I didn't think there'd be too much drama in the first round of the playoffs this year, but we certainly have some interesting series! The Bulls just knotted up their series with the Heat at two games apiece, the Pacers are giving the Nets a run for their money, and the Lakers are amazingly playing their best team basketball all season, and not a minute too soon. In fact, the Mavs are the only team who are enjoying a 3-0 lead (both Detroit and San Anontio lost the third game in their series).
Friday night's games were also a blast, with LeBron taking his team on the back and netting 41 points, including a last minute shot to take the lead with a few seconds left in the game. And the Kings beat the Spurs with a game ending, coast-to-coast layup. (And that Lakers/Suns game wasn't too shaby, either.)
As NBA fans we've really been blessed over the past few years, since the Eastern and Western Conferences achieved parity. Those who were watching the NBA back in the first half of this decade no doubt recall the overwhelming dominance of the Western Conference. While the Eastern Conference still lacks the talent depth found in the West, it's no longer fair to call it the Leastern Conference.
No big surprises after the first couple of games in the playoffs. The "Contenders" - San Antonio, Detroit, Miami, and Dallas - all hold 2-0 leads. Some people pegged the Bulls or Grizz as the surprise teams, and while 2-0 isn't the same as 4-0, I can't fathom any of the "Contenders" dropping four of the next five games.
Also, as I predicted, the Clippers are playing well despite their year end malaise. And the Suns/Lakers series is seeming to get more interesting, with a close game on Sunday and the Lakers up by 15 at half time. Going back to LA with the series knotted at 1-1 it vital if the Lakers hope in winning this series. Regardless of their half time lead and the possibility of a tied series, I don't see the Lakers winning this one, as the Suns have too much offensive firepower. Unless the Lakers can have monumental games from Odom and Kawme, they're going to have a hard time making it to the WCSF.
And what of the Pacers/Nets and Cavs/Wiz series? Those are shaping up nicely, too. Indy got a lucky win on Sunday, which will probably be their only one of the series. The Cavs/Wiz, I predict, will go 6 or 7, with the Wiz prevailing (only to get smacked around by Detroit).
The great games will commence in the Semi Finals... Dallas v. San Antonio being the premier matchup. And of course the conference finals promise to be delightfully entertaining as well.
Time for this year's insanely inaccurate playoff predictions! But before we begin, let's review my oracle skills from last season, when I made my 2004-2005 playoff predictions. My Eastern Conference picks were nearly perfect. I ended up picking all of the first round winners and did predict the Pistons besting the Heat in the ECF. In the West, however, I took a beating as I ignorantly guessed that Denver would upset the Spurs.... which kind of ruined the whole Western Conference (although I did predict the Suns making it to the WCF). This year I'm going to put a little more faith in the Spurs!
Let's get started!
(1) Detroit beats (8) Milwaukee - Milwaukee has the least envious position of having to face the winningest, most veteran and poised team in the NBA. Barring Chauncey and Rip running into each other leading to season-ending injuries, followed up by Ben Wallace running over to see if his team mates are all right and colliding with Rasheed, ending both of their seasons, I don't see how the Bucks can win four games out of seven against this team. In fact, I'm thinking.... sweep!
(4) Cleveland loses to (5) Washington - Washington has a bit more playoff experience and while LeBron is a man child, he's still lacks the inexperience. It's OK, BronBron, MJ didn't reach the second round of the playoffs until his fourth season.
(3) New Jersey beats (6) Indiana - With New Jersey playing on fire lately and Indiana still enjoying their descent from what could have been since the Ron Artest mele, I see this one over with in 5 with NJ dominating throughout. They'll need to win quickly, too, as Kidd could use the rest.
(2) Miami beats (7) Chicago - Don't bet against The Deisel. Yes, Shaq's another year older and another year slower, but he's still The M.D.E. Combine that with Dwayne Wade and it's hard to see this Bulls team winning more than 2 (if that).
(1) Detroit beats (5) Washington - More of the same from the Pistons (assuming no injuries), besting the Wizards in 5.
(2) Miami beats (3) New Jersey - While the Heat are a bit banged up and in a bit of a funk, and while the Nets are playing the best ball all season, I still think the Heat have more options and can beat teams in more ways. This assumes that Shaq is able to ratchet it up a notch and Wade is 100%. This should probably be a very interesting series, but I think the Heat will take it in 6.
