NBA Playoff Schedule 2011: Predicting Which Top Four Seed Gets Eliminated First

Hayden Kim@@HayDayKimCorrespondent IIIApril 16, 2011

NBA Playoff Schedule 2011: Predicting Which Top Four Seed Gets Eliminated First

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    The seeds are set, the regular season feuds have been settled, and the NBA Playoffs are beginning this weekend. Every team is geared up and ready to go, and we will all see who's really ready to shine under the lights and who takes an early exit. 

    But who will be the sleepers and who will be the disappointments? Well, in this piece the winners and pretenders will not only be separated, but will be made into predictions. 

    Starting from the Western Conference, ending in the Eastern Conference, the top four seeds will be analyzed for their regular season performances, their potential heading into the playoffs, and mere rating as a team, as these teams will be judged either to be an early exit or will venture deep into the playoffs. 

    Hope you enjoy and as always, feel free to weigh in on the topic after the read.

No. 4 Oklahoma City Thunder

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    If there's one thing to be learned from this years NCAA Tournament, it is that upsets can happen at anytime from any team. 

    Same goes for this year's NBA Playoffs. The Oklahoma City Thunder are coming in as the fourth seed in the West and with a (55-27) record, the Thunder are far from a mediocre team. 

    Facing off against the otherwise en fuego Denver Nuggets, the Thunder will definitely have their hands full, but most people have predicted them to go far and honestly they have the potential to make it to the Western Conference Finals, maybe even to the NBA Finals. 

    For a team that carries the two-time NBA Scoring Champion, Kevin Durant, and top-five point guard, Russell Westbrook, the sky is the limit for this team and there won't be a better experience than watching this team continue to grow as they compete for their first NBA Title. 

    Chance of being knocked out in the first round: 25 percent

No. 3 Dallas Mavericks

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    One way or the other, the Mavericks always seem to find themselves in a hole heading into the playoffs. With people doubting them for their lack of defense and mental toughness, the Mavericks might as well be labeled as the "early exit team" in the West this year. 

    According to Coach George Karl of the Denver Nuggets, "If we had to pick and choose on it, we would probably say 55 percent Dallas, 45 percent Oklahoma City, only because Oklahoma City is athletic like we are and they have two great players." 

    Now when a coach calls a top-three seeded team out like this, there's a good reason for it. With a (57-25) record, the Mavericks are among the top in the league when it comes to their record, but that isn't the problem for most people; the problem is the fact that the Mavericks have never fared too well in the playoffs, even when having a more than talented team. 

    It may be too early to say, but the Mavericks have a very good chance of losing in the first round to the underrated Portland Trail Blazers, who have proven that they can play with the best in the league. 

    Chance of being knocked out in first round: 65 percent

No. 2 Los Angeles Lakers

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    So the "homophobic slur" issue has been resolved, Andrew Bynum's MRI came back with workable results and the Lakers finished out the season with two wins. Sounds good to me, what about you?

    Well, it hasn't been exactly the fairy book ending that everybody was expecting out of the Lakers in these last few weeks, losing five straight and scoring around 90 points a game in those games. But for the Lakers, it's never really been too much about winning the regular season, it has been to outperform the competition in the postseason, where it really matters. 

    With a (57-25) record, the Lakers sealed the second seed in the West, just over the Mavericks (due to a tiebreaker) and they will be facing off against the not-so-hot New Orleans Hornets, who haven't really been much of a threat, not taking into account the first month of great basketball they had in the beginning of the season. 

    As long as the Lakers can maintain consistent performances from Bynum, Artest and Gasol, this team will always be difficult to beat in a seven-game series, especially with home-court advantage. But we will see how the Lakers fare with how banged up they have gotten in this last week, with Bynum's unexpected injury, Blake's first and only Chicken Pox and Barne's knee problems. Health will be the biggest key for the Lakers and the scary fact is, that is not something that can be controlled. 

    Chances of being knocked out in the first round: 10 percent

No. 1 San Antonio Spurs

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    Changing of the offense and tempo, check. Winning the Western Conference regular season, check. Avoiding serious injuries, check. Must we really go on?

    The San Antonio Spurs have once again snuck their way into the top of the league, and if Coach Popvich doesn't receive some type of award for his ingenious methods, the Nobel Prize Committee should look into it. 

