It’s the most wonderful time of year! April 20th is the start of “40 games in 40 nights” AKA the NBA playoffs! So who do you have this year? Will the Heat repeat? Will Kevin Durant and the Thunder finally go all the way? What about the Clippers, Spurs, Pacers, or Warriors? Nick Walker and Roderick Red go one on one on NBA playoff talk!
Who is the dark horse in the playoffs?
Roderick: I think anyone who has to see the Clippers or the Warriors needs to be very afraid. As it stands now, they will actually meet in the first round, so the rest of the West should breathe a sigh of relief. The Warriors’ ability to come back from any deficit or put a game out of reach with “The Splash Bros.” (Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson) and a healthy David Lee and Andrew Bogut in the post. Add veteran leadership and stability from their coach Mark Jackson and players Steve Blake and Andre Iguodala, then you’ve got an excellent team just waiting to break loose.
Then, add the super deep Clippers and championship coach Doc Rivers. You’ve got your superstar in Chris Paul, budding superstar Blake Griffin and a bunch of other great players in Deandre Jordan, Jamal Crawford and Darren Collison in the mix. If I were the Spurs or OKC, I don’t want to see either of these teams if I don’t have to.
Nick: The Brooklyn Nets, Dallas Mavs, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, and Memphis Grizzlies are all capable of making noise in this year’s NBA Playoffs. But, my “dark horse” to contend for the title this year is the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers have been on a tear this season setting a franchise record with 57 wins. The emergence of Blake Griffin as a superstar and the consistent play of the NBA’s best floor general, Chris Paul, are the main reasons for the success of Los Angeles’s new basketball powerhouse. Blake has expanded his range, improved his post game, and provided another dynamic to the Clippers offense with great passing and ball handling skills for his size. Chris Paul is having another double digit assist year (10.7 apg) and playing high IQ basketball under the leadership of Doc Rivers. Along with the dynamic duo of Paul and Griffin , the Clippers have the deepest roster in the NBA. Deandre Jordan is having the best year of his career, leading the NBA in rebounding (13.6 rpg). Jamal Crawford is having another career year and is in the race for another 6th man of the year award. JJ Redick is shooting lights out. Darren Collison is providing good minutes off the bench as a ball handler and solid defender. Also the additions of Glen Davis, Hedo Turkuglo, and Matt Barnes will prove valuable down the stretch for the Clippers.
Who wins the Eastern Conference?
Nick: Rod, you are not going to like my choice here. As dreadful as it has been to watch the offensively-challenged Pacers, THEY WILL WIN THE EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS!!! I have a couple of reasons to back up my pick.
First of all, the health of Dwayne Wade is the primary reason I picked the Pacers. Wade is past his prime and reaching the down side of his career facing injury after injury. I believe these nagging injuries will continue throughout the playoffs. Even though the Heat will advance to the ECF, they will have to be at full strength deep into the playoffs to beat the Pacers 4 games out of 7. I don’t think they can do it with an injured and aging Wade.
Secondly, even though Roy Hibbert and David West have probably been one of the worst front court duo’s during the second half of the season, the match-ups vs the Heat will favor the Pacers. Roy Hibbert is a top 5 center in the league because of his defensive presence and his dominance against the Miami Heat. In the 2013 ECF, Hibbert averaged 22.1 ppg and 10.4 rpg exposing Miami’s need for a presence inside. The last month and a half, Hibbert has been awful, but I expect him to turn it around in the playoffs.
Roderick: The Miami Heat. Nick is going off. While I am a Heat and Lebron fan, I’m taking an objective look at this. All year, while the Pacers (who are the only competition in the East to the Heat) looked invincible, I kept saying the same thing to Nick. They were blowing through the competition and looked like the best team in the game. They were making good trades and making their team even more fortified. But, I kept saying the same thing, “I just don’t believe in them.” The Pacers lack a superstar badly. And they are anemic on offense. They look like the Chicago Bulls two years ago, except Chicago had a superstar in Derrick Rose. In the playoffs, the game changes. The only reason they’ll make it to the eastern conference finals is because the East is weak. They don’t have anybody to score the ball when they absolutely need it. Now, Paul George has the potential to be that one day, but he’s not there yet as evidenced in various games. Just check the game in which he registered 2 points in 38 minutes (really?).
