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Tag:Magic
Posted on: April 14, 2009 12:27 am
Edited on: April 14, 2009 12:28 am
 

2009 NBA Playoff Preview: Chicago Bulls

Previous Previews:
Western Conference:
Los Angeles Lakers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14206197

Houston Rockets - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14288379

Denver Nuggets - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14321911

San Antonio Spurs - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14346631

Portland Trail Blazers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14386245

Utah Jazz - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14393609

New Orleans Hornets - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14427724

Dallas Mavericks - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14440073

Eastern Conference:
Cleveland Cavaliers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14152907

Boston Celtics - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14220509

Orlando Magic - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14229507

Atlanta Hawks - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14238342

Miami Heat - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14373942

Philadelphia 76ers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14376757

Detroit Pistons - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14467742

Well now that teams are clinching divisions and spots in the postseason I thought it would be cool to go ahead and preview each team that is going to be a part of the 2009 NBA Postseason. I will do one for each team as they clinch a playoff spot and since we already have teams that have clinched, we will start with them. For the final playoff preview, we now turn to the Chicago Bulls.

Strengths
Even though the Bulls will enter the Eastern Conference as a low seed, this is top seed talent.  They're as talented as any team aside from Boston and Cleveland and they have the luxury of boasting a true point guard, in addition to two very servicable centers.  The Bulls bring to the table depth, a very solid inside-outside game and momentum: three things all teams wish they had on their side currently.  With the midseason trade that brought in Brad Miller and John Salmons, the Bulls added a seven footer that can come off of the bench and run an offense, hit the mid range jump shot and play hard around the basket in addition to a fantastic scorer in Salmons.  The two have been brought along slowly, and they didn't step on any toes when they came in, instead they seamlessly transitioned into Chicago's style of play and there was no learning period or tough stretch for the players to get acquainted with eachother.  Vinny Del Negro handed it well.

When the Bulls brought Salmons and Miller along, they added them to a team that can really put points on the board.  Ben Gordon is among the best scorers in the league, and runaway rookie of the year Derrick Rose really holds down stability at the point guard position, and for tough stretches he can be spelled by a very capable backup in Kirk Hinrich.  One thing the Bulls really do well is score the basketball.  They're in the top ten in points scored per game and they're great at moving the ball around and finding the open shot.  Another thing the Bulls bring to the table, is their incredible play at home.  Teams are going to be hard pressed to steal victories in Chicago, considering the Bulls recent stretch at home, and that puts pressure on the opposition to win at home.  The Bulls are lucky because they can play with no pressure at all, they have no expectations.  That's a big reason why this unit has played together and why they are a dangerous squad.

Weaknesses
For one, chemistry may be a problem in the postseason.  Vinny Del Negro has went to a short rotation for a majority of the second half of the season, getting the team ready for minutes distribution in the postseason, but this is a squad that hasn't played together but for about 30 or so games.  When they're faced with adversity, you can't really predict how they're going to respond.  In addition to mental problems for the Bulls, their lack of time together makes for a lack of experience in critical spots.  The Bulls have responded well as of late and went on an impressive stretch just to make the postseason.  That's indisputable.  However, when you're facing a championship contender and certain situations call for certain responses, this isn't a truly battle tested squad.  Therefore, they'll be unpredictable in critical spots of some games.

Furthermore, even though it's weird to say this since they have two legitimate centers, the Bulls are relatively undersized.  Tyrus Thomas and Ben Gordon still lacks the size to make a difference defensively against elite players at their respective positions.  As a result of Luol Deng's injury, Gordon and Salmons have been in the starting lineup together, and that makes for a very small frontcourt with essentially a three guard lineup.  As a result, the Bulls are in the bottom 10 in points allowed per game.  Chicago, as another result of their lack of size, are a team that has an overreliance on its jump shot.  Brad Miller, Ben Gordon, Tim Thomas, John Salmons, Kirk Hinrich; these aren't players that are going to take it to the rim and get to the foul line very often.  Rose and Tyrus Thomas are probably their best slashers and finishers at the rim, and it's not yet been determined if either of them will take the big shot in the postseason. 

Why They Will Win It
The Bulls are riding a hot wave of emotion at the moment and that makes them a scary squad.  They're deep, they've been playing playoff style basketball for an extended period of time and they can really shoot the basketball.  At home, the Bulls are a beast and that will prove to be a tough test for any team that they match up against in the first round.  They seem to really have fun out there when they're playing basketball, and that's something that you really can't teach or create on a team.  It's something that just has to be there and cohesiveness is essential for any team hoping to make a run in the postseason.  They're a team currently on the rise and they're a team playing some of the best basketball in the league.

Why They Won't Win It
The Bulls are basically a jump shooting team.  When you rely so much on the jumpshot, it can come back to haunt you in critical situations and that's cause for concern in Chicago.  Furthermore, their two best slashers, Derrick Rose and Tyrus Thomas, aren't spectacular foul shooters, shooting 79 and 78 percent respectively from the line.  Vinny Del Negro is in his first season as a coach at any level, in any position in the NBA.  How he will respond to tough situations has yet to be determined as well, and teams that lack experience usually can turn to an experienced coach for guidance in the postseason.  However, this Bulls team can't do that and that can do them in in the postseason.

