Current Tiers of the NBA

26 07 2013

Championship contenders: Heat, Pacers, Nets, Bulls, Thunder, Spurs, Clippers, Grizzlies, Warriors (Fringe: Knicks, Rockets)

Playoff contenders: Hawks, Bucks, Pistons, Wizards, Cavaliers, Nuggets, Lakers, Mavericks, Blazers, Timberwolves (Fringe: Celtics, Bobcats, Raptors, Pelicans)

Lottery contenders: Sixers, Magic, Jazz, Suns, Kings

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My Far-Too-Early Early 2013-14 NBA Playoff Positions

8 07 2013

Having a few spare moments at work today, I thought I would share my 2013-14 NBA seeding predictions…at the moment. These are subject to change. Please stay tuned.

West                                                                            

1. Clippers                                                                 

2. Thunder              

3. Warriors

4. Spurs

5. Rockets

6. Grizzlies

7. Timberwolves

8. Blazers

Almost made it: Pelicans

 

East

1. Heat

2. Pacers

3. Bulls

4. Nets

5. Knicks

6. Cavaliers

7. Wizards

8. Hawks

Almost made it: Pistons

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Rudy Gay the Raptor

30 01 2013
Rudy Gay Raptors

Picture provided by @jose3030

 

Picture this. It will soon be reality.

The Memphis Grizzlies and Toronto Raptors have come to an agreement to send star swingman Rudy Gay to Canada, according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein. Toronto’s Ed Davis will be shipped to Memphis and Jose Calderon will move to an undetermined third team.

As of now, the Detroit Pistons look to be the most likely candidate, a team that has been interested in the Spanish point guard since the beginning of the season. The Pistons have two small forwards – Tayshaun Prince and Corey Maggette – that could entice the Grizzlies since they need a cheaper option to replace Gay in the rotation.

Sitting at 16-29 and 5 1/2 games out of the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference, this deal could give the Raptors a fighting chance to squeeze into the playoffs – if Kyle Lowry can get back to one hundred percent.

As for the Grizzlies, they might be less potent offensively, but they certainly look to be in a better economic position moving forward while still having their core consisting of Mike Conley Jr., Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.

 

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2013 NBA Season Excitement Preview

31 10 2012

The NBA season is finally upon us. No lockout – just basketball. With a multitude of story lines inundating this league, there are many reasons to be amped about this season. I will give you the main reasons to be excited about watching each team in the NBA.

 

 

Atlanta HawksAl Horford will quickly develop into the focal point of this offense as this franchise moves into the post-Joe Johnson era. At the point guard position, speedy Devin Harris will get the chance to get back to the player – a better player –  he was before Utah. Will a sixth consecutive playoff appearance go along with this? Josh Smith‘s decision to stay or go next summer will be effected based upon the answer to this question.

Boston Celtics – With the acquisitions of Jason Terry and Leandro Barbosa along with a healthy Jeff Green, Rajon Rondo might finally have the athletic pieces to allow him to completely take the reins of the offense. Correction: he will take the reins of the offense. Once breakout rookie Avery Bradley comes back in December, this team has a good chance to be the Heat’s best competition in the East as so many have already claimed.

Brooklyn NetsDeron Williams. Black and White jerseys. Brooklyn. Jay-Z. What is not exciting about the newest team in the NBA? If they continue to win at the same rate as they did in New Jersey, though, they will quickly become old, bland news. Joe Johnson won’t let that happen.

Charlotte Bobcats – After finishing the lockout season with the worst winning percentage in NBA history (.106), there’s only one place this franchise can go: up. As we move into the era of washed up veterans (Ben Gordon and Brendan Haywood) and Michael-Kidd Gilchrist, they might finally move out of the last spot in the East all thanks to Dwight Howard.

Chicago Bulls – The eventual early return of superstar Derrick Rose will rank as one of the most emotional moments in NBA – if not sports – history. When he comes back, we will see less Nate Robinson, but we will see an inspired team that can compete in the playoffs.

