Sorry, everybody. No Worst of the Weekend today. I couldn't get to it. To be honest, I'm worn down, physically and psychologically. I took a little break from NBA basketball this weekend.

Here are some thoughts about all the playoff teams in both conferences.

The Pacers are going to be first round hors d'oeuvres. They might win one game, probably at home, if they get hot from downtown. But they are probably the most toothless of the playoff teams.

The Knicks can't play defense. Can't do it. Or won't do it. Or aren't coached to do it. Whatever the case, I trust their playoff hopes the way I'd trust a fat person to watch my candy bar.

Philly could put a scare into somebody -- either the Heat or Celtics -- because they play hard and they're well-coached. But I doubt they could expect to win more than one, maybe two games against the Heat. I could see them pushing Boston to seven games, tho'.

The Hawks. Oh, man. This team is very nearly the definition of mediocrity. Or maybe a wee little half-step above mediocrity. Last year's 53-win season was the apex for this group. They will never, ever make it past the second round. The only reason they're not a mortal lock for first round elimination this season is because of the Magic.

Orlando is just poorly constructed. Their best player, whom some people feel is the statistical MVP, can't hit free throws, keep his cool or be trusted with the ball in his hands in crunch time. If they want to win close games, they're going to have to trust Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu to get it done. That pretty much says it all.

It feels like the Celtics are washed up. That might be emotion talking. Or it might be the cold, hard facts. The talent's still there, for the most part, but their chemistry was destroyed by the Kendrick Perkins trade. That trade was the right move on paper. It was a savvy business decision made for long-term considerations. Put it this way, would the Celtics want to be paying Perk $8 million four years from now when Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen are gone (or just forgotten)? No. But it cost them what was probably their last shot at a title. They don't believe anymore. I don't care what they say to the contrary.

Much as I hate to say it, the Heat will probably win the East. I know Chicago is a popular pick right now, and, as picks go, the Bulls are a good one. They've been a better team, play better defense, have a better bench. They bring it every night. But the playoffs usually are about the best players. The bench becomes less important. Tom Thibodeau's defense has slowed down Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James...but can it slow down LeBron and D-Wade every night in a long playoff series? Could anybody's defense?

The Bulls have had an amazing season, all things considered. I mean, 60 wins despite a combined 60 games missed by Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah? This is a detemined, dedicated group of players. Unfortunately, I think their flaws are going to be exposed in the postseason. That's what tends to happen when the schedules even out and teams can devise new schemes on a game-by-game basis. Chicago's D is fantastic but their offense relies so heavily on Derrick Rose that slowing him down becomes the key to beating the Bulls (much like slowing down James was the key to beating the Cavaliers the last few seasons). They're going to throw constant double-teams at Rose and dare Luol Deng, Boozer, Noah and, yes, Keith Bogans to beat them. I predict a Heat-Bulls Eastern Conference Finals in which the scores will be hard-on-the-eyes low and the LeBron-Wade duo will trump the Rose uno. As a Bulls blogger, this pains me.

Out West, the Hornets and Grizzlies are fighting over seventh and eighth place. Not sure it matters which team gets seeded where. The Hornets are without David West and there's something wrong with Chris Paul. And the Grizzlies are the Grizzlies. To me, Memphis is to this season what Milwaukee was to last season. That fun, unexpected, kinda out-of-nowhere team that will get eliminated, enter next season with heightened expectations, and then fail. Assuming there is a next season. Insert pessimistic lockout comment here.

The Frail Blazers have played so well despite so many injuries. And they're 7-3 in their last 10 games. But I see their road record (18-22) and point differential (+1.7) and wonder how good they'll really be come playoff time. If they play Dallas in the first round, they should be in good shape. Otherwise...

Ah, Denver, such a good team since 'Melo got shipped to New York. So scrappy! You know, maybe I was wrong, maybe the Grizzlies aren't this year's Bucks. Maybe the Nuggets are. That seem more accurate. Right now this team is riding high on the Ewing Theory and the fact that nobody really knows what to expect from them. That last part will change in a playoff series. I have this nagging "first round elimination" vibe. Also a "they're not going to be nearly as good next season" vibe.

