Roundtable: 2014 NBA Playoffs Preview

KD

Spring has sprung, The Masters has come and gone, so now The Wise Guise and the sports world are focused on one thing:

The NHL Playoffs — er (clears throat), excuse me…

THE NBA PLAYOFFS, BABY!

The Grizzly Bears have nestled into the 7 seed and will face a familiar foe in Oklahoma City. Meanwhile, the Orlando Magic have earned the 3rd best lottery odds by piecing together some very, very impressive losses. But who cares about the Magic right now — nobody.

As the playoffs tip off on Saturday, The Wise Guise and friends answer these nine questions…

1) How far can the Grizzlies go? What is a somewhat realistic best-case scenario?

2) If the Grizzlies get bounced in the first round in an ugly fashion, what happens going forward? Do they blowup parts of the roster? Have we seen the last of this roster that we’ve grown to know and love?

3) Who wins the West? Why?

4) Who wins the East? Why?

5) Who will be the first team that Adam Silver hands the Larry O’Brien Trophy to?

6) Which coverage do you prefer — TNT (Turner) or ESPN/ABC?

7) Who’s the dark horse in the East? West?

8) Last year the sports world learned about the Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard during the finals. Which player this year will be a household name?

9) What is your nightmare matchup for the finals?

Here’s what the fellas had to say…

Jeremy Wilson:

1) The Grizzly Bears best-case scenario is the Western Conference Finals. IF they get past the Thunder, then their second opponent will be much weaker, obviously. Their size inside is such an issue for teams. You better believe that the Thunder were upset when Monte Ellis missed that jumper at the buzzer last Wednesday, because the Grizz and Thunder are such a clash of styles.

2) As an Orlando Magic fan, I am too caught up in what my own team’s front office is going to do this offseason. We have the 3rd best lotto odds, so that’s something to be happy about, right? The Grizz front office problems is answered much better by other Wise Guise below.

3) I’m taking the Thunder to win the West. I think the Spurs missed their chance last year, and they have a steep slope to climb to get back. The Thunder are 4-0 against the Spurs this season, and they have those old vets figured out. Two years ago, the Spurs won 10 straight playoff games, then something clicked with OKC and they ended up winning four straight over the Spurs which gave them a date with Miami.

4) I’ll go with the Heat until proven wrong. The East is just bad, so I can’t see LeBron losing four games to anyone before the finals.

5) Again, I’m picking the Heat to win the finals, giving King James his third ring in as many years. These guys just turn it on in the postseason. It’s never too gutsy to roll with the best player on the planet.

6) TNT has the best coverage from top to bottom, but it’s a close race. I love Bill Simmons and his ESPN partnership with Jalen Rose, and Jeff Van Gundy on the call is about as good as it gets. But give me Chuck, Kenny, and Ernie’s pre and postgame coverage any day of the week, along with Steve Kerr, Kevin Harlan, Marv Albert, and Reggie Miller during the games. Also, newsflash — SHAQ IS TERRIBLE ON TNT! People realize that, right? It doesn’t work.

Side note: We won’t be seeing our friend Craig Sager on the sidelines this postseason, as he was recently diagnosed with Leukemia. Here’s an awesome tribute by Keith Olbermann.

7) The dark horse in the East are the Los Bulls. There’s no reason why this team should be as good as they are. They should’ve tanked after D-Rose went down and they traded away Deng for nothing, but these gritty Bulls just find a way to get it done. The West’s dark horse is Portland. Rip City is an awesome home court advantage, and I can’t wait to see playoff basketball in Portland again. It’s just so organic… (Portland joke)

8) This year’s household name will be Reggie Jackson (if the Thunder make the finals). He gives OKC great minutes, and helped guide them through the season when Westbrook was out. This may be quite a stretch, but we’ll see.

9) My nightmare matchup in the finals would be Houston vs Indiana — pretty much all because of my hatred for Dwight Howard. I’m an NBA nerd, so I would be excited for any matchup.

