealGM's writers.

Christopher Reina (@CR_Reina)

First Round Winners: Pacers, Bulls, Raptors, Heat, Spurs, Rockets, Clippers, Thunder

Second Round Winners: Pacers, Heat, Spurs, Thunder

Conference Finals Winners: Heat, Thunder

Finals Winner: Thunder

The wear and tear of reaching The Finals in each season since the formation of the Big 3 will finally catch up with the Heat against the Thunder. Kevin Durant and LeBron James will be as brilliant as expected in this series, but it will come down to how healthy and effective Russell Westbrook is compared to Dwyane Wade, along with how stubborn Scott Brooks is with his rotations. With superstars potentially moving around again this offseason, this could be the last best shot for Oklahoma City.

Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania)

First Round Winners: Pacers, Bulls, Raptors, Heat, Spurs, Rockets, Clippers, Thunder

Second Round Winners: Pacers, Heat. Spurs, Thunder

Conference Finals Winners: Heat, Thunder

Finals Winner: Thunder

Unseating the two-time reigning champions is difficult, but Oklahoma City has the likely MVP and a motivation that still permeates from its defeat in The Finals last season. The Heat's health also could be put into jeopardy this late into a fourth straight run to the championship series.

Jonathan Tjarks (@JonathanTjarks)

First Round Winners: Spurs, Thunder, Clippers, Rockets, Pacers, Heat, Raptors, Bulls

Second Round Winners: Spurs, Thunder, Pacers, Heat

Conference Finals: Thunder, Heat

Finals Winner: Heat

Miami still has the best player in the world and they've done a much better job of managing Wade's minutes in the regular season. Watch out for Greg Oden and Michael Beasley - I could see both playing a huge role at certain points in the playoffs. 

Daniel Leroux (@DannyLeroux)

First Round Winners: Spurs, Thunder, Clippers, Rockets, Pacers, Heat, Nets, Bulls

Second Round Winners: Spurs, Clippers, Pacers, Heat 

Conference Finals Winners: Spurs, Heat 

Finals Winner: Heat

This year is challenging because I feel the Spurs are the best team, but Miami has the twin benefits of being more likely to make the Finals due to a weaker conference and having the best player in the world will of course prove valuable should they make it. Health will be a major factor and it would make sense for it to hit the Heat due to their age but that does not trump their other advantages in my mind.

Andrew Perna (@Andrew_Perna)

First Round Winners: Pacers, Bulls, Nets, Heat, Spurs, Blazers, Clippers, Thunder

Second Round Winners: Pacers, Heat, Spurs, Thunder

Conference Finals Winners: Heat, Thunder

Finals Winner: Thunder

Durant will best LeBron as the league’s MVP and deal another blow by preventing the Heat from three-peating in June. Oklahoma City will have two of the best three players in the Finals, which will be the determining factor even if Miami has three of the top five.

Sam Yip (@SamYip_NBA)

First Round Winners: Pacers, Bulls, Nets, Heat, Spurs, Rockets, Clippers Thunder

Second Round Winners: Pacers, Heat, Spurs, Thunder

Conference Finals Winners: Heat, Spurs

Finals Winner: Spurs

Although Miami has been on top of the basketball world for two straight seasons, San Antonio's roster along with their improved bench will likely dethrone the defending champions. The Spurs were one Tim Duncan layup away from winning their first title since 2007 last season. The new 2-2-1-1-1 Finals format will give the Spurs an edge with their home court advantage.

Benjamin Cantor (@BenCantor_NBA)

First Round Winners: Pacers, Heat, Nets, Bulls, Spurs, Thunder, Clippers, Rockets

Second Round Winners: Pacers, Heat, Spurs, Thunder

Conference Finals Winners: Heat, Spurs

Finals Winner: Spurs

Although the Thunder have given the Spurs trouble in the past, Popovich always seems to have a way to adjust to opponents who have beaten him in the past. Last year, many people thought the Grizzlies might give the Spurs trouble because of what happened in 2011, but Pop and the Spurs clearly showed they knew what adjustments to make when they swept Memphis in the conference finals. I think San Antonio's defense against Miami in last year's finals was outstanding and this year they'll have home court advantage in the finals. 

Dan Friederg (@danfriedberg)

First Round Winners: Pacers, Bulls, Nets, Heat, Spurs, Rockets, Clippers, Thunder

Second Round Winners: Pacers, Heat, Spurs, Thunder

Conference Finals Winners: Thunder, Heat

Finals Winner: Thunder

With LeBron and KD both at the peak of their powers, the role players will make the difference. Caron Butler, Jeremy Lamb, and an improving Reggie Jackson will tip the scales over an aging Ray Allen, a fragile and unproven Greg Oden, and an empty space where Mike Miller used to be. Durant will hoist his first championship trophy to go with his first MVP award, and the world shall rejoice.

The Western Conference At The Deadline

When the clock hit 3 PM EST on Thursday, basketball fans around the globe groaned as another NBA trade deadline passed without the epic blockbusters that fill the RealGM Forums. Although the deadline lacked a true blockbuster, the trades that were made (and the ones that were left on the table) will undoubtedly shift the landscape of the Western Conference playoff picture and possibly the team that will be facing the Miami Heat or Indiana Pacers in the NBA Finals (It’s a lock, nobody is seriously questioning it).

