NBA Playoffs: Is Kobe Bryant vs. LeBron James Inevitable?

Alex Tichenor@alextichenorCorrespondent IApril 17, 2010

Eastern Conference

1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. 8) Chicago Bulls

Center: Shaquille O'Neal/J.J. Hickson vs. Joakim Noah

If Shaq can return and play like he did before his injury, that would be a huge plus. J.J. Hickson has done an admirable job of filling in for him though. It's hard to tell if Shaq will be back to normal.

Whoever starts at center will be pestered to death by the brash Joakim Noah. He's really emerged into a very good player this season.

Slight Edge: Chicago

Power forward: Antawn Jamison vs. Taj Gibson

Jamison was the big name that Cleveland landed at the deadline and this is the time of year they landed him for. Taj Gibson isn't in Jamison's class, but he's showed some promise as a rookie.

Big Edge: Cleveland

Small forward: LeBron James vs. Luol Deng

Nobody in the league can guard LeBron and Deng is no exception. LeBron isn't too shabby of a defender either. Man, this guy is good. I mean really good. 

Big Edge: Cleveland

Shooting guard: Anthony Parker vs. Kirk Hinrich

Hinrich and Parker are both pretty average guards. Hinrich has a defensive advantage though.

Slight Edge: Chicago

Point guard: Mo Williams vs. Derrick Rose

Mo Williams is no pushover, but Derrick Rose is playing like a mad man right now. He's averaged 23 points per game since the All-Star break. Yeah, he's pretty good too.

Slight Edge: Chicago

6th man: Anderso Varejao vs. Brad Miller

Anderson Varejao come off the bench, but plays more than any Cavs big man. He might be the second most important piece to Cleveland's team.

Big Edge: Cleveland

Bench: Big Edge: Cleveland

Coach: Mike Brown vs. Vinny Del Negro

Mike Brown has led his team to the league's best record for two straight seasons (LeBron might have helped a little bit) and Del Negro should be out of town by next year.

Big Edge: Cleveland

The Pick: Sorry, Joakim, the Bulls are not going to shock the world. Cavaliers in 4


4) Boston Celtics vs. 5) Miami Heat

Center: Kendrick Perkins vs. Jermaine O'Neal

Can O'Neal pick up his game for the playoffs? He needs to do something to justify his $20 million-plus salary. Even if he averaged 30 points and 15 rebounds, he wouldn't justify that contract. 

Slight Edge: Miami

Power forward: Kevin Garnett vs. Michael Beasley

KG has definitely lost a step or five, but don't think he's done quite yet. He should be able to muster up some of his skills he had in his late prime for the playoffs.

Slight Edge: Boston

Small forward: Paul Pierce vs. Quentin Richardson

Pierce put together another solid year, but like the rest of the "Big Three," he is obviously declining. Still, he should take it to Q-Rich.

Big Edge: Boston

Shooting guard: Ray Allen vs. Dwyane Wade

Dwyane Wade had another incredible season. He doesn't get his due as one of the best players in the league. He's right up there with Kobe. 

Big Edge: Miami

Point guard: Rajon Rondo vs. Carlos Arroyo

Rajon Rondo probably had the best season of any Celtic this year. Yes, that is how bad Pierce, Allen, and Garnett have dropped off.

Big Edge: Boston

6th man: Rasheed Wallace vs. Udonis Haslem

Rasheed has been dogged by Celtics fans all year long. Haslem is unspectacular, but dependable. I'll take that over an out of shape big man who shoots 847 threes per game.

Slight Edge: Miami

Bench: Slight Edge: Boston

Coach: Doc Rivers vs. Erik Spoelstra

Spoelstra is an up and coming young coach who helped turn the Heat from winning 17 games two years ago to 43 wins last season. Doc is on the verge of getting run out of town. Hmmm. 

Slight Edge: Miami

The Pick: Boston is limping towards the finish line, but they still have a very slight pulse. They'll pull one last playoff series victory, before going into an inevitable downward spiral. Celtics in 7

3) Atlanta vs. 6) Milwaukee

Center: Al Horford vs. Kurt Thomas

Horford has developed into a top-10 and maybe top-five center in the NBA (that says more about the lack of good centers than about Horford). Kurt Thomas (or what's left of him) won't be able to stop him.

