NBA Playoffs '08-'09: Living Up to the Potential

Zack KingstadContributor IMarch 13, 2009

NBA Playoffs '08-'09: Living Up to the Potential

Mar. 12, 2009


With the 2008-2009 NBA Playoffs vastly approaching and with most teams having less than 20 games to go in the regular season, fans are starting to come up with their early playoff predictions.

The Sun is suppose to set in the West, but with Phoenix’s current third-worst losing streak in the league, the Top Eight in the West are starting to put away their SPF-40 suntan lotion.

The East, on the other hand is a polar opposite, with the sixth-13th seeds only separated by five-and-a-half games, every single game is starting to really have more meaning for those teams. The teams being Detroit, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Chicago, New Jersey, Charlotte, Indiana, and New York respectively.  

So, who will get the sixth through eight seeds? More importantly, will it matter? Are some teams perhaps throwing in the towel at this point to get a higher draft pick rather than facing off against the Cavs, Celts, or Magic?

Do GM’s at some point give up on a particular season to better their teams' future and should any of these on the bubble teams do just that? 

It’s hard to say who’d be able to give any of the elite three in the East a run for their money at this point. After all, this time around, Atlanta isn’t an eighth seed, so we can’t expect a seven-game series between ATL & BOS, at least in the first round.

Can you foresee New York, Indiana, or Charlotte taking out Boston or Cleveland? I can’t really; however, I can see any of the teams, 6-13, potentially taking out the, still for the most part, inexperienced Orlando Magic—not to say the Magic are soft, but with Jameer out and the late addition of Skip?

The question is will he be able to defend against any of the plausible first round tough guard matchups. As the standings are right now, Detroit would face off against Orlando, and I think that’s exactly where Detroit wants to position themselves, for a potential early first round upset.

So how do I see the final three spots in the East playing out. I’d put my money on six. Detroit, seven. Chicago, eight. New Jersey. Maybe this is what I think would wind up being the most entertaining, or perhaps, it’s just a gut instinct telling me the Bucks and the 76ers will off themselves based upon their remaining schedules.

Although I do think a LeBron vs. Carter matchup could still perhaps be mildly entertaining, I think the key to that matchup would be Harris’ speed and how well he’s able to exploit it.

Potential Dallas Mavericks' No. 1 seed implosion? Doubtful, but I think New Jersey would make a better series out of it than the Knicks, Bobcats, Pacers, Bucks, or 76ers would for that matter.

Moving onto Chicago at the seventh spot vs. Boston. From the sounds of it, the arena is echoing, “Domination…domination!”, but on paper, it makes for a much better matchup.  Boston’s success largely lies on the Roller-skater, Jesus Shuttlesworth and The Truth. 

On the other side of the court with the Bulls, you have Gordon, Hinrich, and Rookie Sensation Derrick Rose.  All of whom I can see being a tough guard for Allen or Rondo.  Moving onto the matchup with The Truth, you have Deng, whether or not he’ll be back and at 100 percent remains to be seen. 

The last time the Bulls were in the playoffs (‘06-‘07), Deng was playing at an All-Star caliber, averaging 22 PPG, 8 RPG, 2.4 ASTS, 1 STL while shooting a highly efficient 52.4 percent from the field.

Not to say he’ll be able to duplicate those stats again, but if he’s able to again rise to the occasion, while making it tough for The Truth with his lengthy frame, this could be a better series than most would think.

With the recent additions of Salmons and the combined efforts of Brad Miller, Tyrus Thomas’ athleticism and Noah’s consistent defensive effort, they could make things tough on KG & Perkins down low.

I could again potentially foresee a huge first round upset here.

The potential series between the fourth and fifth seeds in the Eastern Conference should by no means be overlooked.

With Wade making a serious case for MVP debates around the league, if not at least a Presidential-esque campaign for Most Exciting Player to watch in the league, any series with him will be fun to watch.

You know Joe Johnson will always bring it on the other side, and Bibby’s made many clutch plays throughout his career.

Will Josh Smith play up to his potential, and will Marvin be back in action by then? As of right now, no one knows…what I do know is that Miami and Atlanta are less than 700 miles apart, so no one has any jet-lag excuses.

Let’s take a look at the matchups out in the West if the seeds stay as is. Lakers (one) vs. Dallas (eight), San Antonio (two) vs. Denver (seven), Houston (three) vs. Portland (six) and Utah (four) vs. New Orleans (five).

