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Shaq and Earl Boykins facing off! (Courtesy of Faitufun)

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Playoff time! Will there be a new champ? (West Side)

It’s time for the NBA playoffs. 16 teams start off with hopes of winning the title, and 15 of those teams will end their season with a loss.

This year, there are more teams who have a shot at holding the trophy than in a long time. This should make for a very exciting playoffs.

Now it’s prediction time.

Western Conference

(1) San Antonio Spurs vs. (8) Memphis Grizzlies

This is the matchup the Grizzlies wanted. They sat key players the last two games of the season, when they had the opportunity to better their playoff seeding.

The Spurs and the Grizzlies split their four meetings in the regular season, each winning both of their home games. Both teams have good home court advantages, and this is huge in the playoffs.

They’re two things of note in this series. (1) The youth and inexperience of the Grizzlies compared to the experience of the Spurs. (2) The size of the Grizzlies compared to the outside shooting of the Spurs.

Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol are very good rebounders and score well in the paint, these two will need to have a huge series to beat the Spurs. The Spurs need Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker to play they did in the beginning of the season.

In this series the Grizzlies will miss their best player, Rudy Gay, this will be the reason they will eventually bow out.

Spurs in Six

(2) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (7) New Orleans Hornets

The Lakers are quite happy about this matchup. The Hornets were a surprise throughout the season and have done well to make the playoffs.

This is a mismatch, with David West out it’s difficult to see how the Hornets will score enough points to beat the Lakers. There’s a reason why the Lakers won all four meetings in the regular season. The Lakers are simply too big and talented for the Hornets, even with Andrew Bynum being hurt.

One major advantage the Hornets do have is the PG. Chris Paul is arguably the best PG in basketball while the Lakers weakest position is the Point Guard. The Lakers struggle with fast/quick PGs, and Chris Paul definitely falls into that category. Chris Paul is the only player in NBA history to average over 20 points and 10 assists in the playoffs.

This series should be a sweep, but the Lakers are notorious slow starters in the playoffs. The Hornets will probably steal a game at home.

Lakers in Five

(3) Dallas Mavericks vs. (6) Portland Trail Blazers

This is an intriguing matchup. Most pundits have the Blazers winning this series, but somehow they call it an upset, weird. The Blazers are the team which the top seeds wanted to avoid.

The Blazers offer matchup problems for the Mavs because of their athleticism. The Mavs cannot guard LaMarcus Aldridge. On defense, the Blazers are able to switch on pick-and-rolls. The Blazers are able to throw multiple bodies at Dirk Nowitzki on defense.

The Mavs have a lot of playoff experience, but haven’t had much success in the playoffs since their 2006 NBA Finals collapse. The Mavs are a very deep team like the Blazers, so the bench will be key in the series. However, benches in the playoffs, typically produce a lot better at home than they do on the road which benefits the Mavs due to they home-court advantage for this series.

If Brandon Roy and Rudy Fernandez play well and score, the Blazers will win this series. However, neither player has been consistent throughout the season so there is no reason to believe that they will in the playoffs.

The Mavs are overdue for a series win. And for all the talk about the Mavs underperforming in the playoffs, the Blazers have a longer drought when it comes to winning a playoff series.

Mavs in 7

(4) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (5) Denver Nuggets

4/5 matchups always bring intrigue. This series is no different. The Thunder have the two best players in the series, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The Nuggets are a very different team now after the Carmelo Anthony trade, it’s unknown whether it’s for the better or not though.

The Nuggets are probably the deepest team in the NBA, being two deep at every position. The Nuggets have more scoring options than the Thunder, but they don’t have anyone near the level of the Thunder’s Kevin Durant.

This series will be a back and forth series with great athletes on both sides. However, when the game slows down in the 4th quarter, the question is raised, which team is better equipped to succeed. I see this as being the difference in the series. This is where a go-to guy is invaluable. The Nuggets lack a go-to which will cause them issues in close games.

Thunder in Five

Western Conference Semis

(1) San Antonio Spurs vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

This has the chance at being a great postseason series. The Thunder have become a better team since acquiring Kendrick Perkins while the Spurs haven’t been nearly as good since the All-Star Break.

Both of these teams have multiple scoring options, but the Thunder’s Durant and Westbrook are better than any combination the Spurs have to offer. A key in this series though will be which team can find a third and fourth scoring option to support their main guys.

