NBA: Team Playoff Preview

By Vidur Malik

San Antonio Spurs – The Spurs have been struggling lately and might lose the top spot in the West by season’s end, but they’re the kind of team that won’t be affected in the postseason by regular-season issues. If Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan and the solid role players around them stay healthy, the Spurs could very well be hoisting another trophy in June.

Los Angeles Lakers – If the Spurs do indeed lose the No. 1 seed by playoff time, it will probably go to the Lakers. They’ve got all the tools to accomplish a three-peat. Their size is a huge advantage on offense and defense, they’ve got athleticism and experience in the backcourt and Kobe Bryant has willed his team to victory so many times before that it would almost be surprising not to see him in the Finals.

Dallas Mavericks – Time is winding down for Dirk Nowitzki to win a ring. The players around him can score, rebound and play defense, making the Mavs a well-rounded team. Dallas will have to contend with teams like the Spurs, Lakers and Thunder before they can think about getting out of the West, so this postseason will be as tough as any other for Nowitzki and the Mavs.

Oklahoma City Thunder – The Thunder are one of the teams of the future, and they’ll make things interesting in the playoffs, but they won’t get too far. If the season ended today they would be playing the Denver Nuggets in the first round, which is a winnable series, but there’s still too much talent and playoff experience for the Thunder to deal with.

Denver Nuggets – The Nuggets will probably enter the postseason with the most momentum of any team in the league, but that doesn’t mean much when the playoffs start. Don’t expect Denver to make it out of the first round. They’ll give Oklahoma City a good fight, but the Nuggets will make another first round exit this year.

New Orleans Hornets – Losing David West for the season was a tough loss for the Hornets, who, if they will be playing the Lakers in the first round, might be able to steal a few games because of Chris Paul’s leadership and the talented role players the team has around him.

Portland Trail Blazers – If they play the Lakers in the first round, as they would based on current standings, the Blazers could play a competitive series. LaMarcus Aldridge, Gerald Wallace and the young Blazers have the energy to win at least a few games in the first round, and though they’ll probably leave the playoffs early, they can push their opponent out of their comfort zone and expose some weaknesses.

Memphis Grizzlies – The Grizzlies aren’t going to give the Spurs any trouble in the first round, but they do have the pieces to be a playoff team for a long time. They’ve got size in Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, a proven scorer in Rudy Gay, and solid players at the guard and forward spots.

Eastern Conference

Chicago Bulls – The Bulls have been an elite team the entire season, and will stay in that category for a while. Derrick Rose has grown into a leader and a superstar, and has the drive to push his team far into the playoffs. They’re still too young to get past teams like the Boston Celtics, but this team will make noise in the East for a long time.

Boston Celtics – Though the Bulls and Heat are higher seeds, the Celtics still have more championship experience than those teams and should never be counted out. No one would be surprised if the Celtics knocked off the Bulls and advanced to the Finals behind the leadership of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo. The shock of losing Kendrick Perkins would all but disappear if Boston went back to the Finals this year.

Miami Heat – Everyone’s least-favorite team has the potential to make it to the Finals, but the Heat could also have a tough time just getting out of the first round. As of now, they would be playing the New York Knicks, a team with its own superstar issues. These teams have made for some dramatic matchups and storylines, and the Heat will probably win an exciting first-round series and go on to make more drama.

Orlando Magic – The Magic don’t have the experience to make it out of the second round of the East, but there’s no doubting their talent. Dwight Howard is the most dominant post player in the game, and he’s surrounded by good shooters and playmakers, but the team doesn’t have the experience or explosiveness to compete with the Celtics, Bulls or Heat for a seven game series.

Atlanta Hawks – The Hawks are slated to play the Magic as the East’s No. 5 seed, and just like the 2010 postseason, they’ll probably be eliminated by Orlando. The Hawks have been hovering around the above-average category in the East, and with their youth, they’ll probably stay there for a while.

New York Knicks – The Knicks have made headlines, but they won’t make it to May. Since the Carmelo Anthony trade, New York has been streaky, going on winning and losing streaks without showing much consistency. It will take a while before Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and the Knicks develop a chemistry that can make them legitimate contenders.

Philadelphia 76ers – The 76ers are a young team with guards that can score. That could mean one win against the Celtics in the first round, but not much else. If the core of Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand and players like Louis Williams and Jrue Holiday stick around, the Sixers should be a consistent playoff team.

Indiana Pacers – There’s enough size and talent on the Pacers to think that they could make things interesting as the No. 8 seed, but they’ll make an early exit from the playoffs after returning to the postseason for the first time in five years.



You must be logged in to post a comment.