Colin Stovall:

1) Western Conference Finals. The Grizz have beaten the Thunder before and the there is a lot of pressure on Scott Brooks to get the Thunder at least to the Finals, so if they see any type of cracks in the foundation they could implode. Just like in Survivor, all it takes is one person to break an alliance, if the Grizz can snatch one early there could be hope. We have beaten the Clips, so I wouldn’t be nervous in the second round. Leading us to the Western Conference Finals where the Grizz would probably not make it past that series because you need a superstar to get you to the Finals, and I’m not sure the Grizz quite have that kind of player on the team.

Tony Allen

2) Bounced early would cause zero dismemberment. They fought through injury this year to still win 50 games. Tony Allen and Marc Gasol each missed over 20 games this season. Also, they are the 7th seed, if they lost technically it wouldn’t be unexpected based on the seeding.

3) The West will be won by the Clippers. It hurts typing this, but the Spurs have never been to back to back Finals and the Thunder just don’t seem like they are playing at a high enough level.

4) Eastern Conference winners will be the Heat, the Pacers are fake tough guys anyways. Lebron is just waiting to show them why he is still the most dominant player in the league.

5) I think the Heat win and Lebron three peats.

6) TNT coverage is great. ESPN loses times infinity because of Doris Burke and those 3D mascot images. Although, I really enjoy Hubie Brown when he calls the game.

7) Dark horse in the West is the Rockets. They haven’t really shown to be a great team, but if they are hitting 3’s and Dwight plays well they are tough to beat. Try this fun drinking game, you and your buddy get to pick your poison. You have to take a shot every time A) Harden shoots a free-throw or B) Dwight Howard reacts to a call. Drunk by halftime! Dark horse of the East are the Nets, they play the Raptors in the first round and then potentially the struggling Pacers. So their path to the Eastern Conference Finals seems that of least resistance.

8) Household name will be Chandler Parsons. No real justification here.

9) Now are we talking about nightmare in the sense of watchability? Because that’s an easy one, Raptors/Spurs could be pretty miserable. Clippers/Heat would be intolerable because of all the whining and players that just suck. CP3, Lebron, Griffin, Big Baby, Birdman, Mario Chalmers, JJ Redick, Chris Bosh. I’ll give you a second to let your stomach settle.

Grit Grind Bitches.

Warner Russell:

1) For the Grizzlies to get out of the 1st round, it’s going to take several big breaks. Tayshaun and Tony are going to have to lock down Kevin Durant. He’s gonna go for 25+ every night, but if they can keep him from getting super hot or into a ridiculous rhythm while the rest of the defense shuts down Westbrook, Ibaka, etc., I think the Grizz have a chance. It’s going to be a great series that will go to six or seven games. Grizz will have to win in six. Can’t go back to OKC and expect to win in a game 7 atmosphere. Should the Grizzlies pull an upset I can see a world where they beat the Clippers. Blake Griffin fears ZBO and Tony and Mike usually do a good job with CP3. I’d say the ceiling for the Grizz is a miraculous run to the Western Conference Finals. The floor would be losing in the first round in what I would imagine would be heartbreaking fashion.

2) If the Grizz lose in the first round, or even if they progress, the offseason will be interesting. With ZBO’s contract having a player option in it and with James Johnson and Ed Davis and others coming off the books, some tough decisions will have to be made to get salary cap stuff straightened out. I can’t see a world where ZBO doesn’t retire in Memphis, but who knows. I guess we’ll find out in about two months.

3) The Spurs will win the West. They are a machine. It’s absolutely crazy how well they play year after year after year after year after year after year.

4) Heat. Nets could make some waves, but LeBron is LeBron. Nobody in the East can touch him.

5) Spurs take down Heat in game 7. Retribution for last year. Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili ride off into the sunset, Championships in hand leaving Tony Parker and Greg Popovich to rebuild. And miraculously the Spurs still get to the Playoffs next year on the backs of Parker, Kawhi Leonard, and some random dude Pop and team management bring out of nowhere.

