With the NBA Playoffs quickly approaching, I answer 14 burning questions regarding how far teams will go in the postseason, who has the best chances of winning the NBA Finals, and what player deserves the Rookie of the Year Award, Most Improved Player Award, and what coach deserves the Coach of the Year Award.
With three games remaining in their schedule, the Thunder have the opportunity to end the season anywhere from the second to eighth seed.
Oklahoma City holds a combined record of 11-15 against the seven teams contending for the Western Conference Finals, with three of the wins coming against the Jazz, and two against both the Suns and Mavericks.
Opinion: If Kevin Durant wants to take his team deeper than the first round of the playoffs, his best bet to do so would be if they faced up against any of the three teams mentioned above.
For a team that spent the majority of the season as the second seed in the West, you'd expect them to have pretty much locked up the spot for the postseason.
With Kenyon Martin sidelined for the last six weeks, the Nuggets have compiled a 12-6 overall record which is not too shabby.
The main problem with that statistic is that of those six losses, five of them were suffered on the road, awarding the Denver Nuggets the worst road record of the eight teams competing in the postseason.
Opinion: If Denver wants any opportunity at returning to the WCF, they will need their hard-headed defender Kenyon Martin, back on the court at full health. It has been reported that Martin will give it a go before season's end.
The Miami Heat have a rather easy schedule ahead of themselves which gives them a chance to slide into the fifth seed by season's end.
Miami holds an 0-3 record against the Celtics. Surprisingly, every loss has been by seven points or less.
While Wade scores 27 percent of Miami's total points with only two other players averaging in double figures, Boston's scoring is much more distributed with five players averaging in double figures.
Opinion: Too much dependability on Wade will ultimately be Miami's downfall in the playoffs, regardless of whom they match up against.
During the first two months of the 2009-10 season, Vince Carter realized for the first time in his career that the spotlight was not entirely on him.
He noticed that he could simply go back to playing his game, rather than doing absolutely everything and anything to capture a victory.
Carter has increased his field-goal percentage dramatically over the last two months, shooting 50.4 percent from the field, and a phenomenal 48.0 percent from beyond the 3-point arc (50-for-105).
Opinion: With the Magic playing even better basketball than last season (leading the league in opponent's field goal percentage) Vince Carter is fully prepared to not only win his first championship, but give his name a run for its money in the Hall of Fame.
A burning question that can never have a definite answer, but an opinionated one can suffice.
While the Lakers have not played very consistently during the last month, they are still the strongest team in the Western Conference, with a 15-11 record against the top eight teams in the West.
In addition, they have already clinched their conference, giving them home court advantage (33-6 on the season, T-1st with Denver) throughout the playoffs.
Opinion: With starting center Andrew Bynum reportedly coming back in time for the playoffs, the Lakers have the best odds of making it back to the NBA Finals for a chance to repeat.
It's crystal clear that the Cleveland Cavaliers are the best team, record-wise, in the NBA.
As opposed to last postseason, the Cavs have a forward who can defend Rashard Lewis and a center who can semi-maintain Dwight Howard.
Let's not forget that that was the main issue Cleveland had in the ECF and the biggest reason they acquired Jamison and O'Neal.
With those problems now gone, the Cavaliers have improved their chances of beating Orlando if the two were to face up in the Conference Finals.
Opinion: If role players like Mo Williams, Delonte West, Anthony Parker, and Antawn Jamison can step up and hit crucial buckets when needed to, there is no doubt that Cleveland has just a good of a chance as Orlando and Los Angeles to capture their first championship trophy.
With only three games left on the season, the teams with the most reasonable chance of settling into the second seed are the Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, and Phoenix Suns.
Final three games
Dallas- @Sacramento, @LA Clippers, San Antonio
Denver- San Antonio, Memphis, @Phoenix
Utah- @New Orleans, @Golden State, Phoenix
Phoenix- Houston, Denver, @Utah
Opinion: Dallas are the best team of the bunch and if the seed ends up in a tie with any of the four teams, the Mavericks hold the tie-breaker against Phoenix and Denver.