Big Edge: Atlanta

Power forward: Josh Smith vs. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute

Smith has turned into a block machine who routinely makes highlight reel swats. He's finally living up to his potential that he was thought to have when Atlanta drafted him. His offensive game isn't great, but he should handle whoever he is guarding well.

Big Edge: Atlanta

Small forward: Marvin Williams vs. Carlos Delfino

Marvin Williams has to be considered a draft bust at this point (did anyone think he was going to be a star?). Deron Williams and Chris Paul were drafted immediately after him. Atlanta with Paul or Williams really would have a chance to make the Finals.

Slight Edge: Milwaukee

Shooting guard: Joe Johnson vs. John Salmons

Salmons has transformed himself into a deadly scorer since joining the Bucks. He's revitalized his career in Milwaukee. Him vs. Joe Johnson could be quite a dual.

Slight Edge: Atlanta

Point guard: Mike Bibby vs. Brandon Jennings

The veteran who's been here versus the rook who's had a sensational and surprising first year. However, Bibby is shell of himself at this point and Jennings is as fast as any point guard in the league. Jennings should blow by him.

Slight Edge: Milwaukee

6th Man: Jamal Crawford vs. Luke Ridnour

Crawford is the stereotypical free shooting shooting guard that comes off the bench and scores in bunches. He's also the best in the league at doing that.

Big Edge: Atlanta

Bench: Slight Edge: Milwaukee

Coach: Mike Woodson vs. Scott Skiles

Scott Skiles has excelled with not much talent this season in Milwaukee. Scott Brooks of Oklahoma City is generating more buzz than him for Coach of the Year, but that would be a travesty. Brooks won 50 games with the best scorer in the league, and Skiles led Milwaukee to 46 with Andrew Bogut and Brandon Jennings leading the way. Skiles resume seems much more impressive.

Slight Edge: Milwaukee

The Pick: Milwaukee doesn't have Bogut, who was a big reason for their surprising success this year, but they're not going to just lay down and give the Hawks the series. This is going to be a brawl. Hawks in 7

2) Orlando vs. 7) Charlotte

Center: Dwight Howard vs. Theo Ratliff

Howard is going to annihilate anybody Charlotte throws at him in this series. Theo Ratliff? Tyson Chandler? Please!

Big Edge: Orlando

Power forward: Rashard Lewis vs. Boris Diaw

According to Bill Walton, Diaw is a "classical human being," but he doesn't matchup well with Rashard.

Big Edge: Orlando

Small forward: Matt Barnes vs. Gerald Wallace

Finally, Gerald Wallace broke out. His defensive ability has allowed the Bobcats to run Larry Brown's system very well. Wallace is going to be a huge problem for anybody guarding him or trying to score on him. He's extremely active.

Big Edge: Charlotte

Shooting guard: Vince Carter vs. Stephen Jackson

Captain Jack's amazing year has gone unreported by everybody covering the NBA. If Charlotte didn't deal for him early in the season, they would not be in the playoffs. He's thrived while being the number one option in Charlotte.

Carter is not the player he used to be.

Slight Edge: Charlotte

Point guard: Jameer Nelson vs. Raymond Felton

Nelson has not been the same since being injured last year. Felton is quietly one of the more consistent point guards in the league and runs his team very well. 

Slight Edge: Charlotte

6th Man: Mickael Pietrus vs. Tyrus Thomas

Pietrus is a perfect guy to come of the bench and hit some shots and stick on the opposing team's best scorer. He can do everything.

Slight Edge: Orlando

Bench: Slight Edge: Orlando

Coach: Stan Van Gundy vs. Larry Brown

I think Stan Van Gundy gets a little too much heat for his coaching ability, but he's definitely not better than the guy who will be roaming the sidelines on the other end of the court.

Big Edge: Charlotte

The Pick: Charlotte has never been to the playoffs before. And they won't be there for long. Magic in 5

Western Conference

1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. 8) Oklahoma City Thunder

Center: Pau Gasol vs. Nenad Krstic

Andrew Bynum is hurt again. Big surprise? Good thing the Lakers have an extremely versatile big man in Pau Gasol to fill his shoes. Gasol-Odom might be a better tandem than Bynum-Gasol anyway.

