Cousin Alex’s 3rd Annual NBA Playoff Preview

Apr 17, 2014 by

The race for this year’s NBA Title is more open than usual this year as the room for error with the league’s elite is not what is has been. I have a weird feeling something surprising is going to happen in the playoffs this year – maybe a shocking first round upset or an unexpected team makes it to a conference final. NCAA coaches proclaimed a month ago – “the tournament comes down to matchups.” The NBA is actually like the NCAA this year – I am guessing the Spurs would like to see the Thunder get taken out in the first or second round and the Heat might not be too excited to play the Nets during the playoffs as say maybe the Raptors. Thank you for taking time to read the article, I hope you enjoy it and please make sure you watch the best basketball on the planet over the next couple of months – the NBA Playoffs!

I have personally ranked the teams from least likely to most likely to make the NBA Finals. Each team’s actual seed is also listed.

Eastern Conference – The Little Sisters of the Poor Conference

8 – Atlanta Hawks (Actual Seed – 8)

Some team in the East had to “earn” this last playoff spot. A few weeks ago the Hawks did go into Indiana and absolutely destroyed them, but I do not see the Hawks doing that in the playoffs and their postseason stay should be nothing much more than a week. I am just happy my Milwaukee Bucks are not the 8 seed and will get a nice draft pick this year. Plus, we have new owners and good potential for a new arena…I can feel the turnaround coming Milwaukee!

7 – Charlotte Bobcats (Actual Seed – 7)

Al Jefferson (22.0 ppg, 10.8 rpg) has had an excellent offensive season and leads this young squad into uncharted waters – the Playoffs! Yes, a Michael Jordan lead front office is in the playoffs – about time… Anyways, unless Kemba Walker can inner channel his UConn days and then some…enjoy your first round opponent who just may be the two-time defending champions.

6 – Washington Wizards (Actual Seed – 5)

The Wizards possess an extremely bright future with John Wall and Bradley Beal leading their backcourt. This team has quality balance with five players averaging 13+ ppg. Do not overlook Marcin Gortat’s season (13.2 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 1.5 bpg) along with his defensive presence in the paint. I do not believe they will generate enough easy baskets to make a deep playoff run, but it would not completely surprise me if they upset Chicago in the first round.

5 – Toronto Raptors (Actual Seed – 3)

Our friends north of the border have had a solid season and not many of the experts envisioned the Raptors to win 48 games and snag the 3 seed. Odds are you have not seen much of DeMar DeRozan or Kyle Lowry play this season, but these rising stars can compete at a high level. Toronto is an average offensive team (13th scoring ppg) and a good defensive team (7th ppg allowed). I slightly favor the Raptors in the first round vs. Brooklyn, but I believe Brooklyn has a slightly better chance to upset the Heat in round two if they beat the Raptors in round one – although no matter who wins the opening series, the winner will be ‘gone fishin’ with Sir Charles once they meet up with the Heat.

4 – Chicago Bulls (Actual Seed – 4)

Coach Thibodeau is one of the best in the game. D-Rose gets injured again and the Bulls front office trade away their leading scorer in Luol Dang. With a shaky relationship with the front office, Coach Thibs basically gave them the bird and said, “Oh, that’s fine front office if you want to trade our leading scorer, we’ll start winning even more games,” – no tanking for Thibs. Lead by the emotional Joakim Noah, the Bulls give up the fewest ppg in the league at 91.8 points. The problem – they score the fewest ppg in the league at a 93.8 clip. D.J. Augustin (14.9 ppg) leads this team in scoring…exactly…they are not a true serious threat to the Heat or Pacers.

3 – Brooklyn Nets (Actual Seed – 6)

The Nets are the X-factor in the East. I am not sure anyone honestly knows what to expect from them – they could lose in the first round but also have enough talent and experience to give the Heat or Pacers legit problems. They have been one of the league’s best teams since the New Year, but the reality is Brooklyn is poor on the road (16-25) and being the 6 seed they are extremely unlikely to have home court advantage in any series. KG has not done much this season (understatement), but he should be rested and able to contribute big time defense in the half court when the game slows down in the playoffs.

2 – Indiana Pacers (Actual Seed – 1)

Just like the Nets, I am unsure anyone knows which Pacers team will come to play in these playoffs. I do not remember a team being so dominant in the first half of the season and average in the second half. Indiana does play phenomenal defense as their opponents shoot a league low 42.0% from the field and they rank 2nd in ppg allowed at 92.4. A focused Paul George on and OFF the court, great defense and rebounding, mental toughness, along with consistent offensive chemistry are all needed to make a run to the NBA Finals and get redemption against the guys from South Beach.

