Here is my NBA Playoff preview, High School Superlatives Edition. Everything you need to know about the NBA’s playoff landscape.
East: Orlando Magic
If you thought Ricky Gervais’ David Brent was cringe-worthy, you haven’t met the Orlando Magic. The season started with Dwight Howard demanding a trade out of Orlando. When those demands failed, he approached the front office and played the “him or me” game, fire Stan Van Gundy (the head coach) or lose me to free agency. That blew up in Howard’s face (see link above). Now he’s injured and will miss the playoffs, in effect, making the Magic’s chances at a title downright laughable . They are 5-10 in their last fifteen games (including losses to Cleveland, Detroit and Washington) and with Howard’s absence their leading scorer and rebounder is this guy. Prediction: Swept in the First Round.
West: Denver Nuggets
The highest scoring team in the league employs a game plan of high energy and ball movement, making them very fun to watch. The Nuggets also employ the leagues biggest clown, JaVale McGee. The Nuggets are extremely well coached, athletic and deep, which can cause some teams (especially old teams) problems. Unfortunately, the Nuggets lack a big time scorer they can count on at the end of games (sorry Danilo). Prediction: A Close First Round Loss.
East: New York Knicks
On paper the Knicks look great, big time scorer (Carmelo Anthony), low post presence (Amare Stoudemire), defensive ace (Tyson Chandler) and prolific sixth man (J.R. Smith). But, much like the best looking girl in school, once you get to know her, she’s a drama queen and leaves a lot to be desired. This Knicks’ season had so much melodrama (pun intended) it would make “The Young and the Restless” proud. They started the season inept. Adding to the early season burden, Melo and Amare incurred injuries. Then, out of nowhere, some third string point guard out of Harvard named Jeremy Lin seemingly rescued the Knicks’ season. New York was flying high, and Mike D’Antoni resembled the offensive genius he was in Phoenix. But, with Carmelo’s return imminent whispers began, “can Carmelo and Lin coexist?” Carmelo returned and everything turned sour, D’Antoni got fired, Lin got injured and the Knicks looked like they’d miss the playoffs. Not so fast, Carmelo started to heat up and the Knicks season was saved, again. Prediction: Out in the First Round
West: Los Angeles Lakers
The glamor franchise of the NBA. With three bonafide stars, Andrew Bynum, the second best center in the league, Pau Gasol, the most skilled big man in the game and Kobe Bryant, no explanation needed, the Lakers could play with anyone. But like beauty, the Lakers are only skin deep. They’ll have to count of Matt Barnes, Steve Blake and, now with
Ron Artest’s Metta World Peace’s suspension, Devin Ebanks to play significant minutes. Prediction: Makes it to the Second Round, barely.
East: Boston Celtics
These Boston Celtics have acting experience on and off the court. The Celtics’ best acting job has come this season though, as Kevin Garnett (35 years old), Paul Pierce (34) and Ray Allen (36) have acted like pseudo contenders rather than decrepit, falling stars in the twilight of their careers. While Garnett, Pierce and Allen are still billed as “the big three,” Boston will only go as far as their uber talented and super frustrating point guard, Rajon Rondo will take them. Rondo an assist machine and defensive menace can take over games (he has six triple doubles this season, no one else even has two) but lacks any shred of an offensive perimeter game, can’t shoot free throws and owns a fragile psyche. Prediction: Bounced in the Second Round
West: Los Angeles Clippers
How convenient that our other Beast Actor hails from Hollywood. With the acquisition of Chris Paul the Clippers became immediate contenders in the Western Conference. Chris Paul, a pretty good actor in New Orleans, must have enrolled the Clippers’ team in acting classes because they have followed suit. I know Blake’s been in acting classes, I mean who gets more camera time then Blake. While the Clippers boast Chris Paul, the best point guard in the league (and for my money the best pound for pound player in the NBA), and Blake Griffin, an ungodly athletic dunking machine, they are not with out their deficiencies. They lack a consistent third scorer and their coach, Vinny Del Negro, was almost ousted mid season. Even with their deficiencies, something in me says do not bet against Chris Paul. Have you ever seen him play in the playoffs? He elevates his game to a whole new level and I can see Paul having a Dirk-2011-Like playoffs when he just takes over every game and wills his team to victory. Prediction: Lose in Western Conference Finals.
