by Trevor Freeman
The time between the end of the NCAA Tournament and the beginning of the NBA playoffs has felt longer than usual, but maybe that is because I cannot remember an NBA postseason that had more riveting subplots. KG out. LeBron versus Kobe shaping up as a Finals possibility. Genuine sleepers led by superstars like Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul sitting on the lower half of the seeding table. There are tasty first-round matchups up and down the bracket. With the playoffs gearing up, we decided to wade into the fray and breakdown the postseason. Without further ado, here is our rankings beginning at sixteen and rolling through to our championship favorite.
No Chance of Winning A Round
If Detroit does not land a marquee free agent with the money they saved by trading Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson then that trade goes down as being disastrous. If Detroit keeps Billups, they probably win over 50 games and stand as a threat to win the East.
Looking back on it, winning that bidding war for Elton Brand against the Los Angeles Clippers is a lot like winning a used car and then watching the transmission fall apart within two months of owning it.
I like Utah and I believe the Jazz will be a heavy contender next season if Carlos Boozer stays and everybody remains healthy. However, Utah has the Lakers in the first round and that means they are going out early.
San Antonio will not make the NBA Finals, but they will also not lose to Dallas in the first round the playoffs. Book it.
We are only one year away from adding Derrick Rose into the discussion of best point guard in the NBA. I love this Chicago team. As long as they do not do anything stupid, they have a young core that will compete for years in the Eastern Conference.
In two seasons the Hawks have gone from complete league embarrassment to respectable ballclub. Their matchup with Miami is the most compelling of the first round. That being said, I cannot pull the lever for them in that matchup. I see it going seven. I just see Dwyane putting a double-nickel on the board in that seventh game.
I love the Portland roster, but I feel like this team is one year away. Their matchup with Houston is very tricky as I see Artest and Battier locking down Brandon Roy and Rudy Fernandez. Portland has a lot to look forward to as I think next season will be the year that Greg Oden busts out.
Would Not Want To Play
9. New Orleans
The matchup with Denver is my second favorite matchup of the first round. I worry that Peja Stojakovic and Tyson Chandler are not right though and if that is the case, I cannot take them over a Denver team that has quietly hummed along this entire season.
Nobody is talking about the Nuggets but they finished with the second seed in the West. Chauncey Billups would make my MVP ballot as he was incredible in pulling this team together. “Mr. Big Shot” and Carmelo give this team a nice 1-2 punch. I think they beat the Hornets and give the Spurs all they want in the Western Conference semifinals.
I think Miami is the matchup that Cleveland should worry most about in the East. Dwyane Wade can win a series by himself and already has a history of carrying a team to an NBA Championship. The Heat also unleashed Michael Beasley over the last week of the season. Beasley quietly put some big numbers on the board in that week and I think he is looming as a postseason X-factor.
Not Quite Ready Yet
I love the Rockets. I am completely on the “They are better without Tracy McGrady” bandwagon. I thought the move to jettison Rafer Alston so they could start Aaron Brooks was brilliant. I believe that Houston is a bad matchup for Los Angeles because of the Ron Artest/Shane Battier mugging Kobe Bryant factor. Unfortunately, I just do not think Houston has enough to get through Los Angeles in Round Two.
Wounded but Dangerous
This team still misses Jameer Nelson and it will show up in the playoffs. Nelson was the one guy who could create his own shot with the clock winding down. In close games, Orlando will have problems getting clutch buckets. Boston has enough to beat Orlando even without KG.
Even without KG, I anticipate Boston will go down swinging. Despite their loss today to Chicago, I believe the Celtics will find a way to beat both the Bulls and the Magic. Never underestimate the heart of a champion. Cleveland will win the East but it will be earned.
3. San Antonio
Without Manu Ginobili, I cannot see the Spurs beating the Lakers in a seven-game series. However, I do see this team dismissing Dallas in quick fashion (Tony Parker is going to absolutely eat Jason Kidd’s lunch) and then beating Denver in a seven-game thriller.
It’s been LeBron’s season………
1. Los Angeles Lakers
…..however the postseason is going to be about Kobe and the Lakers. As good as Kobe is, I think the difference against Cleveland will be Pau Gasol. The Cavaliers have nobody who can guard Gasol. Pau should be able to average a 25-12 in that series.