Monthly Archives: April 2010
We are now approaching the end of the regular season, with each team having about 5 games left to play at the time of writing. In the West, the playoff spots are all sewn up: with the Lakers, Nuggets, Mavs, Jazz, Suns, Thunder, Spurs and Blazers all set for a trip to the postseason. Obviously, the seedings are all set to change, mainly because four teams (Dallas, Denver, Phoenix and Utah) are all tied for the second spot in the West.
I am going to provide my predictions in the Western Conference playoffs, how far each team can go and their key players. The previews for the Eastern Conference will follow later this week.
1) Los Angeles Lakers (55-22)
The Lakers have sewn up the first seed out West but the defending champs are struggling, losing to the Spurs and the Thunder this week. Their are queries about the quality of their bench, Derek Fisher has been a major problem both on offense and defence this season and you cannot predict which Ron Artest will show up for the playoffs. The Lakers will need Kobe and Gasol at their best to repeat, as well as the likes of Odom and Bynum to step up.
Key man: Kobe Bryant – was it really going to be anyone else?
Prediction: I’m still going to back the Lakers to get out of the West, but not easily.
2) Dallas Mavericks (50-27)
The Mavs have got a great chance of challenging the Lakers for supremacy out West. Dirk is great, they added an underrated piece in Brendan Haywood at the trade deadline and Caron Butler can provide some scoring if Dirk is having an off-night. But can they beat the Lakers?
Key Man: Dirk Nowitzki – no other seven-footer in the NBA can shoot like Dirk, and his clutch shooting is the key for the Mavs.
Prediction: Second round.
3) Denver Nuggets (50-27)
The Nuggets reached the conference finals last year and Carmelo Anthony has continued his fine form this season. Denver have Melo, the clutch shooting of Chauncey Billups and JR Smith can shoot the lights out off the bench. They desperately need the defensive presence Kenyon Martin back though.
Key man: Carmelo Anthony – the Nuggets need Melo at his very best if they want to get out of the West.
Prediction: Conference finals
4) Utah Jazz (50-27)
At times this season, the Jazz have been exceptional, going on a something like a 12 game win streak this year and playing some excellent basketball. Carlos Boozer has been in fine form for the Jazz this year and Utah need him and Deron Williams to perform at their best to get out of the first round. Andrei Kirilenko is a key man for the Jazz, if he does well, the team does well.
Key man: Deron Williams – the point guard is one of the best in the league and his scoring and assists are vital to what the Jazz do.
Prediction: Second round
5) Phoenix Suns (50-27)
The Suns have surprised everyone this season, as many expected them to be lottery-bound. Steve Nash has been at his mercurial best and Amar’e Stoudemire has been a beast recently. The main problem for Phoenix though, is defence. Nash and Amar’e in particular don’t shine on the defensive end and against the better teams, they will get found out.
Key man: Steve Nash – the point guard’s ability to set up his teammates and make the killer pass is key for the Suns hopes in the playoffs.
Prediction: It all depends on matchups, but I think a first round exit is on the cards.
6) Oklahoma City Thunder (48-28)
The Thunder have been a revelation this season, led by their third-year superstar Kevin Durant. Durant has been in excellent form this season, ranking second in the league in scoring at 27.9 ppg, just behind Lebron James. Russell Westbrook has continued to develop into a promising point guard and rookies like Serge Ibaka have impressed. The only problem for the Thunder is that this is the first trip to the playoffs for this team, so they lack the experience that other team’s possess.
Key Player: Kevin Durant – KD is now one of the best player’s in the NBA but will find it difficult in the playoffs as defences step up and double team him.
Prediction: First round exit.
7) San Antonio Spurs (47-29)
The Spurs are unbelievably unpredictable and you don’t know which team will show up. They have the playoff experience and Tim Duncan will continue to perform at a high level. It’s his teammates that are the worry – Manu Ginobli’s ankles are a concern, Tony Parker is injured and doubtful for the playoffs and the Richard Jefferson trade has been a disaster. If they get a favourable first round matchup, then they could progress, but with the Spurs this season, you never know..
Key Player: Manu Ginobli – Duncan is guaranteed to try hard but Manu is the key. If he can stay healthy, his clutch scoring is a massive asset to the Spurs.
Prediction: I’m going to say a first round exit like last year, but I’m not sure. If they perform to their best, the Spurs could reach the conference finals.
8) Portland Trailblazers (47-30)
And finally we come to Portland. Injuries have hit them hard – with Greg Oden and Joel Pryzbilla ruled out for the season early on. Marcus Camby has partially filled that gap in terms of rebounding but their frontcourt is definitely a worry. Brandon Roy is dangerous and will put up big numbers, but it looks like Portland will be facing the Lakers in the first round.
Key man: Brandon Roy – Portland’s best player will need to be at his best if the Blazers want to progress, and his pick and pop with LaMarcus Aldridge is the best in the league.
Prediction: First round exit
Stay tuned for the Eastern Conference previews, they will be following soon.