The 2011 version of the NBA playoffs figures to be one of the most exciting postseasons in recent memory.
There are many questions to be asked, and there are many answers to be given.
In the picture above, I see two players whose teams will be destined for greatness this spring, and with hard work and the luck of the basketball gods, success is bound to happen.
I am here to answer 25 of the most prevalent questions this postseason has to offer and, in turn, the answers will make this an enticing, awesome April and beyond.
With all that in mind, thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy!
The one-versus-eight matchup in the West features the San Antonio Spurs and the Memphis Grizzlies, and every NBA fan knows that anything can happen during these playoffs. It's not entirely crazy to suggest the Grizz can win.
They are fairly strong in all aspects of the game, and I believe they have a stronger frontcourt in Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol than the Spurs do with Tim Duncan and Antonio McDyess.
The main difference between the two teams is that only one of them has had numerous playoff experiences together, and that is obviously the Spurs.
The Grizzlies, on the other hand, have not been to the playoffs in five seasons and most of the players on the roster do not have playoff experience.
To answer the question, yes, they have a shot at beating San Antonio.
Will it happen, though?
It's hard to fathom, but the Indiana Pacers are finally a part of the playoffs after a five-season hiatus.
It's also hard to fathom this season considering team leader Danny Granger isn't having his finest year. New guys on the block, like Tyler Hansbrough and Darren Collison, have done a fine job filling in as leaders.
Unfortunately, they take on the red-hot Bulls, a team that went a surprising 62-20 after a 9-8 start that left them scratching their heads.
If the Pacers are able to buckle down and put up some big points, they could put the Bulls into a deep state of depression, but even winning two games in the series is unlikely.
There is no doubt in my mind that Tom Thibodeau of the Chicago Bulls deserves Coach of the Year, but Doug Collins of Philadelphia is just as deserving. The 59-year-old former 76er has proved that mediocrity can be tossed out the window in a first season as head coach.
With a nucleus of young players like Andre Iguodala (27), Evan Turner (22), Thaddeus Young (22), Jrue Holiday (20) and Jodie Meeks (23), the Philadelphia 76ers will be ready for long-term success.
Sadly, the Sixers will lose in the first round this season to the Miami Heat, but that doesn't mean favor won't swing their way in the future.
Kendrick Perkins of the Oklahoma City Thunder will be one of the playoffs' most talked-about players.
At 26, he is already one of the older players on the roster and will be especially important for the defensive part of Oklahoma City's game.
He will have to go up against the likes of Pau Gasol, Nene and Tim Duncan throughout the course of the playoffs, so he better be ready to take them down with him.
In just two seasons as starting point guard of the Philadelphia 76ers, Jrue Holiday has already established himself as a solid point guard, and just about no one in the league is taking notice.
Holiday puts up 14 points per game to go with a decent 6.5 assists and four rebounds per game.
At just 20, the 6'4" Holiday is already a premier leader in the City of Brotherly Love.
He is also an OK defender and is fantastic with his hands, snagging 1.5 steals per game.
If the Sixers are to go far this postseason, they need to have an awesome series from Holiday and the rest of the crew.
The Memphis Grizzlies will put up a big fight, but ultimately it will be the San Antonio Spurs whose experience will come in the most handy. They will win the series 4-2.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook lead the talented Oklahoma City Thunder to a six-game defeat of the Denver Nuggets. The men of the Rockies might be a season or two away from making a deep playoff run.
The Dallas Mavericks will put up a fight, but will find the same outcome as usual, losing to the Portland Trail Blazers in an epic seven-game battle.
Lastly, the Los Angeles Lakers should have no problem taking care of business against an overachieving New Orleans Hornets team, defeating them efficiently in five.
The Chicago Bulls will orchestrate a nearly perfect five-game series against the overmatched Indiana Pacers.
Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic will take care of business, destroying the Atlanta Hawks' playoff chances once again in six hard-fought clashes.
In a tremendous series, the New York Knicks find the perfect amount of defense to take down the almighty Boston Celtics.
The Miami Heat face small road blocks, but defeat the Philadelphia 76ers in five contests.
The Atlanta Hawks are, without a doubt, the most confusing team in the association.
Each of the last three seasons they have been expected to do great things in the postseason, ever since breaking into April in 2008, yet they seemingly always fall short.
And with a squad that features Josh Smith and All-Stars Joe Johnson and Al Horford, how could you?
Will this year be the year?
Unfortunately, I don't think so, as they take on a strong defensive-minded Orlando Magic squad that might be hungrier come crunch time.
This was perhaps the easiest question to answer on the entire list because the answer is so obvious.
Every single key player on the Thunder is sub-30 years of age (Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Thabo Sefolosha, Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka), and the basketball nation needs to pay attention to what these guys are doing with their small-market club.
Something that went unnoticed this past offseason was the signing of Durant, and the basketball world was so focused on "The Decision" that they missed perhaps the biggest decision of the summer of 2010—the decision for the Thunder to become a mainstay in the next decade.
