NBA Playoffs


The Playoffs start tomorrow, Saturday.  It’s crazy to think that a year ago I was looking for watch parties and getting friends together to watch the first ever Bobcats playoff game.  So much has changed, not the least of which is that the Bobcats are out.  League wide things have changed, but not much.  Let’s look at the leaders in the major categories:  Nash leads assists last year and this year, Kevin Durant leads PPG both years and Dwight Howard led rebounds last year, Kevin Love led this year by 2 more per game, but Dwight still finished second.

When you look at the overall rankings, without breaking it down by conference or division, there are huge changes.  You can go ahead and factor the sweeping trades and “free agency” into that.  Cleveland went from first in the league to second to last.  Their record worse than flip flopped.  They went from 21 losses to 19 wins.  Yikes.  Miami made the playoffs last year, but this year they finished 2nd in the East and 3rd overall.

Something to think about, the all-stars from this year are all in the playoffs except Kevin Love, Blake Griffin and Yao Ming.  They are out of the West which is more highly regarded than the East but obviously, with a lower concentration of star power?  The disparity between East and West has led to several people to call for the 16 best teams, regardless of conference to be seeded in the playoffs.  It’s true, the 8th seed in the West, Memphis and New Orleans (tie-breaker to New Orleans) are 11 and 12 overall in the league, that means there are only 4 East teams  intermingled with those Western squads!  It makes no sense.  Indiana finished 19th overall but 8th in the East at 37-45.  8 games UNDER .500.  Yeah, it’s not your average NBA playoffs this year.

The most intriguing first round match up is the 4/5 seed in the West, of course, Oklahoma City and Denver.  It’s going to be a great series, everyone assumes so anyway, and so much young talent and then Denver with their roster that played each other at some point in the year, to be split and melded together at the will of a petulant super-star.  It’s super intriguing and should be really fin to watch.

The biggest fraud in the playoffs, to me, is Atlanta.  Atlanta was in the playoff picture so long ago, I think they were still starting Jeff Teague when they clinched.  They’ve got talent for sure, high draft picks that have contributed for them and free agent signings and all that.  They’ve been top 4 in the East for the previous 2 years, made the playoffs 4 straight, but they’ve been so lackluster over the last few months.  Atlanta stumbles to the doorway of the postseason with 6 straight losses, only bested by Minnesota’s 15 straight losses to end the season.  They got walked on by an 8 man Bobcats squad Wednesday night.  Atlanta/Orlando features the closest records of all the Eastern Conference match-ups but does anyone out there think Atlanta will push it to 5 games after being swept by an average of 25 per game last year in the second round to Orlando?  They did go 3-1 this year in the regular season against the Hawks but come on, the Magic will win that series, making the East nothing but chalk going into the second round.

So that brings me to predictions:  Out of the East, it’s hard to pick between the top 3 teams.  I immediately eliminate Orlando because Dwight Howard is coming to Charlotte in a few years (maybe less), he said so himself.  Besides, Dwight can’t keep his mouth shut, doesn’t have the eye of the tiger or of the Kobe or whatever to lead that team of loose shooters deep into a playoff run.  Chicago almost makes me say the same thing, that Rose hasn’t been there before and this is Thib’s first year and all that but Tom Thibideau was the heart of the Boston bench for the last few years and Chicago pushed Boston to 7 games last year in the opening round.  They’ve got a good bit of experience, just in number of games over a squad and if Rose can shoot as well as get to the basket and Deng doesn’t fall off…they’ve got a shot of coming out of the East.

The other two, Boston and Miami, no one wants to talk about.  It’s like if we don’t look at them they aren’t really there or they’ll just shut up and disappear.  Every fan outside of the front-runners and guys who claim their dad took them to Boston games as a kid (Bill Simmons) hates talking about either team, hates thinking that that’s what a contender should look like.  3 superstars, a guy who can dribble and pass and maybe an old center, then some guys who glom on hoping to ride it to a championship, so taking the league minimum or carrying Lebron’s bags would feel better 10 years down the line.  So, prediction?  I don’t know.  I don’t know if Boston or Miami makes it out of the bottom to face Chicago in the conference final, but I have to believe that Chicago is there, so I might as well say they’ll win the whole thing in the East.

The West is crazy.  Just straight up crazy with injuries and guys have been resting and teams took their foot off the gas before the finish line and do you question the Lakers and what about Bynum’s knee?  Does it matter?  Ginobli’s elbow and Tim Duncan’s age, what does Pop do about that?  Who knows.  I mean really.  I’m rooting for Portland and Oklahoma City but that’s #6 vs #4 and if that happens Stern’s head will explode and there will be no collective bargaining because all the inertia of the regular season will fizzle come June if it’s OKC vs POR.  Plus that’s two small markets and if small markets do well, we in small markets that don’t do well won’t have anything to bitch about at the negotiations this summer and fall and winter and spring of next year.

Most people will say “Definitely Spurs/Lakers, West Finals, 7 games, best teams in the league, best coaches…Lakers win.”  Not so fast my friends.  What if the Spurs don’t make it past Oklahoma City? What if OKC doesn’t beat Denver?  What if Bynum’s knee is the excuse Kobe and Pau have needed in order to get off to gay Paris earlier than normal?  What if Dallas actually is legit and Mark Cuban kills 3 web-writers?  Who knows, that’s why people are saying Spurs/Lakers and the ones who aren’t are looking to age and injuries to find ways to say “Yeah, but.”

I don’t know, I don’t have a crystal ball and I am personally juxtaposed to so much out West that I don’t have a clear picture of how it could play out in my head, so I’ll go with what I want to happen and see Portland and Oklahoma City in the West finals and Oklahoma City making it to the finals to face Chicago.

Chicago/Oklahoma City.  Bulls vs. Thunder.  People would watch that right?