Conclusion
Top to bottom, this is a really talented team.  In terms of players that they put out on the court, they can easily compete with anybody and give anyone a very tough series.  Depending on the matchup, the Bulls could shock a lot of people and steal a series victory from a championship contender.  However, it's not safe to bet on teams that shoot too many jump shots in the playoffs.  Also, they don't play defense at a respectable level (they're the only team in the bottom 11 in points allowed per game that is in the playoffs) and their coach doesn't necessarily know how to win at any position he's held.  This is a talented bunch, but they seem to lack that "it" factor to carry them to a championship.  It can and should be a very exciting postseason in Chicago (a nice story for a dedicated fan base), but it'd be a stretch to expect a 7th championship banner to be raised.

 And that concludes the team by team 2009 Postseason Previews.

Posted on: April 11, 2009 10:42 am
 

2009 NBA Playoff Preview: Detroit Pistons

Previous Previews:
Western Conference:
Los Angeles Lakers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14206197

Houston Rockets - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14288379

Denver Nuggets - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14321911

San Antonio Spurs - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14346631

Portland Trail Blazers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14386245

Utah Jazz - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14393609

New Orleans Hornets - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14427724

Dallas Mavericks - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14440073

Eastern Conference:
Cleveland Cavaliers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14152907

Boston Celtics - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14220509

Orlando Magic - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14229507

Atlanta Hawks - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14238342

Miami Heat - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14373942

Philadelphia 76ers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14376757

Well now that teams are clinching divisions and spots in the postseason I thought it would be cool to go ahead and preview each team that is going to be a part of the 2009 NBA Postseason. I will do one for each team as they clinch a playoff spot and since we already have teams that have clinched, we will start with them. Now we will continue with the former NBA champion Detroit Pistons.

Strengths
When you think about Detroit, you think about a team with a lot of experience and a team where the core players all boast championship rings.  Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace are, surprisingly, the only holdovers from that 2004 championship team, but they all started and played their own prominent role en route to winning that championship.  Hamilton and Prince, in particular, are the most valuable players on the team because the offense really runs through those two players.  When Hamilton has received big minutes and been in the lineup, the team has really responded with solid play and looks to be at their best and most effecient.

The Pistons still play solid defense as well.  Rodney Stuckey, last postseason's biggest surprise in Motown, has good size for a point guard and is capable of staying in front of his man.  Tayshaun Prince has a well received reputation as one of the better man defenders in the league, and when the situation calls for it you expect the Pistons to come up big on defense.  Also, the Pistons have a deep rotation and throw a lot of players at you.  Will Bynum has been a spectacular surprise as of late for Detroit and their bench really plays hard and seems to be a cohesive unit.  They can give the starters, who have so much importance on this team, valuable rest and don't force Michael Curry to overexert his starters.

Weaknesses
Even though Antonio McDyess and Rasheed Wallace are two solid power forwards, neither are a true center and neither can consistently score around the basket.  It's well documented that Wallace has fallen in love with the three point shot as of late, and it really affects the Pistons in the long run because he's almost dominant down there in the paint.  Unfortunately, he doesn't take it down there as much and he's a big key for the Pistons.  With him in the lineup and playing well offensively and defensively, the Pistons have a chance to really make a run at a championship, but as we saw last year when Garnett lit him up and this season in his production offensively, Wallace's head no longer seems to be in the game.

Also, even though the Pistons have bodies, their bench lacks serious consistency.  Arron Afflalo, Jason Maxiell, Walter Herrmann and even Will Bynum have been good in spurts this season but none of them have gotten into a rhythym where the Pistons should feel confident relying on any of them for an extended period of time.  Also, with Maxiell playing like a reserve who received a huge contract, and with Amir Johnson and Kwame Brown as the other big man options for Detroit, the Pistons look to really struggle if they play an opponent that boasts a ton of size.  The Pistons are without a doubt a guard-oriented lineup and they like to play small for mismatches, and also because they don't have options in the post. 

Why They Will Win It
The Pistons are one of those teams who is capable of making a run.  The talent and experience is there, and this team has made six straight Eastern Conference Finals.  Even though this season has been a trainwreck in so many ways, the Pistons still are not at a lack of confidence, with Rasheed lately stating that the team would be ready to turn it on when the postseason came around.  Turning the switch on and off is dangerous, but the Pistons have been notorious for doing it the past few seasons.  That just proves that they can do it again this year.

Why They Won't Win It
The Pistons have looked out of sync without Billups all year.  Rodney Stuckey is a really good player, but he's not a true point guard and the Pistons discounted a lot of chemistry to acquire Allen Iverson's contract.  The Pistons can turn the switch on and off, but they haven't shown this year that they can play with any bit of consistency or togetherness.  Rasheed Wallace's production really seems to have affected this entire team as a whole, and with his inconsistent performances the Pistons have struggled, as he is their only true option under the basket.  This is a team with a ton of experience from past years, but it's a team that hasn't had much success this season.

Conclusion
You'd like to declare the Pistons dead but you still can't until they lose in the postseason.  With the players that they have, and with a team that has all the confidence in the world, a part of you still believes they could possibly make a run in the postseason.  They match up well with anybody, however they don't have any size and haven't seem interested at all this season.  With their record and with their performance, credit and optimism is undeserved for this Detroit squad.  However, by reputation alone, this is a team that, in the right matchup, could win a playoff series.  But, with what they've displayed on the court, it's hard to believe that they will do so.

Coming up next: the Chicago Bulls.

