Which Team Will Be the 2012 NBA Champions?Posted on by Robert Seitzinger (rseitzinger)
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A lockout. A lot of injuries. A wet willy. What more do you need to prove that this year in pro hoops was one of the weirdest and saddest in NBA history? Oh, right, a new futility record for a team owned by Michael Jordan. That was pretty weird/sad.
The 2012 postseason starts today, just 125 days after the regular season began last Christmas. Here is a look at the eight series, each with their own impending weirdness/sadness.
Chicago Bulls vs. Philadelphia 76ersMY PICK: Bulls in six
I am being a bit generous in saying the Sixers will hold on for six games here. I take this position because of two major question marks, one on the health of Derrick Rose and the other on the Philly rotation. The former question has less impact (for the first round, anyhow), since a healthy Rose assures victory but an injured Rose means they drop to, say, 80 percent certain to win.
The latter question is more intriguing. Philly is a team that goes nine-deep with decent-to-excellent guys. This is why they finished eighth, despite a strong first half of the season. This is also why it seems silly to me that Evan Turner thinks the Bulls are a better first-round opponent. The Heat don't go nearly as deep as the Bulls and their front court led by this dude:
Joakim Noah dominates the paint and may be clinically insane
Miami Heat vs. New York KnicksMY PICK: Heat in five
LeBron James is a punk. He is a turncoat, late-game-lacking infant of a man. None of this changes that he is the best pure basketball talent alive. No current Knick has displayed consistent excellence during his career, excepting for Tyson Chandler on defense (or Carmelo Anthony on not playing defense).
In short, a really good team is playing a still-getting-good team. This will be an exciting series to watch, yes, but unless Chandler adds some offense to his game, or unless Melo plays at the power forward spot (where he would absolutely steamroll Chris Bosh), James and Dwyane Wade will make short work of the Knicks. This means smart leadership is required for the Knicks to compete...not something the franchise is known for.
Indiana Pacers vs. Orlando MagicMY PICK: Pacers in five
This is a weird series. Indiana got a high seed with little star power (Danny Granger or Roy Hibbert are hardly names non-fans recognize), but they relied on a blue-collar work ethic and earned quality wins when Granger wasn't busy building brick houses (he only finished above .400 shooting due to smart shooting in the last two weeks, by which time most defenses had stopped caring about him).
Meanwhile, a Dwight Howard-less Magic squad also faced injury issues for Jameer Nelson, Hedo Turkoglu, and Ryan Anderson after the All-Star break. With all the Howard drama about his trade options and his bickering with the coach, it would be nice if the Magic at least thrived in the postseason. However, the lack of cohesion and the absence of Howard leave them wide open to attack from a deeper, faster Indiana crew. Tough times in Disneyland aren't over yet.
Atlanta Hawks vs. Boston CelticsMY PICK: Celtics in six
Boston started out rough, got through the ridiculous trade rumors, then went on an incredible tear after the All-Star break to win their division. The Hawks played solid ball without interior hero Al Horford, so kudos to them for stomping and shoving their way to the middle yet again. Not sure you can expect better results from a crew that has the most egregiously overpaid guy in the league.
All told, I think Boston will make the most of its elderly rotation and emerging youth. Avery Bradley is proving he has a place on this squad alongside Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen. Greg Stiemsma is, too. The Celts have more depth than the Hawks and more winning experience. They are also playing with the awareness that this is likely the final season for their core four together, so expect a strong push into round two, at least.
This is the least interesting series of the first round. The Jazz took advantage of the insane, compacted schedule and had remarkable luck in often beating better teams with injured guys throughout the winter. Their reward will be playing a smarter, stronger, faster, and better-coached Spurs crew that will decimate the Jazz.
That was more words than this snorefest of a series deserved.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Dallas MavericksMY PICK: Thunder in six
The best example of old versus young this postseason is right here. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are likely Olympians, as is defensive monster Serge Ibaka (for Spain). Dirk Nowitski and the rest of the Mark Cuban Assisted Living Facility All-Stars will surely put up a good fight, but they lost too much defensive prowess when Chandler went to the Big Apple, and they lost their surprise offensive hero in J.J. Barea as well. The Mavs won't go down without a fight, but they will go down. (I'm sure of it this time. Just as sure as I was last time.)
Interesting sub plot: Lamar Odom is just chillin' right now, still on the payroll despite not playing and instead making reality TV with the ugly Kardashian. Assuming one of the geriatric Mavericks gets hurt, do they reactivate Odom? Should the team reactivate him even if he will not step on the court, just to mess with OKC's heads? Seems like a great setup to a reality TV gimmick, so stay tuned.
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Denver NuggetsMY PICK: Lakers in six
The Lakers' cap situation is going to be ugly moving forward. They have nearly all of their salary cap tied up by three guys (Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum). Expect one of these guys to get traded or waived via team option/amnesty clause next season. They will be without Ron Artest (pretty sure the video below ends the whole World Peace name thing) for six games due to his latest antics:
Anyhow, the Nuggets are a much better team than anyone expected since the Melo trade, and they have some reliable offensive firepower. However, unless one of them elbows Gasol, Kobe, or Bynum in the noggin, the Lakers are winning this series. Denver's lack of post presence will hurt them as Los Angeles pushes for a deep playoff run before their inevitable overhaul this summer.
Memphis Grizzlies vs. Los Angeles ClippersMY PICK: Grizzlies in seven
Here we have two young, scrappy teams squaring off for legitimacy. The Grizz want to prove last season's first-round upset of the Spurs wasn't a fluke, but they'll have to get through Lob City to do so. Blake Griffin is being targeted for hard fouls such that Kobe told him to nut up and "smack the f*ck out of somebody"...interesting advice from a suspected rapist.
This series will feature the high-powered offense of the Clips as they go against one of the tightest defensive squads out west. I see this going to seven and expect neither team to win two in a row. It'll be a great slug fest filled with turnovers, hard fouls, and a few highlight dunks, and we will see if Griffin's childish attitude can withstand a playoff atmosphere.
Are you excited for the 2012 NBA Playoffs?
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