|2014 NBA Playoffs Expert Picks: First Round||NBA First Round Predictions||Datsyuk’s Late Heroics Topple Bruins in Game 1||Celtics Go 1-1 in Draft Order Tiebreakers|
The trade deadline is almost upon us, and teams are looking to add some last-minute pieces. Plenty of players are available, and there are lots of close races. With the home stretch coming up, there are plenty of opportunities left. Especially with both top seeds still very much in play, let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Monday, July 29 at 8:15pm:
The Cardinals are still leading the National League, despite dropping their last three. That shows how good the Cardinals can be at other times. Sure, the losses embolden St. Louis’ potential opponents, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be an easy out.
The Braves were the team that swept St Louis, certainly not an easy feat. The Dodgers have surged to the top of the NL West, having gone 9-1 since the All Star Break. Just imagine what they could do with Matt Kemp back and Josh Beckett healthy and throwing strikes. Still, it can be deceptively difficult to effectively combine a team of superstars, but if the Dodgers can sustain this run at all, they could be a dark horse. If not, the Braves will take them down one by one.
The Red Sox are an extra win ahead of both Tampa and Oakland, for now, but that could very easily change. The closeness and number of teams in this race should bring out the best in all three. Boston has several young pieces on the upswing, and have a good combination of speed followed by power in their lineup. All the same, with the way (especially) Tampa has been playing, they might want to get Clay Buchholz back healthy and add another bit of oomph by the trade deadline.
Both teams are doing well right now, but Oakland is contending for the advantageous position of home-field advantage throughout the World Series, and Detroit seems locked into #3. Even so, Detroit’s staff and rotation is impossible to count out. And Detroit also just acquired reliever Jose Veras from Houston. With rumors of the workload of years past finally catching up to Justin Verlander, Oakland’s key to victory may be getting some quick and owerful shots off Verlander, chasing him early and destroying Detroit’s morale.
Tampa has been exceedingly difficult to beat lately, making them an attractive pick in the AL. Baltimore, meanwhile, is a game ahead of Cleveland and 1.5 ahead of Texas. The way Tampa is playing right now, especially their stellar pitching, Baltimore likely won’t be able to get much done.