Posted on: April 9, 2009 10:55 am
 

2009 NBA Playoff Preview: Dallas Mavericks

Previous Previews:
Western Conference:
Los Angeles Lakers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14206197

Houston Rockets - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14288379

Denver Nuggets - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14321911

San Antonio Spurs - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14346631

Portland Trail Blazers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14386245

Utah Jazz - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14393609

New Orleans Hornets - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14427724

Eastern Conference:
Cleveland Cavaliers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14152907

Boston Celtics - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14220509

Orlando Magic - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14229507

Atlanta Hawks - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14238342

Miami Heat - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14373942

Philadelphia 76ers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14376757

Well now that teams are clinching divisions and spots in the postseason I thought it would be cool to go ahead and preview each team that is going to be a part of the 2009 NBA Postseason. I will do one for each team as they clinch a playoff spot and since we already have teams that have clinched, we will start with them. Now we will continue with the last team to wrap up a playoff spot in the Western Conference: the Dallas Mavericks.

Strengths
The Mavericks can really play on offense.  Offensively, the team has a 7 footer who can score from anywhere on the court and who's capable of creating his own shot in Dirk Nowitzki.  They have one of the greatest facilitators in the game's history in Jason Kidd and players like Jason Terry and Jose Juan Barea make up an offense that can run and can really light it up on the scoreboard.  Coach Rick Carlisle, a coach historically known for his emphasis on defense, said in the preseason that the team would push the tempo with a full season with Kidd at the helm and he's followed through on that promise.  The team can just really score the basketball, and they're one of the better shooting teams in the league.  Nowitzki is one of the more unheralded players in the game, as he simply is unguardable when he's feeling it.  He can shoot the three, finally added a little bit of a post game and he's the main catalyst for this squad in crucial situations.  Also, if necessary, Nowitzki almost always makes the right pass in tight situations, and he's a huge asset for this Mavericks team to have.  Josh Howard has also elevated his game this year as a scorer, even though he's fought injuries to play this season.  He's really improved his three point shot and is more of a scorer than at any point in his career.

The Mavs also bring a very solid bench with them to the postseason.  Even though Jason Terry is the third best player on the team the Mavericks bring him off of the bench in a strategic move and it fits his role best, because all Terry has been in his career is a shooter anyways.  In this role, he can step into either guard position and simply light it up from all areas on the floor.  Also, the team brings the aforementioned J.J. Barea and also brings a great big man off of the bench in Brandon Bass.  Because of this, the Mavericks are deeper than most teams that play the full court style and they don't necessarily tire at the end of games. 

Weaknesses
Everything with the Mavericks is psychological.  So many years, the Mavs have had one of the better teams in the league and talent has never been an issue, but they've never recovered from that collapse in the 2006 finals, and to be honest with you they've been making the playoffs consistently since the year 2000 and that 2006 Western Conference championship is the only achievement they really have to show for it.  And that's through different regimes, different coaches, different styles of play, the Mavericks just never seemed to find out how to win.  Nowitzki's numbers have historically gone up in the postseason and he plays very well in the playoffs, but he's not commanding enough or, possibly, confident enough to demand the ball in tough situations in the playoffs, and when he does nobody has faith that he's going to come through and help the Mavericks win.  In tough situations, the Mavericks will look to Jason Terry to close games out.  Terry's not half the shooter that Nowitzki is (Terry is more of a scorer than a shooter) but never has any lack of confidence.  But because of Terry's small stature, bigger defenders can give him problems in postseason matchups.

Speaking of Terry, how awful is this team's lack of a shooting guard or center?  The reason they run as often as they do is because it allows them to mask that the team doesn't have a true wingman or a true center.  Erick Dampier has been a horrible signing through and through and he doesn't have the presence, nor the minutes, to really make a difference out there.  He shows up in stretches, but for the most part the Mavericks only play him around 15-20 minutes and then play either Nowitzki, Bass, or Ryan Hollins at center, and none of those players are effective at the center position.  Those matchups can work well on offense, but they're going to hurt you on defense.  Also, because the team brings Terry off the bench, they start Antoine Wright.  Wright usually draws the task of defending the other team's best wing man, and he's adequate in that role but because the team has to play Terry off of the bench they give up a lot on the defensive end.  Also, Wright's not effecient enough offensively to really rack up big minutes because the Mavericks need everyone to be involved.  Aside from Terry, the Mavericks lack of depth is shown in their wingman and center spots, where players like Hollins, Gerald Green and Devean George are listed on the bench. 

Why They Will Win It
The Mavericks have two fantastic scorers in Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry, an amazing offensive threat in Josh Howard, and a true point guard in Jason Kidd who usually makes the right play at the right time.  Because of this, they have a fluent offense that really can have other squads on their heels.  The Mavericks, when they're on, can get other teams caught up in their game trying to match the lineups that they bring on the court, and if a team tries to match the Mavericks, the Mavericks will win.  Nobody plays their game better than they do, and if you go small the Mavericks are more than capable of defeating you.

Why They Won't Win It
The Mavericks, for all of the offensive mismatches they can create, still lack the defensive prowress that allows you to take the legitimately as championship contenders.  Even coaches like Carlisle and Avery Johnson, defensive minded coaches, couldn't preach that side of the ball to the team and unfortunately they still suffer on that side.  Also, because the only 7 footer on the team, aside from Ryan Hollins, prefers to shoot on the perimeter than play in the paint, the Mavericks are mainly a jump shooting team.  Regardless of how hot you are shooting the basketball, games will slow down and you have to find a way to score around the basket if you're to be taken seriously.

