Atlanta Hawks

NBA midseason predictions

The NBA season has lived up to all the preseason hype that surrounded it.

Midway through the season, we have seen a triple overtime game, Klay Thompson break the NBA record for points in a quarter with 37, and so far the top three teams in each conference have never won a title, which could be a compelling story come playoff time. But with the season halfway done, lets look at some predictations: 

Eastern Conference

Before the season started, the biggest prediction fans had was that the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls would clash in the Eastern Conference Finals. Fans and even analysts knew better than to say the Wizards or the Hawks (yes the Atlanta Hawks) would be the top two seeds in the conference come All Star break. So what is happening in the East?

Well, Cleveland struggled out of the gate. But to be fair, it isn’t easy starting the season with a rookie head coach, a reloaded roster, and the abundance of expectations the team faced. However, now that Lebron is healthy and J.R. Smith and Mozgov seem to have found their place on the team, the Cavs have won seven straight. Still in my opinion, they can’t win with this current roster. A big part of their problem is that Kevin Love doesn't fit in their roster. He seems misused and even lost at certain times.

On the other side, Chicago can’t seem to avoid the injury bug, but thankfully Derrick Rose is slowly looking to be back to normal. This season Noah, McDermott, and Dunleavy have continuously missed games due to injury.

However, if the Bulls can get healthy, they are still my favorite to win the East. They have a point guard in Rose that has veteran experience and they have the biggest frontline in the NBA in Noah along with a rejuvenated Gasol and a high energy Taj Gibson. With rookie Nikola Mirotic finding his groove in the rotation and Jimmy Butler a clear cut favorite for most improved player, this team can be dangerous come playoff time.

But wait, I almost forgot the top three teams in the conference. Atlanta has been a great storyline thus far. No superstar on the roster, and yet they are currently on top of the East riding a 17 game win streak. Sorry to break your hearts Hawks fans, but I don’t see this team representing the East in the Finals. Simply put, they don’t have a go to player. We haven’t seen a team without a superstar win since the Pistons did it in 2004. Next the Wizards. Again, this team has the pieces to be a contender in the next few years. They’re just too young right now. But the backcourt of Wall and Beal will continue to be one of the dominant duos in the NBA. As for the Raptors, there is just no big men on that team that can bang with the Hawks or Bulls come playoff time. So have fun during the regular season, because come playoff time your team will come just a bit short.

Western Conference

Lets just start off by saying the Oklahoma City Thunder sit at 10th in the Western and two games out of the 8th and final spot. That right there should tell you how crazy the West has been this year. Quite frankly, a three-game losing streak can drop you from third place to 7th place very easily. So how can I possibly distinguish who are actually contenders and who are just not there yet.

Well I’m going to start off by saying, the defending champ Spurs will be just fine. Kawhi Leonard is back and slowly they are finding their groove. And nobody is better than resting their players during the regular season to keep fresh during the playoffs than Gregg Popovich.

Next, the Golden State Warriors have been arguably the most impressive team this year. Stephen Curry is the leading candidate for MVP and Klay Thompson is cementing himself as a true star in this league. Not to mention, Steve Kerr has these guys playing stifling defense. Draymond Green has played himself into consideration for a max contract this offseason. Plus, having home court advantage throughout the playoffs can be huge for a Warriors team that is 21-2 at home.

Sitting at second is my pick to win it all. And here’s why. The Memphis Grizzlies might be the most balanced team in the NBA. They have the strongest frontcourt duo in the NBA with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Mike Conley is having a career year. With the addition of Jeff Green, they got a versatile player who can defend multiple positions and knows how to put the ball in the basket.  They have the league’s third best defense in points allowed. If they can acquire one more solid bench player near the deadline, they will be the team to beat come playoff time. Moving along, Portland unfortunately had its chances cut short when Lamarcus Aldridge injured his thumb which requires surgery. Even with him delaying surgery, there’s no telling how much his game will be altered while playing through pain.

Now the next few teams in the West, Clippers, Rockets, Mavericks, all have one flaw that scares me. They rely on the jump shot, way too much. Yes, Harden is playing at an MVP caliber but where has his “Robin” Dwight Howard been? Harden can’t and won’t do it alone. For the Clippers its simple, there’s no depth. The addition of Austin Rivers seems a bit bizarre with a team that needs much more help. And for the Mavericks, Rajon Rondo hasn’t been the missing piece. Actually he’s been the opposite. They are now 11-9 since acquiring him. Yeah that sure was a “blockbuster” trade, Cuban.

So in my prediction, we will be seeing the Memphis Grizzlies versus the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Finals this season. And the ultimate winner? The Grizzlies. Even after saying all that, what do I know? Except that there is plenty more basketball to be played, and so many more factors that can alter the playoff picture. But for now, this Memphis team looks poised to make a deep run.
 

After a 66-game sprint in a four-month span, the NBA has reached its postseason and many teams are already marred by injuries. The heavy schedule and lack of off-season preparations seem to be taking their toll on key players. No team was hit harder by this wave of injuries than the No. 1 overall seed Chicago Bulls.