Cleveland Cavaliers Kyrie Irving. This kid is about to elevate himself into the upper echelon of the league and become a superstar for his team. As one of the youngest and potential-filled (Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, Tyler Zeller) teams in the NBA, the city of Cleveland can finally have hope for their franchise’s future.

Detroit Pistons – If you like tough big man play, this is the team for you. Budding soon-to-be All-Star Greg Monroe along with already impressive rookie Andre Drummond (two men that are both one inch away from being seven-footers) will provide Detroit with a chance to squeeze into the playoffs – if Rodney Stuckey finally takes his point guard game to the next level.

Indiana Pacers – Following the Thunder’s footsteps by making it into the bottom-half of the playoffs two years ago followed by the top-half of the bracket last year, can they continue to follow suit and take the next step into the NBA Finals? With a healthy Danny Granger, always improving Paul George and dominate All-Star seven-footer Roy Hibbert, a generous playoff route could direct them to the promise land. At the very least, Gerald Green will provide casual fans with plenty of jump-off-your-couch-in-excitement slam dunks.

Miami Heat – What is next for LeBron James? What’s next is an unimaginable season. With a relaxed attitude toward the game of basketball, the King (he has a ring…) will collect his fourth MVP award as the Heat will have a commanding season (along with Ray Allen hitting many three-pointers), making it to the Eastern Conference Finals at the very least.

Milwaukee Bucks – Finishing ninth in two straight seasons, this team has been scraping the edge of the playoffs. Monta Ellis getting a full NBA season with the team beside fellow guard Brandon Jennings makes this yet another exciting East backcourt duo. This will be a very scary group that could beat any team on any given night when both of these players are having solid shooting nights.

New York Knicks – Yes, they are the oldest team in NBA history. But they have quality old veterans that still know how to use their intelligence to play the game (Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas). Since Amare Stoudemire will be out 6-8 weeks, Knicks fans get to see Carmelo Anthony at the position he plays best (power forward), making this group the best team in New York.

Orlando Magic – They might not win many games this season, but this fan base can finally let out a sigh of relief as their baby center finally got his wish. Keep an eye out for Andre Nicholson, who could become the surprise rookie of the 2012 class.

Philadelphia 76ers – When Andrew Bynum finds a way to get healthy, that’s when the excitement can start. This Sixers season is all about their new pure center. Fitting Bynum into Doug Collins and Jrue Holiday‘s system could lead to a challenge for the much smaller Miami Heat once the playoffs roll around.

Toronto Raptors – Even though it would have been nice to bring Steve Nash back to his hometown, this franchise got a stat-stuffing guard in Kyle Lowry, who will record multiple triple-doubles this year. Rookie center Jonas Valanciunas will find his way onto many SportsCenter Top 10’s throughout this season.

Washington Wizards – Once John Wall recovers from surgery, Bradley Beal will be an exceptional shooting guard to compliment his game and Nenê will continue to be the offensive force he has been since he entered the league. Just like the Pistons, this young team could find themselves in the playoffs if Wall does not continue to plateau as a basketball player.

 

 

 

Dallas Mavericks – For a team that doesn’t have Jason Kidd, Jason Terry or Dirk Nowitzki playing in their season opener, it’s difficult to get a grasp on this team’s identity. If they can establish their identity, Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo can wipe away last year’s regressed season and Dirk can play like a healthy and hungry Dirk, they will make the playoffs for the 13th consecutive season.

Denver Nuggets – Easily the funnest team in the league (Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried both having styles of play that any fan would enjoy watching), this group of pretty-good-to-great players has the most potential in the league. For this potential to turn into something legitimate, Andre Iguodala must become that go-to guy they have desperately been searching for since Melo left for New York.