Conclusion
The Mavericks did a great job this season making the postseason without a true shooting guard or center.  Dirk, Terry and Kidd have carried the team this season and they've really peaked as of late.  They can score and there's no doubt about that, but for some reason the Mavericks never have succeeded in the postseason.  There has to be something psychologically wrong in Dallas, and it won't be fixed this season as well.  With a likely matchup with the Lakers in the first round, the Mavericks would get dispatched rather quickly.  There is a chance, if they draw Denver or San Antonio, that Dallas could sneak in a first round playoff victory, but you can't avoid big, physical teams throughout the entire postseason and eventually you have to lace them up and play a physical style of ball, and the Mavericks, simply put, are incapable of doing that.  So it looks like another playoff dissapointment is in the cards for Dallas fans.

The next team to clinch will be covered in the next preview.

Posted on: April 8, 2009 3:16 pm
 

2009 NBA Playoff Preview: New Orleans Hornets

Previous Previews:
Western Conference:
Los Angeles Lakers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14206197

Houston Rockets - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14288379

Denver Nuggets - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14321911

San Antonio Spurs - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14346631

Portland Trail Blazers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14386245

Utah Jazz - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14393609

Eastern Conference:
Cleveland Cavaliers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14152907

Boston Celtics - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14220509

Orlando Magic - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14229507

Atlanta Hawks - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14238342

Miami Heat - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14373942

Philadelphia 76ers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14376757

Well now that teams are clinching divisions and spots in the postseason I thought it would be cool to go ahead and preview each team that is going to be a part of the 2009 NBA Postseason. I will do one for each team as they clinch a playoff spot and since we already have teams that have clinched, we will start with them. Now we will continue with a team, after some heroics last night, clinched a playoff spot for the second consecutive season: the New Orleans Hornets.

Strengths
When you speak of the Hornets, the first thing that comes to mind (and rightfully so) is starting point guard Chris Paul.  Paul has been the motor for the Hornets the past two seasons, and as a result of his performance they're in the playoffs for the second straight season.  Paul has always been the quintessential point guard, making the right play for a teammate in the right position and ensuring involvement from all in the offense.  Coach Byron Scott, a coach who has been to the NBA finals before, knows to let Paul control the offense, and Paul does so very effeciently.  This year, Paul has improved on both his jump shot and also on the defensive end of the court.  Along with Paul's emergence as a defender, and also the acquisition of good team defenders with championship experience in James Posey, Antonio Daniels and Devin Brown has been the Hornets emergence as a defensive force in the NBA.

This year, the Hornets have elevated their status as a defensive team, and are in the top five in the league in terms of points allowed.  Byron Scott knows what it takes to win a championship, having won three as a player with the Lakers.  The Hornets have been criticized for slowing the game down a lot this year, and some say playing away from their strengths, but when games slow down in the playoffs this year the Hornets will be adept at playing that style and won't look as desperate as they did last year when the games slowed down and got more physical.  One thing that's most important to the half court offense is effecient jump shooters and the Hornets have plenty of those in fellow All Star David West and capable three point shooters in Rasual Butler, Peja Stojakovic, Morris Peterson, and Paul.  Also, because of their style of play, the Hornets have shown that they can win anywhere in the NBA, boasting a 21-17 road record.

Weaknesses
Because the Hornets go as Paul goes, it's no secret that the Hornets have an uncanny overreliance on Chris Paul when they're on the floor.  In moments where Paul goes to the bench, the offense looks stagnant, predictable and boring and it shows in the Hornets 2nd quarter point totals.  David West is capable of masking Paul's absence on the court, but his back injury has limited his effectiveness in the paint this year and he seems to have fallen in love with the jump shot that was merely a weapon last year.  West's infatuation with the 20 foot jump shot is the prime example of a Hornets squad that simply cannot score in the paint.  They have players that can finish around the basket, but aside from West and the rarely used Melvin Ely, Sean Marks, Hilton Armstrong, and Ryan Bowen aren't going to become focuses of the defense with their back to the basket game.

One of the biggest reasons why the Hornets struggle so much in the paint is because of the absence of Tyson Chandler for the majority of this season.  The Hornets record when Chandler plays is strikingly better than that with him out of the lineup, but unfortunately his injury looks like it will prevent him from playing in the postseason, or playing effectively in the playoffs, this season.  A big reason for the Hornets surge last year was health, and this year has been the complete opposite.  Paul's nursing an injured groin, West is nursing an injured back, Chandler an ankle, Stojakovic a back, and Peterson has barely played this year with a bad leg.  Last season's starters have missed a total of 101 games this season, as opposed to 22 being missed between the five last season.  Posey's recent elbow troubles have also highlighted a huge problem for the Hornets, a serious lack of depth.  None of the second unit players are very reliable scoring the basketball aside from Posey, and he's not necessarily in the game to score.  They have great defensive depth, but they don't have anyone who can score off of the bench.

Why They Will Win It
The Hornets go as far as Chris Paul brings them, and he's one of the most consistent and effecient players in the game.  He and David West have been incredibly reliable this year and really have carried this squad to where it is.  The ressurection of Rasual Butler this year gives the Hornets a shooting guard that can play huge minutes and who is a more reliable option offensive and defensively than Morris Peterson was last season.  Also, this is a team that has experience from last season's squad, and also the addition of players like Posey, Daniels, Brown, Marks and Ely who have all previously won championships as well.  In addition to having a coach who has succeeded as both a player and at his current position, the Hornets are a disciplined, dedicated squad and they give themselves a chance to win every game. 

Why They Won't Win It
As reliable as Paul and West are, there isn't a third player on this team that is reliable at all.  To win a championship, you need at least a handful of players that are playing great basketball in order to carry you through four rounds of the postseason.  Injuries may have prevented the Hornets from developing any kind of groove and probably is the biggest reason why the squad has no consistent third option, seeing as how Peja was that player last year.  A lack of depth and a lack of frontcourt players can't be masked in the postseason and the Hornets have to work extra hard to make up for that. 