Big Edge: Los Angeles

Power forward: Lamar Odom vs. Jeff Green

Odom would be putting up much better numbers on any other team. It's good for him that he doesn't have to score because his main contributions lie elsewhere. He's a perfect piece in the Lakers puzzle.

Slight Edge: Los Angeles

Small forward: Ron Artest vs. Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant is the 2009-2010 NBA scoring champion. It's amazing how good he's gotten this quickly. I'm trying to pretend he doesn't exist, being a Blazers fan. Wouldn't Portland be a 60-win team with Durant? Ugh. Artest is not stopping him. Nobody can.

Big Edge: Oklahoma City

Shooting guard: Kobe Bryant vs. Thabo Shefolosha

Shefolosha has made a reputation of being a very good defender, but the guy on other side of the ball also has a reputation for being a pretty good scorer. Okay, more than pretty good. The Black Mamba (Man, I love that nickname. Strong choice Kobe) is going to bring it for the playoffs.

Big Edge: Los Angeles

PG: Derek Fisher vs. Russell Westbrook

Aaron Brooks torched Fisher last May. Russell Westbrook, now it's your turn.

Big Edge: Oklahoma City

6th Man: Shannon Brown vs. James Harden

James Harden is the perfect 6th man. He doesn't do one thing extremely well, but is good at everything. Maybe Stephen Curry would look a little bit better in a Thunder uniform, but Harden and his hobo beard have been a good fit in Oklahoma City.

Big Edge: Oklahoma City

Bench: Big Edge: Oklahoma City

Coach: Phil Jackson vs. Scott Brooks

Brooks could very well win Coach of the Year this season. That's not going to impress Jackson, who has a ring for everyfinger.

Big Edge: Los Angeles

The Pick: The Thunder have an extremely promising future ahead of them, but they still need at least one more year. Lakers in 5

4) Denver Nuggets vs. 5) Utah Jazz

Center: Nene Hilario vs. Mehmet Okur

At one point it looked like Nene was going to be another draft bust. Now, he's one of the West's best centers. Okur isn't bad, but Nene can torch him in the low post.

Slight Edge: Denver

PF: Kenyon Martin vs. Carlos Boozer

Both Martin and Boozer are not a close to 100 percent. It's a shame that teams have lost so many key players so late in the season. Although Boozer and Martin are back, how effective can they be. There is a possibility we might see their backups go at it more than they do.

Slight Edge: Utah

SF: Carmelo Anthony vs. C.J. Miles

'Melo took "the leap" into super stardom last playoffs. Can he step his game up even one more notch?

Big Edge: Denver

SG: Aaron Afflalo vs. Wesley Matthews

Afflalo was a steal in free agency this summer. He's finally given Denver a good perimeter defender to matchup against  high scoring swingmen.

Slight Edge: Denver

PG: Chauncey Billups vs. Deron Williams

Deron Williams might be the best point guard in the playoffs. Nash, CP3 and himself are all on their own level.

Slight Edge: Utah

6th Man: J.R. Smith vs. Paul Millsap

If Smith gets hot watch out. He had some big game last year as Denver almost made the Finals. They need a few big games from him to beat the Jazz.

Slight Edge: Denver

Bench: Big Edge: Denver

Coach: Adrian Dantley (for George Karl) vs. Jerry Sloan

If Denver can win without Karl, who is battling cancer, and then he can come back and coach an improbable upset of the Lakers, it will rank as one of the best stories of the year. But whether it's Karl or replacement Dantley, Sloan is the better coach in this series.

Big Edge: Utah

The Pick: Denver can win at least one series for their cancer stricken coach. This should be one heck of a series. Nuggets in 7

3) Phoenix Suns vs. 6) Portland Trail Blazers

Center: Jarron Collins vs. Marcus Camby

Marcus Camby is really clicking with his new team. He tallied 30 points and 13 rebounds in his last game of the season. The fans serenaded him with MAR-CUS CAM-BY chants for 30 seconds. It was an awesome moment for Camby.

