They'll Make the Playoffs, but These NBA Teams Can't Win a Series
As playoff season rolls around, teams are beginning to prepare for who they might match up with. Some teams are beginning to heat up and others are trying to hold their ground in order to reach the postseason.
Based on who is expected to make the playoffs as of today, there are a handful of teams that look like they will not get out of the first round. Others look like locks to make it into June. Regardless, there are five teams that have little to no shot of winning a playoff series.
Daryl Morey has done a great job with the Houston Rockets. After years of collecting assets and young players, he finally was able to capitalize in free agency by adding Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik. He capped off the rebuilding by trading for James Harden.
According to John Hollinger’s playoff odds, Houston is virtually a lock to make the postseason. The real question is what happens when their matchup is finalized. Houston is 2-8 against the top four teams out West and looks to be outmatched from the opening tip.
The problem is most definitely not their offense, which ranks fourth in the league in offensive efficiency, but the defense which ranks 24th in defensive efficiency.
Houston’s problems are similar to the Los Angeles Lakers. Both teams play at one of the fastest paces in the entire league, but that pace hinders the impact of each team’s defensive-minded centers. Houston can certainly get hot and beat anyone on a given night, but their defense will be their undoing in the first round.
While the Milwaukee Bucks have rallied this season and are near clinching a playoff berth, they are more than likely destined for the eighth seed. That means one thing: the Miami Heat in the first round.
The Bucks have been a pretty average team all season long, but the play of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings has helped put them over the top, and barring a complete meltdown, the playoffs. However, Miami is currently riding one of the longest winning streaks in league history and will cause matchup nightmares for Milwaukee.
Despite this, keep an eye on Brandon Jennings, because he is playing for a new contract this summer. He could help lead the Bucks to a win or two against the Heat, because he knows every team in the league interested in him this summer will be watching. That includes his current team and management in Milwaukee. Furthermore, the Heat are susceptible to quick scoring point guards and Milwaukee has two. Just do not expect them to cash in four games against Miami.
Danny Ferry and Larry Drew deserve a ton of credit for the season the Atlanta Hawks have had. Ferry unloaded Joe Johnson’s contract and put Atlanta in a position to be major players this summer in free agency. Meanwhile, Larry Drew coached up a team many prognosticators wrote off this summer and led them to the playoffs.
While Josh Smith may not stick around this summer, the future in Atlanta is bright. Unfortunately, there are too many flaws with this Hawks team to lead anyone to believe they will escape the first round. Atlanta ranks 17th in points per game and is a dreadful 24th in rebounding. Rebounding is vital in the playoffs, because it limits extra possessions and helps control the tempo of the game.
Furthermore, the Indiana Pacers are capable of shutting down the Hawks on offense, the New York Knicks will simply outscore Atlanta and the Brooklyn Nets have mismatches all over the perimeter against Atlanta. That is not to say that the Hawks will not put up a fight, but picking them over any of those three teams is asking a lot from a team that is four playoff losses away from potentially rebuilding.
Golden State Warriors
This may be the surprise team on this list, simply due to the fact that the Golden State Warriors have given teams fits all season long. However, the Warriors rely so much on the long ball that in a seven-game series teams are going to take that away first and foremost.
Secondly, the Warriors defense is not very good and ranks 23rd in points allowed this season. While their rebounding is very good, they could very easily face the San Antonio Spurs or Memphis Grizzlies, and both teams are capable of outrebounding Golden State.
Their third potential foe would be the Los Angeles Clippers.
If Golden State fans expect their team to win a first-round playoff series, they better hope they face the Clippers. Los Angeles has been incapable of slowing down the Warriors from three all year long. Still, the Clippers are as athletic as any team in the league and are still very good defensively.
Overall, Golden State is going to have to rely on hot shooting over four games to win a series. That seems unlikely.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers have had problems all season long. Injuries, coaching changes, player feuds and most importantly losses, have hamstrung the season. Although the Lakers will likely make the playoffs, unfortunately they will probably end up playing one of the top three seeds.
Those three teams are expected to be the Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers and San Antonio Spurs, of which the Lakers are a combined 1-8.
Even if they end up facing the Memphis Grizzlies, they will have only won a single game so far against the top four teams. The problems facing those teams come from everywhere. According to hoopdata, all four teams have a better defensive efficiency ranking and only one is worse in offensive efficiency, Memphis.
Short of a miracle, the Lakers hopes seem to be doomed in the first round of the playoffs. The saving grace is knowing that Dwight Howard is capable of locking in on defense and beating teams up in the paint, although he has rarely done so this season. Kobe Bryant and Dwight should be enough of a formidable duo to lead the Lakers past the first round, but based on nearly an entire season of evidence, it looks unlikely.
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