Conclusion
The Hornets are a team that's built for the postseason.  If Chandler does come back, they have a squad that plays great defense, is effecient shooting the basketball and has one of the best players in the game in Chris Paul and a player who never shies away from the big shots in David West.  However, a lack of depth and consistency has plagued the Hornets all season long, and there's not enough time to get everyone back and develop any kind of chemistry this season.  Injuries really hurt this team, and it's arguable that Scott and Paul have done a better job this year than they did last season.  However, it isn't conceivable that the Hornets can win a championship this year at less than full strength.  They're a team that can win a few playoff series, but just like last year, they're going to wear down and a lack of options is going to do this team in.

The next team to clinch will be covered in the next preview.

Posted on: April 6, 2009 3:22 pm
 

2009 NBA Playoff Preview: Utah Jazz

Previous Previews:
Western Conference:
Los Angeles Lakers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14206197

Houston Rockets - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14288379

Denver Nuggets - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14321911

San Antonio Spurs - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14346631

Portland Trail Blazers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14386245

Eastern Conference:
Cleveland Cavaliers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14152907

Boston Celtics - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14220509

Orlando Magic - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14229507

Atlanta Hawks - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14238342

Miami Heat - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14373942

Philadelphia 76ers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14376757

Well now that teams are clinching divisions and spots in the postseason I thought it would be cool to go ahead and preview each team that is going to be a part of the 2009 NBA Postseason. I will do one for each team as they clinch a playoff spot and since we already have teams that have clinched, we will start with them. Now we will continue with the Utah Jazz.

Strengths
A team built around the strengths of your star player is almost impossible to contain.  When your best player is your point guard, it makes for a fluent offense and a joy to watch on the offensive side of the basketball.  Deron Williams is one of the best players in the league, arguably the best point guard in the game, and he is the catalyst for a versatile and tenacious Jazz offense that is as effecient as you'll find in this league.  If you need big men to stretch out of the defense by playing out by the three point line, Mehmet Okur will hit and stretch out the defenders.  If you need a big man to play down in the paint, you have Carlos Boozer.  If you need a guard to slash to the basket and keep defenders on their toes, you have Ronnie Brewer and Deron Williams simply does it all.  Williams always knows where to place the basketball and always knows who to give it to.  He can shoot the three, he can post up smaller point guards and he is also quick enough to get to the basket and finish around the rim.  That makes a team with great shooters like Okur and Kyle Korver very dangerous with such a slick passer.

The Jazz are also one of those teams that are almost unstoppable defeat in their home arena.  In a place with possibly the best, most engaging fans in the league, the Jazz are 32-7 at home and really put pressure on opposition to win at home.  The Jazz are another team that just outworks you.  They can rebound the basketball, run a structured, flawless offense and can either hit the jump shot or, because the team is so well coached they have players who know the right move to make when they drive to the basket.  The Jazz are also among the best coached teams in the NBA as recently appointed hall of famer Jerry Sloan always has his team ready to play.

Weaknesses
It's been mentioned that the Jazz put a lot of pressure on the oppostion to win at home, well that's not much of a problem for teams hosting Utah, as they have only two road victories against potential playoff squads (Philadelphia and New Orleans) spanning the entire season.  They Jazz play a lot softer, shoot too many jumpers and really struggle to get into rhythyms on the road.  It's been a nagging problem for Utah, and it's amazing that the players have yet to figure out how to win on the road.  Also, because of their ineptitude on the road, the Jazz put pressure on themselves to win at home and in last year's postseason the Jazz did drop two games at home.  So they can't continue to rely on the home court, especially when they most likely will not have home court in the postseason.

Also, even though the team has one of the better reserve big men in the league in Paul Millsap, they have a huge lack of depth at the center position.  Mehmet Okur has really had a great season, however he's not a player you want in the paint in crucial minutes, and behind him are Kosta Koufos and Jarron Collins.  Carlos Boozer is supposed to be that post presence at power forward to compliment the sharp shooting Okur, but in last season's postseason Boozer fell in love with the mid range jump shot and really hurt the Jazz more than he helped them.  Furthermore, since Boozer's return from injury his game has been very underwhelming.  He's not yet caught stride, and the pressure is on for him to reach his peak before the postseason begins.  He's vital to the team's success and hasn't proved to be a consistant threat yet for the Jazz.

Why They Will Win It
Utah is a truly balanced and deep team.  They are talented at every position with center being the weakest and although Brevin Knight is the team's backup point guard, he's not called on much and when he's in the game he knows his role and performs it well.  Andrei Kirilenko and Kyle Korver provide energy off of the bench and Korver is really capable of taking a game over with his shooting.  Jerry Sloan and Deron Williams has this team in position to win every game that they're in and the Jazz are dominant in Salt Lake City.  They're a versatile team that can play any style of attack that a team tries to impose on them.  Balance, versatility and depth are great assets especially when you're as talented as the Jazz are.

Why They Won't Win It
Just as important as depth and versatility are, playoff success is almost directly linked to winning on the road and playing tough defense.  At home the Jazz fire on all cylinders and are extremely capable of attacking you at either side of the court.  But on the road, they give up a plethora of points and really struggle to come up with big shots.  Deron Williams, also, is almost entirely responsible for the two previous playoff runs for the Jazz, and he has struggled with his jump shot this season.  This year, more than ever, he'll be counted on to really put the Jazz on his back if they want to win a championship.  That's a lot for any one man to carry, and it may prove to be too much for him.

