2012 NBA Championship – Thunder vs. Heat – My Pick

First of all I am very upset by the Bulls not being in this championship. When I did my picks for the playoffs I had everything correct except for the Bulls (My picks were made pre-Derrick Rose injury). I am not bragging, I guess I am just frustrated by the whole situation. Damn!

Moving on…

VS.

Say what you will about the Miami Heat, but they have responded. Chris Bosh went out in that Indiana Pacers series and they responded. In games 4,5,6 they completely dominated the Pacers and even though everyone wanted it to happen, they did not lose.  LeBron James and Dwayne Wade both had monster moments at different moments throughout.  When the Celtics series started 2-0 I truly thought that this was going to be a sweep. Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett played awesome and the Celtics gave the Heat a scare. The ESPN coverage was trying to convince everyone that the Heat were done and there was in-fighting in the locker room.  It was 3-2 Celtics going to back to Boston.  Then, LeBron “The Chosen One” James happened.  He scored 30 points in the first half of game 6 and the Celtics could never recover.  I honestly think that he could do that almost any game he wants.  Cleveland days style.  He must realize that he is the best player on that team and just take over.

The Thunder who just looked out of place in the Western Conference finals in the first 2 games also fought back. They looked out-classed by a San Antonio Spurs team that was unbelievable in games 1 and 2. The Spurs were hitting shots at home at an alarming rate.  They shot 55% in Game 2!  It just seemed like the Thunder had once again, like last year, run into a buzz saw.  Then the Spurs went cold, Thabo Sefolosha locked down Tony Parker, and the Thunder just exploded.  In game 3, the Thunder looked like the tiger to the Spurs elephant. OKC looked young, energetic, and hungry(Not Boris Diaw looking hungry).  They just ended up making all of the clutch shots they needed to make. The Spurs played good defense on James Harden and Kevin Durant on both of those clutch shots, they just made them.  I for one and glad they one. I don’t know if I could have taken the flop-fest that Ginobili vs. Wade would have been.

Now we have a “dream match-up” for the fans and one, David Stern. I bet he was going crazy when LeBron dropped the hammer on Boston in game 6.  This has the potential to be an incredibly enjoyable series. I think both of these team pose mach-up problems for each other. I think they are both really good.  I think they are both fun to watch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Raising the Roof with joy)

I will break this down into 5 key components that will decide the series. Enjoy.

#5 – Officiating

I know, I know, the conspiracy theorist.  Not really.  While watching the Spurs/Thunder game 6(terrible calls against the Spurs) and Heat/Celtics game 2(terrible calls against the Celtics) I realized how important NBA refs can be.  They can completely and utterly shape the game and often, they outcome. The Thunder thrive on running and gunning from the outside.  They are essentially a jump shot reliant team. The Heat are just the opposite.  Dwayne Wade and LeBron James are at their best when attacking the rim.  They will test the Thunder big men when they put them in a pick-and-roll situation or by just getting past their defender one-on-one.  This in turn will put pressure on the officials.  If they call every body bump, the Thunder will lose. When these calls are made also makes a huge difference.  If they are called in the 4th quarter down the stretch might make the difference in the series. I think this is a huge advantage to the Heat.  Not because of some David Stern/officials conspiracy but because their style of play is more aggressive than the Thunder’s.  The officials will be under a lot of pressure in the series.

#4- Chris Bosh vs. Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins

Chris Bosh looked pretty good in game 7 the other night against the Celtics.  I know he got 9 of his 19 points off of inexplicable 3’s.  I also know he is always the guy who people consider the 3rd wheel in the “Big Three”, but he is vital to their success in the finals.  If Bosh is hitting his 15 footer and is able to get those two big guys out of the paint, the Heat will win.  If Ibaka and Perkins can stay out of foul trouble and inside the paint on defense, the Thunder will win. I have a feeling you will see a lot of ball-screening involving LeBron and Bosh to try and open up that area around the basket.

#3 – The Others

As the TNT crew always says, “The others are the key”. James Harden played awful in the first 2 games against the Spurs. It is no surprise that the Thunder struggled.  He is not a great defender so when he had to try and hold Manu, he sucked.  It wasted too much of his energy.  Against the Heat he will need to be the 6th Man of the Year if the Thunder want to win.  The Thunder “others” must outplay the Heat “others”, and they should. Harden, Collison, Sefolosha, Ibaka, and Fisher vs. Chalmers, Haslem, Battier, and Cole.  Huge advantage OKC.  This might win the championship for the Thunder. I know stars decide the game, but the supporting cast allow those stars to get a rest and perform in the clutch down the stretch.