Golden State Warriors – For the first time since 1997, the Warriors will have an All-Star in Stephen Curry – if he stays healthy (yes, that is indeed a big “if”). Putting him in a lineup with Klay Thompson, who will drastically improve this year, and Andrew Bogut, who will be a force down low, this new and improved California team will fulfill Mark Jackson’s prediction from last year that his team will make the playoffs.

Houston RocketsJames Harden. We have only known Harden as that sixth man on a team with two bigger and better stars. Now it’s his time. Putting the bearded man next to Jeremy Lin will improve both of their games, and with Omer Asik setting picks for these two guards, they now have a foundation for the future.

LA Clippers – Los Angeles does not know the future of superstar point guard Chris Paul with his contract soon coming to a close. But while they have him, this is still lob city. With one of the deepest benches in the league and Blake Griffin improving his low-post game, Paul can take this team as far as his clutch play desires.

LA Lakers – The two most important positions on the court are point guard and center. The Lakers traded for two of the best at those positions in Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. They also have that guy named Kobe Bryant. They are officially “Hollywood” with undoubtedly the best starting lineup in the league once they find their chemistry. Since the Thunder also need to gel themselves with Harden gone, the Lakers have a legitimate chance to go all the way yet again.

Memphis Grizzlies – Is it possible to be the dark horse for three consecutive years? The Grizzlies are in the running for this title again. A healthy Zach Randolph takes this team to an extra playoff series – just look at 2011. If they get a better passer in Mike Conley Jr. to lead the exact same core – other than O.J. Mayo – from last year, you can’t forget about this team when making your playoff predictions.

Minnesota Timberwolves – The injury bug just won’t go away in Minnesota. First Ricky Rubio. Then Kevin Love… because of some knuckle push-ups. Even without their best two players, this team still has a lot of depth, and if Brandon Roy and Andrei Kirilenko produce like the players that we used to know, they could still grab that eighth seed.

New Orleans Hornets – Inevitable Rookie of the Year Anthony Davis brings to the court everything you want in a center. Throw in a flashy Austin Rivers along with a healthy Eric Gordon and you have three players that could lead this team for years to come. (And don’t forget about the reigning Most Improved Player of the Year Ryan Anderson spotting up behind the three-point line.) The fans might soon forget about Chris Paul when Davis has his first 20-20 game.

Oklahoma City Thunder – This small-market team gave up a core for the ages in order to avoid the penalties of the new CBA. Durant/Westbrook/Harden could have been a trio for the ages. But now there is a new trio in OKC with a second Kevin in Kevin Martin that will be running off ball screens and drawing fouls. Even if he can’t be a distributor like Harden, he will get his fair share of points. Whether or not they are the favorites to come out of the West does not change the fact that they will be an electrifying ball club with plenty of highlights from Russ and Durantula.

Phoenix Suns – Discovering what the Suns new identity will be is a scary yet exciting thought. They don’t have Steve Nash anymore, but they have a solid frontline in Michael Beasley, Luis Scola and Marcin Gortat that all have not yet reached their ceiling as NBA players. How can they reach that ceiling? Goran Dragic. If their point guard works with these big men, all four could have respectable seasons.

Portland Trial Blazers – The Greg Oden-Brandon Roy era is officially over. Finally. Even though LaMarcus Aldridge still remains as the cornerstone of this franchise, how quickly Damian Lillard, who could make the Rookie of the Year race closer than people think, develops will determine just how soon this team moves out of the pits of the West. Oh, and Nicolas Batum? Just wait until he breaks out this season.

Sacramento Kings – The last pick of the 2011 draft will soon become the most exciting little man to watch in the entire league. Isaiah Thomas statistically improved in both scoring and assisting in every successive month last season and doesn’t look to be stopping any time soon. If DeMarcus Cousins continues to improve his game along with his attitude and Marcus Thornton quietly maintains his average of 18-20 points, they could become the sporadically hot team you never want to face.

San Antonio Spurs – The good news for the skeptics is that Duncan/Ginobili/Parker are now all over 30-years-old. The bad news is that Duncan/Ginobili/Parker have never let age get in the way of winning. Every single season we are reminded that the Spurs are “one year older” and they continue to make it to the playoffs. Thanks for that, Pop. We should expect nothing less this season.