Conclusion
The Jazz have the coaching, the talent and the depth to win a championship.  There's no question that they're as good as any team in the league.  However, a preceived lack of mental toughness keeps them from succeeding on the road and that will always do them in until they figure out how to play good basketball away from Salt Lake City.  They did win two games on the road in last season's postseason, and they're capable of doing so depending on who they draw in the first round.  But the Jazz need to figure out how to win on the road quickly, and they haven't figured it out in two years.  That will always be their kryptonite.  There's no doubt that they can win a championship based on talent alone, but the team doesn't give you much to believe in.  Unfortunately, it looks like another talented squad in Utah will underachieve in the postseason.

The next team to clinch will be covered in the next preview.

Posted on: April 6, 2009 12:48 am
 

2009 NBA Playoff Preview: Portland Trail Blazers

Previous Previews:
Western Conference:
Los Angeles Lakers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14206197

Houston Rockets - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14288379

Denver Nuggets - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14321911

San Antonio Spurs - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14346631

Eastern Conference:
Cleveland Cavaliers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14152907

Boston Celtics - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14220509

Orlando Magic - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14229507

Atlanta Hawks - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14238342

Miami Heat - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14373942

Philadelphia 76ers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14376757

Well now that teams are clinching divisions and spots in the postseason I thought it would be cool to go ahead and preview each team that is going to be a part of the 2009 NBA Postseason. I will do one for each team as they clinch a playoff spot and since we already have teams that have clinched, we will start with them. Now we will continue with a proud franchise making its first appearance in the postseason since 2003: the Portland Trail Blazers.

Strengths
When you look at this Trail Blazers team, there isn't a really staggering amount of holes.  They're young, deep, hungry and versatile and can really attack you from all areas of the floor.  They have one of the most underrated players in the league in Brandon Roy and he is the catalyst for a squad that drives to the basket, shoots the three well and can really get hot at any given moment.  In Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge the Blazers have two consistent players who can score inside and outside and who really provide the leadership and energy for their teammates to feed off of. 

The Blazers are an energy, hustle team that really flourishes playing at home in Portland and that never takes their foot off of the pedal.  Rudy Fernandez and Travis Outlaw spearhead a really talented bench and give tremendous energy whenever they step onto the court.  Coach Nate McMillan really has this team playing together as a unit, and they know how to attack the opposition and where to attack the opposition.  They're very well prepared, so even with their youth and reckless abandon, they're still organized and put their skills to good use.  Whenever the Blazers play at home, they're almost unstoppable and they can really put pressure on you to win at home.  If they steal a game on the road, they're in prime position when they return to Portland.  Also, this team is very good at rebounding the basketball, which helps start off on the breaks for the offense and limits second chance opportunities to the opponent.

Weaknesses
All things considered, the Trail Blazers don't have a true point guard or a truly dominant center.  Greg Oden has fought injuries for two seasons and still doesn't look like a very effective post player, although his presence on the defensive end of the floor can really affect opponents on their drives to the basket.  However, he's proved to be just average on offense and although he's not a liability, he's far from an asset with the offense is set into motion.  Joel Przybilla is basically the same story.  He's fantastic at rebounding the basketball and playing defense, but they're not going to go to him in crunch time and expect points in the paint.  That wouldn't be a problem if Aldridge didn't fall in love with the jump shot as often as he does.  So many times he forgets that he's needed under the basket, and teams can really cut off his moves to the paint and force him to be a jump shooter.  Then, it's just a matter of if Aldridge is on or not.

Steve Blake is solid, but he's not going to blow anyone away at the point guard position.  Brandon Roy is more effective with the basketball anyways, so this hasn't been a problem as of yet for Portland, but teams will really attack Roy in the postseason and the onus will be on Steve Blake and Sergio Rodriguez to not be liabilities out on the floor.  They're going to be relied on to hit big three pointers and Blake has shown that he can do it (even being the starting point guard on a Denver team that went to the postseason a couple of years ago).  Also, youth and inexperience can pose a huge problem for Portland.  As always, there seems to be a learning curve in a team's first season in the playoffs.  That doesn't mean a series victory or two is out of the question, but usually teams have to learn how to win in the postseason and nobody on this squad has any experience at being successful in the postseason.  So that could pose a problem when the squad is on the road and in tough situations in the postseason against teams that know how to win on an opponent's home floor.

Why They Will Win It
The Trail Blazers play a fun brand of basketball and have depth at every position.  They're young but they're hungry and they can play an up and down style of basketball and even have the shooters to succeed in a half court game.  They like to dictate the pace, but if push comes to shove and they can't, they won't be knocked out of contention because they can settle down and match up with what the other team is bringing to the table.  Brandon Roy is a huge asset in close situations, and the Blazers have a star that they can turn to in crucial situations of close out games.  That's a huge asset that a lot of teams just don't have.

Why They Won't Win It
Experience will be the biggest hurtle for this squad.  With inexperience comes a perceived lack of ability to win on the road and people just assuming that you will struggle in close situations.  The fact that the Blazers may become jump shooters could hurt them in the end, as a developed Greg Oden would be huge this year.  However, that's not the case and the Blazers may become overreliant on the jump shot.  Also, they have a tendency to struggle on defense in spells and that could really come back to haunt them in the postseason.

