As promised yesterday, here are 5 questions about the Western Conference Playoffs. Quick note, the Magic looked like the Magic from two years ago last night. Great defense, perimeter scoring and everything. One good night doesn't make the world. We'll see if I have to eat my words. And here we are...
Most Impressive Team so Far:
Simply put...The Thunder. You could argue Memphis in this spot too, but all year people have been discounting the Spurs. Considering how they slipped late in the season after being on a record matching pace, its safe too say that their collection of talent and age are starting to slip. The Nuggets showed more then just resilience after the Carmelo trade. They actually showed that they could be better moving the ball and using "teamwork". Who knew?. Many experts picked this as an upset, but the Thunder have showed they can live up too the hype, and play a physical brand of Basketball in the Playoffs.
Most Disappointing Team so Far:
Sorry Memphis fans. The Grizzlies deserve a lot of credit for exposing the Spurs' age. But the Spurs have not been the same team since injuries plagued Timmy and Manu. Tim is showing his age. We're waiting for a vintage 25 and 17 from him, but it doesn't look like he has it left. Manu is playing at his usual break neck pace but his only shooting at around 40 % from the field. Looking at this team right now, you have too wonder how they competed for the leagues best record.
Most Impressive One Man Show:
41.8 Mpg, 30.3 Ppg, 51.9 3p%
Those are Keven Durant's numbers through 4 games this post season. He is having an impressive run. His scoring and minutes are up and he's shooting a ridiculous 52% from beyond the arc. Sorry. I just wanted too show love to the runner up.
24.4 ppg, 11.6 apg, 6.4 rpg, 55.9 fg%
The real one man show is Chris Paul. He's been a double double machine these playoffs. Playing 40+ minutes while still managing too shoot a scolding 56% from the field. Although KD's three point percentage is up, his field goal percentage is down from the regular season. The Hornets went into these playoffs with very little fan fare. You're favorite blogger called for a sweep. But, as CP3 is showing, he is still the best point guard in the league. Even missing David West, he has the Hornets right in the middle of a possible upset. My pick. Chris Paul.
Favorites So Far:
Now, more than ever, the west is wide open. The Lake show has looked more and more flawed this year. Their bigs should be absolutely embarrassed by their performance against an undermanned and undersized Hornets front line. I have trouble trusting the Mavericks. Memories of the implosion in the 2006 finals - however controversial - and the running of the Warriors in 2007 has me wondering about their mettle. The Thunder are a young and physical team. The addition of Kendrick Perkins has definitely made them a legitimate contender. As long as they get consistent production off their bench, they can definitely threaten for a championship. With that said. Maybe I am doing the same thing with Kobe as I am doing with Timmy. I am waiting for that signature performance where Kobe finally puts his stamp on the Playoffs. It's just too hard to go against Kobe regardless of how great Durant looks. I'll stick with the Lake show. For now.
What can we take from this season into next:
As we did yesterday. Here are some thoughts on the top 4 seeds.
The Spurs are facing the same disease that the Celtics are facing. Unless they can get Dejuan Blair to mature into a legit starting 4 to help save some miles on Duncan, the Duncan era may be officially coming too an end; no matter how much it pains me too say.
The Lakers can still be a legitimate contender for the next couple of years if Pau Gasol can ever take the leap to truly elite. He showed signs early on, but faded terribly late. If Andrew Bynum can stay healthy and consistent that front line can be formidable for years too come. The real question is if Kobe can ever truly relinquish the reigns of the team. A solid 2 guard to help preserve Kobe, and a small forward not named Ron Artest, and the Lakers will still be there in May. (Notice I said May not June)
The Mavericks will leave as the Utah Jazz of this era. Always there. A finals appearance. Great point guard play whether it was from Steve Nash or Jason Kidd. And a great Powerforward. I guess it depends on what you would consider a successful run. Dirk will go down as one of the 5 greatest Powerforwards ever, joining an elite group where, the majority never won a championship. I'm afraid that is where Dirk will end up. The Mavericks are on their way down. We'll see them for a few more years. But I'll be surprised if they win a Championship, unless they can make an unforeseen blockbuster trade or a huge splash in free agency.
Just as I said about the Heat yesterday, The Thunder are going to be impossible to ignore from here on out. The difference is the Thunder did it how you would hope every team could do it. A small market team that made good draft picks and were never hamstrung by terrible contracts. Welcome to the way up. The Thunder are the model, and they'll be competing for the next 7-10 years provided there are no major injuries and that KD and Russel Westbrook can still coexist. Don't be surprised to see a Thunder - Heat finals very soon. Unless of course Dwight Howard swings the next ten seasons by ending up on the Knicks or Lakers.