Friday, April 16, 2010

Playoff Predictions: 1st Round (Eastern Conference)

Cleveland (1) vs. Chicago (8)

Chicago squeaks into the playoffs barely edging out a slumping Toronto team that had just lost Bosh for the rest of the season, and their prize is a first round beat-down by the Cavaliers. I expect Cleveland to be focused and take care of business quickly. This series will give the Cavs a few games to integrate Shaq back into their game plan. He'll be a key component in latter series. Lebron will show everyone why he is the league's MVP. He will dominate both sides of the floor. Likewise, Rose will have his way against Mo Williams and West. It will take a team defensive effort to slowdown Rose. Chicago misses the firepower of Gordon off of the bench. I just don't think they have enough talent or weapons to compete with Cleveland. Noah is recovering from an injury, which won't help their cause at all. Deng will have his hands full defending Lebron. And their coaching situation is volatile. The weakness of the Cavs last year was a lack of firepower. But now they have added both Shaq and Jamison in the mix. Jamison's outside shooting and hustle will be huge for this team. Hopefully Mo will bounce back from a poor showing last year. In addition to the improved offense, Cleveland has much more depth than last year. This is the best team Lebron has played on. Varejao will continue to be a solid contribute for this team. [Cleveland in 4]

Orlando (2) vs. Charlotte (7)

While it's a nice accomplishment that Charlotte made it to the playoffs, I just don't see them beating Orlando. They have no one who can matchup with Dwight Howard. That leaves them with one of 3 options: single cover Dwight and let him score, foul him, or double-team him (which will lead to wide open 3's for his teammates). It's a pick your poison situation. Larry Brown is the superior coach, but I think the rumor of him leaving Charlotte next year might prove to be a distraction. Charlotte plays great defense, but they can't match up with the offensive firepower or depth of Orlando. And in a long series where teams make adjustments, this gives Orlando a big advantage. I suspect their role players of Redick, Pietrus, Barnes, Williams and Anderson will hit some big shots before this series is over. Orlando will need Lewis to return to form. He's been hit and miss all season long. This will give Vinsanity a chance to show his worth. But he's in a touch matchup with Jackson. Crash has the edge over Barnes or Pietrus; though I suspect that to be a feisty matchup. Nelson vs Felton is a wash. Neither guy has been consistent enough to be a difference-maker. Diaw will be an X-factor in this series, I think. The better he plays, the better this whole Charlotte team plays. [Orlando in 6]

Atlanta (3) vs. Milwaukee (6)

It's a shame that Andrew Bogut had to go down with an injury. Milwaukee would have been one of my darkhorse picks otherwise. I just like the way their team has been playing since the addition of John Salmons. The 2-headed PG of Ridnour and Jennings has been surprisingly effective. I don't think they have enough firepower to compete with ATL though. And their team lacks the postseason experience and depth to be competitive. Delfino and Ilyasova have played well for the team, though. Atlanta, meanwhile, is hungry and ready to take the next step in the postseason. JJ and Josh Smith will destroy whoever they are matched up against. And Crawford will continue to be huge off of the bench. He has been an exceptional contributor for this team, and is on his way to a 6th man of the year award. Horford has been solid in the middle, though I still don't think he deserved the all-star nod. But he's definitely better than Thomas or Gadzuric on the MIL side. They aren't going to intimate anyone. It'll be interesting to see how this MIL team gels once they have Redd and Bogut back. They have some interesting potential. But they will be a quick out this year. Atlanta needs to be careful about foul trouble and injuries, though. Their bench is not the best. [Atlanta in 5]

Boston (4) vs. Miami (5)

Yikes. Boston slipping all the way down to the #4 spot. They just aren't the same team this year. They are really struggling with injuries and just old age. KG, especially, is not the same player he was in previous years. Rondo has been their best player all year long, and will need to play well for Boston to make some noise in the playoffs. Allen and Pierce are still reliable scorers for the Boston squad. But their new acquisitions: Rasheed, Nate Robinson, and Daniels haven't panned out as well as they had hoped. If they can get some solid production from Big Baby, that would help their chances immensely. Boston is a team on the decline, and things will only get worse from now on. On the flip side, you have a mediocre Miami team surrounded by Wade. He is a miracle worker; so I give him a slim shot at pulling off an upset. Beasley will need to step up and prove to be a consistent #2 guy. Q-Rich, O'Neal, and the duo of Arroyo/Chalmers each have had their moments during the season. But they will need to be clicking on all cylinders just for this team to be competitive. In any case, I don't foresee either team giving Cleveland much trouble in the next round though. They are just speed bumps. [Boston in 6]

