NBA Finals – Not A Lock

26 02 2008

Latest in the NBA Finals series – by Matt from Hardwood Paroxysm. Worth noting that at the time of writing this, the blockbuster trade with Ben Wallace going to the Cavs had not happened…

Eastern Conference
The East is essentially a two-team race, as per usual. There are two contenders, four pretenders, and two pieces of fodder (whoever gets the 7th and 8th seed. There will be no Warriors-Mavericks here).

Pretenders
Washington: Even with Zero and a healthy Caron, they just don’t have the consistent shooters or inside presence to get past the top two. They could make a game out of it if they hit the playoffs on all cylinders, but odds are high that they’ll end up in the dreaded 4-5 matchup.

Will LeBron need comforting this year?Cleveland: We know he went to the Finals last year. We know how amazing he’s been this year. But he won’t have a cakewalk Washington team without Caron and Zero in the first round, nor an inferior Nets team in the second. And while Hughes has been shooting better, it’s unlikely to hold. Throw in the injury to Varejao, putting more stressload on Z, and it’s unlikely they’ll have the umph to get to the ECF again this season. (Note: We reserve the right to pull the “You can’t predict LeBron” card.)

Toronto: IF Bosh can stay healthy, and IF TJ can provide valuable minutes, and IF Calderon can keep up his pace, and IF Kapono can find his shot, and IF their perimeter defense can improve to human levels, and IF Bargnani can have a few takeover games… they might push Pistons/Celtics to six games. Maybe.

Orlando: Such potential. But unless Rashard Lewis goes ballistic and their point guard situation gets resolved, they just don’t have the bench they need. Hedo and Dwight are good for 2 to 3 wins, but getting the fourth will be hard. This is a good team, and we think they’ll work out the shakes by playoff time and win their first round easy. However, it takes a special combination to beat either of the East’s Big Two. You have to have tremendous depth and a superstar that can take over a game. While Dwight is a special player, he hasn’t hit “takevoer” level yet, and it’s hard to when you’re a center. We think they can push either of the Big 2 if they get a series of things to go their way, but they’re not there. Yet.

The Big Two
Boston: Size. (Suprising) Depth. Speed. Superstar talent. An almost unhealthy Will Boston be able to bring something new to the Garden other than just dancers?commitment to winning. Swagger. And for all of that? Zero championship experience (unless you count James Posey, which we don’t). There’s no denying the Celtics have been one of, if not the, best teams in the NBA this season. They’re undefeated against the West. They have the best record. So why is it we all have reservations about just crowning their asses? Because we’re not entirely convinced they can pull it off in a seven game series. There’s no question they’ll be in the ECF. And as long as they’re healthy, there’s little doubt that series will go at least 6 six games. It’ll be interesting to see if the young guns can maintain their focus and form under the pressure of playoff-quality defense. And we’ll be the first ones to say it. Everyone does remember that KG has never been to the Finals, right?

Detroit: Old Reliable. Tried and trusted. Like a rock. There’s no reason to doubt that the Pistons will get back to the Finals except… not going back to the finals in the past three years. We like the new Pistons. There have been subtle changes in this year’s crew, a more wide open offense, a little more fun, some new young studs. In the end, it’ll come down to Rasheed, Billups, and Hamilton, as it always does. The inevitable series with Boston should be one for the ages.

Western Conference
The exact opposite is the case in the Western Conference. There are six teams that are legitimate contenders to the Western Crown. We’ll go ahead and toss out whoever gets the seventh and eighth seed from the clusterf#*k. We like Houston and Denver, if you’re keeping track. But neither have what it takes to knock off the top seeds. Here’s the rest, in order of least likely to most likely to win the West.

Hornets: We love David West, and of course, CP3 is out of this world. We even think a healthy Peja can win you a few games and Chandler is a pivotal kog. But their bench is just too shallow. We wish you could win with just this level in the West, but you can’t. One -8 stretch in a playoff game can be the end.

Looking very, very goodJazz: We want to put them higher. We really do. But do we think they would have gotten past the Mavericks in last year’s playoffs? No. Great combination of talent. Terrific coaching. Decent size and excellent guard play. But the rest of the West just have more.

Spurs: Consider this the beggining of the “it wouldn’t surprise us at all to see them win” portion of the list. The Spurs look bad. Old. Out of shape. Tired. Running out of reliable options. But we’ve said that about them every year, haven’t we?

Lakers: The injuries are a real scare point. The Gasol trade looks genius, but it don’t mean a thing if Bynum can’t get back 100% before the Ides of March or if Kobe misses any significant time. Derek Fisher has been great for them, but he’s been strangely absent in big games. They can take the Suns or the Spurs, but the Mavs would give them fits, and the Jazz could sneak up on them. It’s not like their window is closing.