Conclusion
The talent is there in Portland for a big run and they could win a playoff series or two without surprising anyone.  However, they need to experience that learning curve like every other team does and inexperience may do them in in the postseason.  Top to bottom this is one of the deepest teams in the league but struggles on defense and in other team's home courts may prevent Portland from making a serious run at a championship.  They're a team on the rise and this year could be a year of surprises for fans in Portland (who really deserve it), but the Trail Blazers are still a year of growth away from having the Larry O'Brien Trophy being a realistic end goal.

Coming up next: the Utah Jazz.

Posted on: April 5, 2009 11:13 am
 

2009 NBA Playoff Preview: Philadelphia 76ers

Previous Previews:
Western Conference:
Los Angeles Lakers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14206197

Houston Rockets - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14288379

Denver Nuggets - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14321911

San Antonio Spurs - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14346631

Eastern Conference:
Cleveland Cavaliers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14152907

Boston Celtics - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14220509

Orlando Magic - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14229507

Atlanta Hawks - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14238342

Miami Heat - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14373942

Well now that teams are clinching divisions and spots in the postseason I thought it would be cool to go ahead and preview each team that is going to be a part of the 2009 NBA Postseason. I will do one for each team as they clinch a playoff spot and since we already have teams that have clinched, we will start with them. Now we will continue with the team all of the top teams in the Eastern Conference are looking to avoid: the Philadelphia 76ers.

Strengths
When you talk about Philadelphia's biggest asset there's always one thing you mention: the fact that Philadelphia is extremely athletic and almost impossible to predict on the offensive side of the basketball.  With the 76ers throwing Andre Miller, Andre Iguodala and Thaddeus Young out there in the starting lineup, the 76ers provide a team with a lot of options and different spots from which to attack you.  All of these players can hit the mid range jump shot but really thrive when defenders overcommit and leave the players with the opportunity to attack the basket and either finish at the rim, take the foul or kick it out to an open player.  For that reason, both Miller and Iguodala are very effective passers and usually make the right move.  The 76ers even start Reggie Evans and Samuel Dalembert as well, who are very good at moving up and down the court for big men.  Niether will probably average a double double in the playoffs but both can get put backs and frustrate big men on the offensive side of the basketball.  Also, the 76ers' athleticisim is heightened when their shooters, Lou Williams and Willie Green, are knocking down open jump shots and stretching out the defense and forcing defenders to leave the paint.

On defense, the 76ers have a lineup that's entirely capable of playing solid man on man basketball.  Iguodala is big and athletic enough to stay in front of whoever the oppostion's best wing man is.  Young is long enough to be versatile on defense and Dalembert is an absolute force around the basket blocking shots and grabbing rebounds.  Also, because of the 76ers athleticism they can play a very effective rotating zone and can keep teams from getting to Dalembert and the basket.  And because of Dalembert acting as the safety net, players like Iguodala, Young and Miller (who always seems to make the right decision with the basketball) can take chances and go for loose balls which then starts the fast break that the 76ers are at their best with.

Weakness
The 76ers are a horrible jump shooting team.  The aforementioned Lou Williams and Willie Green are their only hopes as far as shooting the basketball is concerned and even still they're not the definition of consistent.  Andre Iguodala has worked hard on his three point shot and has actually done pretty good behind the arc, but he shoots a very low percentage and is not reliable with his jump shot.  He's someone you'd much rather see take it to the basket, which happens to be the case with a lot of the players on this team.  I just don't see them getting desperate enough to play Kareem Rush and Donyell Marshall significant minutes in the playoffs and they are the best shooters on the team but they haven't played much this year and that has to show what Coach DiLeo feels about the players.

Because of that, the 76ers will be hard pressed to succeed if teams slow the game down too much.  Last year against Detroit, the 76ers struggled when the opposition kept the point total really low and frustrated Philadelphia when they came up with big shots.  Because when the game slows down, they have nobody who can hit a jump shot or a big man who thrives around the basket.  Elton Brand was heavily criticized when he was healthy this season, but he'd be huge in the postseason for Philadelphia because Dalembert, Evans, Theo Ratliff and Marreese Speights aren't going to wow anyone with their post moves around the basket.  The 76ers will run into trouble when games are slowed down considerably and are going to be hard pressed to score points. 

Why They Will Win It
Top to bottom nobody can keep up with the 76ers.  If they get into a groove and force turnovers, play pesky defense and take their opponents to the basket then the 76ers will be incredibly tough to beat.  They can get your best player in foul trouble and can really frustrate you with their ability to stay in games.  Teams that play them usually get caught up in the fast paced game with them even though that plays to Philadelphia's strengths.  Also, when Dalembert is actually playing hard he can be a force rebounding the basketball and can really cut off other teams' second chance points and start the fast break for Philadelphia.  All of the 76ers strengths go back to effort adn this is a team that plays incredibly hard every single night.

Why They Won't Win It
When the 76ers are forced to make jump shots, they may struggle to do so and that could be the crippling weakness for the Sixers.  This is a team that can go through spells where they don't make a field goal, and nobody on the team is capable of getting hot with their jump shot consistantly enough to really stretch and scare defenses.  Also, Dalembert, for all the hustle points he brings along, is absolutely a non factor on offense as is Reggie Evans.  And when the Sixers go small and start Willie Green, teams can take advantage of that lineup by taking them to the basket. 