The four most notable trades in the West came from the Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers.

The Warriors, who picked up Steve Blake from the Los Angeles Lakers, will look for him to provide the steady hand off the bench that they have been pursuing since Jarrett Jack left in the offseason. Blake’s addition isn’t going to drastically improve the team, but he is able to give the team quality backup point guard minutes behind Stephen Curry, given Jordan Crawford’s inability to play without Brad Stevens as his coach.

The Rockets moved little used backup point guard, Aaron Brooks, to the Denver Nuggets for Jordan Hamilton. After refusing to lower their insane asking price on Omer Asik, the Rockets decided to fill their lack of a stretch four with Hamilton. Despite Hamilton blatantly not being a power forward or an elite shooter (39 percent from the field and 35 percent from 3), the Rockets apparently believe he can become one when freed up as Dwight Howard draws attention in the post. The more important aspect to this trade is that it likely allows the Rockets to call-up D-League star, Isaiah Canaan.

The Spurs traded little used point guard Nando de Colo for Austin Daye. In one of the day’s most intriguing moves, the Spurs took on another reclamation project in the form of a 6’11 shooter who was once a top prospect coming out of high school. While Daye has struggled to earn minutes outside of his second season in the NBA (when he shot 40 percent from 3), he has tremendous length, can guard multiple positions, and San Antonio has shown interest in him. If that isn’t a sign of someone that will be playing meaningful playoff minutes in May, I am not sure what is.

The last deals of any consequence in the West were by the Clippers. They traded both Antawn Jamison and BJ Mullens for the rights to a Turkish player that probably is unaware he was traded, and a conditional second round draft pick that will likely never happen. These deals, while not interesting beyond the salary implications for the Clippers, do allow open roster spots on the team for buyout candidates. Look for Glen “Big Baby” Davis to join his old coach, Doc Rivers.

While each team above made a move – albeit small – at the trade deadline, the other five teams in contention, the Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies all stood pat.

Although several teams are in desperate need of a big man (OKC, PDX, PHX), no one budged on Philly’s offer of two second round draft picks for Spencer Hawes.

Portland, who is without a second round draft pick until 2019, had a tremendous need for Hawes with Joel Freeland out for two months and LaMarcus Aldridge banged up.

The Thunder flirted with a deal for Knicks embattled shooting guard, Iman Shumpert, but backed off at the last moment.

As for the remaining needs, the slew of veterans that will likely be bought out this upcoming week will have to suffice. Fortunately for these teams, Glen Davis, Caron Butler, Danny Granger, Jason Terry, Emeka Okafor, Chris Kaman, Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva and Antawn Jamison are all buyout candidates.

Many NBA teams believe it is better to trade during the offseason so that players can get familiar with a system and their teammates, while others utilize the short second half of the season as a tryout for recently acquired players to see if they’re long-term fits. It appears that teams trading in the offseason are better off. For any fan grumbling over their team not making a blockbuster yesterday, here’s a stat you need to know: one; as in the number of Championship teams during the last 25 years to trade for a starter at the trade deadline (Rasheed Wallace to the Pistons in 2004). So while fans of the Rockets clamored for Rajon Rondo and Warriors' fans hoped for Kevin Love, just know that the odds of you winning the title with those guys was slim to none.

Happy Trade Deadline everyone! Only 124 more days until the NBA Draft!

Stephen Curry Arrives Late To NBA Elite, But Could Have Long Peak Like Nash

Steph Curry has been masterfully brilliant over the past calendar year, fulfilling the promise of his unique talent by staying healthy and leading the Golden State Warriors to the playoffs for the first time since 2007. Curry has undoubtedly ascended into the NBA’s true elite, climbing from No. 40 in ESPN’s #NBARank in 2012 to No. 6 entering the current season. With Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo and Deron Williams all dealing with injury issues, Curry is now widely considered the second best point guard on the planet behind Chris Paul.

Curry’s 54-point Madison Masterpiece was the preamble before his playoff run in which his career trajectory was reconsidered. Observers on a national level have taken notice with 1,047,281 fan votes to send Curry to his first All-Star Game, and as a starter no less.

But the numbers also say, beyond the potential for hyperbole over the past twelve months, Curry has poised himself for one of the most unique careers in NBA history.

Curry has established himself as one of the best shooters in NBA history and has an opportunity to be considered the absolute who has ever played the game. He shoots 43.7 percent on threes for his career, ranking him third all-time, but neither of the players ahead of him on the list (Steve Kerr, Hubert Davis) handled Curry’s shot volume or ball distribution duties. In all five of his NBA seasons, Curry has shot at least 40 percent on his three-point attempts, converting 43 percent in his first four.

This season, with his "career-worst" 40 percent mark, Curry is poised to break his own single-season record for made threes, and is doing so on 8.3 attempts per game-- only Ray Allen, in 2006, has achieved the feat.