Yes, the San Antonio Spurs have talent and experience, but the Oklahoma City Thunder are the future of the NBA, and the future starts now. OKC wins a thriller in seven games.
The Portland Trail Blazers will enjoy their magical run, defeating the Dallas Mavericks in the first round before falling short to the ultra-experienced Los Angeles Lakers in five games.
In an effort that falls just short, the Orlando Magic lose in seven games to the Chicago Bulls as Luol Deng, Derrick Rose and the rest of the club play with heart and determination that resembles some of Michael Jordan's teams.
After enjoying their series victory over the Boston Celtics, the New York Knicks face a victory hangover and get flattened by the Miami Heat in five games, a series that sees LeBron James and Dwyane Wade each record a triple-double.
Chris Paul's role as team leader of the New Orleans Hornets is unquestioned, and he will need to put up some huge numbers and play phenomenal defense in order for the club to contend in these playoffs.
In my opinion, New Orleans is the weakest team in the West bracket of the playoffs, and the Lakers definitely got the best draw.
However, that doesn't mean they don't have a chance, but a lack of frontcourt depth behind David West and Emeka Okafor will prove to be stifling for New Orleans' finest.
Not even the best of CP3 will be able to take down the Lakers, as they will advance with ease.
The Portland Trail Blazers, which finished at 48-34 this season, are my pick as the dark horse on the Western front.
At the trade deadline, they snagged another solid ballplayer in Gerald Wallace, and this has really brought them to the point where they can discuss the second round and beyond in the playoffs.
The backcourt is anchored by Andre Miller and Wesley Matthews, a Marquette graduate who has established himself as a formidable option at the wing.
The frontcourt is also great, and we will no doubt see a lot of Marcus Camby and (All-Star snub) LaMarcus Aldridge, who's 22 and nine averages match up with nearly anyone in the NBA.
Watch out, Dallas; Portland is coming for you.
Dirk Nowitzki's legacy undoubtedly will be tarnished if he concludes his career without a championship ring.
He will be remembered among the likes of George Gervin, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, John Stockton and Patrick Ewing. That comparison won't be based on skill but on the fact that they were legends who never won championships.
This season might be the time to do it for Dirk and the Mavericks, but they have a tough first-round matchup in the Blazers, and this season's version of a magical run could end as soon as next week.
Simply put, Dirk needs a ring to solidify himself as an all-time great, and he is slowly but surely losing his chances.
In one of the greatest conference finals of all-time, the Los Angeles Lakers emerge victorious in seven games.
They will prove themselves better than the Oklahoma City Thunder with the outstanding play from Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom.
Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the rest of the Thunder squad head home with their heads up, knowing they will get their chance next year.
The Miami Heat run into a roadblock when they head to the Windy City to play the Chicago Bulls, and it is the Bulls which will emerge as the victors.
The difference between the two clubs has to do with post play. The Heat are considered soft on both ends of the floor with their bigs, and the Bulls in turn take advantage of the situation, and both Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer come up big.
The game's best player, LeBron James, misses out on yet another title opportunity, and he heads back to South Beach with the rest of the squad.
When the New York Knicks dealt for Amar'e Stoudemire last summer and then Carmelo Anthony this past February, they made it known that they are not joking around anymore.
As the Knickerbockers claimed the sixth seed of the Eastern Conference, they were granted perhaps the biggest gift of all—playing the Boston Celtics in the first round.
The C's are 6-7 over the last month or so, and the Knicks, which won seven games in a row in April before dropping two to end the season, are on a roll.
'Melo and Amar'e will indeed coexist in finding a way to defeat the Celtics, and it starts at the heart of defense, something the two don't necessarily specialize in. If they want to win, they must step up their defensive tones from dismal to tenacious.
Coming into the season, the Miami Heat looked primed to make an NBA Finals run.
James had a phenomenal season, averaging more than 26 points, and his usual eye-popping numbers of seven rebounds and seven assists. Wade joined him, putting up 25, six and five throughout the season.
Unfortunately for them, they have looked awful at times, namely towards the ends of contests due to their consistent failure to close out games. It was almost as if you could hear the collective groans every time the Heat trailed in the fourth, as if they were giving up all at once.
A 58-win season felt like a failure to fans in South Beach, and despite getting a No. 2 seed, they feel as if they are still the top dogs in the East.
They are going to be one of the more hated clubs in the playoffs, and until they deliver upon their preseason expectations, they will feel like failures.
Dwight Howard is an incredible player, and if the Most Valuable Player award was given to the player who does the most for his team (unfortunately, now the committee gives it to the best player on a top team), Howard would undoubtedly win it.
In the spring of 2009, Dwight took the rest of the Magic, an otherwise mediocre supporting cast that included Hedo Turkoglu, Rafer Alston and Rashard Lewis, to the NBA Finals.