Utah Jazz – Devin Harris is finally gone. And they still have the best quadruplet of big men in the NBA with Favors/Jefferson/Kanter/Millsap leading the way. Every single one of these players can pound the ball down low and actually be a conventional power forward or center. (Shocking, right?) They made the playoffs last year and can now build on this experience.

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The Inconceivable Comeback in Memphis

30 04 2012


The phrase “You have to see it to believe it” has never been more applicable after what the Clippers just did Sunday night.

95-71. This was the lead for the Memphis Grizzlies over the Los Angeles Clippers with eight minutes to go in Game 1 of their first round playoff series.

Anybody that said the Clippers had life in them or even had a chance in this series would simply be considered a fool for holding such a crazy notion. Seriously, was this team down by more than 20 points going to be able to win a game in this series? The Grizzlies looked to be on their way to winning their first playoff game in the second straight season as absolutely everything was going their way.

Then, it happened. Blake Griffin happened. Nick Young happened. Chris Paul happened.

As Memphis began to fall in love with isolation jump shots after an easy game up to their 24-point fourth quarter lead, Los Angeles kept fighting. Nick Young, Eric Bledsoe and Reggie Evans came in off the bench during crunch time with some great energy and big plays.

With the score at 96-84 at the 2:57 mark, Young strung together three straight three-pointers as the Grizzlies continued to shoot jumpers.

This was their biggest fault in the meltdown. Going through Marc Gasol really helped their offense flow through the first three and a half quarters. They stopped doing this as they became comfortable with their lead and looked to play not to lose once the Clippers began to make their push.

After Bledsoe saved the ball from going out of bounds and Griffin was fouled, the 52-percent free throw shooter knocked down two big free throws.

On their next offensive possession, Reggie Evans put in a layup off a Paul feed. Those Clippers took their first lead of the game at 97-96.

Rudy Gay made a (you guessed it) jumper that allowed FedEx Forum to exhale for just a second. After a Tony Allen reach in, CP3 calmly sunk two free throws to take back the late lead.

With nine seconds left in the game, Gay wound down the clock, leaving the fate of the game on his shoulders instead of putting up a shot with some time left. He took yet another mid-range jump shot that hit the front rim, allowing the Clippers to have the sweet taste of victory after their 28-3 run to finish the fight.

143585429.jpg

The Grizzlies lost this game. Point blank. I understand the Los Angeles Clippers are the team that just made the largest fourth quarter comeback in NBA playoffs history and deserve credit for pushing through adversity. Congratulations gentlemen, but this game is not about your team.

Memphis had a 27-point lead on their own court. They had the fans and they had a lead that looked like an any-team-in-the-NBA and Charlotte Bobcats box score.

This team went away from what has brought them the No. 4 seed during the regular season. They stopped using their big men and the paint to dominate their opponent. Instead of penetrating and then using this offense to open the floor for jumpers, they merely settled for jumpers.

Even though the Grizzlies have positives to take away from this game, such as the fact that they should have won because they’re the better team, there are no moral victories in the playoffs; there are only victories. The Grizzlies are now down a game, and if they lose three more, their season will be no more.

There was a negative for the Clippers, though, as Caron Butler fractured his left hand in the third quarter and will be out for four to six weeks. Nick Young might receive the starting role nod as long as Del Negro believes this won’t hurt his swingman’s spark power.

Teams have come back from losing the first two home games. In fact, in the 2005 playoffs, the Dallas Mavericks lost their first two home games to the Houston Rockets and ended up winning the series in seven games. However, they didn’t gain an insurmountable lead in their first loss that sucked the life out of the entire franchise.