    With the best record in the West (61-21) the Spurs have not only clinched home court, but in reality they got the easiest first-round team in the West in the Memphis Grizzlies, who do not have Rudy Gay for the remainder of the season. 

    The road to finals is almost destined for the Spurs, but as we all know, anything is possible, and nothing is guaranteed. For the Spurs to win, fatigue might be the biggest factor, with all those veteran players—Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli, Tim Duncan, etc.—it'd be hard to imagine fatigue not being a factor. But there is a reason why the Spurs decided to sit their starters in the last two games, and hopefully for them, it pays off in the long run. 

    Chances of being knocked out in the first round: 10 percent

No. 4 Orlando Magic

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    Coming off one of his best regular seasons, Dwight Howard has led his Orlando Magic back to the playoffs. The only question is, are they ready?

    Not too long ago, the Magic made a big blockbuster trade to get Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson and Gilbert Arenas, and though it hasn't been bad, the trade isn't near what the Magic were looking for. 

    With a (52-30) record, this year really hasn't been the Magic's best year, and with all the power-house teams in the East like the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls, the Magic just might not have what it takes to reach the Eastern Conference Finals this year. 

    Did I forget to mention they are facing off against the Atlanta Hawks? Well, they are and as we all know, the Hawks aren't a team that is easily beaten. This year's playoffs will be mostly up to Dwight and how he handles the spotlight, because if he can somehow manage to continue to play at the level he has been playing, maybe the Magic will have a fighting chance; otherwise, the Magic could easily go out in the first round. 

    Chance of getting knocked out in the first round: 40 percent

No. 3 Boston Celtics

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    Before the season people were predicting a repeat of last year's NBA Finals (Lakers vs. Celtics), but over the course of the season, those same predictions have come to be questioned. 

    Throughout the regular season, the Celtics, Bulls and Heat battled it out for the top seed in the East, and at numerous times, the Celtics did indeed hold the top seed, even when it seemed like they were going under the radar. 

    Even with the injuries and stretches of mediocrity, the Celtics still finished with a (56-26) record, and will have the third seed in the East, facing off against the New York Knicks in the first round. 

    Here's the million-dollar question, though: Can the Celtics prove critics wrong once again? The reality is that they still have three of the best veteran players in the league today in Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and rising superstar, Rajon Rondo, and with players like Shaquille O'Neal and Jeff Green, the Celtics have become just that much better in this last year. 

    When healthy, this team can still compete and beat the best of teams, so don't you even think about counting out the older C's this year, because age can only help them.

    Chances of being knocked out in the first round: 10 percent

No. 2 Miami Heat

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    It all started with the "taking of talents" to South Beach and now the Miami Heat have, with no surprise, made the NBA Playoffs. But that isn't exactly what NBA fans were looking for; fans are still looking to see the Heat face off against the best in the West, preferably the Lakers. 

    Just imagine with me for a second, potentially watching the Lakers and Heat in the finals. Amazing, isn't it? You're not alone: TV advertisers and all those involved in the NBA business want to see the Lakers and Heat face off against each other in what would be the first matchup between Kobe and LeBron. But can the Heat prove the regular season haters wrong? 

    To be fair to the Heat, anything is possible for this team, and if this team really began to mold together as a unit, making the NBA Finals wouldn't be as much as a surprise as most people would think. 

    Finishing in the East as the second best team with a record (58-24), the Heat have shown multiple signs of greatness, especially on the defensive end. 

    So whether or not you feel for the city of Akron, Ohio, or you have come to disrespect Chris Bosh as the year has went along, don't expect the Heat to fold in the playoffs. Simple logic says, the more superstars you have, the better that team will be off in the finals. 

    Chances of being knocked out in the first round: 15 percent

No. 1 Chicago Bulls

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    What a run the Chicago Bulls have gone on. They were projected to be among the top in the league, but no one expected this team to be where they are today, sitting on top, heading into the playoffs, ahead of the veteran Celtic team, and also ahead of the sparking Miami Heat. 

    With the best overall regular season record (62-20), the Bulls have proven the league that they are the best regular season team, but as always, the regular season performances don't exactly roll over into the postseason, and with so many great teams in the East, the road to the finals will be like climbing Mount Everest, overcoming near impossible obstacles. 

    The postseason will either clarify that the Bulls are indeed the best team in the league, or it will rip apart a young and upcoming team, as the postseason has done oh-so-many times. 

    Chances of being knocked out in the first round: 8 percent