NBA Playoffs: How Would the Final Four Fare Without Their Superstars?

Brandon Ribak@reebokforthreeSenior Writer IMay 18, 2009

The Boston Celtics lost the second-round series highly due to the fact that they were without their superstar, Kevin Garnett.

As obvious as it is, it is extremely difficult for a team to win games when their main man is not on the court.

Just like Boston, the Houston Rockets lost during the second round series because Yao Ming injured his foot. Ming had the biggest impact in the Rockets' system—and without him, the team simply could not put up the W that was needed to advance.

So, with that in mind, imagine you're rooting for the Los Angeles Lakers in Game One of the Western Conference finals.

Kobe Bryant goes up for a two-handed slam, while Nuggets' center Nene attempts to block the shot. Both players inadvertently get tangled up in mid-air and fall to the ground. When the replay is shown, fans squirm in agony as they watch Bryant breaking his right ankle.

He is taken out of the game and is not expected to return for rest of the series.

What can you expect from your beloved Lakers, and what are their chances of advancing to the NBA Finals without their superstar?

First and foremost, I would readjust the Lakers' starting five.

Derek Fisher would start at the one like usual, and Trevor Ariza would now be the shooting guard. Lamar Odom would start at small forward, Pau Gasol at the four, and Andrew Bynum as the center.

Looking at this lineup on paper, it does not look all that bad.

But would the Lakers really have a chance against the incredible Denver Nuggets?

The team would definitely be able to steal a victory at home, but that is it.

With Bryant off the court, the Lakers' roster would know how important it is for them to step up. In this type of situation, Ariza would be the man to up his production the most.

But in honest truth and reality, the Lakers would never be able to advance in this series without Bryant.

What about the Denver Nuggets?

What if 'Melo was the man to get injured and miss the entire Western Conference finals series? How would the Nuggets do?

Let's take it back to last season, when 'Melo did indeed get injured.

Players like Linas Kleiza and J.R. Smith really turned their game up another notch, helping their team hold a record of 5-8 minus 'Melo.

Without 'Melo, I would see the starting five being a little something like this: Chauncey Billups, Dahntay Jones, Linas Kleiza, Kenyon Martin, and Nene.

With a player like Billups still on the court, the Nuggets really do not have that much to panic about. Yes, they lost the best player on their team, but the Nuggets still have tremendous talent to work with.

Although Kleiza would start, Smith would be the biggest beneficiary of this injury. He would average close to 30 minutes per game and put up around 15 to 18 points per game.

Believe it or not, Renaldo Balkman would see an increase in playing time as well, and could certainly make an impact for Denver.

The Nuggets have a stacked team—especially with a healthy Chris "Birdman" Andersen and Anthony Carter on the bench. This team would have the biggest chance to win the series without their superstar, Carmelo Anthony.

Moving onto Cleveland.

Uh oh, LeBron James just went up for a rebound and tore his ACL. What in the world do the Cavaliers do now?

Do they have any chance in the world at beating the Orlando Magic?

Similar to L.A. and Kobe, the Cavaliers rely way too heavily on LBJ to produce. With him not on the court, this team will crumble. With James not on the court, this team is nothing.

Wally Szczerbiak would be placed into the starting lineup, but that obviously would not help too much.

Mo Williams would be relied on to go out their and shoot the ball every open opportunity that he gets.

Head coach Mike Brown would have to change his entire offense around, using a system just like New York Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni.

Run and gun. Shoot the ball, when you can, whenever you can. Run back on defense, but most importantly, just worry about shooting the ball, and do it every opportunity that you can possibly get.

The Cavaliers would never be able to beat the Magic if they lost their superstar, LeBron James.

The fourth and final team is the Orlando Magic.

Dwight Howard goes after a block and gets poked in the eye. It is an extremely bloody scene and he is quickly escorted off of the court. Cheryl Miller reports five minutes later that Superman will not return to the floor during the game and he is "very doubtful" to play in the rest of the series.

Panic much? Most people would say yes. But, me?  I say no way.

During the 2008-09 season, Howard missed the first two games of his career. Although point guard Jameer Nelson was still active on the court, the Magic managed to win in both games—one at Utah, and the other in Golden State.

During the final game of the Magic vs. Philly series, Orlando was forced to play without their superstar D-Howard, who was suspended.

Marcin Gortat got the start at center and really impressed. In 40 minutes of action, Gortat put up 11 points with a game-high 15 rebounds and four steals, on 5-of-8 shooting.

Obviously if Howard were to miss the entire series, Gortat would be the biggest impact player for the Magic.

Along with Gortat, shooting guard Courtney Lee would also increase his production to elite levels. Lee would average close to 18 to 20 points per game and play around 35 to 40 minutes per game.

Hedo Turkoglu would have the task of scoring the most points for Orlando, as he would probably drop around 25 per game.

Rashard Lewis would post similar numbers to Turkoglu as well, while Mickael Pietrus and Rafer Alston would be assigned to knock down as many trey balls as they can, and continue to attack on defense.

This series would not be over if Howard were to get injured. The Magic have the weapons to put up an outstanding battle, even without their superstar Dwight Howard.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.