6) TNT. Barkley.

“Charles, what do you think of ESPN’s coverage?”

Barkley

7) East dark horse would be Nets. West dark horse, Clippers, if you can call them that.

8) I think Damian Lillard is going to do a lot for his star power this postseason. The Blazers will upset the Rockets and Lillard will be elevated to premiere point guard status when he pushes Tony Parker and the Spurs to an extremely competitive series.

9) Heat/Clippers would be turrrrrible. So much flopping. So much whining. So much ESPN on CP3’s and Blake Griffin’s and LeBron’s jocks. SportsCenter would be unbearable. Unfortunately, the basketball in between the bitching and moaning would probably be fantastic. I guess it would be a love/hate series.

Go Grizz! Thunder down!

Lillard

Jayzor:

1) One week ago, I tweeted that the Spurs were in trouble with their first round matchup with the Grizzlies. Then, the Grizzlies turned it on and captured the #7 seed. Why did I tweet this? (A) Because I believe it, and (B) because I was provoked by Skip Bayless’ love of the Spurs.

2) The ONLY team who can beat the Spurs in the West is the Grizzlies. They grit. They grind. You guys get it. Unfortunately, I don’t think that the Grizzlies can beat the Thunder. Sorry, Fellas.

3) The only “upset” that I see in the West is the 5 over the 4. Go Blazers! Call it a French bias. Nicolas Batum. Allez, jeune homme!

4) Speaking of the French connection, Tony Parker will lead his Spurs to the Finals.

5) Everything in my being wants the Warriors to beat the Clippers. This will, BY FAR, be the most exciting series. I hope, as a basketball fan, that the series lasts 7 games. And yes, I hope the Warriors win it. I think that the Clippers will win, though. But what the heck…I’ll pick the Warriors. Head over heart, which is close to the name of a great band.

On to the East…

6) The Heat will win the East and the NBA Championship. I know that they’ve been “turrible” down the stretch (thanks for the picture of Barkley…always appreciated). I know that DWade is old and injured. I know that they don’t have a very reliable inside presence. I get it. Why will they win? Shane Battier. He’s a winner. He won in high school. He won in college. He’s won in the pros. Most people think that Lebron is the key. It’s Shane Battier, the secret weapon.

7) I hope that the Hawks beat the Pacers. For some reason, I really don’t like the Pacers.

8) The second-best team in the East is the Nets. They will beat the Raptors, and they will give the Heat trouble. This will be the Heat’s biggest obstacle to a second-straight final against the Spurs.

9) I hate picking chalk, but I guess I just did. Oh wait…the Heat are a #2 seed. They should not be considered a #2 seed. They are the best. Go Heat! Yeah, I said it.

Luke Jensen:

1) Right now, with the way the Spurs are playing, I think the farthest the Grizz could go is the Western Conference Finals. If the Grizz can get passed the Thunder, I think they have a great chance to knock off Portland, LAC, GS, or Houston.

2) Regardless of how the season ends for the Grizz, management will have to decide what to do about Miller and Ed Davis. Miller will probably be looking for a multi-year contract that will probably be his last. Management needs to decide if Ed Davis is the replacement for ZBo or if you let him walk. I think the core of the Grizzlies will remain the same for at least one more season until Gasol and Randolph become free agents in 2015.

3) Spurs. They’re the most veteran and rested team in the West, and they have the best coach in the NBA. The Thunder don’t have the chemistry and rhythm to win a 7 game series versus the Spurs, and the Clippers are not tough enough.

4) Heat. The two time defending champs do not have an opponent in the East that can beat them in a 7 game series. The whole season, it appeared Indiana was the team that could knock them off, but with the way the Pacers have struggled to the finish line, I don’t see them taking down the champs.

5) Spurs will win it all.

