I'm arbitrarily going to make up final four playoff matchups based upon my own rankings, with seeding determined by draft pick. Ground rules: coaches set the rotation to maximize their player talents, so it doesn't really matter who a GM designates as a "starter" or at what position the GM picked them. Games will be evaluated as if we're playing in the Orlando Bubble; i.e., no home court.
1. Milwaukee Bucks vs. 4. Indiana Pacers
G: Chris Paul, De'Aaron Fox, De'Anthony Melton
G: Buddy Hield, Tim Hardaway Jr
F: Khris Middleton, Kyle Anderson, Kelly Oubre
F: Kevin Durant, Danilo Gallinari, PJ Tucker
C: DeAndre Ayton, Josuf Nurkic
G: Dejounte Murray, Lonzo Ball, Goran Dragic
G: Paul George, Tyler Herro
F: Jayson Tatum, Terrence Ross
F: Pascal Siakam, Jae Crowder, Larry Nance Jr
C: Domantas Sabonis, Jarrett Allen, Steven Adams
This is a very close series. To be a bit controversial here, I think Tatum will take a leap next season, and I see he and George going about point for point with Durant and Middleton. I think the series comes down to the "other guys", both in terms of starters and the bench.
One of those "other guys" is Chris Paul, who just averaged 19 / 9 with 45% 3PT% in a deep playoff run. I think he's going to be able to play at a similar level against Indiana. I also like that Milwaukee has better defenders at the two most important positions, the 1 and the 5. Overall, I like the Indiana bench better, and Siakim as a 5th option is better than anything that Milwaukee can role out there. It's a really close series, but on a neutral floor I lean toward Milwaukee. They've got the best player, the best point guard, and the better defensive center. In crunch time, I think these things matter.
2. San Antonio vs. 3. Minnesota
G: Jrue Holiday, Russell Westbrook, Darius Garland
G: Jaylen Brown, Seth Curry
F: Brandon Ingram, Joe Harris
F: LeBron James, Marcus Morris, Jeff Green
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Robert Williams, Kelly Olynyk
G: Trae Young, Jamal Murray, Jordan Clarkson
G: Bradley Beal, Terry Rozier, Saddiq Bey
F: Bogdan Bogdanovic, Will Barton
F: Harrison Barnes, Aaron Gordon
C: Joel Embiid, John Collins, Mason Plumlee
Unlike the first series above, this series is going to have some real mismatches. Jonas can't defend Embiid. That's going to be a bloodbath, I think. Nobody on Milwaukee can defend Lebron. He's going to put up a series reminiscent of his title winning performance in Cleveland. I suspect Denver will bring Aaron Gordon to guard him some, but there's only so much he can do.
I seem to be a bigger fan of Minnesota than most, but I ask myself: how can you stop a team that has Embiid, Young and Beal if they are playing to their full potential? They can't be doubled, the only hope you have is that the guys around them miss shots. And, Barnes / Bogs / Collins don't miss a lot of shots. This team may put up a .600 TS% as a team. I see Minnesota getting to the line a lot. I see Lebron getting to the line a lot. I love Jrue Holiday, but I don't think he'll exploit Trae Young the way some other guys could.
Another 7-gamer. What it comes down to is that I just don't trust Jonas and Ingram in this series, and I think ultimately there are too many guys on the San Antonio roster that seem out of place (Westbrook, Garland, along with the aforementioned two starters).
1. Milwaukee vs. 3. Minnesota
My wife is making me do chores. I don't like chores. Does that mean I don't like my wife? No, I guess she's okay, so I need to wrap this up.
If this was the hypothetical matchup, it's an incredibly high-scoring series. I don't see how either team defends the other. Ayton and Paul at least put up some resistance to Embiid and Young. We see an epic Game 7 duel between Durant and Beal, but in the end, Durant is just too efficient. 146 - 140, Milwaukee.