#2 – Russell Westbrook vs. Russell Westbrook

When Russell Westbrook realizes that he is impossible to stay in front of for 48 minutes, the Thunder are unbeatable.  He is an incredible scorer and finisher. But, he gets lost.  He forgets that he plays with Kevin Durant who has a mismatch against his defender every single trip down the court.  When Westbrook gets going he can be the best player on the court.  In my opinion he is the best scoring point guard in the league and probably the best since Allen Iverson.  His ability to fly around people and finish at the basket is amazing.  I know people say things like Derrick Fisher and Shane Battier are the “X factors”, but honestly to win a championship, Westbrook is.  No one on this Heat team can guard him.  I scoff at the suggestion of Norris Cole. If Westbrook can stay focused on his role as a scorer but also not forget that he also has a lot of talent around him, the Thunder will win.

#1 – LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant

ESPN loves billing the two superstars as the real match-up.  It is almost never “Heat vs. Thunder”. It is “James vs. Durant”. Well, in this case they are correct. These guys will make the difference in who will hold up the trophy in the end. They are superstars. One the MVP and one the scoring champ. LeBron showed that when it is needed he can still take over during that Celtics series. I don’t think the Thunder has anyone that can guard him if he stays aggressive the whole game.  I think Sefolosha, Harden, Ibaka, and possibly Durant will guard him at various times. LeBron is a mismatch, but one of his major problems is that he doesn’t always realize it. Durant will probably be guarded by Battier, Miller, and James.  I think that James is the best defender on Durant because of his size but I don’t know if Spoelstra will want to LeBron to expend that much energy on the defense. In this series I think Durant has the potential to put up huge numbers, unless LeBron guards him.  I’m interested to see the coaches duel when it comes to containing these two uncontainable forces.  It should be an awesome spectacle to watch these two go at it. I am excited to see superstars make superstar plays.

In Conclusion

First of all, I think the series will go 7 games.  I think this is a very hard series to pick.  There are so many uncertainties with the Miami Heat.  This is it for LeBron.  If he doesn’t win this year I think he will be hammered even more than he already is now for not being able to win it all.  It is hard to predict which LeBron will show up. Passive LeBron who hides in the corner of the court or defers to Mario @#$%ing Chalmers or the guy that can score at will and shut down your best player? How will Dwayne Wade play after getting roughed up by the Celtics?  Or how will a still hurt Chris Bosh perform on such a big stage?  I still have a lot more questions about the Miami team even after those 3 players.  I just don’t know which team will show up.  On the other side, the Thunder have been the same team for the entire playoffs.  They are super talented and extremely hard to guard in crunch time. When Westbrook, Durant, and Harden are on the court they are special.  The Thunder know their roles. They have a set rotation. They have two very good defensive big guys to protect the basket which is perfect to combat what the Heat are good at.   I think these factors will be enough for them.   The Thunder are also excellent at home.  That stadium has become the best home court in the NBA.  This is going to be a great match-up.  Two superstars in their prime going at it. Who will shrink and who will stand up tall?

MY PICK:  Oklahoma City Thunder

The Bulls Off-Season Moves 2012-2013 (Free Agent Possibilities)

The devastating nature of the demise of the 2011-2012 Bulls was hard to watch. Derrick Rose collapsing on that jump-stop might have been my saddest moment as a Bulls fan outside of Jordan, Pippen, Jackson being broken up when they had at least 2 or 3 good years left at the end of the 1998 championship season. It was a terrible end to a promising playoff run.  I picked them to win the whole thing. Biased? Yes. Does my opinion matter? No. Am I answering my own questions like an annoying pompous ass? Yes.  But, I really thought they had enough.  It didn’t happen. It was really sad, but it didn’t happen. It’s time to look ahead.  What can the Bulls management do to improve a team that has had the best regular season record two seasons in a row but is yet to get over the hump?  First of all, most of these moves are contingent on team using the amnesty clause on Carlos Boozer.  If they don’t amnesty Boozer, they will have no money to make any substantial free-agent signings. Also, the success of the 2012-2013 Bulls is reliant on the health of Derrick Rose. These are my thoughts as a fan and aspiring NBA executive. The options that in bold are the ones that I think will be possible and are decent moves. Enjoy.

NEED #1- Scoring at the Shooting Guard position:

The Rip Hamilton experiment was not ideal (Played 28 regular season games). He was hurt all season and played his best basketball in two 3rd quarters in two games while losing to the 76ers in that playoff series. 24 minutes of good basketball.  Bad timing to finally get healthy and play well. The fans have been clamoring for a second legitimate scorer on the perimeter.  I think Rip is still a decent option but as we saw down the stretch of games he seemed to be gassed and really struggled.  I think he cost them game 4.  He still is a hard player to guard when healthy and in NBA professional basketball condition.  It is a headache for defenders to chase him as he runs off multiple screens on every possession a la Reggie Miller (Or young Rip Hamilton). One problem is that he does not create for others. And in one-on-one situations he can’t create for himself. Neither do Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver, or Jimmy Butler off the bench at the 2-guard position. This is a big need for them. The good thing here is that there are several options that they could pursue.