Big Edge: Portland

Power forward: Amar'e Stoudemire vs. Lamarcus Aldridge

Amar'e has been playing out of his mind recently now that he knows he won't be traded. He'd be crazy to leave Phoenix and go somewhere with an average point guard. Steve Nash has made Amar'e.

Slight Edge: Phoenix

SF: Grant Hill vs. Nicolas Batum

Batum is developing very quickly for Portland. He's already their best perimeter defender, and hits 40 percent of his 3s. He could really breakout this series. I'm not as crazy about him as some Blazers fans, but he could turn into a very good player. And, he's only 21.

Slight Edge: Portland

Shooting guard: Jason Richardson vs. Rudy Fernandez

Losing Brandon Roy kills the Blazers. He's of course the heart and soul of the team. Portland has beaten Phoenix without him this year, but it's hard to see them winning four times in seven games without Roy (even with Roy).

Big Edge: Phoenix

Point guard: Steve Nash vs. Andre Miller

At 36, Nash has had a great year for Phoenix. Like Nash, Miller is still going strong well into his 30's. Acquiring Miller was a brilliant move by Portland. He's the leader of this team now.

Slight Edge: Phoenix

6th Man: Channing Frye vs. Martell Webster

With all the injuries Portland has dealt with, Channing Frye would've helped the Blazers (he was with them last year) this season. Now he's thriving off the bench in Phoenix. 

Slight Edge: Phoenix

Bench: Slight Edge: Phoenix

Coach: Alvin Gentry vs. Nate McMillan

Both of these coaches have done great jobs this season. Both are young and will be around the league for a long time. Whichever teams they are leading will always be in contention.

Slight Edge: Portland

The Pick: Wow, this really isn't Portland's year. They somehow won 50 games despite many key players missing big chunks of the season (including season ending knee injuries to BOTH of their centers). Now Brandon Roy is out. Portland isn't going down easy though. Suns in 7

2) Dallas Mavericks vs. 7) San Antonio Spurs

 Center: Erick Dampier vs. Antonio McDyess

Wait Dampier and McDyess are starting centers in the NBA? How?

Slight Edge: San Antonio

Power foward: Dirk Nowitzki vs. Tim Duncan

Duncan finally started showing signs of slowing down this year. About time. He's still one of the best power forwards in the league. Dirk is the best PF in the league.

Slight Edge: Dallas

Small foward: Shawn Marion vs. Richard Jefferson

Jefferson has disappointed and Marion has been a valuable piece for Dallas, especially defensively. Marion might take Jefferson out of a few games.

Slight Edge: Dallas

SG: Caron Butler vs. Manu Ginobili

When Manu is playing well, he's quietly one of the better players in the NBA. Watch out Dallas, he's on fire right now.

Slight Edge: San Antonio

PG: Jason Kidd vs. Tony Parker

Jason Kidd is still going strong (although he's a shell of a shell of his prime self), but Parker should destroy him offensively, even with his injuries.

Slight Edge: San Antonio

6th Man: Jason Terry vs. George Hill

Jason Terry has long been one of the best 6th men in the league. Hill might become one of them one day.

Big Edge: Dallas

Bench: Slight Edge: San Antonio

Coach: Rick Carlisle vs. Gregg Popovich

Carlisle is a good NBA coach, but Pops is one of the best ever. His experience in the playoffs could be very valuable for San Antonio.

Big Edge: San Antonio

The Pick: This might be Dallas' last shot at a title. They're going to go strong. Mavericks in 6

Predicting the Rest

2nd round

Lakers over Nuggets in 5

Suns over Mavs in 7

Cavs over Celtics in 5

Magic over Hawks in 6

Conference Finals

Suns over Lakers in 7

Cavs over Magic in 6


Cavs over Suns in 6

NBA Champions: Cleveland Cavaliers

Here are my regular season awards very quickly:

MVP: LeBron James

DPOY: Dwight Howard

Rookie: Stephen Curry

Most Improved: Aaron Brooks

6th Man: Anderson Varejao

Coach: Scott Skiles


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