Staff writers make NBA Championship predictions

The+Cavaliers+and+Thunder+are+the+%234-seeds+of+the+East+and+West+Conferences%2C+respectively.+%28Courtesy+of+Wikimedia+Commons%29

The Cavaliers and Thunder are the #4-seeds of the East and West Conferences, respectively. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

AJ Traub

With the first round of the NBA finals underway, some of our sports writers predict who will be the eventual champion.

Lindsey Quigley: The Philadelphia 76ers

At the end of the 2015-2016 NBA season, The Philadelphia 76ers finished the season last in the standings, with a record of 10-72. Just two years later, the Sixers finished with a record of 52-30, claiming the third seed in the Eastern Conference. Joel “The Process” Embiid made his first All-Star team, leading the Sixers averaging 22.9 points per game and 11.0 rebounds per game. 2016 first-overall pick Ben Simmons made his NBA debut after missing the entire 2016-2017 season, and finished third in triple-doubles notched with 12, just behind LeBron James and Russell Westbrook. Ben Simmons is a favorite to win Rookie of the Year, and has been key for the Sixers at creating points. JJ Redick joined the Sixers over the offseason, and his leadership and experience were components that this very young team was missing. The 76ers are a much different team now than what they were previously during the regular season. Acquisitions of Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova at the trade deadline have made the Sixers even stronger, giving them more depth off the bench. The 76ers ended the season on a 16-game win streak, and were without Embiid for much of that run as he is recovering from an orbital fracture. When Embiid is back, the Sixers will be unstoppable. With a wide open Eastern Conference and a mix of young players and experienced veterans, the Sixers have just as much of a shot as anyone. It’s time to start trusting the Process.

AJ Traub: Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder have had everything to prove since Kevin Durant left in 2016. Russell Westbrook won an MVP and recorded two Oscar Robertson seasons (averaging a triple-double per game) in a row, but haven’t unseated the Warriors in the West. Now that Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George are a legitimate Big 3, they’re poised to be a championship contender out of the #4-seed. In addition to the multitude of offensive weapons, OKC is a two-way team too. Their starters combined average over 30 rebounds per game. The path to the finals likely includes two teams led by former teammates of Westbrook in James Harden’s Rockets and the Kevin Durant-led Warriors, but it’s Westbrook’s time to shine. Few other teams can match the clutch abilities of the Thunder. OKC is built for the playoffs. After taking down his former teammates, Russell Westbrook’s Thunder will finally bring the championship to Oklahoma City.

Dominic Zhang: The Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavs have gone through dramatic change on their roster since winning their last national championship two years ago. With Kyrie Irving now playing for the Boston Celtics and the older players such as Derrick Rose and Richard Jefferson traded to other teams in the past two summers, the Cavaliers’ roster is now filled with fresh, young players. By trading Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye and many others, the Cavs acquired Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. from the Lakers, George Hill from the Kings and Rodney Hood from Jazz. All of them will contribute greatly to the team by bringing more energy onto the court from off of the bench. Clarkson, Hill and Hood will be the guards that the Cavs have been looking for. Nance Jr. will be the secondary big man to replace Tristan Thompson, who has not performed well this season. With the Greatest of All Time (GOAT) LeBron James on the Cavs for potentially his last season with the team, the Cavs are now finally more than just James. With three new guards in addition to Kyle Korver, the Cavs have drastically increased their three-point shooting capacity and Nance Jr., nearly the 2018 Slam Dunk champion, will bring the size on both ends of the court. No other teams in the East have the capacity to contest the healthy Cavaliers. The only team that could potentially drag the Cavs into a game seven is the Houston Rockets, but James Harden’s beard is definitely not as on point as LeBron’s hairline.