And don’t get me started on Lance Stephenson. He is the king of inconsistency. If your championship aspirations hinge on Lance Stephenson, you’re already losing. The Pacers showed they don’t believe in him by bringing in Evan Turner. How ironic is it that Evan Turner embodies the entire Pacers organization. He’s a really good player that isn’t great or quite there yet. I didn’t believe in them before Roy Hibbert went missing! It’s mind boggling to think about what’s happened to him. If Roy Hibbert doesn’t fix his fragile ego, the Pacers will not make it out of the first round! Say what you want, but Miami has the best player in the world and they have a player in Dwayne Wade who has shown on multiple occasions he WILL show up when it counts. Might not be every game in a playoff series, but he’ll show up.
Nick: Lance Stephenson will win the match-up with a hobbled Wade and if Lance wins that battle, the Pacers will control the season. Evan Turner was brought in not because they don’t believe in Lance Stephenson. He was brought in because Lance is an unrestricted free agent this summer and the Pacers might not be able to afford the budding star.
Who wins the Western Conference?
Roderick: The Oklahoma City Thunder. OKC has an interesting dynamic going on. They are really young and have a tremendous upside and they are also already a great team. They’ve been battle-tested and have been to a finals. I think their youth, along with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, can beat the Spurs. Westbrook is the Spurs’ worst nightmare. They have no answer for him and couple him with KD and you have trouble written all over for the Spurs.
Nick: I agree with you here Rod. The Oklahoma City Thunder have had another great season. Kevin Durant has played an MVP caliber season breaking Michael Jordan’s record of most consecutive 25+ point games and winning another scoring title by a huge margin. Russell Westbrook is back and is as explosive as he was before the knee injuries. The maturation of Jeremy Lamb and Reggie Jackson has improved the bench and overall depth of the team. Derrick Fisher and Kendrick Perkins add the veteran leadership and championship experience. I take OKC over the Spurs in 6.
What are the chances the Miami Heat 3peat?
Nick: I give the Heat a 30% chance to win a 3rd NBA title. They still have the Big 3, but it is very difficult to win 3 NBA titles in a row. I believe the health issues of Dwayne Wade will dramatically hinder the Heat from winning a 3rd title. The Pacers winning the number 1 seed in the East guarantees that game 7 will be in Indiana. The Pacers will end the Heat’s title hopes in Game 7.
Roderick: The Pacers will disappoint you tremendously Nick. With the struggles of the Pacers and the super hard West beating up on one another, I’d give the Miami Heat a 55% chance of 3peating. This will be their toughest one (hard to imagine after last year), but I think they can pull out the last one before Lebron leaves.
Who do you pick to win it all?
Roderick: The Miami Heat. Right now there is just not a team you can put up an argument for that will beat them. They beat the Spurs (albeit a little lucky as every team needs to win a ring) but they did beat them and they are the best in the league besides the Heat themselves. They handled OKC 2 years ago with their whole team AND they had James Harden. They might be more battle tested now and might fair better, but until it actually happens, you have to go with the reigning champs.
Nick: Kevin Durant will win the MVP, an NBA title, and the Finals MVP in one year. After winning the West , the Thunder will be battle tested and capable of beating anyone who comes out of the East. I just don’t see the Thunder getting to the Finals again and losing with a more mature Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and a bench that competes every night.
Nick: If Russell Westbrook remains healthy the Oklahoma City Thunder will defeat the Indiana Pacers in 7 games for the NBA Title. Durant will be Finals MVP and average 32+ ppg in the series. The health of an aging Wade will cause Lebron to opt out of his contract and go back home to Cleveland to team up with Kyrie Irving.
Roderick: The tough playoffs and the iffy health of Dwayne Wade will prompt Lebron to opt out and go home to Cleveland to finish out his career. I think the Heat will barely squeak by with a championship because Dwayne just won’t be able to hold up the whole time. Lebron will sense the run is over and be enticed into teaming up with Kyrie to bring a ring to Cleveland.