The HoopsHype Weekly: We examine the toughest potential first-round matchups for the top championship contenders

Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James run for the ball Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The HoopsHype Weekly: We examine the toughest potential first-round matchups for the top championship contenders

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The HoopsHype Weekly: We examine the toughest potential first-round matchups for the top championship contenders

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FIRST-ROUND PREVIEW: With just eight games remaining in the regular season and the playoffs set to start after that, we decided to take a look at who could give this year’s top championship contenders – Milwaukee and the two L.A. teams – the most trouble in Round 1 of the postseason. In all likelihood, all three teams will advance to the second round of the playoffs, but some of them do have potentially tougher roads than the others.

LA Lakers: Portland Trail Blazers.

The Lakers may be 2-1 this season against Portland already, but if the Blazers do fight their way into the playoffs, we think they’d give Los Angeles their toughest first-round matchup. That’s especially true thanks to both Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins returning to give the team much stronger frontcourt depth, which they’ll need against the Lakers’ elite big men. Plus, star ballhandler Damian Lillard tends to step it up in the playoffs, and he could singlehandedly get hot and help Portland steal a game or two in a series – he’s that good.

Milwaukee Bucks: Orlando Magic.

Truth be told, it’s nearly impossible to pick a tough first-round matchup for the Bucks. Not only are they by far this season’s best team, but the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff picture is also quite weak, as both the No. 7 and 8 seeds boast losing records. Regardless, we’ll go with the Magic over the Nets, as they at least have the scorers in Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier to keep a series at least somewhat competitive. Brooklyn doesn’t even have that anymore after their plethora of coronavirus-related issues that will keep multiple starters out for the season restart.

LA Clippers: Houston Rockets

Congrats, Clippers. You finished the season as the West’s No. 2 seed. Your reward? You get to face a backcourt containing two former league MVPs in the first round of the playoffs. This isn’t a lock to happen yet, but the Mavericks are merely 1.5 games behind Houston for the No. 6 seed, so it definitely can’t be ruled out. The Rockets and Clippers split their season series 2-2, proving how evenly matched these two squads are. That’d be one fun, competitive first-round series.

BOOKER DRAMA IN PHX? There’s no chance the Suns even entertain trading Devin Booker anytime soon. Nonetheless, there was smoke this week that the Knicks are interested in the talented scorer and that Booker was upset with the Suns for not going harder after his friend, D’Angelo Russell, when he was available.

MORE 2-GUARD DRAMA: Much was made of Victor Oladipo not informing his head coach, Nate McMillan, that he’d be sitting out the rest of the season before it went public. Now, there’s talk that the All-Star could have interest in joining the Heat when he hits free agency in 2021.

ZIZIC HEADED OVERSEAS? After three lackluster seasons, it looks like former first-round pick Ante Zizic could be headed to join Real Madrid in Spain.

REAL MADRID STAR NBA-BOUND? Argentinian point guard Facundo Campazzo has been one of Europe’s top playmakers for years. Now, there’s talk the Timberwolves have interest in bringing him to the NBA. Campazzo averaged 9.9 points and 7.1 assists in Euroleague action last season.

READY TO RETURN? Thunder swingman Andre Roberson, who hasn’t seen action since Jan. 27, 2018, due to injury, is participating fully in practice and could be ready for a return.

INTO THE BUBBLE: We list all of the roster additions and subtractions ahead of the 2019-20 season restart.

MOCK DRAFT: We averaged out all of the top mock drafts and put together our latest aggregate 2020 mock draft. Anthony Edwards remains No. 1.

PRICE OF ADMISSION: We rank every NBA signature sneaker from the most expensive to the cheapest.

TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE: We’re getting into the crossword puzzle game. Here’s our first NBA crossword game. Make sure to share your results!

A DECADE LATER: We broke down everything that happened in free agency 10 years ago leading up to LeBron James’ decision. Here’s day 8 of 2010 free agency, i.e., the day LeBron announced he was headed to Miami.

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