Controversial? Maybe. But unlikely? Not really. Here's my predictions for the 2012 Playoffs.
Western Conference First Round:
Thunder vs Warriors (Thunder win 4-1)
The Warriors are going to surprise some teams this year, and are going to run and gun their way to the 8th seed, especially once Steph Curry returns. However, they will be no match for the Thunder who should finish with the best record in the NBA.
Spurs vs Clippers (Clippers win 4-2)
The Spurs are going to get the 4th seed because of their coaching staff knowing how to use players strengths in all the right ways. The Clips will still have some chemistry improvements to make, but ultimately will come out on top.
Grizzlies vs Lakers (Lakers win 4-3)
This should be an incredibly exciting series. Kobe will power the Lakers to the 6th seed, but once the playoffs come around will go into 2004 Kobe mode. The super improved Grizzlies will get the 3 seed, but Pau > Marc, Kobe > Gay/Mayo, and Bynum > any center the Grizz have.
Blazers vs Nuggets (Blazers win 4-2)
The Blazers are probably going to be the surprise team of the year, but shouldn't be. They are a good team that plays solid on both ends. The Nuggets' 7 seed is not reflective of what their year will be but the West is just too competitive this year for them to get anything better. In the end, the Blazers come out on top.
Western Coneference Semis:
Thunder vs Clippers (Thunder win 4-2)
This will feature two of the games top point guards, and two of the best young stars. The chemistry of a team that's growing up together like the Thunder will end up being better than the chemistry of a team that's top 5 players just got together and are all at different points in their career. The Thunder take this one in 6.
Lakers vs Blazers (Lakers win 4-2)
Same as in the Grizzlies series, the Lakers will win because they're strong players are better than the Blazers strong players. The experience of the Lakers in the playoffs will make them more accustomed to playing two long playoff series and ultimately, the better team.
Western Conference Finals:
Thunder vs Lakers (Thunder win 4-3)
It takes every ounce of my objectivity to pick against my Lakers, but the Thunder have younger legs in their superstars, and a better bench with James Harden. Westbrook is better than Fisher at the point, and whoever the Lakers put at SF can't match up with Durant. Kobe will have a good series and the Lakers won't go down without a fight in an exciting and high scoring series.
Eastern Conference First Round:
Bulls vs Cavaliers (Bulls win 4-0)
Nobody is expecting the Cavaliers to do anything in their second season following the Decision. But Kyrie Irving is impressive and the Cavs are easily the best bad team in the East. The Bulls are scary good and have their best team since MJ left. They will win this one with ease.
Pacers vs Knicks (Pacers win 4-1)
The Pacers do not get enough credit. The offseason acquisition of David West is panning out better than anyone expected. The team is like the Thunder and growing up together (other than West). The Knicks are in their first full season with Melo and aren't ready to go deep yet. Pacers in 5.
Sixers vs Magic (Sixers win 4-2)
The Magic will gradually decline a tiny bit each game as D. Howard becomes more and more disgruntled. They will ride an impressive 3-point barrage to the 6th seed. The Sixers are a huge surprise, playing their best ball since the 2001 Finals run. The Sixers win this one in Howard's last six games for the Magic.
Heat vs Hawks (Heat win 4-2)
The Hawks will give the Heat all they can handle in this series, but ultimately the Heat come out on top. LeBron will play a stellar series and nearly average a triple double and the Hawks will feel the effects of not having Al Horford or having a newly off-injury Al. The Heat win some close games and, the series.
Eastern Conference Semis:
Pacers vs Bulls (Bulls win 4-3)
A rematch of last year's 1st round, this series will be extremely close. Last year's was very physical, and much much closer than it should have been. With more playoff experience, the addition of David West, and revenge on their mind, the Pacers will make this a crazy-close series that the Bulls get in 7.
Heat vs Sixers (Sixers win 4-3)
The Heat are going to end up being severely disappointed again this year. The Sixers suffocating defense will easily rise to the occasion and find a way to absolutely frustrate LBJ. They will hold James to only 2 big games, and their offense will smack the Heat in the face. D Wade keeps the Heat in it, but Sixers in 7.
Eastern Conference Finals:
Bulls vs Sixers (Sixers win 4-2)
The defense of the Sixers is going to win them the Eastern Conference this year. Teams will have a tough time figuring out the Bulls scoring approach where anybody can step up, and the Sixers will be the first team to figure it out (much like the Pistons were the first team to figure out how to stop Jordan). Rose will be smothered and Luol Deng will no longer be under the radar as such a good player.
Philadelphia 76ers vs Oklahoma City Thunder (Thunder win 4-2)
Well, the Sixers defense can only do so much. Durant is a freak of an athlete and they won't be able to stop him all the time. When they do stop him, then Westbrook steps up. When Westbrook is stopped, Harden steps up. Ibaka will grow into his role as starting center in the league, and will see a dramatic increase in his own production. The Sixers will put up a fight but Durant has a monster series that solidifies him as one of the top 3 players in the league and the Thunder take their first championship.
NBA Champion: Oklahoma City Thunder