More than a quarter into this promising NBA season, many things have been determined: The bad, lottery teams have been decided, as well as for the good teams.
Though obviously bad teams receive the nicer rookies, or better trade offers, the most vital part of this season will lay in the hands of the good teams.
If you’re like me, the NBA season is just a long impatient turmoil waiting for the playoffs to happen. It’s like when a palm reader slowly hesitates about your future and then, BOOM, she suddenly decides on your fate. This is much like the 82 game season.
We try to estimate what will happen—first seed, second seed, playoff matchups---and then the palm reader tells you what you’ve been edgily waiting for: your life expectancy, the NBA finals.
That’s what it all leads up to: your job, family, wife doesn’t matter unless it counterparts with your life expectancy. The same goes with the NBA: why should the regular season, the play-offs and all the rest matter if it doesn’t lead up to the championship.
That’s what matters.
Yet, sometimes it’s fun to wait and see—it’s fun to try and guess what might unroll, what teams will make it to the last two. This season, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing.
And the solution may have presented itself to simple:
(Take your time to think about)
(Pour yourself some wine; this may take some time)
Okay, let’s go.
The NBA, for the first time in while, illustrates a season not made out of a five-team race. That much we can tell. For a while, the season was holding a void—a void of teams not in the top five with a chance at going all the way. This year, yes, there are five top dogs, yet, there are many more possibilities (e.g. Mavs, Suns, Hawks, Blazers, Wizards) to hold the O’Brien trophy.
But, ultimately, one team will hold, only competing against one other squad. Lakers competing against the Magic.
Let’s begin with the improved East: though many teams struggle, the top teams in the League hold many in the East. You have the Celtics, Cavaliers, Hawks, and the Magic. As we learned from last year, the many competitors the Magic will undoubtedly face are the Celtics and the Cavs.
At the moment, the top of the East looks like this: Cavs at number one with a 26-8 record, then Boston and Orlando tied at two with records of 23-8. Cavs are the hot team with six straight wins; Magic won their last game to start a hopefully new long streak, and Celtics, struggling with injuries, and are the culprit of three straight losses.
Seeing as their tied with the Magic, we can start by degrading the Celt’s. At the moment, Pierce and Garnett are both in suits, watching their team struggling. Though they may have looked somewhat indestructible the past two seasons, this can be viewed as a remainder about how old they are to be putting themselves out on the court every day.
Even healthy, there would be evident mismatches when attempting to guard the Magic for the Celtics. If you took position by position defensive matchups, that ultimately leads to Perkins guarding Howard. Howard is one of the more athletic big men in the league—Perkins is not. The smarter decision to attempt to guard Howard, then, would be Garnett, winner of 07-08 defensive player award. Though that might take care of Howard, you find yourself watching Perkins attempt to guard Lewis.
Faster, Lewis would dominate Perkins playing excessively outside for a power forward, eventually tiring Kendrick.
Secondly, the Magic, after both starting line-ups tire down, have a much deeper bench that can produce. Celtics, obviously, are an aging team and, in the playoffs, after playing 82 games, will have to rely sometimes on their bench. Against a loaded bench in the Magic, the Celtics bench would have trouble competing.
A Magic, Celtics matchup would be highly beneficial towards the Magic.
In due course, Orlando would most likely end up facing hot Cleveland team. Last year, it took only six games for the Magic to complete their upset. Why? Because of one of the oldest plays in the book—the pick & roll. We saw, possession after possession, in the series, how the Magic would dominate the Cavs team with it.
Howard and Nelson have developed a combo here that is highly sought after on any team. It works almost to perfection. Though Shaq was indeed a good addition, here is maybe the one place he will undeniably hurt them.
In a pick, the defender’s most vital duty is to react fast. And then run fast. Though Shaq could probably understand, as a veteran, what would be about to un-roll, given his age and speed, it would be extremely hard for him to react quick enough to stop the play. The Cavs, like the Celtics, should be a competitive opponent for Orlando, but should be taken care of.
We’ve concluded, already, that the Magic should advance past the semi-finals, and end up playing the winner of the west. The Lakers, the now defending champions, should and can be the imperative winner in the viable west.
There are, undoubtedly, a great number of teams worth mentioning in the West. But there are scarce that can really compete with the defending champions; two, to be exact. The offensive power in the Nuggets, and the defensive minded Spurs.
We shall commence with the Nuggets. Billups and Anthony make one of the most feared duos in the game, while Anthony has gained top form this year and is a potential MVP. They will indubitably be a fierce team to face for the Lakers.
First and foremost, what matters for the Lakers, essentially, is Kobe’s scoring. And, obviously, Kobe will pile up the points if he’s guarded by a less-than average defender. Fundamentally, Carmelo’s role on defense will be Kobe. Taking nothing away from Anthony, he’s a terrific offensive players, he’s a complete defensive liability. Let me emphasize on this—Anthony, a defensive burden, guarding the best player on the planet. A definite problem if I ever saw one.
Last year, Dahntay Jones did a decent job defending Kobe. He still exploded numerous times, and Jones has left in a contract related dispute.
J.R smith would also struggle trying to defend Kobe, and, thus, also leaving Anthony in charge of Artest.
Secondly, the Lakers, like the Magic, have too many weapons leaving the Nuggets in utter confusion and many a defensive mismatch.
This leaves the Spurs the real competition for the Lakers. But they aren’t.
Once again, Kobe is the real factor in this series. In past years, Bowen has done a tremendous job defending good perimeter players, including Kobe. This year, they are left with Ginobli (another liability) or Finley (aging) to guard him. This would conclude in some punishing done by Bryant.
The X factor in this series could be the Spurs tiring down with age. It promises to be a possibly long series, and this would definitely fatigue the Spurs.
Conclusion: With the Magic receiving some, but not enough, struggle in their conference, and the Lakers being led by soon-to-be MVP, an instant replay is bound to happen. In the finals, well, it primarily depends on how well the two teams play to their potential. New additions Artest and Carter will no doubt be vital, but every aspect from both teams will play out in this match-up.
The palm reader is done---it’s up to them to figure how the end will play out.