Having played one-third of their season without reigning MVP Derrick Rose, the Bulls will have to continue their postseason run without their best player. Rose landed awkwardly while driving to the basket late in the fourth quarter of game one against the Philadelphia 76ers. His teammates and fans feared the worst as he was carried off the courts. Hours later, it was confirmed that he tore his ACL and will miss the remainder of the playoffs.

The Orlando Magic were hit by the injury bug weeks before the postseason got underway. They were well on their way to earning a top four seed in the Eastern Conference but then lost All-Star center Dwight Howard for the season with a
herniated disk.  

Staying in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics’ hopes of making another championship run took a major hit when they lost Ray Allen with an ankle injury. While Allen will not require surgery, he’s expected to miss their first round series against the Atlanta Hawks.

The most bizarre injury of the playoffs so far goes to the Knicks’ Amare Stoudemire. After falling 0-2 to the Miami Heat, Stoudemire took out his frustrations by punching a glass enclosure around a fire extinguisher in the visitor’s locker room. Stoudemire sustained a lacerated left hand and will likely leave the Knicks without his services in their attempt to stay in the series.

“He’s probably going to be out. I don’t know how bad it is ... Your emotions run high. In a split second, a decision can alter things. You can’t fault anybody. We’ve got to deal with the repercussions,” said Knicks center Tyson Chandler. The Knicks are also without Iman Shumpert, who tore his ACL on Saturday.

The Western Conference side of the bracket has, for the most part, been able to escape the current spree of injuries. The Los Angeles Clippers lost Caron Butler for the rest of the playoffs during their historic 27-point comeback against the Memphis Grizzlies. After scoring 12 points in 23 minutes, Butler broke his left hand during the second half.

The San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder are amongst the teams who have yet to be affected by injuries. With the Chicago Bulls and Celtics out of the picture in the East, the Heat have a relatively easy path to make a return trip to the Finals.

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doug Collins agrees that the compact schedule may factor into the current rise in injuries.

“I don’t think there’s any question,” Collins said. “The wear and tear, I don’t think there’s any question, the fatigue. What happens during the playoffs, it gets ratcheted up even more.”

Commissioner David Stern disagrees with the assessment saying during a radio interview he stated that the injuries and the tight regular season were unrelated.

“I don’t think it’s related at all,” Stern said. “When anything happens, that’s what’s going
to happen.”After a 66-game sprint in a four-month span, the NBA has reached its postseason and many teams are already marred by injuries. The heavy schedule and lack of off-season preparations seem to be taking their toll on key players. No team was hit harder by this wave of injuries than the No. 1 overall seed
Chicago Bulls.

Having played one-third of their season without reigning MVP Derrick Rose, the Bulls will have to continue their postseason run without their best player. Rose landed awkwardly while driving to the basket late in the fourth quarter of game one against the Philadelphia 76ers. His teammates and fans feared the worst as he was carried off the courts.

Hours later, it was confirmed that he tore his ACL and will miss the remainder of the playoffs.
The Orlando Magic were hit by the injury bug weeks before the postseason got underway. They were well on their way to earning a top four seed in the Eastern Conference but then lost All-Star center Dwight Howard for the season with a
herniated disk.

Staying in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics’ hopes of making another championship run took a major hit when they lost Ray Allen with an ankle injury. While Allen will not require surgery, he’s expected to miss their first round series against the Atlanta Hawks.

The most bizarre injury of the playoffs so far goes to the Knicks’ Amare Stoudemire. After falling 0-2 to the Miami Heat, Stoudemire took out his frustrations by punching a glass enclosure around a fire extinguisher in the visitor’s locker room. Stoudemire sustained a lacerated left hand and will likely leave the Knicks without his services in their attempt to stay in the series.

“He’s probably going to be out. I don’t know how bad it is ... Your emotions run high. In a split second, a decision can alter things. You can’t fault anybody. We’ve got to deal with the repercussions,” said Knicks center Tyson Chandler. The Knicks are also without Iman Shumpert, who tore his ACL on Saturday.

The Western Conference side of the bracket has, for the most part, been able to escape the current spree of injuries. The Los Angeles Clippers lost Caron Butler for the rest of the playoffs during their historic 27-point comeback against the Memphis Grizzlies. After scoring 12 points in 23 minutes, Butler broke his left hand during the second half.

The San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder are amongst the teams who have yet to be affected by injuries. With the Chicago Bulls and Celtics out of the picture in the East, the Heat have a relatively easy path to make a return trip to the Finals.

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doug Collins agrees that the compact schedule may factor into the current rise in injuries.
“I don’t think there’s any question,” Collins said. “The wear and tear, I don’t think there’s any question, the fatigue. What happens during the playoffs, it gets ratcheted up even more.”

Commissioner David Stern disagrees with the assessment saying during a radio interview he stated that the injuries and the tight regular season were unrelated.

“I don’t think it’s related at all,” Stern said. “When anything happens, that’s what’s going to happen.”

Printed on Tuesday, May 1, 2012 as: Compact schedule could be to blame for playoff injuries