The NBA championship field is open for the remaining contenders with LeBron James and Stephen Curry at home. So which teams present the best possible matchup to watch? The crossover makes its selections.
Howard Beck: Nuggets vs. Bucks
Give me Nuggets against Bucks. I’m serious. I know, I know, basketball fans, and the NBA and its broadcast partners, they probably all want the Nets-Clippers, with all that mind blowing star power, and all those eyes from the two biggest media markets in the country. And it would surely be a fascinating series. But I want to see smaller markets make their way.
I want to believe, and surely the teams their fans want to believe, that you can build a contender in today’s NBA without hiring superstars in free agency. Milwaukee, Utah and Denver can’t land a KD-Kyrie match, or pull off the Kawhi-Paul George hit (not to mention LeBron and Anthony Davis). That option is not available outside of New York, Los Angeles, and maybe some other places.
But the Bucks, Jazz and Nuggets have built deep and talented teams through smart writing, development, trades and (less flashy) transfers. It would be good for the league, and around two dozen point guards, to see unglamorous teams make their way.
Michael Pina: Clippers vs. Nets
Clippers vs. Nets is the most compelling matchup because it could actually put the Nets on their heels. Not only do the Clippers have enough individual defenders to activate the perimeter and stay isolated against Brooklyn’s three-headed monster (assuming James Harden is healthy by then), but they can also field those units without sacrificing anything on the other end. Their offense is designed to go toe-to-toe against a change-everything scheme. The Clippers don’t have a third offensive star, but they do have enough outside shots to drive and kick Brooklyn’s defense to rubble. Kevin Durant vs. Paul George vs. Kyrie Irving vs. Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden vs. … Reggie Jackson? Sign me up.
Ben Pickman: Nets vs. Suns
Preseason predictions aside, it’s hard not to pick the Nets to represent the East when answering this question. Their incredible talent shows every time they step onto the pitch, even as the team continues to grapple with health issues. Plus, there’s a reason why apparently every angle surrounding the franchise has been scrutinized throughout the season; the intrigue that surrounds them is endless. In many ways, Phoenix could present his toughest opponent in the Finals. The Suns have had the best record in the NBA since Jan. 28, and their depth, especially at guard and forward, could pose some problems for Brooklyn, just as it did for the Lakers. Plus, after making Phoenix make his first NBA postseason appearance since 2009-10, the city’s hometown crowd seems hungry for success, as evidenced by the uninterrupted energy radiating on television.
Elizabeth Swinton: Nets vs. Jazz
It may not be the most flashy matchup left, but Nets vs. Jazz can be one of the most competitive. Utah is the only remaining Western Conference team to beat Brooklyn in the regular season, and now that the Nets are in near full health and showing dominance in the playoffs, the two teams may be well matched in the Finals. Donovan Mitchell has been crying, as has Kevin Durant amid James Harden’s absence. Each team’s defense will be tested against major offenses, providing a good opportunity for a long and entertaining series between the two if they meet in the Finals.
Michael Shapiro: Nets vs. Suns
Perhaps a Nets-Suns final wouldn’t be a seven-game classic, but as Brooklyn continues to sail, there isn’t necessarily a titanic showdown looming in early July. With that in mind, I will side with Phoenix as the team I want to see the most fighting the Big Three of the Nets. Chris Paul deserves his time in the Finals spotlight, and Devin Booker’s profile across the country could see a huge boost if he is able to take on the most fearsome offense in league history. If Deandre Ayton can master the paint, maybe this series will last more than five games.
I’m starting to think that a Nets championship is indeed a fait accompli, especially if Harden can take his time and rest in the Eastern Conference semifinals. If we’re going to crown Brooklyn anyway, giving Paul his due would be a valuable consolation.
Robin Lundberg: Nets vs. Suns
With LeBron and Curry eliminated, the Nets’ star power would add some necessary big names to the Finals and provide many fans with great interest, assuming most would expect to lose. In the meantime, the Suns would be a fun, athletic counterpart to them and would bring in the additional storyline of CP3 in pursuit of their first NBA championship against a giant super team. Of all the remaining possible combinations, both from a basketball standpoint and a narrative standpoint, I think the Nets-Suns would shine the brightest on the league’s biggest stage.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.