This is where Tim Duncan and James Harden come into play. If Duncan establishes himself in the post, the Spurs will be in great shape. However, Kendrick Perkins is one of the best, if not the best, post defender in the league which gives the Thunder an advantage.

I don’t see how the Spurs will beat the Thunder four times. Durant and Westbrook will be too much for the Spurs to handle, but the Spurs are warriors and will make the series competitive.

Thunder in Six

(2) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (3) Dallas Mavericks

This is a tough matchup for the Mavs. The Lakers have a size advantage over the Mavs, and more important for the Lakers the Mavs don’t have the squad which brings forth the Lakers biggest issue, the Point Guard spot.

Jason Kidd is a great player, but he’s not as fast/quick as he used to be and doesn’t drive into the paint. Without a PG driving into the paint continuously, the Lakers will be able to use their overwhelming size and wear down the Mavs. Dirk and Jason Terry will get their numbers, but it’s hard to see the Mavs scoring enough points to prevail.

In addition, the fact that Caron Butler is out for the playoffs with a torn ACL hurts the Mavs tremendously on both the offensive and defensive end. Offensively speaking, Butler can average in the high teens. And more importantly defensively, he can guard Kobe Bryant who is one of the great players in the history of the game. Without Butler, the Mavs don’t match up well Kobe.

With Butler, it would be a close series. Butler is out though, so this will end early.

Lakers in Five

Western Conference Finals

(2) Lakers vs. (4) Thunder

This will be a great series. It has the up and coming Thunder butting heads with the two-time defending champion Lakers. It has two of the elite players in the NBA, Kobe vs Durant. It has the up and coming coach, Scott Brooks, against the coach with the most rings ever.

via Onemanfastbreak

Both of these teams have significant advantages over the other. The Lakers are a better defensive team, have a lot more experience, and their “bigs” are more offensively skilled than the Thunder’s. The Thunder have the more athletic team and have an elite PG, the position which causes the Lakers the most problems.

Both benches don’t offer much of a scoring punch with the exception of Lamar Odom for the Lakers and James Harden for the Thunder.

The Thunder traded for bigger, stronger players to matchup with the Lakers in the playoffs. We’ll see if this is for naught.

A Phil Jackson coached team has never lost a series after winning game one. Game one of this series would be in LA, I don’t see the Thunder taking game one and since I am a stickler for history this provides a major advantage for the Lakers.

Lakers in 7

So there I have it, the Lakers vs. the Bulls in the NBA Finals.

Playoff time! Will there be a new champ? (East Side)

It’s time for the NBA playoffs. 16 teams start off with hopes of winning the title, and 15 of those teams will end their season with a loss.

This year, there are more teams who have a shot at holding the trophy than in a long time. This should make for a very exciting playoffs.

Now it’s prediction time.

Eastern Conference

(1) Chicago Bulls vs. (8) Indiana Pacers

This is a complete mismatch. The Pacers are a reason why many people believe that the NBA playoffs has too many teams. Simply put, a 37-45 team shouldn’t make the playoffs.

The Bulls are simply the better team here. They have the best player, a better coach, and a better bench. Danny Granger gets what he wanted all along a shot at the Bulls. Bulls might slip up and lose a game at most, but I don’t see that happening.

Bulls in Four

(2)Miami Heat vs. (7) Philadelphia 76ers

Another mismatch. The Heat should feel very happy about this matchup. There’s a reason why the Heat won all three games between the two this season.

The Heat hold major advantages at the Shooting Guard and Small Forward positions with Dwayne Wade and LeBron James. With Iguodala hampered by injury throughout the season and Elton Brand has been the 76ers most consistent player. These two players are solid, but nowhere near the level needed to cause the Heat serious issues.

To make this a series, the keys here will be the edge at point guard for the 76ers with Jrue Holiday and their superior bench. I don’t see this edge being big enough though to give major concern to the Heat.

Heat in Five

(3) Boston Celtics vs. New York Knicks

Finally! That’s how Knicks fans feel about making the playoffs for the first time since 2004. The Celtics are happy that the playoffs has finally arrived as well, so they can start their journey back to the finals.

The Celtics, if they’re on their game, are a terrible matchup for the Knicks. As the old adage says, “defense wins championships.” The Celtics are one of the top defensive teams in the league, and the Knicks are very inconsistent on defense.