Shooting Guard Options:

(Fake smile, he hated being traded)

Eric Gordon– Gordon will be too expensive and will be one of the top free-agents for this off-season. I love his game and think he got a raw deal in the trade to the Hornets. He went from a contender to one of the worst teams in the league.  He repaid them by not signing an extension (which everyone saw coming) and only playing 9 games due to injury.  He is a nice player and would love him on the Bulls but I think someone will really overpay for him. Probably the Brooklyn Nets. (Estimated salary for 2012-2013: $10-12 mil)

O.J. Mayo– This is another popular choice for the Bulls.  The fans have been asking Gar/Pax to add him for a while. However, there are some problems.  I don’t like him because I think his price will be very high.  I do like him because I think Memphis did not play him where he could be at his best. Memphis has Rudy Gay who loves to get into isolation possessions.  Mayo is a very similar player. He is more of a jump shooter on the wing that can attack from time to time. I think he can be very good. Elite even, maybe. (Estimated salary for 2012-2013: $9-11 mil)

(“I’m going to dribble right, turn left, jump stop, and then take your starting job. Got it?”)

George Hill- Hill will probably stay in Indiana because I don’t they are very happy with the progression of the down-graded Darren Collison. I think Hill is a great fit for the Bulls.  He would be a nice SG/PG that could run the offense and hit a shot here and there. He is going to want a bit of raise but I think the Bulls should make a play for him.  (Estimated salary for 2012-2013: $3-4 mil)

Courtney Lee- Lee is a guy the Bulls were targeting a few years ago that is only getting better. I love his game and athleticism.  Think of him as a more aggressive and athletic C.J Watson. I think the Rockets will try and keep Lee. He has emerged as one of their go to young guys and I think they will try and move the oft-injured Kevin Martin to make room for Lee to be the starter. (Estimated salary for 2012-2013: $4-5 mil)

(He can make big shots. Averaged 17 points. in the finals and was guarded by LeBron a lot of the time)

Jason Terry– Another aging scorer? I know, the Rip Hamilton thing all over again.  They could get him for cheap and he can still hit big shots and sometimes even get his own shot. I think Dallas will try and keep him and not resign Jason Kidd.  If the Bulls could get him at a bargain (2 mil) he might be worth the risk.  (Estimated salary for 2012-2013: $2-5 mil)

Draft Pick Possibility

(That disgusting leper looking thing next to him will no longer distract him from producing)

William Buford (Ohio St.) – Buford is another player that could fall to the Bulls at the 29th pick. He is streaky but dangerous.  He would go through stretches where he was unstoppable.  The knock on him is that is big games or when he has an athletic defender was put on him, he struggled. He is slightly undersized as a wing in the NBA but he is a decent defender.  I have seen him play enough to think it wouldn’t be a bad idea to give him a chance to be an energy scorer off the bench. (See pre Swine Flu Chris Douglas-Roberts)

NEED #2- Starter/Back-up Point Guard: 

Derrick Rose will be out for 40-82 games next season as he rehabs his ACL.  They will need someone to cover that role. I like C.J. Watson but he is really not a true point guard.  Also, I hate  John Lucas III getting big minutes as the backup pg. He drives me crazy against good teams. Dribble, dribble, dribble, shot at the buzzer. He is too slow to dribble around guys and too small to overpower them.  I think Thibs was comfortable with him and had to use him because of all the injuries to Rose this season.  But, I don’t think he will be back.  There are plenty of options for the point guard position. Here are the best.

Point Guard Options:

Goran Dragic– For those of you Bulls fans that only remember him from getting posterized by D-Rose and Stacey King marking out, he is actually pretty good.  When he started for the injured Kyle Lowry he averaged about 18 points and 8 assists per game. I think he could be a perfect player for the Bulls to fill-in for Rose.  But, there will be plenty of teams (Knicks, Suns, Lakers, Jazz and Rockets) that will want him and that might drive the price so that the Bulls can’t get him.  (Estimated salary for 2012-2013: $4-5 mil)

(“Didn’t you get the memo!”…I don’t think he did. English is his second language Stacey. Even if he got the memo, he wouldn’t understand.)

