Ranking the NBA Playoff Surviors

D.Michael LeeSenior Analyst IMay 11, 2009

DENVER - MAY 05:  Kenyon Martin #4 of the Denver Nuggets reacts after a play against the Dallas Mavericks in Game Two of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at Pepsi Center on May 5, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Mavericks 117-105. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

After a week off from MMPG, I return, and quite a bit has changed since my last entry. We have seen the Rockets win without Yao Ming in the playoffs over the heavily favored Lakers, we have seen the Cavaliers and Nuggets play as good as you can play during the postseason in dominating their victims opponents.

We have seen last second shots from the likes of Glen “Big Baby” Davis. Only in the NBA Playoffs, where amazing happens. Ok, the league didn’t pay me for that commercial promoting their product, but this truly is my favorite time of year.

With eight teams remaining going into tonight, I decided to change things up a bit, and do a power rankings based on my confidence in each team half way through this post season. These rankings may be a bit different from the intital playoff predictions we posted a few weeks back. Enjoy…

Teams ranked from lowest confidence to highest

8. Atlanta Hawks - Tonight we could see our first two teams eliminated from the postseason, and the Hawks will be one of them. While Atlanta has improved over their 2007-08 campaign, and won a playoff series for the first time since Bill Clinton was in office, the gap between the best (Cavs) and the Hawks is too much to close this time.

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Atlanta has been battling injuries of key players(Marvin Williams, Al Horford) but even if they were healthy and 100 percent, it wouldn’t make a difference against LeBron.

7. Dallas Mavericks - If the Hawks are the team I have the least confidence in to turn things around, Dallas is running a close second. After this happened:

(Click here to watch video of Carmelo's Game Winner)

The looks on the faces of Mavericks players and fans alike said all you needed to know about this series. From anger to despair, Dallas looked helpless as the Nuggets move them out of their way on their road to the West Finals.

Who do you blame this beat down on if you are a Mavericks fans? Is Denver just that much better than Dallas, or is it the players not stepping up? Whoever it is, tonight will be the last time you see Jason Kidd in a Mavs uniform, so enjoy it.

6. Orlando Magic - I know this one may surprise some, but the way Orlando’s trademark defense has gone away at key moments of games against Boston doesn’t make me feel any more confident in them being able to go into Boston in win Game Five or Game Seven (if needed).

I believe they will win Game Six either way, I just think Boston has the luxury of having home court again, and will get better play from their bench to close this out in seven.

5. Boston Celtics - With all that said about Boston, there is no way I can say that this Celtics team will be able to survive Chicago and Orlando, and then have enough to get past Cleveland.

The Cavaliers are playing at a level right now that no team in the league is on, and as gritty and gutty a performance the Celtics have put on this post season without Kevin Garnett or Leon Powe, I think their title run ends in the next round.

4. Houston Rockets - If you listen to Laker apologizers, Game Four was the perfect storm for them. The Rockets were playing inspired, fresh off the news that their All-Star center, Yao Ming, was out for the remainder of the playoffs. I am realistic, though.

I know that all the inspiration in the world can’t make up for the chinks in the Lakers armour that has been exposed this round. These same holes won’t be filled unless they somehow can get more from Andrew Bynum, a.k.a “Invisible Man”. I expect the Rockets, like Orlando, to run out of home games, and go down fighting in seven.

3. Los Angeles Lakers - The Lakers at 3? I can hear it now. My unbiased writing pains me to put that down, as personally I am a Lakers fan. However, I call it for what it is, and right now, on May 11th, this team is the third best in the league.

They still have Kobe Bryant, and we know what he can do, but as ForumBlueAndGold.com put it, it’s not the end of the world, but it’s not good either.

For a team that was trying to keep pace with the Cavaliers, they have taken a step back, though some may say these tests early in the playoffs will help the Lakers should they get to The Finals.

2. Denver Nuggets - The Nuggets have surprised everyone outside of Denver with their play so far in the post season. They dominated the Hornets in the first round, taking them out in five games.

The dismantling of the Mavericks shows that not only can this team play a finesse run-n-gun style, but they are bigger, stronger, and tougher than the Mavs, or any other team left in the West.

Charles Barkley may have jinxed them by picking them to win it all weeks back, but with Chauncey Billups playing like its 2004 again, and Melo and K-Mart beating down their opponents on the wings, Denver matches up very well with the Lakers, and should be taken serious.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers - I asked last week if the Cavs would lose a home game this post season, because I honestly don’t think they will. If they don’t, then you are saying Cleveland will win it all, which is the safe bet right now.

Fans in Cleveland are having fun trying to describe how they feel about the Cavs, all while enjoying the exhibitions LeBron, Mo, and company are putting on.

The competition will get much tougher the second half of this postseason for Cleveland, as they will see either a Celtics team who knocked them out of the playoffs last year, or an Orlando team whom Cleveland has no answer for Dwight Howard.

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