Game 2 is a must-win not just for the Grizzlies’ hopes of winning this series but for the dignity of their organization. If this up and coming team wants to play a series against the San Antonio Spurs again this year, it starts with a win in game 2. If they cannot put this collapse behind them and focus on the present instead of the past, the Grizzlies will have a long offseason filled with thoughts about the eight minutes that changed everything.

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NBA Playoffs Preview

27 04 2012


EASTERN CONFERENCE

 

(1) Chicago Bulls (50-16) vs. (8) Philadelphia 76ers (35-31)

Chicago won regular season series 2-1

There probably won’t be much drama in this one. Even though Derrick Rose might not be at one hundred percent, the defensive mindset of this team that led the league in opponent points per game (88.2) should help them cruise into the second round. And when backup big men Omer Asik and Taj Gibson step onto the court, the defensive intensity actually rises. They have too much depth and too much defense for the Sixers to have a chance in this series. Evan Turner said he preferred playing the Bulls over the Miami Heat… he is about to realize both of those scenarios do not end well for his team. Last year, the Bulls were stomping through the Eastern playoffs, but ran into the Miami buzz saw in the conference finals. Will America see a repeat this year?

 

 

(2) Miami Heat (46-20) vs. (7) New York Knicks (36-30)

Miami won regular season series 3-0

A lot of celebrity power, but not much substance. Miami is on a mission to avenge last year’s loss in the NBA Finals, and the Knicks just don’t have enough talent to keep up. The soon-to-be three time MVP LeBron James has had one of the most astounding statistical seasons (so far). Yes, he has his constant fourth quarter LeBron haters, but this is not a series where he will choke. He loves playing in New York’s arena, so road games will be just as nice as home games for him. Moreover, New York still isn’t sure just what their identity is. Where does Jeremy Lin fit in? How do they use Amare Stoudemire? (Will they ever figure out that last question?) How much should Carmelo Anthony carry the team? Melo has been playing the best basketball in the league the past month, but he won’t be able to play another month with his point guard-less team. Last year, the Celtics swept the Knicks in the first round, and it is very possible that Miami could unleash the same embarrassment on the guys from Madison Square Garden.

 

 

(3) Indiana Pacers (42-24) vs. (6) Orlando Magic (37-29)

Orlando won regular season series 3-1

No Dwight Howard, no chance. Pacers move on.

 

 

(4) Boston Celtics (39-27) vs. (5) Atlanta Hawks (40-26)

Boston won regular season series 2-1

Even though this matchup has two teams with similar records, there couldn’t be more disparity. This aging Boston team has found some life behind the athleticism and vision of Rajon Rondo as they finished the season 23-10. Rondo’s 24 straight games with double-digit assists is amazing in an era that values point guards scoring over distributing. He provides an impact similar to Dwight Howard and LeBron James: even with his solid statistics, his influence on the team can’t be contained on a sheet of paper. Even with Ray Allen’s injury, the Celtics have a breakout player in Avery Bradley that can temporarily fill in for a hobbled Allen. As long as the Hawks keep their core of Joe Johnson and Josh Smith, I don’t see this team ever emerging out of the middle of the East. The championship experience on the C’s is going to overwhelm a Hawks team that always manages to underwhelm in the playoffs.

 

 

 

 

WESTERN CONFERENCE

 

(1) San Antonio Spurs (50-16) vs. (8) Utah Jazz (36-30)

San Antonio won regular season series 3-1

Utah and all of the team’s blue-collar players clawed their way into the final playoff spot in the West, and they have been rewarded with a matchup against one of the hottest teams in the league. The Spurs finished the regular season on a 10-game winning streak and two of their big three are finally healthy and fitting into the system. Very similar to last year, out of nowhere, San Antonio logged the best record in the league (tied with Chicago) with Tony Parker having another great season. The Spurs need to be careful, though. They were in this exact same position last year and got stunned by the eighth seeded Grizzlies in the first round. However, it won’t happen again. The experienced Spurs won’t let it happen twice. Even though the Jazz will be exiting the playoffs early after a hard fight, making the playoffs is huge step for this up-and-coming squad that could soon emerge in the West with their overwhelming frontline of Jefferson-Millsap-Favors to challenge some of the best.

