We're an eighth of the way through the 2012 NBA playoffs, so what better time to predict which players (and teams) will cruise their way through the rest of the playoffs. For this list, we've got two definitions of the word "cruise."
The first, players who will literally cruise, as in sit at home and watch. The second, player's who will tear through their opponents with relative ease.
The Knicks will be eliminated from the playoffs in Game 4. So yes, Anthony will cruise through the rest of the playoffs as he sits at home while Amar'e Stoudemire trade rumors take over cyberspace. Really though, it is Anthony they should trade.
There’s way more value for Carmelo out there. He’s younger, his contract is slightly more friendly, he’s an all around better player (I suppose), and there will surely be plenty of teams who will think just like the Knicks did back in February of last year when they went all in for Anthony because...well, he’s Melo.
Every ounce of evidence in the world points to Melo as the problem, not Amar'e. As of right now, the Carmelo Anthony trade will go down as the second dumbest trade in NBA history next to the Nets dealing for Deron Williams. Ironically, they both happened within 24 hours of each other.
The Knicks are currently on a 13 game losing streak in the playoffs. It’s funny that people were actually giving them a realistic chance against the Heat. If the Knicks keep Melo, this is how the next several years will play out for New York.
During the regular season, there will be stretch runs where the Knicks get incredibly hot and the country melts for them and overreacts to every little thing. Then, they’ll be stretch runs where they suck. In other words, they’ll be just like 70 percent of the league’s teams.
Then, they’ll make it into the playoffs as either a six, seven, or eight-seed.
Then, we’ll predict that they can upset someone in the first round, if not get to the Finals and win it all.
Then, they’ll lose their first two playoff games on the road (one of the in embarrassing fashion), they’ll return home and the New York papers will come out with a headline that says something like “New Ballgame as Series Shifts Back to Big Apple.”
You’ll have Spike Lee making appearances on radio and TV giving his case as to why the Knicks will still win this series despite the fact that all odds are stacked against them, and they’re the second worst basketball franchise in the last five years next to their Metropolitan counterparts, the New Jersey Nets.
Then, the Knicks will make their annual playoff exit.
Derrick Rose will miss the rest of the playoffs with a torn ACL. Rose will define the word "cruise" for the remainder of the playoffs. After winning the MVP at age 22 last season, and came short of the NBA Finals, people were quick to jump on Rose for, well, not living up to Michael Jordan. Those are some hard shoes to fill. Luckily, Rose will not have to fill them this year. As we go about criticizing LeBron, Melo, Durant, Westbrook and whoever else for "not getting it done" or "not being clutch" during these playoffs, Rose will get an automatic pass. At this point in his career, that's not such a bad thing for Rose.
In this day in age, where the media has become so infatuated with determining the parameters of what an NBA star should be, sometimes sitting this thing out (the playoffs) can help a player's legacy a lot more than it can hurt it. After all, only one team of the 16 will win the Championship...the odds are stacked against you.
Over the last month or so, you could argue no one is playing better basketball than Andrew Bynum. He’s recorded a 30 point, 30 rebound game. He became the first Laker since Magic Johnson to record a triple double in the playoffs. He became the third player in playoff history to record 10 blocks in a game. And he’s averaging 22 points per game in the last 13 games, which is misleading because he’s had plenty of games where he hasn’t scored that much because he was busy shot blocking and rebounding at an astounding rate.
This Lakers team looks like the flip flop version of the Shaq/Kobe teams in that this time they’ve got the budding young superstar at center (Bynum) instead of before, when it was Kobe. As of right now, I am picking the Lakers to win it all. They’ve got the perfect role playing point guard, Ramon Sessions, who is only 25 years old and playing in the spotlight for the first time in his career. They’ve got the best inside presence we’ve seen in quite some time with both Bynum and Gasol. They’ve got a crap ton of motivation: all the trade rumors they dealt with all year, along with the fact that, technically, Pau Gasol should be in Houston, and the fact that Kobe should have ended up like Mariano Rivera. And they’ve got Mike Brown at the helm, the guy who the Lakers may or may not be winning in spite of.
At age 31, Bryant is averaging the third most shot attempts and points per game of his career. He also just made a trip to Germany this off-season, where he may or may not have gotten any entire new leg; that’s probably why we’ve seen what we have seen this year. He has no idea when he will retire, in fact, he’s just confused by it all because we keep telling him he’s supposed to be breaking down but he’s not. That’s a recipe for Kobe Bryant going crazy in these playoffs.
He’s playing on a completely different level from everyone else right now. It’s the perfect storm for him, really. Everything from his futuristic surgery to Mike Brown has allowed Kobe’s inner self to come out. Kobe’s inner self being...the Kobe who is cold hearted scorer by nature. Unlike most, Kobe’s scorer’s mentality is a good thing for his team.
Assuming the Heat take care of Knicks, the Heat have the easiest road to the Finals of any team we’ve ever seen in the past decade. D-Rose is out, and they’ll likely get Indiana in the second round. Boston remains the last hope for all the LeBron haters out there.
Thus far in the playoffs, LeBron is posting a PER of 33.2. That’s his second best of his playoff career, next to what he did in 2009 (37.7 PER), which will go down as one of the more underrated playoff performances in NBA history because the Cavs were upset by Orlando in the Eastern Conference Finals.
One thing is for sure, LeBron will cruise his way through the rest of the East (it’s what he does), it’s just the Finals we’re not sure about—and that’s where the fun will begin.