Steve Nash– He is old (38) but can still play. I know he will get a lot of teams interested. I am also sick of people giving me a sob story about how the Suns should have traded him. That was the Suns mistake if he leaves because he is still pretty good and they could have gotten something for him as they rebuild. He can’t guard anyone, but that is nothing new for Nash.  He is still the best pure passer in the league. If he doesn’t stay in Phoenix, I wouldn’t mind seeing him in red and black. I don’t know if he fits into coach Thibodeau’s “defense-first” coaching style.  I think this has a chance to happen but he might be a little too expensive for an aging pg. (Estimated salary for 2012-2013: $5-8 mil)

Jeremy Lin– Possible flash in the pan? Sure. Possibly a top-10 point guard? Also sure.  Lin could fit in with the Bulls. He has only played well for about a month in his entire career. There is a reason people pass on guys over and over.  They have deficiencies that good coaches and teams will exploit.  The Lin hype will drive up the price, but the Bulls need a quality player to hold down the fort for a while Rose is out. I think Tim Lin, I mean Jeremy Tebow could work. (Estimated salary for 2012-2013: $4-6 mil)

(The good ol’ days- Ty Thomas must have just done something amazing. Like him a 15 footer or run a set play properly. They were excited.)

Kirk Hinrich- I know, I know, that guy.  But, that guy will not cost 8 million dollars per year anymore.  I have to think he would like to come back and be a starting point guard in an organization he knows. He could be a solid backup when Rose returns.  I think this is the most likely scenario to happen. He can still defend, which Thibs would love.  He can also run the offense and hit the occasional 3-pointer. He will also dribble under the basket about 4 times a game and make you want to pull your hair out. I’d like this move. It’s a cheap and effective addition. (Estimated salary for 2012-2013: $2-3 mil)

Andre Miller- This is also a foreseeable option. Miller is getting older and always looks like he just woke up, but can still play. He has been a solid pro very quietly for every team he’s played for.  I would like this move because he wouldn’t mind being a backup when Rose returns. He creates, is a great passer and serviceable defender.  The knock on him has always been his poor shooting. He is due for a little pay cut at his age (36). I think this is a great option for the Bulls.  (Estimated salary for 2012-2013: $4-5 mil)

Draft Pick Possibility

(“What’s worse, my eyebrow or your mustache?”)

Marquis Teague (University of Kentucky) – According to NBAdraft.net Teague is projected to possibly fall to the late-first round.  I think he has some things to learn but could eventually be very good. Two years ago he was a projected Top-5 pick.  He is turnover prone and can gun a little too much for a player that can’t really shoot.  Because of these reasons and a poor start to the season, he has fallen way down.  He just has to fall about 5 spots to be available for the Bulls. Undisciplined Teague at 20 years old > Undisciplined LJIII 30 years old.  I like his potential.

NEED #3- Athletic Offensive Power Forward/Center:

(This is how it is done)

As a Bulls fan I get frustrated by their offense often.  They love ball screens.  I think that is the NBA style.  But as a Bulls fan, when you watch a team like the Clippers and how dangerous they are in the pick-and-roll and then watch a Boozer/Rose pick-and-roll you have to shake your head. Boozer has so many chances to just attack the rim violently. He doesn’t.  It’s not his game.  With Rose at the point and coach Tom Thibodeau’s tendency to run the pick-and-roll in every big spot and all late shot clock situations, they need someone that can finish. Something unlucky for the Bulls is that the available crop of “Big Men” is not something to write home about.  This is one reason the Bulls will not amnesty Boozer (Gar Forman said that they will probably not amnesty him, but things change). The options out there leave a little to be desired.  The free agent market might not be their only option for this position. They have to look to trade to fill this major need.

Power Forward/Center Options:

Brook Lopez- He is two seasons removed from being an elite big guy.  I think he will garner some huge contracts and several teams’ interests. Not a great fit for the Bulls unless they move Noah and open up a spot for him. Neither of them can really play the 4 position. Though, a lot of the time Noah is trailing the play and ends up being the passer from the top of the high-low offense (Traditionally of 4-man’s role). Think about having a healthy Lopez alongside /Joakim Noah or Taj Gibson in the Bulls front court. They would be tough to score on and tough to stop offensively. Not likely, but possible. (Estimated salary for 2012-2013: $8-12 mil)

Ryan Anderson- Likely to stay in Orlando but after his breakout season.  Because he had a great year he will get lots of interest across the league.  I think he is a nice fit for what Orlando does. They have a big guy in Dwight Howard that demands a double team (when interested) which opens up the floor for 3-point shooting. Anderson could open up the floor for the Bulls and could be dangerous in a pick and pop type set used by a lot of other NBA teams. He could repeat what he did for the Magic this year, but I think he also has bust potential on a different team. It would be a risky move and I don’t like it. (Estimated salary for 2012-2013: $3-5 mil)

