Three NBA Playoff Predictions

The NBA playoffs are here and there are many storylines to keep track of this postseason. The Los Angeles Lakers are once again poised to make a deep run, but they are again another year older and Phil Jackson is again ready to call it quits. Is this L.A.'s final championship or did they win it last year?

Teams like the Chicago Bulls and Oklahoma City Thunder look closer and closer to being championship-caliber, but are they still another year away? The Dallas Mavericks are good as they usually are, but are they not good enough as usual? The San Antonio Spurs are the best in the West, but can they handle the speed of the Thunder or the defense of a team like the Denver Nuggets over seven games?

The talk about the Celtics has been more about who doesn't play for them than who plays for them. Shaquille O'Neal's absence and the Kendrick Perkins trade have been making headlines for weeks. Meanwhile, the Miami Heat have shown so many flashes of alleged brilliance that is a wonder why the NBA hasn't canceled the postseason and given them the championship. Again and again, the Heat look like they have learned how to play together, but the postseason will provide the answer with finality. The Orlando Magic will be a tough out, but not as tough if Dwight Howard is suspended due to his vast collection of technical fouls.

Perhaps the most interesting team entering the playoffs is the Chicago Bulls. Derrick Rose is the MVP favorite, Chicago is the number one seed in the East, and they are playing incredible defense. This Bulls team, however, hasn't necessarily had to "learn" how to win in the playoffs. Derrick Rose and company could take the NBA by storm and instead of taking a few years to "learn" how to win and overcome a veteran team; they might just advance to the NBA Finals.

The West is Up For Grabs

The San Antonio Spurs are the number one seed, the Lakers were hot and have cooled, the Oklahoma City Thunder are probably the most athletic team in the West, and the Denver Nuggets are better without Carmelo Anthony. It is tough to pick against the Lakers, but when and if they matchup against the Thunder, it could spell trouble for the defending champions.

The Thunder and Nuggets might not break through to the Finals in 2011, but they could take veteran teams like the Spurs, Mavericks, and Lakers to seven.

The Dallas Mavericks are getting lost in the championship talk. The Mavericks will probably advance past the first round, but in the end, they will most likely fall short of the NBA or conference finals.

Although the Lakers and Phil Jackson's hunt for another and possibly final title will steal the headlines, they remain vulnerable.

Teams in the West this year are bringing different styles to the playoffs and it will be tough to run the gauntlet this year. Kevin Durant and the Thunder are young and quick, while Denver's speed and defense is unique. Dallas and San Antonio bring veteran teams to the playoffs and Portland will not be an easy out.

There Will Be Upsets

Who is primed for an upset? What is considered an upset? Miami has promised seven championships, so is anything short of a Finals berth or championship considered an upset? If it is, then Miami will most likely be upset in the playoffs both on the court and emotionally. The Heat may find a second round exit from the playoffs a more appropriate time to show emotion and cry in the locker room.

The Heat's recent audition of Eddie Curry is an indication that their first championship is at least a year away. Bringing in Curry shows Miami might be looking ahead at possible playoff matchups against the Lakers, Celtics, and Magic big men. Erick Dampier, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and Joel Anthony don't appear to be the big men Miami believes they need to challenge the length of Orlando, Boston, and Los Angeles.

Boston's Kendrick Perkins giveaway and reliance on the health of its O'Neals could prove to be a disaster for the Celtics' championship hopes. Jermaine is just getting into game shape and learning the plays, while Shaquille is overcoming injury after injury. Boston's ability to beat Miami will be tested if they meet in the playoffs, but it is difficult to see another team challenge Boston on the road to the conference finals. If there is a team ready to challenge the Celtics, it is the Chicago Bulls.

The Chicago Bulls will enter the playoffs as the number one seed, but many aren't picking them to advance to the NBA Finals. If they do, is it an upset for a number one seed to get to the championship round? Especially a team that has the player who has already been crowned MVP? Is this Bulls team like the Michael Jordan team that advanced to its first Finals and beat the Lakers? Joakim Noah's rebounding, the shutdown defense, and Rose's jump shot could propel Chicago into the conference and NBA Finals.

What team could upset someone in the playoffs? Do any of the lower seeds have a chance to advance or at the very least advance to the second round? Philadelphia is flying under the radar with its defense. If the Sixers don't win a series, they most likely they will drag a first round series out to seven games. The defense of Thaddeus Young and how he gets to the basket will make it tough for opposing players. Doug Collins will have Philadelphia ready for the playoffs without a true superstar and it wouldn't be surprising if the Sixers sneak into the second round.

If anyone other than the Spurs and Lakers advance to the Western Conference Finals, will that be considered an upset? Are Kevin Durant and the Thunder ready to make a deep run? Their talent level looks like it could, but their youth might hold them back one more year.

Injuries May Determine Outcomes

Amare Stoudemire will need to be healthy for the Knicks to make a run and his late-season injury will only hamper the Knicks' quest for a series win. New York isn't expected to do much in the playoffs, but will do even less if he isn't 100% healthy. Chauncey Billups' recent injuries are also not helping Knicks fans hopes for a second round series.

Shaquille O'Neal is injured. Although not breaking news, it could seriously impact Boston's title chances. He has missed more games this year than in any other year in his entire career. The Celtics were counting on 20-25 minutes a game and with him they may have the force in the middle to challenge the Magic and the height to give Miami problems. Jermaine O'Neal's ability to fit into the offense will determine his playing time and if he fits in and Shaquille O'Neal delivers his minutes then Kendrick Perkins may not be missed as much.

The NBA playoffs have begun and this year the race to the finals looks more open than usual. Teams like the Bulls, Lakers, Spurs, Heat, and Magic all look like the favorites to reach the Finals. Underdog teams like the Knicks, Sixers, Thunder, Nuggets, and Mavericks could make it not only difficult for the favorites to make the Finals, but one of the underdogs could find themselves challenging for a conference crown.

Comments and Conversation

April 13, 2011

Jaq Danger:

I am pretty sure the comment on D12’s technicals is invalid because the technicals start over come playoff time. His tech’s from the regular season will not carry over.

April 13, 2011

Marc James:

Jaq, good point, thanks for the correction, and thanks for reading. Who do you have in the Finals?

April 21, 2011

John Starks:

Nice Article.

This is going to be one of the best NBA Playoffs in recent years. I still have Lakers pulling it off somehow.

Can’t wait to see what happens!

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