Suns: Will the big fella work out? We have no way of knowing and won’t know until the playoffs start. But we do know that they still have arguably the best pure point in the league, a tremendous scoring machine at power forward, a wily veteran in Grant Hill who is rejuvenated, and one of the fastest players on the planet in Barbosa. They have a great defender in Bell, and a promising young rookie point in Strawberry. If Shaq can go even 80%, they’re going to be scary dangerous.

Mavericks: Yes, we know they just traded the kitchen sink along with Avery Johnson’s What Cuban REALLY wants…teddy bear for Kidd. But the shift in responsibilities could work out really well for the Mavericks in the short-run. They’ve sacrificed their future, but they have Dirk, Josh Howard, Terry, Dampier, Bass, and now Kidd. They were a favorite of ours to win the title, and the Kidd traded didn’t effect anything negatively… this season.

Finals: Uh… Mavs over Pistons? We.. guess? The best part is that nothing is a lock. That’s refreshing. And interesting. And terrifying. Because if it’s LA versus Boston, we’re going to vomit out our eyes.

More up tomorrow – and Matt? Personally, I hope you get to vomit out your eyes…

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14 responses

26 02 2008
Wade

Where tf is the Heat?

27 02 2008
Dee

You might as well go ahead and put your “You can’t predict Lebron” card on the table (along with everyone else). We will make it to the EC Finals. You will see a rematch of the Cavs and Pistons…Mock my words 😉

27 02 2008
larryhughesisabull

Are you unaware that larry hughes and drew gooden got traded to the bulls? No mention of that in your article. If the cavs were just to remove larry hughes, and not get anyone in return, that would be addition by subtraction. Instead the cavs got back two former all stars, and some good role players.

27 02 2008
withmalice

In defense of the author (Matt)…

@Wade – roflmao…

@Dee – indeed: ‘mock your words’ – never a truer word spoken. Cavs make the ECs… LAUGH!

@larryhughesisabull – not too flash on reading comprehension, huh larry? Read the very first paragraph…

27 02 2008
fouledout

@ with malice
the western conference will pretty much be a rough battle. it’s gonna be a wild wild west come playoffs time. yao ming’s season ending injury leaves a little breathing room in the west.
in the eastern conference, i believe that detroit might win the conference title. the celtics is a great team, but i don’t think they have the x-factor for the playoffs. they have the talent in the big 3, but i’m not very confident with the roster depth. the celts also lack the playoffs experience which the pistons are very familiar with.

@ wade
the heat? come on man. haha!

27 02 2008
Dee

To With Malice…

Huh? I said the Cavs make the EC Finals. I don’t know what combat you’re trying to make with that statement, (Dee – indeed: ‘mock your words’ – never a truer word spoken. Cavs make the ECs… LAUGH!) nor why the author would need defending.

Like he said above…and I quote: “We reserve the right to pull the You can’t predict LeBron card.” I was just telling him and everyone else they might as well pull it out now!

27 02 2008
withmalice

My ‘defense’ comment was more aimed at the larry hughes comment…

Dee… respectfully, I think you mean “mark my words”… and on that – ‘comeback’ not ‘combat’… at least I think… I thought you were making a funny, so I laughed.
But fair enough – maybe you can explain how you have the Cavs getting past either Boston or Detroit. As I don’t see them doing that in a 7 game series…

27 02 2008
Dee

To funny 🙂 Sometimes I type a little too fast for my own good. Correction: “Mark my words.” I did, however, mean to put “combat”, but if you like the other word better…Fine! Either will do!

As for the Cavs getting past Boston or Detroit…I suppose I need to write an article on this one, as I’ve gotten a lot of gripe for saying it will be the Cavs vs the Pistons in the EC Finals.

Since I just had to write a quick read regarding our lost tonight against the Bucks and I’m about to shut down…I’ll write one detailing my assumptions about the Cavs getting to the Finals later and just post a comment or shoot you an email when its up.

27 02 2008
Steve

Wow, Houston just took a major hit with Yao Ming’s broken foot. He may not be ready for China in the Olympics…he’s a player China could not afford to lose.

27 02 2008
withmalice

Very doubtful he’s ready for Beijing…
And Dee – feel free to shoot me something in retort, as long as you don’t mind a lil’ bit of editing! 😉

28 02 2008
Aaron Becker

I wonder if China figured into Houston’s quick decision making process.

28 02 2008
FireDannyAinge

The Cavs beat the very same Pistons last year. Well that was my opinion until they thought Wally Sczerbiak would be an up grade over anyone.
Now I am hoping the Pistons will still be mad come playoff time about the way the Celtics acted after they won and make the Celtics pay in the playoffs.

28 02 2008
withmalice

I’m with you FDA, but I think that DMtShooter’s right in his piece – whoever comes out of the West wins it all…

1 03 2008
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