#1 Cleveland Cavaliers (61-21) vs. #8 Chicago Bulls (41-41)
The Chicago Bulls waited until the last night of the regular season to finally assure themselves a playoff berth. Their reward? The best team in basketball this season, the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavaliers are of course led by the best player in basketball, LeBron James.
The Bulls have dealt with injuries, General Manager John Paxson and Coach Vinny Del Negro fighting each other, the fact that Vinny Del Negro is their coach, and still made the playoffs. It helps that they play in the decidedly weak Eastern Conference but hopefully when they get the right coach in place next season they can finally make some noise.
The Bulls are led by stud PG Derrick Rose, who led the team in scoring and assists. Much to my surprise C Joakim Noah has become a force. When he was out injured the Bulls lost 10 straight, once he returned is when they were able to right the ship and sneak into the playoffs. SF Luol Deng is the Bulls only other real offensive threat besides Rose.
The Cavaliers are James and then some other pieces. Sure those pieces aren't bad but without James the Cavs would not be nearly as dangerous. He is the reason the Bulls have almost no chance of winning this series. One aspect that will be interesting to watch is how smoothly C Shaquille O'Neal is able to get back into the lineup after missing two months. The Cavs didn't really seem to miss him and almost looked better offensively without him. This isn't anything that should affect them against a .500 team like the Bulls, but against the Magic, who many expect them to face in the Conference Finals, it could be a problem. The Cavs addition of PF Antawn Jamison seems to have been a success so far, while watching PG Mo Williams and Rose square off will be fun.
The Bulls surprised many by giving the Celtics a ton of trouble in the First Round last season. However, that Bulls team was better than this one, and that Celtics team was considerably worse than this Cavs team. I think the Cavs sweep the Bulls with relative ease, and the Bulls kick Vinny Del Negro to the curb.
Prediction: Cavaliers over Bulls, 4-0
Below are my complete predictions for the First Round of the NBA Playoffs.
#1 Cleveland over #8 Chicago, 4-0
#4 Boston over #5 Miami, 4-3
#3 Atlanta over #6 Milwaukee, 4-1
#2 Orlando over #7 Charlotte, 4-1
#1 Los Angeles over #8 Oklahoma City, 4-1
#4 Denver over #5 Utah, 4-2
#3 Phoenix over #6 Portland, 4-3
#2 Dallas over #7 San Antonio, 4-2