A few days ago, I read an article in which Kevin Durant remarked that people had sort of "forgotten" about him this season. This was in reference to the MVP race. It might be a reasonable complaint, considering he's leading the league in scoring and the Thunder have won 54 games so far. In fact, thanks to last night's win over the Lakers, they could still conceivable finish with the second seed in the Western Conference. The Thunder do indeed seem to be a little better this season than they were last year. What's hurting him is that the team's improvement seems to be as much Russell Westbrook's doing as Durant's. Anyway, their middle-of-the-pack defense (15th in D-Rating) doesn't give me that championship feeling. Maybe Perk changes that. Maybe he doesn't. I guess we'll see.

Despite their recent four-game losing streak, the Mavericks could still finish second in the West if they win out and the Spurs beat the Lakers this week. But, man, does anybody outside of Dallas trust this team? Heck, does anybody in Dallas trust this team? They've been a one-and-out wonder during three of the last four seasons and I haven't seen much lately to convince me they're built for an extended playoff run. Let me put it this way: I would be willing to bet the bottom four seeds are all hoping they get a shot at the Mavs in the first round.

The Lakers' mystifying season continues. They've lost five in a row for the first time since 2006-07. They've alternated all season between looking unbeatable and helpless. But my take is that they've just been losing focus here and there. They're going for a threepeat, and I don't think the average person, or even knowledgeable NBA fans, understands what kind of focus and effort that takes. Now that they're in jeaopardy of losing the second seed, I'm beting they win their final two games. Then they'll probably look a little sluggish in the first round and then pick up steam on their way to the NBA Finals.

I know the Spurs have had a fantastic season...but something doesn't feel right about this squad. Their defense isn't horrible (11th in D-Rating) and they have the league's second-best offense (111.9 points per 100 possessions). However, they aren't strong on the boards and it feels like a team that pressures their outside shooters and can protect the rim reasonably well will beat them. Actually, you know what? I think getting out on their shooters will be enough.

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36 Comments:
Blogger bsdrat said...
Great post.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
If your thoughts about the Bulls are on the spot, what do you think they need to get better next year to lessen Rose's workload ? A second star or better roleplayers?
Or can Rose get better so that doesn't matter anymore?

Also, will you write post about your full playoff prediction? I value your opinion to form my own. With less knowledge. And less feeling for the game. And less access to nba games on tv.

Anonymous JJ said...
Thanks for posting on an "off" day! I feel like all your thoughts are right on the money. I think Finals will be Lakers-Heat after all, barring unforeseen circumstances.

Few things I like to add:

Chris Paul - Needs to cut the crap and just get out already.

Celtics - I don't understand why a multi-billionaire owner would kill Championship hopes in order to save a few mil. You can always find ways to save a few mil. But, you can't always have a championship-caliber team. So, you never should close your window like that, especially when your core players are all 32+. Very disappointing.

Spurs - Obviously, Duncan's prime is long gone and I think he took the Spurs with him. They might remain a pretty good team, but I don't think they'll have that "can't leave the Spurs out of the championship mix" feel anytime soon.

Anonymous The Musty Man said...
So your pick for champ is... nobody? Celts are washed up, Orlando is poorly constructed, OKC plays middling defense, Chicago can't take the Heat in a seven game series, Portland barely wins games and is made of balsa wood, Dallas is a perennial pretender and will be a shocking first round upset in their six-game series against whoever, San Antonio is a year too late... oh !@#$, you're picking Miami, aren't you? Bawful!

Blogger Sturla said...
The Ewing Theory should be renamed as The Melo Theory.

The Theory never fitted around Ewing anyways. Even though he never won the big one, The Knicks went to the playoffs 13 out of his 15 seasons in the Big Apple and only twice failed to make it out of the first round. And his supporting cast sucked (besides the 1992 playoffs and 1996 playoffs, fuck you P.J. Brown!). Apart from that he led his Georgtown team three times to the NCAA championship game, winning it once.

Of course the Knicks have fared so well in the 11 seasons since trading him.

And Bill Simmons best example of his Ewing Theory: During the 1999 playoffs, when Ewing was 36! Of course he forgets to mention that they wouldn't have made it out of the first round without him.

