Wednesday, April 11, 2012

If the NBA Playoffs Started Today (April 11)

Here is how I know I have become an ex-Bucks fan. Tonight, Milwaukee takes on New York in an attempt to catch up to the Knicks for the eighth seed in the East, and I decided not to put the game on my DVR list. My connection to the team was hurt severely when I moved from Wisconsin to Louisiana and the team doesn't have any players left from when I watched them often. Andrew Bogut was the last member.

When I lived in Wisconsin and watched the Bucks on most nights, I couldn't figure out why no one in the rest of the country paid attention to them. Now, I get it. They are like a minor league team. They are never on TV, nor should they be. My fandom in general seems to be on the wane, but I have completely lost it in terms of the NBA. So, I guess I can throw my considerable weight behind LeBron.

Eastern Conference

1. Chicago (44-14) vs. 8. New York (29-28)
Generally, when teams overperform, the coach gets credit. The Bulls have the best record in the league and Derrick Rose has missed 23 games. This speaks to their depth as well as the excellent performance of coach Tom Thibodeau. Chicago plays Miami on Thursday in what will be a must-watch game. The Bulls are getting close to clinching the top seed in the East. If the Knicks can get healthy for the playoffs, they could score a lot of fantasy points in the first round.

2. Miami (40-16) vs. 7. Philadelphia (30-27)
The Heat are just 3-3 in April. Some people might say that they are starting to rest for the playoffs, but James has averaged 38 minutes over his last five games and Dwyane Wade has played just a shade under 38 minutes in his last three games (he has missed two of the last five). The 76ers were able to snap a four-game losing streak last night against the Nets, but I won't be drafting any Philadelphia players in my Fantasy Postseason drafts.

3. Indiana (35-22) vs. 6. Orlando (34-24)
It has been a tumultuous season for the Magic, but Dwight Howard might be enough to knock the Pacers out of the playoffs. Moving down the to the sixth spot and playing the Pacers may work well for Orlando. Indiana can counter with Roy Hibbert, but Howard has put 23.8 points and 10.8 rebounds on the Pacers and the Magic have won three of the four meetings. Danny Granger has scored 19.3 points against the Magic. The Pacers are 19-8 at home, so they could hold serve against the Magic.

4. Boston (33-24) vs. 5. Atlanta (34-23)
These two teams have only met once this season with the Celtics taking a 79-76 win on Mar. 19. They will meet twice more, including a game at Boston this evening. With six home games remaining in the last nine games, Atlanta could hold onto the fifth seed and could cause some problems for the Celtics. Josh Smith would be a match up problem for Boston, although he only scored ten points in the earlier game. Smith did have 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kevin Garnett seems to be having a nice bounce back season, but his stats are almost the same as they were last year.

Western Conference

1. Oklahoma City (42-15) vs. 8. Denver (31-26)
The Nuggets hold a one-game edge over the Suns for the eighth slot in the West. Denver has four home games and Pheonix has five home games remaining. The Jazz are only a game and a half back as well. Whichever team gets the eighth seed will be a sacrificial lamb to the Thunder. Oklahoma City gained playoff experience last year and I doubt there will be any Westbrook-Durant problems this year.

2. San Antonio (40-15) vs. 7. Dallas (32-26)
Dallas only has two home games remaining, so they could easily fall off the playoff ledge. One of my worst calls of recent memory was last week's spotlight on Lamar Odom, who has essentially been told to go home. Oh well, he has always been talented but enigmatic. As always, the Spurs have coaxed excellent seasons out of role players. Don't be afraid to look past the big three of Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobili on draft day. Stephen Jackson could play quality minutes and Gary Neal is a decent scorer off the bench.

3. Los Angeles Lakers (36-22) vs. 6. Houston Rockets (32-25)
The Rockets have won the regular season series, 2-1. Last week, Houston beat the Lakers at Staples after Andrew Bynum got ejected. One can only imagine how much satisfaction Rocket coach Kevin McHale would derive by knocking out the Lakers. Goran Dragic has been playing well while Kyle Lowry has been out with a bacterial infection and Luis Scola is a quality low post scorer. You know about the Lakers, but check out Metta World Peace (or as I still call him, Ron Artest) who had 23 points against Houston last week.

4. Los Angeles Clippers (34-23) vs. 5. Memphis Grizzlies (33-23)
This match up has not changed from last week, but I continue to think that the Grizzlies will be overvalued. I think Chris Paul could will the Clippers to a winning series on his own. I'd consider drafting him in the first round. Blake Griffin won't be far behind. Don't overrate former Wizard Nick Young who has only scored 10.1 points since coming to Los Angeles. Mike Conley has only scored 8.7 points against the Clippers. Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol will get a lot of attention, but don't forget about Rudy Gay who is leading the Grizzlies with 18.4 points (although he has only provided 14.8 points in six April games).