Ersan Ilyasova- Who? Ilyasova has emerged as a pretty good big man for a decent Milwaukee team.  The Bucks relied on him to provide big minutes at the PF postion. He averaged 13 points and 8 rebounds per game which would be a nice thing to have from a backup. He is a pretty good shooter and extremely active on the glass. He had a 29 point 25 rebound game earlier this year. He could be affordable and is versatile enough to be a good fit for the Bulls.  He could fill a back-up role to Taj Gibson if they can get him for a reasonable price ($7 mil/3 yrs). (Good call by my friend @KMBoxa ) (Estimated salary for 2012-2013: $3-6 mil)

J.J. Hickson- J.J. is still young and athletic.  I think he has a chance to be a contributor on a quality team.  He seemed to be unmotivated and absolutely sucked for the Kings.  Played ok for the Blazers as the season was lost for them as well.  I think being on a contender makes everyone want to play hard (except Andrew Bynum). I think a bunch of GMs have soured on him as a prospect but I think some team is going to get him as a major contributor for a small price. Why not the Bulls?  Hickson would be a cheap addition that Thibs could use for big man depth. (Estimated salary for 2012-2013: $3-4 mil)

Draft Pick Possibility

Draymond Green (Michigan State) – Green’s game might not translate perfectly into the NBA but with a late pick the Bulls could get a smart big guy that will play his ass off for coach Thibs. I think he could contribute as a back-up immediately and at the 29th pick in the draft that is all you could really be hoping for.  Draymond is a good jump shooter and passer. I think he could be a guy that has a 10 year career as serviceable big man in the NBA.

Conclusion of a story and possibilities that might mean nothing

Derrick Rose is the key.  If he is able to come back healthy and be himself, the Bulls will have a chance to contend for a championship.  However, tearing an ACL is not the easiest thing to come back from.  I know athletes have come back from ACL tears but how many of them play like Derrick Rose?  He is fast, agile, and relies on his ability to cut and change directions.  I don’t know if he will ever have that back. That notion makes me said. But, it is true.  According to his doctor this should not be a concern physically. But, often the problem when coming back from injuries, is the mental aspect of attacking. Players get worried about hurting themselves again. This worries me.  It truly is up to Rose if the Bulls can win a championship. I guess we will see.

Kings vs. Lakers 2002 Rigged Game

That Grantland story just opened up a can of bitter emotions.  If you have ever watched an NBA game and thought, “This game is rigged”. You may be correct.  David Stern is capable just ask  Tim Donaghy. I don’t have to write much about this game.  The video will do most of the explaining. I was Kings fan at the time (I could only root for the Jalen Rose/Marcus Fizer led Bulls to a certain extent).  This game almost made me disown my parents when they kept telling me, “There’s always next year” or “It’s just a game” or “Bojan, put that knife down”.  I will just let you watch this travesty and imagine being a fan. Imagine being devastated.  Imagine being a poor youth with a broken heart. Imagine being Lawrence Funderburke flying through after being clobbered by Shaq, with no whistle blown.  Even Ralph Nader was outraged. The footage is coupled with a Coldplay song…sorry. I hope this doesn’t ruin this beautiful Thursday afternoon.  Enjoy, I guess.

Who Will Win the 2012 NBA Championship? – My NBA Playoffs Post

Here is my NBA breakdown for the 2012 playoffs.  This is my favorite time of the year.  Lots of late nights watching basketball.  Being sleepy at work.  I am excited because of the interesting match-ups in the first round in the Eastern and Western Conference brackets.  I am also excited for this year more than last because I think my team has enough to win it all. My pick to win the championship are the Chicago Bulls.  Read on to find out why.  Enjoy.

As I have said in the past, DO NOT use my opinion to gamble and then come back and be all winey about it.  “Waaah! Waaah! I lost my mortgage payment because of you!” “My kid is going to have crooked teeth because we can’t afford the braces!”  Joking about gambling is not funny, I know. Sorry.

Ok, with that now out of the way I can get to what I really love, writing aimlessly about sports.

Western Conference Playoffs

Favorite: Oklahoma City Thunder

Dark Horse: San Antonio Spurs

It’s Possible:  Los Angeles Lakers

#1 – San Antonio Spurs:  Tony Parker is quietly having an MVP type season.  It may surprise some that Parker is only 29 years old.  (It feels like he might be 39) This team was written off at the beginning of the year by “experts” because of their age (Ranked 12th by The Bleacher Report Preseason).  What people didn’t realize is that they have been drafting really well. (Leonard, Blair, Splitter) These aren’t stars because it is difficult to draft stars late in drafts but they are solid contributors. They are also getting major contributions from guys like Gary Neal and Danny Green.  They are always scary in the playoffs because of their experience. However, this is not your father’s Spurs team. They are 2nd in scoring at 103.2 points per game.  The last few years they have been tarnishing their reputation for being a great defensive team.  They are out scoring people now.  Those old legs can’t move and stay in front of people.  My concern about this team is that I don’t know if they have someone down the stretch who can take over like Ginobili used to be able to do.  I think every team needs that in the NBA to win a championship.  Utah is a decent team but I think they will get swept.  I still think they will go deep into the playoffs.