Melo on the other hand has never one shit in the NBA (did take the NCAA title in 2003 though) and has only made it out of the first round once in seven treys. And of course the Nuggets have been sizzling since trading him.

Blogger Lord Kerrance said...
Sorry things are down, Bawful. Hope you feel better soon. Thanks for checking with an entertaining post -- we appreciate it!

Anonymous kazam92 said...
Oh great, the Basketbawful seal of approval for Miami to win the East. Sly reverse jinx there. Now we're doomed

Anon - I'd say just get Rose a competent SG.

Anonymous King Kong said...
I would love to see a Bulls-Thunder Finals, but I'm dreading a Heat-Laker one instead

I'm also dreading that the Heat beat the Lakers, since they seem like the worst matchup for them

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Bawful-Bawful, you're trying to put a reverse prediction curse on the Heat, favoring your Bullies and Hectics... It's really a half-assed argument against the Bullies from your side...

Anonymous Anonymous said...
The thing that intrigues me more than just the immediate playoffs, is the future of the Western conference.

The East for better or worse, is set with Chicago, Miami, New York, and Orlando or wherever Dwight goes after next year. The west however will see a ton of movement in 2 years.

The aging Spurs will fade a little bit as well as the aging Mavs. The Lakers, if they can keep the team together, will still be in the hunt probably, but will not be anything like the past 4 years. Kobe's knees will have endured 2 more postseasons and a reg season.

So what happens out West after that? Obviously the Thunder look great as long as their core is in tact. Who becomes that 3rd or 4th place team after the reg season that could challenge OKC or the Lakers? This of course assumes that Cuban really will let his team get worse for a few years. He said that he wanted no part of mediocrity, they were either going to be rebuilding or near the top of the west.

If current rosters stayed the way they are for a while, I say Portland could rise closer to the top of the conference... as well as, gulp, the Kings?

Any thoughts? And I know this assumes a lot, but it is realistic that these teams will fall off in a couple years I think.

Anonymous ivn said...
I wouldn't exactly call it half-assed...if Bawful didn't compare them to the past few Cavaliers teams I would have jumped in and done it for him. they're both top notch defensive teams with the fatal flaw of having their entire offense rely on one very talented guy to do most of the scoring AND set up his teammates. it's a formula good enough to carry you through the regular season, but can crumble against an opponent that buckles down and plays solid team defense over the course of a best of seven series. hell, both squads were even coached by a former highly-regarded assistant for a championship contender.

granted, I'd take Boozer, Deng, and Noah over anyone on those Cavs teams, but LeBron is also better than Rose is right now, so it's kind of a wash. also, there's no Boston/Orlando/Detroit standing in their way. I mean, there is Miami, but the roster beyond LeBron-Wade-Bosh is hot garbage.

Blogger Michael Hsu said...
I'm a Bulls fan and I agree. I have seen their games and without Drose on the floor you might as well call them the Bucks. If I was Spolstra, I would put Lebron on Rose and have Dwade help off of Deng to double Rose. I think that Rose can out jump Wade, but those fancy layups are going to be hard with Lebron's height and jumping ability to get by.

Unless Rose turns into Jordan he's not going to go nuts with Wade and Lebron on him. This will make Deng play post up basketball and make Bogans make his 3's (38%, 1/3 nightly)...

I'm really disappointed in CJ Watson this year as I thought he would be a good pick up considering what he did in GS last year. I was hoping for someone who could break down defense with their speed, but I did not see that out of him this year. I think it will come down to him beating Bibby and Chalmers to get points while Rose is being hounded by James and Wade.

Anonymous Aaron said...
I also believe the Bull's good defense is like the Sun's 7SOL from a few years ago. Good for regular season, can't go too far in playoff.

But please let Boston beat Miami! I cannot stand LBJ!

Anonymous Rick said...
Great post, Bawful. Really nailed how I think most informed basketball analysts are probably leaning. I think this is really the Lakers season to lose (which pains me as a Kings fan). The playoffs are about adjustments and stopping the best players night in and night out. The Lakers, once again, have way too many match-up problems. Unlike the regular season you can't hope that a couple of Lakers have an off night. You need a couple of them to have off series AND no one else steps up. Kobe, Gasol, Lamar, Bynum and Artest is just too many big names.

