Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Who is the Best of the Rest?

By Haz Bey
The Playoffs are here. Sad thing is, we already know who the contenders are and it comes down to 6 teams.  The 3 in the East are Miami, Chicago & Boston.  The 3 in the West are OKC, San Antonio & the LA Lakers.  The other teams are irrelevant.  Sure, a New York Knicks, Indiana Pacers and Memphis Grizzlies can make some noise, like serious noise, but neither one of those teams will be hoisting the Larry O'Brien trophy come season's end.  So now that I got that out of the way, let me breakdown who should be in the Finals competing for all the marbles.

In the East, the most dangerous team is clearly the Boston Celtics.  They have 3 Hall of Famers and one of the league's most dynamic point guards running the show in Rajon Rondo.  They won it all in 2008 and returned to the Finals in 2010 only to blow a 13 point 2nd half lead in game 7 to their hated rival, Los Angeles Lakers.  The have experience and wisdom on their side and are playing some great basketball since the All-Star break which resulted in them catching the 76ers for the Atlantic Division crown.  Their glaring weakness is their age with their star players.  Miami & Chicago has exceptional young talent and could outlast Boston in a long series.  As far as the West, the Los Angeles Lakers possess the most dominate "Big 3" in all of basketball.  2 skilled 7 footers in Gasol & Bynum and arguably the best player in the game in Kobe Bryant.  They will give teams all kind of match-up problems, but how will their bench perform?  That's the question we all have and with Oklahoma City & San Antonio possessing excellent depth, that might derail the Lakers chances at a 4 Finals appearance in 5 years.

The 2 most complete teams in each conference are San Antonio & Chicago, hands down.  They both have a enact of just playing the right way on both ends of the floor and both teams are led by tough, hard-nose coach's in Greg Popovich & Tom Thibodeau respectively.  These teams are true contenders and I wouldn't be surprised if that was the match-up for the world title.  The Bulls lack a healthy Derrick Rose heading into these playoffs.  Derrick Rose will be needed against potential match-ups with the Celtics & the Heat for Chicago to advance to the Finals.  As for San Antonio, it just comes down to the Spurs playing the same way during the playoffs as they did in the regular season.  We all remember last year they won the top seed in the West, but got ousted by the Rudy Gay-less Memphis Grizzlies in the 1st round of the playoffs behind the dominate play of Zach Randolph.  I like both teams chances, but I do not see them getting past the next 2 teams I am going to talk about.

The Oklahoma City Thunder & Miami Heat are the 2 best teams in the NBA Playoffs.  For they are not the number 1 seeds, they are the cream of the crop the league has to offer.  As you probably figured out, this is my NBA Finals match-up.  Both teams are as "top-heavy" as it gets when it comes to superior talent.  The potential match-up with Miami's LeBron James, Dwyane Wade & Chris Bosh vs Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook & James Harden is something not just the league, but the whole world deserves to see.  In their 2nd match-up in Miami, both teams played with such physicality and toughness, viewers thought the NBA Title was on the line that day.  With both teams wanting to get out on the open court to generate easy buckets, we as fans would benefit from all the exciting highlights and big plays all series long.  These teams possess enough talent to meet in the Finals multiple times in the next 4 to 5 years.  If that happens, then we are talking about an true rivalry between some of the league's best players.  Great story lines would come into play as well.  The winner of the Finals MVP Trophy would probably be crowned the league's best player, because as great as Kobe is, LeBron, D-Wade, Durant & Westbrook are all younger and either entering their primes or are still in it.  Then there is LeBron coming up small in last year's Finals.  How will he respond given another opportunity only 1 year later?  Also can the combinations of both Wade & James and Durant & Westbrook co-exist enough with their contrast of styles enough to win a NBA Title?  Is James Harden or Chris Bosh the "X-Factor" of the series?  These questions and I'm sure countless others will be asked if these teams hook-up this June.  I would almost go as far as saying that rivalry like this would not be on the same level of Lakers/Celtics, but it would definitely be in the neighborhood.

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