Conclusion
It's really all up to who the 76ers draw in the first round.  They're a dangerous team, even if a dangerous team with a lot of flaws.  They can defeat any of the top teams in the Eastern Conference for at least the first round and if they match up with Atlanta or Miami they can really take advantage of the lack of poise both of those teams posses and get out of the first round still playing their style of ball.  Miller and Iguodala have to carry this team and they're capable of doing so for at least one series.  However, that can only last so long, and eventually they'll run into a team (maybe in the first round) that can stop them from playing their game and that can eleminate them.  One thing's for sure: the 76ers play as hard as any team in the league.  So effort won't be a problem, therefore they'll be in every game and every series they participate in.  But a lack of a post game and a lack of jump shooters will keep the 76ers from hoisting the Larry O'Brien trophy in June.

The next team to clinch will be covered in the next preview.

Posted on: April 5, 2009 12:06 am
 

2009 NBA Playoff Preview: Miami Heat

Previous Previews:
Western Conference:
Los Angeles Lakers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14206197

Houston Rockets - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14288379

Denver Nuggets - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14321911

San Antonio Spurs - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14346631

Eastern Conference:
Cleveland Cavaliers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14152907

Boston Celtics - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14220509

Orlando Magic - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14229507

Atlanta Hawks - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14238342

Well now that teams are clinching divisions and spots in the postseason I thought it would be cool to go ahead and preview each team that is going to be a part of the 2009 NBA Postseason. I will do one for each team as they clinch a playoff spot and since we already have teams that have clinched, we will start with them. Now we will continue with the team that, one season removed from 15 wins, is returning to the NBA postseason: the Miami Heat.

Strengths
The Heat are a team built around the strengths of their best player, Dwyane Wade.  Wade is having an MVP caliber season and has done a fantastic job elevating his game this season and staying healthy, leading Miami into the postseason after last season's dreadful performance.  Wade leads a talented, if underwhelming, team into the playoffs and the Heat go into the playoffs with upset on their mind.  This Heat team has Wade, Udonis Haslem and Dorell Wright (although he hardly plays) remaining from the 2006 NBA championship team, so this is a team with players who know what it takes to win in the postseason.  For a team as young as Miami is, that experience is vital to their success.  In the playoffs, where the pace is slowed down and the games get more physical, games usually come to key possessions and any team that has a player like Wade with the ball in his hands in crucial situations, the Heat have a chance to win any game that they're in.  Dwyane Wade has done a great job expanding his game to include the three point shot, and the Heat actually posses a few shooters that can help stretch the floor in Mario Chalmers, 3-point shootout winner Daequan Cook, Chris Quinn and Yakhouba Diawara

The Heat are also a unique team, because they can win in grind it out types of games that can put an emphasis on the importance of Dwyane Wade, and they also are a team that is athletic enough to run the floor and play fast with teams that try to use that to their advantage.  Players like Wade, Haslem, Michael Beasley, Jamario Moon and Jermaine O'Neal may not be at home underneath the basket, but all of them are capable of scoring inside the paint and taking smaller defenders to the basket if called upon.  Offense remains the biggest asset the Heat have. 

Weaknesses
All things considered, the Heat are a very small team.  Playing O'Neal at center may have its advantages on the offensive side because he can knock down 15 foot jump shots and help pull the defense away from the basket, but he gets bullied around by bigger players.  Udonis Haslem will be called upon to guard these bigger players when O'Neal can't, but 6'9" is a generous listing for him and there's only so much he can do that undersized.  Jamaal Magloire has really fallen off the face of the Earth relevance wise and could give minutes at the center position, but won't be much of a difference maker on either side of the basket. 

Also, this is a team that relies too much on Dwyane Wade.  He's the only game changer on the Heat, so if they need someone to facilitate he's the one required to do so.  If they need a basket, they turn to Wade.  If they need someone to run the offense, they turn to Wade.  That's going to catch up to them when teams have seven games to zero in on Wade and figure out new strategies to contain him.  Other players have to step up, and nobody has emerged as a consistent second option to take some of the pressure off of Wade.  Also, this team is prone to turnovers and can fall behind early.  When that happens, Wade is the only way that this team can climb back into games.  That kind of dependence on one player is dangerous in the playoffs, especially when the Heat fall into helter skelter styles of play.

Why They Will Win It
The Heat have one of the best players in the game, and when you have him, you're capable of winning in the postseason.  Dwyane Wade is good for at least a few victories any series and has lifted the play of his teammates this season to the point where they are in the playoffs.  The other players on the team understand their roles and really do try their best to fill those roles and they seem comfortable stepping aside for Wade.  They're a versatile offensive squad and they follow the leadership of Wade and really give it their all every night that they step onto the floor. 

Why They Won't Win It
Even though the team has one of the top five players in the league, they're really talent deprived.  They're very young and very small, and those factors matched with total dependence on Wade don't bode well as far as a run to the championship is concerned.  They don't have many options at center and don't have any big men aside from Haslem who really thrive in tough, physical situations under the basket.  And Haslem is too small to have to do it all by himself.  The team has effort and plays hard, but sometimes it comes down to the fact that your opposition has more people to turn to and more ways to attack you than you do.

Conclusion
The Heat go into every single game believing they can win simply by the amazing presence and performance this season of Dwyane Wade.  In any one game, Dwyane Wade is more than capable of carrying this squad to a victory and he does so on a consistent basis.  He can carry them out of the first round by his grit and determination alone, but it's not plausible to believe that he can single handedly carry this Heat team to a championship.  Depending on their draw in the first round, the Heat are capable of making it to the semifinals which is fantastic considering the team that they've fielded this season.  Wade has done a tremendous job with this team, but a lack of options and lack of help will do them in against much better teams. 

Coming up next: the Philadelphia 76ers.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com