(1) Detroit beats (2) Miami - A rematch of last year's ECFs. However this time the series isn't nearly as close and the Pistons win in 6. Pat Reilly proceeds to detonate the Heat roster once again in the off-season.
(1) San Antonio beats (8) Sacramento - while the Spurs aren't completely healthy, they are the defending NBA champs and have a solid roster of veterans and play makers. I've learned my lesson from last year - do not doubt the Spurs!
(4) Dallas over Memphis (5) - It's a shame that Dallas is seeded fourth (as Mark Cuban will happily tell you), but no one will regret that more than the Grizz, who have yet to win a playoff series in the franchise history and aren't going to start now. The big question for Mavs fans - will Dirk show up this postseason? He'll need to if the Mavs have any hope of reaching the WCF or beyond.
(6) LA Clippers over (3) Denver - this is one of my two “upset” picks. While the Clippers have been playing lackluster basketball the last few weeks of the season, it would be nice to see them actually have some impact in the postseason for the first time in a loooooooooong time. Should be a good series. Keep on eye on Cassell and his leadership. Clippers in 7.
(2) Phoenix over (7) LA Lakers - even though the Lakers bested the Suns in the final season meeting, that final game was sans Steve Nash and included 43 from Kobe. With Nash, the Suns won the other three games against the Lakers this season. I expect Kobe will have two (or three?) big games in this series, which should be fun to watch, but I can't fathom the Lakers winning four out of seven. Phoenix in 5, unless Kobe has multiple Herculean efforts, in which case Suns in 6.
(1) San Antonio over (4) Dallas - this is the hardest matchup to predict, in my opinion, and will likely be one of the best to watch. I have to give the edge to the defending champs here, since Dirk has yet to prove himself able to step it up in the playoffs. Last year there was a lot of finger-pointing when the Ls started to pile up. This year the Mavs will need to put any dissent behind them and learn to prosper as a team. And Dirk will have to be able to say, “Give me the ball,“ in crunch time and, more importantly, make the big play.
(2) Phoenix loses to (6) LA Clippers - here's the other “upset” pick, another risky guess. Regardless of the eventual winner, I think this is a series that goes six games, minimum. I pick the Clips, in part, because I'm hoping to see a ray of sunlight into the otherwise dreary lives of Clippers fans.
(1) San Antonio over (6) LA Clippers - after a brutal WCSF series against the Mavs, the Spurs will have it easy against the Clippers, out playing them with ease and winning in 5.
Detroit beats San Antonio in 7 - another great Finals matchup. Like last year, there will be some blowout games, but the series will go 6, if not 7, and have a fair mix of down-to-the-wire games, with the Pistrons (if they can stay healthy!) taking the title back from the Spurs.
I've often wondered if there's any correlation to team salary and performance in the NBA. I've always assumed there was a positive correlation - dole out the big salaries, attract the superior talent, and rack up wins and championships. However, crunching the numbers, there appears to be a negative correlation. That is, the less you spend, the more wins will come your way!
This is hardly a scientific exercise - I'm using the 2004-2005 salary figures and this is 2005/2006. Furthermore, I don't know how solid the numbers I am using are. I got them from this web page, but it appears to just be the work of a fan and not any official sort of numbers. Furthermore, in calculating the cost per win I'm using the current win/loss records to compute each team's winning percentage and using that to estimate their total number of wins for the season.
That being said, I think the numbers speak for themselves. Many of the teams with the LARGEST salaries have pathetic records. The Knicks and Trailblazers being two prime examples. The Knicks, in fact, are paying $4.6 million dollars per win, more than a million dollars per W than the next least efficient team.
Not surprising, the teams with below average payrolls are three of the most winningest teams: the Pistons, Spurs, and Suns. The lean and efficient Spurs pay less than $750k per victory.
||Cost / Win|
|New York Knicks
|Golden State Warriors
|Los Angeles Lakers
|New Orleans Hornets
|New Jersey Nets
|Los Angeles Clippers
|San Antonio Spurs
Again, these numbers are hardly scientific, but do likely offer an overview of the relationship to overall salary and wins. Of course wins and profit don't come hand-in-hand. The Knicks likely sell more tickets and rake in more on jersey/promotional sales than the Bucks, even though the Bucks will likely have 18 more wins than the Knicks and are paying about half the salary. Also, Ws do not equal championships. While they help with the postseason rankings, the team with the most victories does not always win the title.
Regardless, food for thought! :-)