In the east, I feel it coming down to the Heat and the Bulls. The Bulls chances, to me, are on Thibs being able to make adjustments in the series. On a player to player comparison, the Bulls have better players in total than the Heat. But on flexibility for adjustments, having 2 1/2 great players give Spoelstra the advantage.

Drose can easily zip past any PG that the Heat throw at him. But we KNOW the Heat aren't going to throw Bibby at him for large stretches. They'll do the Lebron defense on him; let him drive but sag in the defense so he can't get all the way to the hoop. So he'll have to either make a high percentage of his mid-range floaters (which, like Lebron, he can't do for 7 straight games) or kick it out to another player.

Will another Bull be able to make the clutch shots in a playoff? Boozer's the best choice but he's severely limited against taller players. He'll see a lot of Bosh and Joel Anthony and Dampier so he'll have to make his jumpshots consistently. Noah is not good enough offensively to help carry the load. Bogans is Bogans. Brewer and Watson have never been that type of player. Korver could definitely do it, but he can only guard Bibby defensively.

The key for the Bulls championship is on Deng. Luol has the tools, he has the defense to slow Lebron, he NEEDS to hit shots. I think he could do it, but will he? It'll be fun to watch.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Great post. About the thunder, don't forget they got perk and mohammed (a very underrated catch) late in the season, so the start of the season shouldn't really count towards asessing their D.
And i do agree with durant that he is being overlooked in MVP talks. He's taken this team from the basement to the upper echelon in a couple of years. He had a fantastic front office to help him do it, but i don't see many people with the quality to do that. Westbrook is much improved imo, and a great second scorer, but compared to durant he has a long way to go, especially in the consistency department.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Hey Bawful, that's a Paul Pierce move right there. Going out in a wheelchair and coming back with the nice post. The effort is very much appreciated though. Rest up for the playoffs, we'll need you!

Oh and should the Heat win it all, I will eat my gun. Just imagine how MeBron and the Boshtridge will be acting...

Anonymous ivn said...
@ Aaron - hey, what did Lyndon Baines Johnson ever do to you?

Anonymous Batmanu said...
I think the Bulls can beat the Heat in a series.

For one, they have a great home record and a very good road record. I'm certain they could hold home court and maybe even steal one in Miami.

Two, although they are highly dependent on D-Rose on offense, Deng and Booz ain't chopped liver. Add in Noah's activity on defense and the boards and you have a pretty solid chance.

Three, although role players are less important in the big picture of the playoffs, the Big Three for the cHeat are not going to score every point. If they have to, they could get worn down each game and that goes against their chances to beat the Bulls.

As for my Spurs, I honestly think that we can beat the Lakers and come out of the West. Everyone's healthy and the offense will revert to more inside-out basketball like we used to play. If we lose, it'll be due to Duncan's inability to draw double teams.

Anonymous Batmanu said...
Oh, I forgot to mention another thing in the Spurs' favor...

It's an odd year!

Blogger Dick Sullivan said...
Don't kid yourself. Dallasites trust the Mavs the least. Remember, we actually watch their playbawful every year. And, on that note, I'm telling every one right now: it was Dirk's fault exactly once.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
If your thoughts about the Bulls are on the spot, what do you think they need to get better next year to lessen Rose's workload ? A second star or better roleplayers?
Or can Rose get better so that doesn't matter anymore?

Also, will you write post about your full playoff prediction? I value your opinion to form my own. With less knowledge. And less feeling for the game. And less access to nba games on tv.


I think the Bulls need to make an O.J. Mayo-esque upgrade to their starting shooting guard position. They could also use another high percentage outside shooter. Beyond that, I think that Thibs needs to set up a flex offense similar to what the Jazz used under Jerry Sloan. As it is, just asking Derrick Rose to create everything puts too much of a burden on Rose and makes the offense to predictable.

Once all the matchups are set, I will absolutely provide predictions for each round.

So your pick for champ is... nobody? Celts are washed up, Orlando is poorly constructed, OKC plays middling defense, Chicago can't take the Heat in a seven game series, Portland barely wins games and is made of balsa wood, Dallas is a perennial pretender and will be a shocking first round upset in their six-game series against whoever, San Antonio is a year too late... oh !@#$, you're picking Miami, aren't you? Bawful!

