Opinion Corner: Picking the NBA’s Elite 8

The following ran in Wednesday’s Jamestown Sun:

With the NBA playoffs starting to provide some truly exciting basketball down the stretch, it’s time for my predictions as to who will end up hosting the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy.

Starting in the Western Conference I’m taking my upset pick early and looking for the young Clippers to beat San Antonio.

Chris Paul is a top-10 player in the league and anyone who doubts that should probably be watching “Dancing with the Stars” instead.

While Tony le’petite Parker is also having a career year, Paul seems to be in more control of his team. This is only done when head coach Vinny Del Negro allows it.

San Antonio may have one of the game’s most consistent stars in Tim Duncan, and the stable system of Gregg Popovich, but the Clips are too young and too fast. Clippers in six.

The other two teams left in the west are the Thunder and the Lakers. At the start of the season I picked Oklahoma City to win the whole ball of wax and almost placed a wager in Vegas, but I figured they’d have to get through Los Angeles along the way.

Kevin Durant in my opinion is the most dangerous shooter in the league and can’t be stopped when he gets rolling. Plus, with James Harden recovered from his beard whacking from the greatest idiot of them all, Metta World Peace, the Thunder have momentum.

OKC routed the Lakers in Game 1, but Kobe is Kobe. He usually finds a way, and with big man Andrew Bynum at full speed the Lakers are a legitimate threat. Thunder in seven.

In the east elite do-it-all point guard Rajon Rondo and the Celtics will trump the 76ers in six.

Paul Pierce is still one the best late-game players in the league. Mix in aging stars Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, who can still be productive at times, and the Celtics still can be dangerous. But Boston has to get it together and with all the age, I figure the much younger 76ers will get one more win. Philly would not have gotten past the Bulls if Derrick Rose didn’t shred his knee, a la Ricky Rubio.

Look for Miami and the newest NBA MVP LeBron James to have to work more than some expect, but prevail over the pesky Pacers in six.

James is far and away the greatest player in the league right now, but his shaky fourth-quarter play is still a hurdle that needs to be cleared.

Chris Bosh is also out indefinitely but he never was much of a gamer in South Beach, playing third fiddle and all.

Indy will probably win a pair of home games but they are all around outmatched. Roy Hibbert will provide Miami with some headaches however, but not enough to where Miami will be unable to adjust.

Off to the Western Conference Finals and I’m picking OKC over the Clips.

Just finding the Clippers this far in May is an anomaly.

The Thunder also have an elite, explosive point guard of their own — Russell Westbrook — who is a tough match-up for anybody, including Chris Paul.

Again Durant can’t be stopped and look for the Thunder to escape in six.

My Clippers will be back next year and Blake Griffin will only improve, but this is the year of the Thunder.

Boston vs. Miami will be a heated series and it will go down to the wire — even without Bosh.

James and Dwayne Wade are game-changers and can control the whole court when they want to.

Even though he played third banana, Bosh would be an asset in this series banging on the boards with Garnett and defending his accurate mid-range, big-man jumper.

Boston in seven. That’s right, LeBron is choking early this year and the Heat won’t have the steam to hang with the scrappy old men, freshly Boshless.

So that leaves Oklahoma City and Boston left for the title of world champions. One of the youngest teams vs. one of the oldest, veteran experience vs. raw talent, Pierce vs. Durant.

Pierce could hang with Durant and maybe even show him a thing or two. Rondo will work Westbrook for 40 minutes a game, and Kendrick Perkins will love getting back at his old team against KG.

Between any two teams in the playoffs this duo will provide some of the best matchups we’ve seen all season.

But I’ve been drinking that blue and gold Kool-aid all season and I won’t stop here. Youth will outplay age and the Thunder will roll as Oklahoma City and NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant defeat the Boston Celtics in six.

We all know it’s the NBA and anything can happen, but this Swami checked his crystal ball this morning and this is what I saw.