6) As a whole, I prefer the TNT pregame and game announcers.ESPN has some great announcers including Hubie Brown who is my favorite NBA announcer, but there are certain ESPN commentators that I do not care for and end up muting.

7) Dark horse in the East for me is Brooklyn because they swept the Heat during the regular season, and if the Nets can upset the Raptors, we will see a Nets/Heat matchup in the second round. I don’t think the Nets can beat the Heat in a series, but it would be interesting. West? Other than my obvious pick of the Grizzlies, I think Golden State could be a sleeper. Depending on the severity Andrew Bogut’s rib injury, they have a chance to make some damage in the West. The way they shoot the ball and play well at home should bode well for them in the Playoffs.

8) I think Damian Lillard is poised to have a big playoff series. Between averaging 21 points per game and his brand new massive shoe deal with ADIDAS, casual NBA fans will be introduced to Lillard in a big way this postseason.

9) The only team I could not stomach to see in the Finals would be the Clippers. All other 15 teams won’t bother me a bit, but I can’t stomach to see the Floppers fighting for a championship.

Zbear

Joseph Williams:

1) I love my Grizz and I’m thankful for my best bud Jayzor’s belief in their ability to take on the Spurs. Sadly, whether it was the first round or the Western Conference Finals, I think best case scenario for America’s favorite Grizzly Bears is a 4-2 loss to the Spurs. Since the Grizzlies now won’t face the Spurs until a likely rematch of last year’s Western Conference Finals in this year’s Western Conference Finals, I’ll say the absolute best case scenario is losing to the Spurs in the WCF.

To translate my gut instinct into Nate Silver like probabilities, I think there’s a 33% chance the Grizzlies beat the Thunder. I think there’s a 20% they advance past the first two rounds to the WCF. America would win if we got a Warriors/Grizzlies second-round match-up. Then I’ll say there’s a 3% chance the Grizzlies make it to the NBA Finals.

But hey, every Disney film has to start somewhere, am I right?

2) I sure hope not. I gotta believe ZBo sticks around. Some parts may leave and/or return (see: Mike Miller). Fingers crossed Shane Battier returns home before the end of his career.

3) The Spurs are going to win the West. I wish it was the Grizzlies or Warriors, but the Spurs are a machine. A machine that can only be stopped by The One. More on this later…

Sidenote: I’ll disagree with Colin. I think a Clippers/Heat Finals matchup would be the most entertaining. I just think a Spurs/Heat rematch would inevitably disappoint compared to last year’s epic Ray Allen-from-the-corner-in-Game-6 series. Coast to coast, Hollywood vs. South Beach… could be fun.

4) The Miami Heat. Here’s their path…

– Miami sweeps the Bobcats. LeBron puts on some historic performances, and taunts MJ on the path towards LeBron’s own three-peat.

– Miami beats the Nets in 6. Look, I’ll admit. Outside of the Grizzlies & the Golden State Stephen Curry’s, I’m rooting for LeBron to three-peat. I loved LeBron in Cleveland and turned on him when he took his talents to South Beach. But since then, I’ve seen him grow and learn. I’ve also seen him do something MJ couldn’t have done and Tiger Woods has failed to do – have the 24 hour, internet TMZ-fueled news cycle put the most pressure on you in the entire world and hype you up only to kind of want to see you inevitably fail in the chase after MJ. But here’s the deal… LeBron seems to be a much better person than MJ ever was… and although I suspect Michael Jordan will forever be considered the Greatest of All Time, I want to see LeBron try to chip away at that legacy by burnishing his own.

– Miami beats the Pacers in 5. I’m with Jayzor on the Pacers. Can’t explain why.

5) Miami and LeBron three-peat. See above.

6) TNT. It just feels right. They know drama, after all.

7) Dark horse in the East is the Bulls. I call them a dark horse because I think they could easily beat the Pacers and face the Heat in the Finals, another opportunity for LeBron to conquer the ghost of MJ on his quest to his own three-peat.