The only first round series on the board that seems at all entertaining is Utah and New Orleans, which I’d be willing to wager most anything that it won’t go down that way.

Utah is on a run right now, and I see either them or New Orleans taking Houston out of their current third spot. I see Houston falling to the sixth or seventh, around time the Playoffs start, which would make a more entertaining series than vs. Portland. 

I don’t see Portland getting out of the first round, unless they can manage to play it just right and get the eighth seed to work on a series upset vs. the Lakers.

Those two teams have some bad blood, added to more recently with the Ariza/Fernandez collision. 

I don’t really see anyone upsetting the Spurs in the first round, as long as they hold onto their home court advantage.

With the addition of Gooden, Duncan will be able to get some much needed rest at times, and I’m sure Popovich will remove Bonner from the starting lineups to cause certain mismatches with Duncan playing the five and Gooden playing the four.

I think Gooden was a great late addition for the Spurs; it should allow Duncan to have much needed rest at times, and as a result, allow him to be in the best shape he’s been in for a few years and maintain it when it comes down to Playoff time.

Providing Manu, TP & TD are healthy for the Playoffs; I can see the Spurs giving it a realistic Championship run. Billups & Melo really need to give it their all to get to that sixth or fifth seed, where they could have a much easier go of it than vs. the Spurs as it would be if the Playoffs started today.

The potential series predictions—what would make for the best matchups and how I see it all playing out:

I don’t see Dallas moving out of the eighth seed, unless somehow it’s to the ninth and out of the Playoffs. 

I think Portland will most likely wind up in the seventh or sixth spot; at this point, I don’t think many teams in the West really want to meet up with the Spurs or the Lakers first round. 

If it is indeed the Blazers, as I expect it will be, I think the Spurs could sweep this series, unless Portland can really manage to rally and give it their all. With Webster out for the season and Oden thus far in his career an injury machine, who knows if he’ll be available for this series. 

Assuming he is and can remain healthy for a series, he could at least make it more difficult than most on Duncan with his size and athleticism. I don’t know how much it would really matter though because Parker would carve up the Blazers defense relatively easy, as he always seems to make it look.

Onto my projected sixth seed the Houston Rockets vs. the Utah Jazz.

I give a definite edge to the Utah Jazz especially with home court advantage. They’re healthy and seemingly starting to mold all of their pieces together in perfect time to make a legitimate run at it.

In the Western conference, that’s truly saying something, considering powerhouses LA & San Antonio have been holding it down for over a decade. This series would come down to whether or not Yao could keep pace in the game and if Brooks & Artest decide to get him his much needed touches. 

The Rockets are truly an anomaly to me, because if Yao got closer to 20-25 shots a game, I don’t see many teams beating them.

You know the opposing team will have to be deep into their bench by the end of the game, due to foul trouble and it’s just amazing how a team doesn’t choose to exploit possibly the most noticeable mismatch in all of Sports.

Last but not least, CP3 vs. Mr. Big Shot, my projected fourth seeded Hornets vs. the fifth-seeded Nuggets.

This series doesn’t look pretty for Denver, if the Hornets are all healthy and able to relentlessly attack. 

The whole "Chandler was traded and then not traded," shook up the league for a bit there, because I’m sure a lot of teams were happy they were no longer going to have to deal with that consistent lob from Chris to Tyson. 

This series really comes down to health issues I feel though, with Nene & Martin on again again/off again and with PJ’s back spasms, it might come down to who can stay healthy for a series and stay out of foul trouble. 

I think, if Melo could gather some of his Olympic fuel and decide to put it to good consistent use in the post, rather than shooting outside jumpers night in and night out, it would help Billups and George Karl’s gang dramatically.

Unfortunately though, Melo and his new dew this year have went at times a much different direction than the Olympics, bickering with Karl about whether or not he was coming out of a game—leading to him being suspended by the team for the game after. 

It’s a question of can and when will Carmelo live up to his potential? 

Will it be this year or will it take him another few years or perhaps does he need to be in the position of second leading role?

In conclusion, the 2008-2009 Playoffs have all the potential to be great. Will they live up to the high hopes and dreams of many NBA fans is a good question? Only time will tell; I definitely think there will be more than one first round upset this year. 

I don’t foresee a repeat of last year’s Finals, which for Boston fans can’t be good.  Starbury may have cursed you all...