This season it will be the same story but with a few different flames.
Dwight's intensity and intimidation on both sides of the ball easily makes him the most important player in the playoffs. Without him the crew wouldn't even be .500. He could lead the Magic to the Finals for the second time in three seasons, and everyone knows that it rests upon his shoulders in Orlando.
I think the competition this season is too staunch to ignore, but give the Magic another season (and another key player) and they could head back to the Finals very, very soon.
When Carmelo Anthony headed to New York this February, most thought the Knickerbockers were the winners of the deal.
Those people are what I like to call ignorant, turning away from the fact that the Nuggets improved tremendously on the defensive end as well as overall in the aftermath of the deal.
They gave up Chauncey Billups, 34, to get a similar point guard in Raymond Felton, 26, and in turn this will help their long-term plans. They also got youth from giving up 'Melo with the 22-year-old Danilo Gallinari, who is five years Anthony's junior
An additional piece in the Carmelo deal was Wilson Chandler who, at 23, already has one of the game's best mid-range jumpers.
It wouldn't faze me if the Nuggets make an NBA Finals run this season, but ultimately the Knicks handed the Nuggets a decade of relevance in the NBA.
Denver all of a sudden became a decent defensive team due to the fact that Kenyon Martin and Arron Afflalo are now playing a lot of minutes, and this will help them come next week and perhaps beyond.
Rajon Rondo and the Celtics are not enjoying the best month ever.
At the beginning of March, they were the consensus No. 1 seed and the team to beat in the East, and then everything came back to reality for Boston's finest.
What is to blame? Is it the Kendrick Perkins trade?
I honestly don't think so, but in terms of whether it helped destroy a little chemistry, there is no doubt.
If the C's want to defeat the Knicks, they must go back to their old ways of pre-March, and it all starts with the play of Rondo. Otherwise Delonte West might continue to usurp some more of his precious time.
No one can deny that the trio of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili ranks among the best in NBA history.
Together they have won three titles (Duncan has won four), and this season they could make it four as a group.
Age won't be on their side much longer, as Duncan will be 35 next week and Parker and Ginobili are 28 and 33.
If the Spurs want to win their first title in four years, they must play with the same intensity that has plagued the rest of the NBA whenever they have faced San Antonio's finest in the playoffs.
Will they be ready for two months of play?
Only time will tell.
The Lakers have gone through the month of April coasting, perhaps costing themselves a legitimate shot at the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.
A record of three wins and five losses in the final weeks of the season isn't a positive sign, but is it reason for concern?
One of the things to be possibly worried about is the health of Andrew Bynum. Upon injuring himself yet again, Bynum is now apparently set to play in the postseason, and he might become an x-factor if he doesn't prove to be 100 percent.
I don't see any reason to doubt the Lakers as of now. They've proved to me in the past few years that anything is possible and that you dare not doubt them.
The Chicago Bulls, at 62 wins and 20 defeats, are probably the NBA's best team right now.
Their regular-season record is astounding, especially when you factor in that Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer both missed a chunk of the season. It is also awesome when you realize that they lack a true shooting guard, as Keith Bogans merely starts games then sits on the bench, and all Kyle Korver does is jack up threes.
I would agree that the Bulls are the team to beat this postseason. There is no other club that manages games better than them.
Oh, and did I mention their superstar point guard, Derrick Rose?
He'll probably win the NBA's Most Valuable Player award after averaging nearly 25 points, almost nine assists and more than a block per game, amazing considering his size and the fact that guards take more outside shots as opposed to going inside.
Rose's defense will be key during the postseason, and he did a fine job improving himself throughout the duration of the season in that aspect, further establishing his legacy as a defender.
The Bulls will go into the playoffs as unexpected favorites, and they have all the reason to believe they can win the franchise's seventh title, and the first since the great Michael Jordan left town in 1998.
The Lakers and the Spurs have the most experience out of any teams in the Association, no questions asked.
Will those past playoff appearances and titles play into what happens this year? Of course it will, but at the same time I have to say respectfully that the Lakers aren't as good as they were last season.
If the Lake Show wants to win a 17th NBA Finals trophy, a title that would tie them with the Boston Celtics for the most, they must receive solid point guard play, something they haven't necessarily seen all year.
On the other hand, the Chicago Bulls sport the league's best point guard in Derrick Rose (sorry, Chris Paul) and a formidable trio of post players in Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah. Those facts are hard to ignore if you're a Los Angeles Laker or, for that matter, any team taking on Chicago's best.
In the end, the Lakers will fall short in an epic seven-game series that will see Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol inches away from their third rings in as many years.
Phil Jackson will walk away from the game, feeling empty despite having more rings than fingers, with 11 to his coaching name.
Deng, who is also an excellent wingman to Rose, is my surprise selection for the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player. I look for him to average 20 and eight in a series that will redefine the Chicago Bulls for years to come.