At this point, I'm leaning toward a Heat-Lakers Finals, and I think the Lakers would win it. Yep. Gonna hate the Finals this year.

The Ewing Theory should be renamed as The Melo Theory.

If the Nuggets make real noise in the playoffs, I think we should create a petition and send it to Simmons.

Oh great, the Basketbawful seal of approval for Miami to win the East. Sly reverse jinx there. Now we're doomed.

If it works out that way, I will dance a jig. I just think that talent wins out in the playoffs. With their lousy supporting cast, this Heat squad wasn't really made for the regular season. But they can still make things work in the playoffs.

I'm really disappointed in CJ Watson this year as I thought he would be a good pick up considering what he did in GS last year.

Yeah. I actually expected better from Watson this season. I think it hurts that he's expected to play defense now. I also think it hurts that the Bulls have a plodding, predictable offense. That's a major thing Thibs needs to work on. Maybe finding a really good offensive assistant coach would help.

The thing that intrigues me more than just the immediate playoffs, is the future of the Western conference.

The East for better or worse, is set with Chicago, Miami, New York, and Orlando or wherever Dwight goes after next year. The west however will see a ton of movement in 2 years.


Yep. The balance of power has shifted, and this is going to become even more glaring over the next couple seasons. It was bound to happen, I guess.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
The Spurs undoing will be their defense. Patient teams with smart ball movement can get high percentage shots against them. They still can't defend the pick and roll either.

We live in a backwards world now where the Spurs offense will carry them when their suspect defense fails.

Anonymous Tree said...
Surprised no to see it mentioned here ... but anyone have thoughts on LeBron's throwing the ball at O'Neal after getting fouled?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwvuvN_AQxk

Pretty bitch-punk move, but that does not surprise me. Yes, O'Neal's foul was hard, but c'mon - LeBron is clearly whining to the ref about how hard O'Neal hit him. Hard fouls happen, LeBron. Acting like a dick (or, as evidenced in the past year, acting like himself) will not endear you to anyone outside Miami (save for Henry Abott, who probably rushed his TV after that). It doesn't seem to take much to rattle LeBron during big games.

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
Sorry I've been out lately, but it's worth a repost if it has been already: Breaking down the Bulls's effective defence and the Cavs's crappy defense.

Blogger Mr. Too Nice Guy said...
If it works out that way, I will dance a jig. I just think that talent wins out in the playoffs

In addition to this point, I think that the officiating comes strongly into focus during the playoffs and unfortunately the Lakers and Heat are going to get the superstar / Stern conspiracy type calls throughout the playoffs. Especially against the defensively active teams such as the Bulls and Celtics.

I fully expect the Lakers to bring home another trophy.

Blogger Wormboy said...
Sorry folks, the Bulls defense is not the Cavs defense, Thibs is not the astonishingly boring Mike Brown, Noah is not just another Sideshow Bob, and the Bulls have other good offensive options (what is Boozer, chopped liver? No, a perennial all-star).

The Heat can't win against talented size, and the Bulls have two inside (three if you count Kurt Thomas, who is good enough off the bench to give a good defensive sub, and he's proved it before.) Orlando has no chance (they only made it when KG was injured), the Celtics were dubious before the Perkins trade, and that leaves the deeply flawed Heat. The Heat's bigs are too old (Z), too all-around lame (Damp) and too marshmallowy (Bosh). No bang, no title. Bulls will beat them.

in the West, it's probably the Lakers, with maybe the Spurs if we see Duncan's throwback playoffs. One thing that can challenge the Lakers is talented size, and again, the Bulls have it. Think: who actually guards Rose? Fisher? Ha, OK, that was good. Blake? No. Kobe? He hasn't been a defensive stopper for many years, and his defensive reputation is mostly legacy at this point. Artest? Too big and hence not quick enough. Rose demands extensive attention, opening up the rest of the team for open shots. Boozer can make them. Deng wasn't suitable as a franchise guy, but is better in this role. Gasol will be very bothered by the energy and physicality of the Bulls. As Gasol goes, so go the Lakers. If the Bulls don't choke, they can win it. It will probably come down to the battle of the boards.

Of course, we'll probably be wrong, since that's why we watch, right?