This series has a chance of being extended because the Knicks have the best player in the series, Carmelo Anthony. If Anthony shows up and plays good defense against Paul Pierce, the Knicks can cause some problems for the Celtics. Unfortunately for the Knicks, Chauncey Billups isn’t as quick as he used to, and will struggle to keep Rajon Rondo in front of him.

The Knicks will steal a game somewhere in the series, but the Celtics killer instinct will be too much for the Knicks.

Celtics in Five

(4) Orlando Magic vs. (5) Atlanta Hawks

The 4/5 matchup always brings intrigue. The Hawks, this season have matched up a lot better than in previous seasons against the Magic, holding a 3-1 series edge. The Hawks generally step their game up against quality competition.

The Hawks don’t like to double team Dwight Howard. This helps them guard the long-range shooters of the Magic. This means that Dwight Howard is likely going to have a big series, statistically speaking.

The Magic have the best player in this series, but the Hawks probably have the four best players after that. Joe Johnson and Josh Smith will cause the Magic matchup problems. Johnson will be able to get wherever he wants on the court. Smith is a freakish athlete and the Magic simply aren’t a very athletic team, besides Howard.

The Hawks are a very inconsistent team, and this will be their eventual downfall.

Magic in Six

Eastern Conference Semis

(1) Chicago Bulls vs. (4) Orlando Magic

This has the potential of being a fantastic playoff series. Two great players surrounded by solid supporting casts. Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard are both MVP candidates and will show it in this series.

The Magic don’t match up well with Derrick Rose, but nobody really does. Rose is able to get into the paint at will and finishes in traffic. A major key to this series will be, since Rose is able to get to the paint at will, whether Howard stay out of foul trouble. If he can’t, this will be a short series.

Ryan Anderson is a particularly tough matchup for the Bulls, as the last regular season matchup showed. Joakim Noah is the anchor of the Bulls defense and doesn’t like to come out of the paint which is why Anderson will be a major factor in the series. The Magic will likely have Howard and Anderson on the court at the same time to cause such matchup problems.

The Bulls are the deeper team and have enough big men to throw at Howard, so they’ll eventually prevail.

Bulls in Seven

(2) Miami Heat vs. (3) Boston Celtics

This is the matchup which every pundit had being the Eastern Conference Finals matchup, but it’ll happen a round earlier.

This has the potential at being a classic playoff matchup, with the established team vs the up and coming team. The Heat have the two best players in the series, but the Celtics have the deeper team and the more experienced coach.

If the Heat play defense the way that they did in the last matchup, the Heat will win the series. However, I don’t see the Heat consistently being able to play at that level. The Celtics have enough experience to make adjustments and be able to take advantage of the Heat’s major weakness at Point Guard with Rondo.

The key to this series though is the Kevin Garnett/Chris Bosh matchup. Historically Garnett has dominated Bosh. However, Garnett is getting older and Bosh is becoming more efficient. If Bosh plays well throughout the series, the Heat will win.

Heat in Six

Eastern Conference Finals

(1) Chicago Bulls vs. (2) Miami Heat

This matchup is likely going to the first of many playoffs series between these sets of players.

The Bulls play great team defense which helps them defend Wade and James. However, both players will still have big series against the Bulls. The issue with the Heat against the Bulls is that Bosh doesn’t matchup well with Noah as his 1-18 game earlier in the season showed. The rest of the Heat team can’t get their own shot, so they’ll be dependent on James and Wade’s ability to create shot opportunities for them.

The Heat are a pick-and-roll and isolation based team, things which the Bulls matchup well against, but I see the Heat making adjustments and being able to take advantage of their superior athletes in James and Wade.

The Heat are a very aggressive team on defense and love to trap the pick-and-roll which will try to stop some of Rose’s aggressiveness and force others on the Bulls to beat them. The Bulls have some decent shooters, but only one great one, Kyle Korver. If the Bulls are able to shoot the ball well from the perimeter, they will beat the Heat.

The Bulls have an edge with their “bigs” and the Heat with their wing players. Who has the ultimate edge though?

I see it being the Bulls with their superior home court advantage. The United Center will be rocking for sure!

Bulls in Seven

via Sportsbetting

There you have it, I see the Chicago Bulls making it to the NBA finals.

Stephen A. Smith, Please Come Back!

After watching basketball today on ABC with Hubie Brown providing color commentary, unfortunately, for the Bulls/Magic game, I thought there is something missing. What’s missing? Stephen A. Smith on television.