Season Outcome: Lose to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Finals.

Preseason Predictions for the 2012 NBA Season

#2 Oklahoma City Thunder: Kevin Durant is the best scorer in the league.  He is one of the best scorers I have ever seen (Just won his 3rd scoring title in a row).  Russell Westbrook gets a lot of criticism for the amount of shooting he does as a point guard but that is what makes this team dangerous.  They can really fill it up from different positions.  The difference maker on this team is James Harden.  He has emerged as the 6th man of the year and can go off for 20-30 points in any game.  This team is scary on offense and has Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins holding down the inside on the defensive end.  They will get their revenge on the Mavericks from last year.  They will get zoned by the Mavs but I don’t think Dallas can score enough this season to beat the Thunder again. OKC is my pick out of the West.

Season Outcome:  Lose to the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Championship.

( This felt very similar to this…)

#3 Los Angeles Lakers:  How good is Kobe Bryant going to be after missing a significant amount of time?  That is really the difference between them competing for a championship or not.  Ramon Sessions was a great pick-up at the trade deadline.  He gives them a true point guard that can create and also score when needed.  Believe it or not, I think this Metta World Peace (I will refer to him as Artest) suspension is going to hurt them.  Artest has been playing really well in March and April.  Something that might help the Lakers in the first round is their opponent.  The Denver Nuggets are a “team” with no standout stars that Artest would need to lock down.  Andrew Bynum, though an immature human being (see my Blake Griffin article to see his reaction to a teammate getting yoked on), has evolved into the best (healthy) center in the league. He goes through stretches where he dominates the game.  I think they will beat the Nuggets and challenge the Thunder but that is all, challenge them.  I think this is still a dangerous team if Kobe is healthy. He can still play.

Season Outcome: Lose to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2nd round.

#4 Memphis Grizzlies:  It makes no sense that this is the 4th best team in the West.  Rudy Gay has been great averaging about 19 points per game and Marc Gasol has turned himself into a real player (not just Pau’s chubby little brother).  Zach Randolph has only played 27 games for the entire season.   He is just trying to get back into playing shape which is not that easy for a guy who is already not great with his conditioning.  I think they are playing the team that poses the most match-up problems in the Clippers.  I don’t know if they can guard them at any position.  I think it can be a long series but I like the Clippers to win in 6 games.

Season Outcome:  Lose to the Clippers in the 1st round. (My first upset, yeah!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#5 Los Angeles Clippers:  The Clippers are actually a legit basketball franchise.  I never thought I would ever type that. Not only are they legitimate, they are extremely popular.  The L.A. Del Negros have been shown on national TV 35 times this season and have been the talk of many sports and NBA columnists/analysts.  The Clippers have had an up and down season and at one point Vinny almost lost his job.  I think they are a dangerous team in the West capable of beating anyone.  If I take an unbiased look at Chris Paul, he is the best point guard in the league. He has unbelievable vision and feel for the game.  Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan get so many easy buckets because of Chris Paul.  When they get 12-15 points from Mo Williams or Caron Butler they are really hard to beat. However, their problem has been consistency.  Can they win 4 games against 4 different teams?  I don’t think so.

Season Outcome:  Lose to the San Antonio Spurs in the 2nd round.

#6 Denver Nuggets: How are the Nuggets good?  I don’t know. They have no stars, no explosive scoring, and they traded away their best player at the trade deadline (Nene). After everything George Karl has been through in the last year concerning his health, I can’t help but pull for the Nuggets to do well. I think he should be in consideration for Coach of the Year. If you look at their starting line-up and compare that to the Lakers, it looks like this should be a sweep. It won’t be.  Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari have led this team for most of the season and they possess a great defender/sing player in Aaron Afflalo who gives Kobe trouble.  I love their grit and ability to just win games and beat teams they should beat.  Their match-up against the Lakers could be a 7 game series.

Season Outcome:  Lose to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1st round.