1 – Miami Heat (Actual Seed – 2)

They are the two-time defending champs and deserve to be the favorite to win it all once again – Vegas agrees. The Heat rank dead last in rebounding this year…they did last year as well…so this should not serve as a red flag. Miami is getting more steals this year than last year and they rank 2nd in the league with 8.9 spg. Their total defense (points allowed and field goal %) has regressed a little from last year and with Wade’s health such an ongoing question mark, their room for error this year has shrunk. BUT they do have the 4-time MVP playing efficient ball and hungry for a Jordan-esque 3 peat.
Barring any serious injuries, I will take the Heat over the Pacers in six games in the Eastern Conference Finals. Hopefully I am wrong and the Heat do not make it back to the Finals.

The Western Conference – The Grown Man’s League

8 – Dallas Mavericks (Actual Seed – 8)

14+ years ago my family named our new dog, Carter, after Vince Carter – and although the family dog is now basically deaf, both Carter’s are still going strong! Plus, the German just keeps on doing his thing…what a career Dirk has put together! Many experts doubted the off season signing of Monta Ellis, but it has worked out well. With that being said, I do not think Moneybags Cuban should be too excited headed into this postseason…up first – the San Antonio Spurs…put away the champagne and Cuban cigars Mark.

7 – Golden State Warriors (Actual Seed – 6)

People questioning Mark Jackson’s coaching boggles my mind – they won 51/51 games in a loaded Western conference while some key components missed considerable time due to injury throughout the season. The Warriors rank 10th in scoring, 5th in rebounding, 7th in assists, and 8th in defensive scoring. They are a really good team, but I just do not see them winning four games vs. the LA Clippers and Doc, especially now that Andrew Bogut is likely to miss at least the first round. With that being said, they are a wild card team that no one would like to play – that Stephen Curry dude is kind of good…

6 – Portland Trailblazers (Actual Seed – 5)

Portland is the #1 rebounding team in the NBA and they score the 3rd most ppg. They give up the 22nd most ppg, although this is partly due to their style of play – they actually rank 11th in defensive field goal percentage. The first round matchup vs. Houston has the potential to be the best first round series, with both teams having the same strengths. The Trailblazers have had a nice season but they do not have the playoff experience needed to represent the West.

5 – Memphis Grizzlies (Actual Seed – 7)

The Grizzlies hovered around .500 for much of the season, but got healthy, adopted to their new coach, acquired Courtney Lee, and cranked it up a notch. Memphis plays legit defense – 3rd in defensive ppg, 9th in defensive field goal percentage, and they give up the 4th fewest assists per game. The issue is their inability to score at times. I cannot see them beating a healthy OKC four times, but they are on a roll and have the experience to shock the naysayers.

4 – Houston Rockets (Actual Seed – 4)

As mentioned, the Rockets are extremely similar to their first round opponent – Portland. They are solid on the boards ranking 4th in the NBA. Houston plays at a fast tempo so do not let their 23rd rank in defensive ppg suggest they are bad on defense because they are 6th in defensive field goal percentage. I expect them to win a tough first round series vs. Portland but in order for Coach McHale to lead the Rockets to the NBA Finals, Harden and Howard will need to reach even higher levels. Chandler Parsons will also need to heat up from 3 as well.

3 – Los Angeles Clippers (Actual Seed – 3)

If there is a regular season ticket worth the price of admission, the Clippers are it – They are exciting and might have reached 1,000 alley-oops this season… Like most people, I have my doubts about this team’s half court offense during the playoffs, but one of these years they are going to make a surprise run to the NBA Finals…just do not like them taking down the Warriors, Thunder and the Spurs this year. If they do make it they will have definitely earned it. Having Doc on the sidelines only helps their chances.

T-1 – San Antonio Spurs (Actual Seed – 1)

This aged bottle of wine continues to only get better with time…Duncan, Parker, Ginobili, Pop, Green, Kawhi Leonard (Can Barkley properly announce his name now?) The Spurs rank #1 in assists per game. They score the 6th most ppg while giving up the 6th fewest ppg – that seems like a pretty good formula for success to me. Something not to overlook is their ability to win on the road – 30-11 this season. Yes, they have home court advantage, but something not to overlook is their ability to win on the road – (30–11) this season. Will they get their deserved rematch vs. the Heat?

T-1 – Oklahoma City Thunder (Actual Seed – 2)

OKC has the best player in the NBA this year…(insert Lebron fan whining here). Durant has elevated his game to unbelievable new heights this year (31.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 5.5 apg). Reggie Jackson has had a nice little breakout season adding quickness and scoring. Can Caron Butler be the difference in a game or two? If Westbrook stays healthy, this just might be the year OKC wins it all.

If OKC and the Spurs meet in the Western Conference Finals, I will roll with the Thunder. But in my mind the Spurs have an easier route to get there and I would favor them over any other Western conference team. Heads – Spurs ; Tails – OKC
NBA Finals Prediction

I will take the Los Angeles Lakers over the New York Knicks in six games…too soon?

*Please note a couple stats might be a tenth off since this article was completed before some games ended on 4/16/14 and before stats were finalized.

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