While the Bobcats rank No. 1 in the league in opponent's PPG, the Magic lead the league in opponent's field goal percentage.
With Charlotte averaging a mere 95.2 PPG (only Detroit and New Jersey average less), it would be extremely difficult for the Bobcats to put up anything close to Orlando's points per game average for a consistent four games in a playoff series.
Anybody who watches basketball has noticed the resurgence of the San Antonio Spurs during the last few months.
While point guard George Hill filled in beautifully for the injured Tony Parker, the tables have turned and Parker is back in his normal starting role.
Opinion: With Manu Ginobili playing his best basketball of the season, Richard Jefferson finally finding his role on the team, and Tim Duncan picking up the pace in April, the Spurs are certainly a team nobody in the West wants to match up against with in the first round of the postseason.
If they face up against a higher seed, I foresee an upset.
While the Atlanta Hawks have won 50 games this season for the first time in 12 long years, they still have to face up against the Cavaliers, Magic, or Celtics if they want a taste of the NBA Finals trophy.
During the '07-'08 season the Hawks battled the Celtics to seven games before falling short. A year later they took Miami to seven games, advanced to the second round, and were quickly shut down by the Cavaliers.
Opinion: With the offseason addition of leading sixth man of the year candidate Jamal Crawford, the Hawks are undoubtedly a much stronger team than one season ago.
But until they can prove to be a dominant team, it's unlikely that they will make it further than the second round of the playoffs.
Luck was on Chicago's side when they faced the Cavaliers the other night, LeBron-less. After stealing a W from them, they fell short to the lowly New Jersey Nets the next night in an overtime duel.
With Toronto's superstar Chris Bosh now out of the picture, the Bulls have an even better edge at capturing the eighth seed in the East.
The problem is that the Bulls have a much more difficult schedule than the depleted Raptors.
Opinion: Raptors stick it out and capture the eighth seed.
As I mentioned in my rookie award article, http://bleacherreport.com/articles/376154-curry-evans-jennings-and-the-rookie-of-the-year-award-goes-to
the top three rookies competing for the award are quite obvious.
Brandon Jennings has brought a team that was considered the worst organization in the league a year ago, to a team that's getting an opportunity to contend for a championship.
Tyreke Evans will become one of only a handful of players to average 20+ PPG, 5+ APG, and 5+ RPG in their rookie season.
Stephen Curry leads all rooks in APG, SPG, FT%, and 3PM and has really caught serious fire throughout the last few months of the season.
Opinion: While it's certainly a tough decision to make, Stephen Curry takes the award in my book due to his adversity entering the league and how tremendous of an athlete he is.
While ESPN's Marc Stein has chosen Gerald Wallace as the MIP, I have reason to believe otherwise.
Although Wallace has enjoyed a sensational season, he really hasn't "improved" dramatically. The biggest increase for G-Wall is his rebounds (+2.4) and points (+1.7) per game.
My MIP award goes to the Houston Rockets starting point guard Aaron Brooks.
Brooks went from averaging 11.2 PPG last season to 19.7 PPG this year (a 8.5-point difference) the biggest point differential for a starter in the NBA this season.
In addition, Brooks raised both his field-goal percentage and three-point percentage nearly 30 percent higher than last season.
With Yao injured all season long and McGrady shipped to New York, the Rockets have found their new franchise player in 6'0" and 161-pound Aaron Brooks.
After winning just 23 games last season, the Oklahoma City Thunder have certainly been one of the biggest surprise teams this year.
With much credit deserved to superstar Kevin Durant and starting point-guard Russell Westbrook, the man behind the scenes is the one who should be recognized for the team's terrific success.
Thunder head coach Scott Brooks has helped his team win more than 20-plus games from one year ago and it looks as if its all uphill from here for the teams extremely young core.
Not to mention, the Thunder have money to spend this offseason and if they could land a quality big man it might be time to consider Oklahoma City a championship contender.