We are now in the NBA Playoffs. On April 26th, 2012, we ended a season which saw the rise of an underdog in Jeremy Lin, spectacular rookies such as Kyrie Irving and Ricky Rubio, and a back and forth battle for scoring champion between Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant. A season which saw LeBron James put up staggering numbers, incredible posterizations, and tons of drama at the trade deadline, will lead into what is sure to be an exciting playoffs. So, to prepare you for said playoffs, here is what each team looks like going into the postseason.
Chicago Bulls – The Bulls stroll into the playoffs boasting the (tied for) best record in the league. At 49-16 the Chicago Bulls are the number one seed in the East, and it’s easy to see why. Even without their star player in Derrick Rose for a third of the season, the Bulls played very well. They also lost another starting guard to injury Richard “Rip” Hamilton. This shows how good of a team that Chicago actually is. With two starters out, one of them being the youngest MVP award winner in the history of the NBA, the Bulls still managed to beat six playoff teams, one of them being the talented Heat. Rose, 23, was injured again in the first game of the playoffs, tearing his ACL and deeming him out for the season. Though this may send the Bulls down a level, they should still have a decent chance of making it to the finals.
Miami Heat- The Heat were by far the most talked about team in the league last season. Following a trade involving what would become the “Big Three,” people have done nothing but wonder how many trophies these guys will eventually take home. Miami, boasting the second best record in the league, likely wonder the same thing. Their confidence should be unstoppable, with arguably two of the top five best players in the league on their team in LeBron James and D-Wade, while a solid Chris Bosh finishes the the trio. Their main glaring weakness is their lack of a reliable guy in the middle, which has caused them problems throughout the season. Some would argue that LeBron doesn’t perform well down the stretch, but the guy is having the season of his life. I don’t think that will play a factor this year. The Heat have a great chance at eventually knocking out the Bulls if they meet, and vise-versa.
San Antonio Spurs- If you were wondering who the Bulls were tied with, your question is now answered. The Spurs have been having an outstanding season, with likely Coach of the Year winner Greg Popovich partly to blame. Though many of their star players are aging, the Spurs have managed to dominate throughout the regular season. Their teamwork and experience is much of the reason why they have been able to do so well. The Spur have been a perennial playoff team for years and their fifth championship may come this year if they are able to keep up their fantastic attack.
Oklahoma City Thunder- The Thunder have been truly great this season. With scoring forces such as Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and James Harden, their offense has been amazing. With defensive forces such as Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins, and again Kevin Durant, their defense has been likewise. Their biggest weakness is sometimes inconsistent play from Westbrook, though I’m not sure how big of a problem this might be in the postseason. The Thunder have managed to dominate pretty much every team in the league. We’ll see if they’re able to do the same in the forthcoming weeks.
Los Angeles Lakers- It could be argued that the Lakers deserve a spot in the favorites category, but I believe that the other four teams are more deserving of the honor. On a good day, the Lakers appear unstoppable. On a bad day, they look incredibly lackluster. How well they do often depends on the performances of Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum. When those two play well, the team essentially destroys everyone they are matched against. They come into the playoffs with the third best Western Conference record, and have a very good chance at making it to the Finals this year. Here’s to hoping that Bynum plays like a stud, because we already know that Kobe will.
Indiana Pacers- It’s been a while since the Pacers have been as impressive as they have this season. With Danny Granger stepping his play lately, the Pacers have looked near unbeatable. The team is stacked with compatible players, and Roy Hibbert has been very helpful this season, proving that he is a great middle man. Finishing with the third best record in the Eastern conference, I feel as if the young Indiana team will be able to surprise and make waves in the playoffs this year. If Danny Granger keeps up his three point frenzy, could really see it happening.
Los Angeles Clippers- It is difficult to deny the talent of this Los Angeles team. With arguably the best point guard in the league, Chris Paul, leading them, and highlight machine Blake Griffin dunking on people, the Clippers have their first chance in a long time to make the franchise shine. The acquirement of Nick Young can’t hurt them in the playoffs, with his efficiency rate backing that up. That, along with the fifth best offense in the league could help make a case for the infamous Los Angeles team.
Memphis Grizzlies- Sometimes, teams don’t get enough recognition because they lack a statistical superstar, and this would be a beautiful example of that. Their great defensive play and consistently good starting lineup could lead them on a playoff run. With players like Rudy Gay and OJ Mayo serving as great scorers, players like Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, and Tony Allen provide solid defense to go along with it. Michael Conly Jr. has found his place on the team, finally coming into his own. The Grizzlies could be in good shape to make an unexpected run.
New York Knicks- With a disappointing start to the season, the Knicks seem to have reeked of mediocrity. Then, along came a savior; this savior would soon reignite the flame under the Knicks and get them closer to reaching their untapped potential. This savior’s name, is Jeremy Lin. He burst onto the scene seemingly out of nowhere, causing a craze which would become none other than, Linsanity. However, as they say, all good things must come to a postponement. Jeremy Lin was sidelined by injury in April, possibly not returning until the second round of the playoffs. One of the other Knicks stars, Amare Stoudemire also obtained an injury, leaving the Knicks to wonder what they could do. Well, no worries. Coach Mike Woodson and Carmelo Anthony swooped in to the save the day. Carmelo has been outstanding as of late, and the rest of the Knicks haven’t been to shabby either. I’m sure they would love to have Lin back, but they have enough guard talent to fill that hole, and though they had a blowout loss today, Tyson Chandler in the middle could cause some serious problems for the Heat. Look for the first round upset.
Denver Nuggets- Denver is another team that lacks star power. They do though, make up for it with some of the best teamwork I’ve seen in recent memory. Ty Lawson is great at the point, while Danilo Gallanari and rookie Kenneth Faried have played wonderful supporting roles in the regular season. With the third best offense in the league, their only problem is their below-average defense. However, with their controlled attack and very smart play, the Nuggets could be a real contender this year. Even if they don’t make it to the Finals, don’t be surprised if they make it far. I’d say their chances in the Finals could be decent too, considering they are 16-2 against the East this season.
Just missed the cut:
Boston Celtics, Atlanta Hawks, Dallas Mavericks
Long Shots: Utah Jazz, Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Chicago Bulls- Chicago Bulls