East: Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks have made the playoffs the last five years, have some really talented players (namely Josh Smith and Joe Johnson) but have never managed to advance past the second round and don’t seem all that upset about it either. The Hawks are like that girl who’s a solid six, she’s cute but not unattainable, she’ll flirt with you, make out with you, depending on how much she drank, maybe even let you get to second base, but she’s not going all the way. Prediction: Out in the First Round
West: Memphis Grizzles
The Grizzles seem to be the analysts’ sweetheart. After sneaking into the playoffs last season with an eight seed, they upset, perennial power and number one seed, the San Antonio Spurs. This year they’ll lock down the four seed with the trio of Zach Randolph, Rudy Gay and Marc Gasol. With power down low and athleticism on the perimeter the Grizzlies prove to be a trendy pick to win it all. Of course they’re going to face the Clippers and, my man crush, Chris Paul in the first round so I anticipate the Grizz to disappoint on their promise. Prediction: First Round loss.
Most School Spirited
East: Indiana Pacers
Basketball is a religion in the state of Indiana, between IU, Hoosiers, and the Pacers. The Pacers surprised a lot of people this year as they earned the number three seed in the East. They are as deep as anyone in the NBA, with six players averaging double digits in PPG (points per game). Frank Vogel, Pacers’ head coach, directs an efficient offensive team with impressive young talent like Paul George and Roy Hibbert along with it’s de facto leader Danny Granger. Prediction: Pacers Fall in the Second Round
West: Utah Jazz
According to NBA general mangers Utah owns the best home court advantage. Who knew Mormons were so vitriol? The Jazz possess two capable bigs, Al Jefferson and Paul Milsap, the slightly above mediocre Devon Harris and wet willy recipient, Gordon Hayward. They’ll need all the home court advantage they can get. Prediction: Downed in the First Round
The Mavs won the championship last year and partied hard. So hard, it showed. Early in the season Dirk had to take a few weeks off just to get in shape. He’s back now and playing at high level but the team is decidedly older and misses Tyson Chandler‘s defensive presence in the post. Prediction: Competitive first round loss.
Most polite is a stretch, I know, but what other award can I give them. They’re a solid team and they seem like a bunch of nice guys (Evan Turner, Jrue Holiday, Elton Brand, Andre Iguodala). Prediction: Lose to the Heat or Bulls in the First Round.
East: Chicago Bulls
Thanks to masterful coaching job they finished at the top of their class (best record), even with injuries to pivotal players. Prediction: Advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
West: San Antonio Spurs
See Chicago Bulls. Prediction: Upset in Second Round
Most Likely To Succeed
East: Miami Heat
You might not like them, but they have the MVP of the League coupled with another top five player in the league, it’s just a matter of time before they win it all. They went to the Championship last year, and if it wasn’t for Dirk Nowitzti turning into Michael Jordan they probably would have won. No team in the NBA can match the Heat’s talent and athleticism. While it’s true the Heat don’t feature a deep or, for that matter, a very talented bench, their top three players (Lebron, Wade and Bosh) cover up many of the bench’s weaknesses. The only real question that plagues the Heat is will Lebron show up in the fourth quarter of a big game? Prediction: Win the whole F***ing Thing
West: Oklahoma City Thunder
Between Kevin Durant’s insane ability to score (going on three straight scoring titles) and Russell Westbrook’s freakish athleticism, the Thunder own the best one – two punch in the West. Add likely Sixth Man of the Year, James Harden and Defensive Player of the Year candidate, Serge Ibaka and you have the best young team in the league. Throw in some vets with a championship pedigree (Derek Fisher and Kendrick Perkins) and it seems like the Thunder have it all. They’ll be a terribly tough out in the playoffs. The key here is that Westbrook remembers he’s the Robin to Durant’s Batman and doesn’t try to highjack the team. Prediction: Fall to the Heat in the NBA finals