Playoff Predictions: 1st Round (Western Conference)

LA Lakers (1) vs. Oklahoma City (8)

I'll be rooting like crazy for the Thunder, but I don't think it's their time yet. They are going to fall short against a more talented and experienced team in the Lakers, who are looking to repeat as champions. The Lakers have struggled coming into the postseason, but I expect them to turn it on once the postseason starts. Kobe should be well rested after taking the last few games off, and is still one of the league's best closers. Bynum is expected to return from injuries in time for the playoffs. The trio of Odom, Gasol and Bynum should dominate this series and carry the Lakers to the win. The Thunder have no one that can match up with them in the frontcourt. Durant is a future MVP and Westbrook is developing into a nice star as well. He should be able to dominate the matchup against Fisher. But I don't think it will be enough. If Artest is able to slow down Durant, this series could be over faster than people think. It's a nice achievement that Oklahoma City was able to win 50 games and make it to the playoffs, but their run won't last long. It should be a good learning experience for this young, up-and-coming team, though. I read that this is the first time a #8 seed has won 50 games. Nice. [LA Lakers in 5]

Dallas (2) vs. San Antonio (7)

I'm not sure why the Spurs gave up on the last game of the season. They had a chance to move into the #6 spot, and play Phoenix instead; which seems like a more favorable matchup. But you should never count out these former champs; they will be a tough out. Gregg Popovich is still one of the league's best coaches, and Tim Duncan is still one of the all-time greats, even if he is showing signs of age. Manu's revival has been huge for this team down the stretch. And he will be the key for the Spurs in this series. If Parker or Hill miss any games, the Spurs are going to struggle. Blair could be a difference maker with his energy and hustle. But their inconsistency on the defensive end will hurt them. Dallas has too much depth and firepower for the Spurs to handle. Kidd still is one of the best play-makers in the game despite his age. Dirk and Terry are a dynamic 1-2 scoring punch. And Butler and Marion provide help at the wing positions. Haywood and Dampier are two big bodies that they can throw at Duncan to try to contain him. Beaubois and Barea will hit some big shots for Dallas off of the bench. This is Dallas' series to lose. I give the Spurs a puncher's chance to win though. [Dallas in 6]

Phoenix (3) vs. Portland (6)

Phoenix gets a lucky break here. Portland is limping into the postseason full of injuries. Without Roy, Portland stands 0 chance of beating the Suns in a 7-game series. They might be able to steal 1 or 2 games though, based on hustle and heart. I commend them for playing as well as they have, overcoming the loss of several key players. McMillian deserves some recognition for Coach of the Year. But they don't have the talent or depth to compete with these other playoff teams. I don't think Aldridge can carry this team on his back. And Miller isn't going to score over 50 points again anytime soon. Camby will get some rebounds and blocks, but isn't a difference-maker. Batum, Fernandez, Webster and Bayless are too inconsistent to be relied on. Meanwhile, the Suns have way too much offensive firepower. Nash, J-Rich, and Amare are going to feast on Portland. And their supporting cast of Hill, Frye, Barbosa, Dragic and Dudley will hit some big shots, too. It should be a fun series to watch. They'll need Lopez back to be competitive in the 2nd round, though. A Dirk vs Nash matchup should be exciting. [Phoenix in 5]

Denver (4) vs. Utah (5)

That is definitely one of the more interesting matchups in the first round. I think it can go either way. Though I like Denver more at the moment. Mainly because they have homecourt advantage. Utah historically is an awful road team. Many experts have commented that Denver has not been the same team without George Karl at the helm. We'll see how that plays into the series. Billups vs Deron should be an epic matchup at the PG spot. JR Smith, as always, will be an X-factor for his team. He'll either shoot the Nuggets into victory or defeat. Carmelo has been huge against Utah in the regular season games. I just read that Kirilenko will miss the series due to injury, so that will hurt Utah quite a bit. Both Boozer and Kenyon Martin are coming up injuries, also. So health could play a big role in this series. Birdman has been playing hurt also. I think Okur's outside shooting will be huge for Utah. I don't see any of Denver's bigs running out to guard Okur at the three point line. Millsap and Lawson off of the bench are key player for their respective teams also. It should be the most competitive series in the first round. [Denver in 7]

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Young Flyers

Below is a recap video of the 2010 McDonald's All-American Dunk Contest. Not only was the NBADL Dunk Contest better than the NBA's. But the High School All-American's was better also. Ouch.