The NBA playoffs are set to get underway on Saturday and it’s important to remember that there is no reseeding after each round. There’s a bracket in place. With that in mind, here’s a look at which two teams in each conference have these easiest path to the finals, which is important for those examining the NBA futures.
The Hawks clearly get the easiest path in the Eastern Conference, assuming they play like the Hawks that we saw win 60 games and not the team that lost three straight and eight of 14 to end the year. But assuming that the Hawks play well, they have easiest path to the Conference Finals.
The Hawks are going to start their opening round with a Brooklyn Nets team that is just one of two teams to enter the postseason with a record below .500. There was a period of time near the end of March where Brooklyn won 10 of 12 and appeared to be heading into the playoffs with momentum, but they completely flattened out. And while they were hot and the Hawks were cold, NBA odds makers realize that the Hawks still beat them twice down the stretch of the season. Brooklyn needed a big fourth quarter at home against Orlando on the final day of the year just to squeak into the playoffs.
So while Brooklyn should be a soft opening round for the Hawks, they also get the added benefit of not having to face the Cleveland Cavaliers or Chicago Bulls in Round 2. Those are considered to be two of the top three teams in the conference and the Hawks will only have to play one of them. While those two titans are duking it out, the Hawks will get either the Toronto Raptors or Washington Wizards, both of whom should be much more manageable. It’s quite clear that the Hawks got the best draw in the East.
Golden State Warriors
In the West, the story is similar: the top seed should have the easiest path.
While the landscape in the Western Conference is quite different, it’s obvious that the Warriors are happy being exactly where they are. They’ll start the playoffs with a matchup against New Orleans, which won’t be easy but should be manageable. While the other three series are coin flips, the Warriors should be able to get by the Pelicans. They won three of the four meetings between the teams and had they not talked trash and fired up New Orleans in the fourth meeting, they probably would have won that too.
After that, the Warriors will next face either the Memphis Grizzlies or the Portland Trail Blazers. Portland would be another easy matchup (Golden State swept all four meetings) but Memphis should be doable too. The Warriors won two of the three meetings and Memphis has had a tough time keeping up offensively in the matchups.
More importantly for Golden State, though, is that they won’t have to face the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers or Houston Rockets until the Western Conference final, and they’ll only have to face one of them. Those placing NBA picks know that’s a huge boost to the Warriors chances – especially avoiding the Spurs as long as possible. That’s why they have the easiest path in the West.