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Let’s be optimistic and say the 2020-21 NBA season, which begins tonight, goes off without a hitch. The regular season will be reduced, and, at least for now, the Raptors are calling Tampa home. Coronavirus looms like a thunder storm on the horizon. But for now, all systems are go.

With that as the setup, here’s what I think happens:

WEST (top eight seeds only)

  1. LA Lakers
  2. Denver
  3. LA Clippers
  4. Dallas
  5. Portland
  6. Utah
  7. Golden State
  8. Phoenix
    Synopsis: The Lakers don’t have an easy path to a division title, but they are the cream of the crop. Denver ought to get past the challenges posed by Portland and Utah. Dallas benefits from Houston looking to whatever tomorrow brings and knowing New Orleans, San Antonio and Memphis remain works in progress.
    What about Houston? Once James Harden is moved in a trade, down go the Rockets
    Which team could break into the post-season? New Orleans.

EAST (again, top eight seeds only)

  1. Milwaukee
  2. Brooklyn
  3. Boston
  4. Miami
  5. Philadelphia
  6. Toronto
  7. Indiana
  8. Atlanta
    Synopsis: The Bucks have loads of talent, but they also play in a division with mediocre to bad teams. The top four in the Atlantic will beat each other up. Miami also takes advantage of a weak quartet of divisional opponents.
    What about Philadelphia? The guess here is Harden ends up in Philadelphia, and he could push the 76ers higher in the rankings
    Which team could break into the post-season? Washington



LA Lakers over Phoenix: Broom time? Why not.
Portland over Dallas: The winner gets the Lakers (have fun)
Golden State over Denver: There has to be one upset in the playoffs
LA Clippers over Utah: The Jazz won’t come that close this year


Milwaukee over Atlanta: The Bucks should have no problem here
Philadelphia over Miami: If Harden is here, why not? If not, well…
Brooklyn over Indiana: Two teams trending in opposite directions
Boston over Toronto: Don’t count on either team winning after this


WEST Quarterfinals

LA Lakers over Portland: The Lakers’ opponent here is much tougher. So?
LA Clippers over Golden State: LA’s other team ought to cruise here

EAST Quarterfinals

Milwaukee over Philadelphia: An easier series than you might think
Brooklyn over Boston: The Nets are simply the better team



LA Lakers over LA Clippers: The Lakers might be better than last season
Milwaukee over Brooklyn: A heavyweight fight that should go 7 games



LA Lakers over Milwaukee: Nope. Don’t bet against the Lakers. Don’t.