Stephen A. Smith had his own show on ESPN called Quite Frankly with Stephen A. Smith, as well as being one of the NBA analysts on ESPN. Sadly, he left the ESPN network in 2009 due to contract issues and he’s sorely missed.

Smith offers quite insightful analysis on the NBA plus he has great energy and is quite funny at times with his rants.

Here are a few clips (Via Youtube) of some of my favorite Stephen A. Smith moments.

1. Smith’s reaction to the Pau Gasol trade in which calls Kwame Brown a glorified scrub. Hilarious

2. Smith and Bill Walton arguing during the All-Star Celebrity Game where he states Walton is “appalled about everything”

3. Smith arguing with a caller on his radio show. He mocks the man multiple times, funny as hell.

Those are three that I found randomly. There are plenty more for you to look at online if you want.

Smith is currently on Fox Sports, but I don’t watch that. Help bring back Stephen A. Smith to ESPN!

The King vs. The Black Mamba

March 19, 2011 2 comments

Regular Season.

Career averages

James: 27.7 pts 7.0 rbs 7.0 asts

Bryant: 25.3 pts 5.1 rbs  4.6 asts

Career Highs

James: 31.5 pts (05-06) 7.9 rbs (07-08) 8.6 asts (09-10)

Bryant: 35.4 pts (05-06) 6.9 rbs (02-03) 5.9 asts (02-03)

In terms of averages LeBron James is a better player than Kobe Bryant. It’s important to note here though that Kobe has been in the NBA seven more seasons than LeBron has.

LeBron has always been the #1 option on his team through his whole career. The same cannot be said for Kobe. Kobe was the #2 to Shaq for during their three peat at the beginning of the decade, and when Kobe became the #1 option his numbers immediately increased and Shaq was traded to Miami.

LeBron plays the small forward in comparison Kobe playing the shooting guard. This result in LeBron having more opportunities to rebound the basketball, plus LeBron is bigger and stronger than Kobe.

LeBron and Kobe have played in completely different styles of offenses over their careers which is part of the reason for the disparity in points and assists averages between the two of them. LeBron during his time in Cleveland played in an offense based on him having the ball all the time and doing the work for the team, whether that being scoring or creating baskets for his team. Kobe has played most of his career with Phil Jackson as his coach who has an offense based a lot more off of movement instead of one person, no matter how great they are, creating everything for their teammates or themselves.

Award tallies (regular season)

James: 2 time MVP, 6 time All-star, 4 time All-NBA first team, 2 time All-defensive first team, 2 time All-star game MVP

Bryant: 1 time MVP, 12 time All-star, 8 time All-NBA first team, 8 time All-defensive first team, 3 time All-star game MVP

Playoffs

Career Averages

James: 29.3 pts 8.4rbs 7.3 asts (71 games: 42-29, %.591)

Bryant: 25.5 pts 5.2 rbs 4.8 asts (198 games: 125-73, %.631)

This is where statistics can lie. James statistically is superior to Bryant in every category, but Kobe has a better overall playoff record than James.

Bryant has played on far better teams than James has over his career which lead to his playing many more games in the playoffs than James. In the beginning of his playoff career he didn’t play much. Than Kobe began to play more when the Lakers had their three-peat in the beginning of the decade and was the #2 option to Shaq. Following Shaq’s departure Kobe has become the overwhelming #1 option for the Lakers, but over that period the Lakers didn’t make it out of the first round on two occasions. James has never lost a first round playoff series.

Both players have faced media scrutiny for giving up on their team at the end of playoff series where they were eliminated. James the past season against Boston and Bryant in 2006 against the Suns.

However, the difference between the two is results. The goal is to win the title. Bryant has won five NBA titles and James has won zero. Bryant has made it to seven NBA finals and James has made it to one; the only finals that James made it to his team was swept and the deficiencies in his game magnified.

In the end, Bryant has won when it matters most and LeBron hasn’t.

Conclusion

Who’s the better player? If you’re drafting a player for your fantasy basketball the choice is obvious, draft LeBron; however, non-fantasy speaking pick Kobe. Kobe has the respect of his peers as the best player in the NBA. When the game is on the line, who would you rather the ball? Kobe. Kobe has a wider variety of moves, is a better shooter from the field and from the line, has made more game winning shots.

Right now Kobe is better than LeBron; however over time this might change with LeBron on the Miami Heat. This debate will continue for years to come, especially if the Miami Heat win a title to make the comparison between the two more fair.