WTF, Batmanu. You beat me to the "chopped liver?"

Anonymous Wave said...
I think you're overreacting to the Celtics-Heat Sunday game.

Luol Deng, Boozer, Noah and Bogans are a better supporting cast than Mo, Antwan, Shaq, and Anthony Parker. And Thibodeau is far more creative on offense and defense than Mike Brown.

Actually, never mind. Wormboy already said everything I wanted to say.

Anonymous Muttonhead said...
Hope things get better for you soon Bawful.

I also have the sinking feeling that I'm not going to enjoy the Finals at all, because I predict that the Lakers are gonna win.

Blogger lordhenry said...
I agree, Wormboy made some excellent points about the BUlls. When I watch them play, those guys seem so damn hungry to win all the time, and I think the Bulls know they have many of the other teams beat with their chemistry. Is there a better overall TEAM in the NBA than the Bulls? Maybe not.

And as an LA fan I will believe Boston is dead when I see the body with the chalk, period.

Same goes for the Sith Lords of the West.

In years past we would've said the same thing about the Spurs, but nobody is saying it, even though they are the 1 seed in the west. That says it all.
Also, kinda concerned after I saw the Spurs blatantly ignore Pop on the sideline screaming "Foul! FOUL! OH CHRIST YOU DUMBASSES foul!" during the Portland game a week or so ago.

Pop is top two in coaching right now, if the Spurs have tuned him out they are much less for it.

Anonymous Rich Muhlach said...
nice post, Bawful! Your thoughts are on point, and I do appreciate that you picked the Lakers to win it all, even though we all know how much you hate them.

I can kinda see that the Heat will get into the Finals with them, but the series won't go into 7 games like last year. The Lakers have Artest to guard LeBron and Barnes to guard D-Wade. My only hope is that Kobe doesn't play hero ball and cost Lakers the championship.

Anonymous CRJoe said...
One thing that can challenge the Lakers is talented size

So why not throw the Thunder into the mix this year??? they have the most talented defensive frontcourt, and with Ibaka getting 13 ppg with just under 10 shots taken per night in the last 11 games (the games Perkins has played at full health) they may just have enough talented size to give L.A. fits...

Add the fact that the Thunder's scoring options will force the Lakers to play Blake, Fisher or Shannon Brown on Westbrook or Harden, and that Sefolosha is probably sleeping with Kobe's wife in preparation for this series and you could realistically see the Lakers out in the second round...

Blogger Michael Hsu said...
Any team with a fast point guard has a chance to beat the lakers

Anonymous Batmanu said...
Sorry Wormboy, I sensed your comment coming and launched a pre-emptive strike. Critical Hit!

that Sefolosha is probably sleeping with Kobe's wife in preparation for this series and you could realistically see the Lakers out in the second round...

lmao. Only thing is, you don't need a reason to sleep with Kobe's wife. She's fiiiine.

Makes me wonder - who has the most beautiful wife in the NBA?

Anonymous Drey said...
As a Bulls fan I don't see them beating the Heat either. You can't have a championship offense that is totally dependent on one player, no matter how good he is - even Jordan couldn't do it all by his lonesome.

Not to mention how predictable the offense is.

Blogger Wormboy said...
1) I didn't mean to leave out the Zombies. There are definitely a number of spoiler teams out there, and the Zombies are a big one.

2) I think we're doing the Bulls a disservice. Rose is NOT their only offensive weapon, just their only superlative one.

3) Mat,,I hope you feel better soon. I am familiar with feeling of just getting my ass run down and needing to recharge for a while. I recommend that you bench your Big Four for the playoffs. :)

Blogger scotta said...
I have the same fears about the Bulls, but I also have more faith in Rose's ability to pull out tough, ugly games then I would have in Lebron; he gets frustrated when things aren't falling quite his way and he lets up. Just a little bit, but enough to start taking long jump shots sometimes instead of attacking for 48 minutes. I see him like a great pick-up player who has an off day, knows things are a bit off, and doesn't push himself as hard as possible to turn it around. There's always tomorrow. It's a small effect, but it seems to happen a lot.

Also, there's no way Wade comes through the (hypothetical) Boston series 100% healthy, so there's that.

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