Curry, at 25, bears a favorable resemblance to Nash at 30, when he won his first of consecutive MVP awards and started establishing himself as a future Hall of Famer. Most elite players become All-Stars at a younger age, but both Curry and Nash were later bloomers in this regard. Nash didn’t become an All-Star until 2002 when he was already 27, and only Karl Malone and Hakeem Olajuwon were as old as a first time MVP winner.

Whether Curry ever wins an MVP, or leads the Warriors to the appearance in the Finals that always alluded Nash is of course yet to be seen, but he's certainly capable of surpassing Nash's peak production. This season, Curry is second in the NBA in assists, averaging 9.1. per game, while also scoring 24.6 points. If he maintains this pace, he'll become the first player to finish top-five in both points and assists since Allen Iverson, and he will do so while shooting at a significantly more efficient percentage.

Nash remained a player with a PER over 20.0 until the age of 37, while John Stockton put up similar numbers until the age of 40. Assuming Curry becomes even more of a savvy playmaker and his ankles hold up, his prime will be sustained for another decade.

The beauty in Curry’s game comes from the pureness of his style, exuberance and of course his shot. Watching his game connects you to historically pure shooters like Reggie Miller, Ray Allen, his father Dell Curry, and of course to point guards like Nash and Bob Cousy. The All-Star Game is an annual showcase of basketball’s best, and it will allow Curry another opportunity to prove he belongs in that conversation.

375 Days

February 19, 2015 may seem like a long way away and in NBA circles it feels like an eternity at present, but it should hold significant importance for those who care about the Warriors, because the basketball world will know how serious and competent their ownership group will be for the foreseeable future.

Seth Curry Developing In D-League

Seth Curry is more aggressive off ball screens and has been excelling in pick-and-rolls that he would see in the NBA. At Duke, Curry saw most of his time at shooting guard, but hes the primary ball handler in Santa Cruz while averaging 36.9 minutes per contest.

30 Rapid-Fire Questions For Each Team's Front Office

The following 30 questions are the biggest issues facing each NBA front office as the 13-14 regular season begins.

Top-Five 2nd-Favorite Teams

In an NBA so rich with talent and intriguing storylines, how can you limit yourself to just one team? These five squads deserve second billing in your hearts and remote-holding hands.

Observations From Warriors' Media Day

The vibe at media day for the Warriors certainly felt different this year, which makes sense considering the resounding success of last season that made the team relevant in a different way than it had been since the "We Believe" team in 2007.

30-Team Offseason Rundown

Great drafts for the Rockets, 76ers, Nets, Warriors, Hawks and Grizzlies headline this complete rundown of the 2013 offseason.

Filling Out The Warriors' Roster

With the core of the Warriors set, Bob Myers can add a wide variety of different salaries whether those players are currently free agents or signed on other teams.

Two Cap Paths For Warriors To Acquire Iguodala

After giving up two first round picks to dump massive salary in order to bring in Andre Iguodala, the Warriors actually have the chance to utilize two majorly different methods to build their team the rest of this summer.

2013 NBA Offseason Primer

With the 2013 NBA offseason underway, here is a primer on what all 30 teams are facing.

Leroux's 2013 NBA Draft Review

Breaking down all 30 teams by category of how they fared in the often surprising, never disappointing 2013 NBA Draft.

Public Service Announcement: Estimating Cap Space

The biggest misconception out there has to be that expiring contracts and cap room are the same thing. There are two ways that they diverge: teams can be over the cap (so not all of the salary coming off converts into cap room) and players/picks retained by the team in question do not go off the books entirely due to cap holds.

The Logistics Of Dwight Ending Up With Golden State

Getting Dwight Howard sits within the realm of possibility for the Warriors, but it would come at a steep, steep cost unless the Lakers are more generous than expected. Wasting their amnesty on Charlie Bell and using 2013 cap space to acquire a pick last season is again continuing to hurt them.

2013 NBA Amnesty Primer

One fun component of the Amnesty rule is that we know exactly which players are eligible for it and that number can only decrease over time since the players had to have been under contract with the same team before the new CBA.

Ceding The High Ground

Instead of taking their opponents to the limits of their ability and playing the game on their advantage, Mark Jackson and the Warriors ceded the high ground for the false positive of standardization and gave away any semblance of comfort or experience since Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli played about 20 seconds together in total during the regular season.

Previewing Warriors' Chances Against Spurs

After a challenging and triumphant series against the Nuggets, what makes the Warriors' series against the Spurs so interesting is that so many of the advantages they exploited in the first round will turn into weaknesses against Gregg Popovich and company.

Fortunate Sons

The Warriors faced the perfect team and coach and benefitted immensely from some terrible tactical decisions that gave them extra leverage in some key moments. Even with all those advantages, it still took talent, guts, and some huge performances to move on to the second round.

The Baby-Faced Assassin Gets His Next Moment

Despite his thin frame and a game seemingly susceptible to dominant physical presences, Stephen Curry has delivered against top competition whenever he has gotten the chance. While we always wonder if a player who shines in the brightest of lights can do it on a new stage with better competition, the basketball world does not need to wonder anymore.

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