Dark horse in the West… the Memphis Grizzlies. Seriously, they’re the team everyone’s always afraid of. I don’t think any teams in the West feel the Grizzlies will win the West, but I think they all know that the Grizzlies could end any and all of their hopes along the way. The magic of Memphis.

8) This is a great question. One that I have no answer to. I like Warner’s prediction of Lillard. That’s a sound prediction. I’m just going to Anchor Down and say that a Warriors first round run will give lots of love to my boy Festus Ezeli.

9) Pacers vs. Spurs. They’re the #1 seeds. They’ve had great seasons. I just don’t really CARE one way or the other about those teams. I don’t feel passionately in either a positive or negative way towards both teams. I’d shrug my shoulders, watch the SportsCenter highlights and start focusing more energy and attention on baseball season if that’s the matchup.

Jayzor part 2 (after he realized the prompt was structured):

Oops. I just realized that this was not an open-ended roundtable. So that you won’t have to sort through my Holden-Caulfield-esque rambling that I sent earlier, here are my answers to the 9 questions (in less detail because I already expounded).

1) They will not beat the Thunder, but a best-case scenario is losing to the Heat in the Finals for me (I’ve already said that I think they can beat the Spurs). 2.3% chance of making the Finals.

2) No. They grit and grind in the off season. It’s all they know how to do.

3) The Spurs. Monsieur Parker.

4) The Miami Heat. Shane Battier = Winner.

5) The Heat. Three-peat. That’s neat. Take a seat, Hasheem Thabeet.

6) TNT. Is this even a real question?

7) Dark horse in the East is the Nets.

Dark horse in the West is the Grizzlies.

8) I like Lilliard, too. I’ve got a thing for point guards. And I’m hoping they knock off the Rockets.

9) Pacers vs. Spurs. This is the ONLY scenario where I would cheer for the Spurs. And it would kill see to see them win and Skip Bayless happy.

Pop

John Hammons:

1) The Western Conference Finals. The path (assuming you get past OKC in Round 1) is a matchup in the West Semis with more than likely your arch rivals LA Clippers who you have proven you can beat in the past several years. The journey more than likely ends back at the Western Conference Finals against the favorite San Antonio Spurs who have won 14 of the past 16 matchups against the Grizz.

2) I would hope even after an ugly blowout to the playoffs, the management wouldn’t blow up the roster. In that scenario, my perfect case scenario would be 4 steps: Let Ed Davis walk and put that money toward re-signing James Johnson. Zach Randolph re-structuring his deal for more years but less money annually would help dramatically on next year’s salary cap figure. Tayshaun Prince becomes a bit more attractive on the trade market next year since his deal becomes expiring. It would be beneficial to move him (and possibly another role player) to upgrade a wing position. Also, a draft pick in the low 20s in what is expected to be a deep draft, could help fill out the roster for 2014-2015.

3) San Antonio. Best coach and deepest overall roster on both sides of the ball. These “old guys” haven’t quit yet. Unlike 3 years ago when the 8-seeded Grizz upset them in the 1st round, the Spurs have developed and added players. Danny Green has improved while Kawhi Leonard, Tiago Splitter, and Patty Mills have been added. When you add those four pieces to the Big 3 of Duncan, Ginobli, Parker, you have shooting, defense, post play, and slashing. The Spurs have all of the ingredients to get back to the Finals.

4) Miami. Best overall player in the league. Miami’s only real competition to get back to the Finals is Indiana who has really struggled down the stretch losing 13 of their final 23. The mid-season decisions of trading Danny Granger for Evan Turner and signing Andrew Bynum have backfired big time. LeBron James will do LeBron James things and he is flanked by enough perimeter shooting (Battier/Allen) and team defense to get back to the Finals.

5) San Antonio. The Spurs were one rebound away from the title last year. Shane Battier, Dwayne Wade, and Ray Allen are all another year older. Somehow this doesn’t apply to Duncan/Ginobli/Parker. The better coach, better ensemble, and better schemes will lead to another title on the River Walk.

