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Can anyone dethrone Warriors? Will LeBron James’ Finals streak end? Chris Fedor’s 2018-19 NBA season predictions

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors have met four straight times in the NBA Finals.

It won’t happen a fifth.

Oh, Golden State will be there. But the Cavs won’t be. Their title hopes left when LeBron James announced his decision to join the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Warriors, with the addition of DeMarcus Cousins to counter teams that try to play bully-ball with them, are the most talented team ever assembled. They also play as a unit better than anyone in the league. One of the best offensive teams and a defense capable of smothering elite groups with a switch-heavy approach? That’s a tough combination.

The real question is which team has the best shot to dethrone them? Will it be James’ new-look Lakers, continuing his personal Finals streak? How about the Rockets, a team that looked primed to keep Golden State from getting back to the Finals last season? What about Oklahoma City? I mean, they do have both Russell Westbrook and Paul George. Kawhi Leonard is in Toronto now and James is out of the East. Will that finally get the Raptors over the hump?

Remember what it took back in 2016? Besides Draymond Green’s suspension that opened the door and Stephen Curry’s balky knee?

Two dynamic playmakers. One incredible clutch shot at the buzzer. A team that that was able to handle Finals pressure. A roster built to switch on defense and match the Warriors small-ball approach.

One team fits that mold better than any other. It’s the team with a player who terrified the Warriors in a one-on-one situation and ripped one championship away. It’s Kyrie Irving’s Celtics. They are capable of at least pushing the Warriors in a seven-game series. Beating them four times is a different challenge entirely.

Get ready for a new rivalry — and another Warriors title.

Here are my NBA predictions:

Eastern Conference

1. Boston Celtics

2. Toronto Raptors

3. Milwaukee Bucks

4. Philadelphia 76ers

5. Washington Wizards

6. Indiana Pacers

7. Detroit Pistons

8. Miami Heat

9. Cleveland Cavaliers

10. Brooklyn Nets

11. New York Knicks

12. Chicago Bulls

13. Charlotte Hornets

14. Orlando Magic

15. Atlanta Hawks

The Celtics are loaded, adding Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward to a team that pushed the Cavaliers to a Game 7 in last year’s conference finals. For Boston, role delineation may be its biggest hurdle. But if there’s any head coach to blend such a talented group into a title contender it’s Brad Stevens, who was named the league’s best coach in an annual GM survey.

The Raptors biggest obstacle, James, is out West now. The 76ers will need a combination of health and added shooting to take the next step. The Bucks new-look offense with head coach Mike Budenholzer may be the jolt they need to challenge the Celtics. 

The bottom of the conference features numerous teams — all with glaring weaknesses that could keep them from snagging a playoff spot. 

Round one: 

Celtics over Heat

Raptors over Pistons

Bucks over Pacers

Wizards over 76ers

Conference semifinals:

Celtics over Wizards

Bucks over Raptors

Conference finals:

Celtics over Bucks

Western Conference

1. Golden State Warriors

2. Houston Rockets

3. Oklahoma City Thunder

4. Utah Jazz

5. Portland Trail Blazers

6. Los Angeles Lakers

7. San Antonio Spurs

8. Denver Nuggets

9. New Orleans Pelicans

10. Los Angeles Clippers

11. Minnesota Timberwolves

12. Memphis Grizzlies

13. Dallas Mavericks

14. Phoenix Suns

15. Sacramento Kings

It’s the Warriors and everyone else. But getting into the playoffs will once again be a war. The Lakers are taking someone’s spot. James won’t let them miss the playoffs — even though the roster needs more floor spacing. San Antonio, after the loss of Dejounte Murray, will be scrapping to continue its playoff streak. But head coach Gregg Popovich deserves the benefit of the doubt. 

Round one:

Warriors over Nuggets

Rockets over Spurs

Lakers over Thunder

Jazz over Blazers

Conference semifinals:

Warriors over Jazz

Lakers over Rockets

Conference finals:

Warriors over Lakers

NBA Finals

Warriors over Celtics

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