#7 Dallas Mavericks:  The Mavs won the championship last year and I think they just laid around all summer and ate hot dogs by their respective pools.  They lost their edge and it all starts with Dirk. He is not scoring like he did last year (from 28 ppg to 21ppg) and on top of that he doesn’t have much help. They lost their toughness when Tyson Chandler and DeShawn Stephenson both left the team.  They were expecting some help from Lamar Odom which obviously didn’t work (Kardashians are bad for athletes)(Possibly story to come). This is not the same team as last year.  I think they will still steal a game or two from the Thunder but then lose.  They are lucky they won it last year because that roster is old. Really old (8 guys over 30 yrs old). I don’t think they will be back for a while. Poor Mark Cuban.

Season Outcome: Lose to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 1st round.

#8 Utah Jazz:  Their two big guys Al “Devil Eyes” Jefferson and Paul Millsap are a little undersized at the 4 and 5 spots but boy are they talented.  Gordon Hayward has come on strong in the last month of the season.  Devin Harris is finally out of a year and half funk.  I love the way that they share the basketball and think they could have a bright future if they can keep this group intact and try to add a guard that can score.  They suffer when they have to go to their bench and don’t really have a go-to scorer down the stretch.  I think they can steal a game from the Spurs in the first round, but that’s about it.

Season Outcome:  Lose to the San Antonio Spurs in the 1st round.

Eastern Conference Playoffs

Favorite: Chicago Bulls

Dark Horse: Miami Heat

It’s Possible: Boston Celtics

#1 Chicago Bulls: This was supposed to be the year. They needed a second scorer that can create his own shot and they got Richard Hamilton.  He has only played for 28 games. They needed a healthy and productive Carlos Boozer.  He is the only starter to play in every game this season, but still is not as productive as Bulls fans want him to be. I just want to see him finish at the rim against a good defender.  I won’t hold my breath. Most of all, they needed Derrick Rose to take that next step in his game.  He has not.  He has missed 27 games this season with a variety of injuries. Many of these injuries are limiting his ability to attack the rim, which is the thing he does best.  He must finish games more efficiently.  He needs to be their closer, which is still a part of his game he can improve in.

They haven’t played together for an extended amount of games at all this season.  This worries me about my Bulls. However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Kyle Korver.  I did not make a mistake there. I mean it. He is playing with a lot of confidence and shooting the ball extremely well.  He spreads out defenses and allows for the rest of the offense to have some space to operate (He did not do this in the Eastern Conference Finals last year and it killed the Bulls).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bulls bench might be the best I have ever seen.  Taj Gibson, Ronnie Brewer, Omer Asik, C.J. Watson, along with Korver have been awesome. They are the #1 seed for the second year in a row and will have to play the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round.  The 76ers have given the Bulls problems in the past but have been playing horribly as of late. I like the Bulls to sweep or win in 5. I would hate for them to go into the playoffs without much chemistry and play poorly because of it.  That would be a shame and a waste of a very talented team. I do not think this will happen. They are deepest team in the playoffs and they play the hardest. They are well coached and I think have enough this time around to defeat the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.  (I will write more about that when the time comes)  Then go on to beat the Thunder in a very entertaining series. (Also, more to come)

Season Outcome: Win the NBA championship by beating the Oklahoma City Thunder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

( I want this to be Derrick, not LeBron )

#2 Miami Heat:  This team is still a mystery to me.  I have seen them at times this year look unbeatable. LeBron James is the best player in the league and should be the MVP.  Charles Barkley said recently that if the Heat win it all, it will be on the back of LeBron James. I agree. Wade still has the ability to take over, but is starting to wear down.  Bosh is a nice player that can get hot but he is not a star.  Their bench is terrible and they still don’t have a great front line. Defensively they cause people fits because of their activity and athleticism. They led the league in forced turnovers and points in transition. To beat them, you have to take care of the basketball and limit their transition game.  I think that the Knicks will give Miami some trouble. Carmelo has been on a tear and I love Iman Shumpert on Dwayne Wade.  This could be a long series.  I still like the Heat to win it but don’t be surprised if there are several close games that make those people in South Beach squirm (I would never be able to squirm in South Beach, I would get far too sweaty). All of the pressure is all on them again.  They folded last year. To end their season they will run into a deeper, better Bulls team. The Bulls/Heat rivalry is becoming must watch basketball.  Here’s to hoping for a long, competitive series that the Bulls win.

Season Outcome: Lose in Eastern Conference Championship to the Chicago Bulls

( Awesome hands and a great athlete )

#3 Indiana Pacers:  I am slightly uneasy about admitting that I like what the Pacers have done with their roster these last couple of years after ripping them for being terrible for so many years.  That being said, they don’t really have a standout player.  Danny Granger has taken a step back in his development but is still their most talented player. Roy Hibbert was an All-Star which still surprises me because every time I watch him he looks like he has two 35 sized left feet and tennis rackets for hands. David West was a great pickup after no one really wanted him. He is a huge upgrade from Tyler Hansbrough.  Paul George and George Hill are nice players as well. I can see Paul George turning into a Luol Deng type of two-way player in the future. I like his game a lot. I know people in Indy are really excited about getting home court advantage and playing the Orlando Magic in the first round but, this is not the year. They don’t have enough fire power to beat the Bulls or Heat.