6) I’m very partial to Bill Simmons who ESPN has recently integrated into their non-ABC telecasts and pregames. However, I’ve always enjoyed EJ/Charles/Kenny on TNT as well as the brilliant announcer Kevin Harlan, and the TNT scoreboard throughout the game seems to look a bit more appealing.

7) East- Chicago mostly because of their seeding. If they move past Washington in round 1, they would face Indiana (not Miami) in the East Semis. Those would be two slow-it-down, defensive oriented programs. Joakim Noah may be the best overall center in the league (apologies to Big Spain), and Tom Thibodeau is always a positive X-Factor. West- Houston. I don’t see Portland, Golden St (now without Bogut), or Dallas making a long run. If we’re taking the Grizz out of it for a minute, I’m going with the Rockets. They average 107.7 PPG and carry a +/- ratio of +4.6 They have shooting with James Harden/Chandler Parsons, toughness with Patrick Beverly, and rebound/defense with Dwight Howard anchoring the post. If they get past Portland in round 1, they meet San Antonio in the West Semis who they are 4-0 against this season.

8) One from the East could be Jimmy Butler, and one from the West could be Patty Mills. While most of the attention is paid to Chicago’s front court of Boozer/Noah/Gibson, Butler is arguably Chicago’s most important player. He is always going to guard the opposing team’s best perimeter player (Paul George, LeBron James, etc). He averaged 13 PPG and 5 RPG during the regular season but will have to up his production if Chicago is to get to the East Semis or beyond. Mills has had his healthiest and most productive season of his young 5 year career this season with the Spurs. He’s averaged 10 PPG while shooting 46% overall and 42.5% from 3 and 89% from the line. He even average 16.3 PPG in the month of February, provides invaluable rest for Tony Parker, and is a seamless fit into Gregg Popovich’s system.

9) I personally believe the Grizz can handle anyone from the East. We’ve proven it against Miami over the past 3 years and manhandled Indiana on the night of my wedding, March 22. The nightmare for the Grizz would be taking the next step into the NBA Finals which would entail possibly meeting the well-oiled machine that is San Antonio in the West Finals once again. However, if the Grizz can knock off OKC and the Clippers (both of which we have proven do-able), we could garner some serious momentum for what would be an epic rematch.

Last but not least, Laura Zumwalt:

1) Best-case scenario: Western Conference Finals. The Grizz have a fighting chance against the Thunder, and we’ve beaten healthy Clipper and Warriors teams, but the Spurs seem to have our number.

2) The Grizzlies will keep the core of the roster. I think we would have seen huge movements before the trade deadline this season, but even with many trade talks about Zbo and Tony we kept them safe. The front office will give this roster another chance for a healthy season.

3) Spurs win the west. Only 20 losses all season. The Spurs play team ball like no other team in the league.

4) I would love to see the Pacers beat the Heat, but with their recent slump the Heat make it to the finals again. Lebron turns it up and they dominate the East one more time.

5) SPURS. Their endless consistency and engaged teamwork put them ahead of the curve this season.

6) TNT. The combination of Ernie, Charles, Shaq, and Kenny is unstoppable. Their humor balances with their commentary. Those four have chemistry.

7) Eastern dark horse has got to be the Nets. They may have lost 4 of their last 5, but only to achieve their desired seed. Something clicked with the Nets after the All-Star break. Western dark horse is probably the Clippers. They’re comfortable in the third seed, but can be sneaky against teams like the Thunder.

8) Danny Green. That guy is magic at the 3-point line. If he can get that ankle healthy he’ll kill it.

9) Rockets and Pacers. The Rockets have the uncanny ability to score well over a hundred points, and thus bore the hell out of me for four games.

Let the greatest playoffs known to sports begin!

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Posted on by Jeremy Wilson in Basketball, Featured, Roundtables, Sports

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