Season Outcome: Lose to the Miami Heat in the 2nd round

(Yes…I know and I don’t care)

#4 Boston Celtics: Really? Again?  Yes!  This Boston team came out of nowhere to have a great second half of the season.  They are aging but it seems like Paul Piece and Kevin Garnett were just playing dead in January.  Rajon Rando is such an amazing passer at the point.  He struggles to score but just makes things happen on the offensive end.  He has also improved on defense as his career has gone on and gets his hands on so many passes.  Avery Bradley has been a nice surprise as a wing, slasher that defends.  I feel like they can plug anyone into a supporting role at any position and they will flourish in Boston.  I am as surprised as anyone that this team is playing this well and did not blow itself up at the trade deadline.  I guess they have one more run in them and then the buzzards will come peck away at their bones this summer. I am not sure what to expect from this series against a pesky Atlanta Hawks team.  If Josh Smith starts shooting jump shots, Celtics will win.  That is my best analysis.

Season Outcome: Lose to the Chicago Bulls in the 2nd round.

#5 Atlanta Heat:  They have played really well this entire year led by Joe Johnson (criminally over-paid, so glad the Bulls did not go after him) and Josh Smith (Stop shooting that 15 footer dude!).  They have had overcome the injury to Al Horford.  Their first round series is actually a pretty good match-up.  Neither team really relies on their inside game and are both primarily guard oriented.  I feel bad for the Hawks but I think they are stuck under a giant contract (Johnson) which hand-cuffs their ability to add any more talent in free-agency.  They will be a 3-7 seed in the Eastern Conference for years to come, but will not be a top team or a championship contender.

Season Outcome:  Lose to the Boston Celtics in the 1st round.

( This is how J-Smoove needs to play )

#6 Orlando Magic: This has become a mess.  Reality show style train wreck.  I would watch a Stan Van show.  I can imagine him eating a lot of pastrami sandwiches and yelling at J.J. Reddick.  Well, let’s talk about the basketball.  This team lives and dies by the 3 point shot. I saw them play the Bulls this year and look unbelievable.  They hit eleven 3’s and shot 50% from the field.  I heard people rumbling that they will have a chance to win it all.  Then a week and a half later they played the Bulls again and scored 59 total points.  They are dangerous but only if they are making shots.  A lot of shots.  I hate what Dwight Howard has done to this team. He has made this whole franchise about him.  I dislike the way that went down.  But, they have to move on without him.  Glen Davis has filled in nicely and they have Most-Improved Player of the Year candidate Ryan Anderson.  I still think they will lose in the first round to the Pacers, possibly badly.

Season Outcome: Lose to the Indiana Pacers in the 1st  round.

( Hahahahahaha )

#7 New York Knicks: The Knicks are so much better when it is the Carmelo show.  Carmelo is so much better when he doesn’t have to worry about passing… ever.  Ever. Also, I don’t know how Mike D’Antoni can get a job after his most recent mis-adventure.  He doesn’t worry about defense and defense is needed to win consistently.  I am really happy the Bulls didn’t end up with him.  Melo has been playing some defense under Mike Woodson and they are getting results because of it.  I think Tyson Chandler has been the unsung hero of this team and an anchor of that defense along with Iman Shumpert (mentioned above) that has helped them turn the season around.  I just think they have a few too many gunners to possibly upset the Heat.  This will be a tough series. Probably 6 or 7 games.

Season Outcome: Lose in a tough 1st round series to the Miami Heat.

#8 Philadelphia 76ers: This team started the season with a lot of promise and then slowly withered away.  They are young and I think hit a wall.  If the season was 5 games longer the Bulls would be playing the Milwaukee Bucks.  They have some young talent like Evan Turner, Jrue Holiday and Thaddeus Young that will be very good.  Just not yet.  I think they over-achieved to start the season and then got exhausted. Hopefully Evan Turner keeps his mouth shut this time around against Rose. One of these two players got waaaaaay better since the last time he talked bad about Derrick.  I think they are a nice young team but I don’t think they can scare the Bulls.

Season Outcome: Lose in the 1st round to the Chicago Bulls

(Punk)

In conclusion, I have to tell you that I am a Bulls fan. But, I actually think they will win the championship.  I hope I’m correct.  If you are interested in reading my NBA thoughts throughout the playoffs follow me @bojansayspotato .