 

 

(2) Oklahoma City Thunder (47-19) vs. (7) Dallas Mavericks (36-30)

Oklahoma City won regular season series 3-1

This is an interesting re-match of last year’s Western Conference Finals. However, neither team really has any momentum as both teams went 7-7 to finish the season, although Dallas has been playing some very uninspired basketball recently. However, it can’t be ignored that Jason Kidd hasn’t played basketball in a week, which should be a huge boost for the 39-year-old point guard. Last season, after a well-rested break before the first round of the playoffs, he scored 42 points in the first two playoff games. There’s enough veteran leadership on this team to potentially give the Thunder a tough series. As long as Dirk Nowitzki is playing basketball, the Mavs have a chance to do something in the playoffs. The players to pay attention to in this series are Delonte West and James Harden. West has come back from his broken finger injury and been the spark for the Mavs that they lost when J.J. Barea left the team. He utilizes picks very well and knows how to get into the paint. He brings some play off the bench that will be necessary since their opponent has the soon-to-be Sixth Man of the Year. However, if Harden is not himself after a certain Laker’s elbow assaulted his face, a shaken up Harden completely changes the outlook on this series. One weakness the Mavericks might exploit is the fact that Oklahoma City sits next to last in the league in assists. If they can get the ball out of the hands of All-Stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Dallas could pull the upset. A lot has to go the Mavs way, though, as the league’s leading scorer might just burn the defending champs.

 

 

(3) Los Angeles Lakers (41-25) vs. (6) Denver Nuggets (38-28)

Los Angeles won regular season series 3-1

The Lakers will be without Ron Artest Metta World Peace, but Los Angeles should still have enough firepower to handle a Nuggets team whose highest paid player is Arron Afflalo. Initially it seemed like a great story that George Karl had a group of players that didn’t have an egotistical superstar. Every player bought into the team’s system and fed off each other. However, this is the time when superstars emerge. This is the time when big shots have to be made and championship contending teams know exactly whose hands the ball should be in when the game clock is winding down. The Nuggets don’t know whose hands should have the ball. Furthermore, the Lakers have just too much size in Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol for skinny Javale McGee and breakout rookie Kenneth Faried to handle. The Lakers will move on, but if they do so too quickly, their suspended fighter will miss some crucial games in the second round.

 

 

(4) Memphis Grizzlies (41-25) vs. (5) Los Angeles Clippers (40-26)

Los Angeles won regular season series 2-1

Both teams are coming off regular seasons that were improvements on previous years, and both teams are ready to take that next step. Most of the attention this year focused on Los Angeles with the acquisition of Chris Paul and the continued highlight-reel plays by Blake Griffin. Don’t overlook Memphis, though. Seriously. This is a team that held their own in a very tight Western Conference. With a healthy Rudy Gay (missed the playoffs last year) averaging 19 points and a healthy Zach Randolph (missed 37 games this season) helping a versatile Marc Gasol down low, the Grizzlies are bound to move on into the second round with their raucous fan base pushing them on. The only way the Clippers win this series is if Paul decides to string together a round similar to any of Dirk Nowitzki’s rounds from last year’s playoffs. The Grizzlies have the home-court advantage and have the advantage in this series. Also, last year this squad showed that they know how to perform under pressure when they won Game 6 in San Antonio to knock the top-seeded Spurs out of the playoffs. (Wait, and they might be playing the top-seeded Spurs in the second round…)

 

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Playoff Pressure

14 04 2012

As this season winds down, the West still has many seeding possibilities. Here is look at which teams will most likely grab the No. 3, 4, 5 and 6 seed…

 

Even though the Dallas Mavericks hold the longest current winning streak (3 games) along with the Los Angeles Lakers and Indiana Pacers, the Mavs will stand put at the No. 6 spot because the Memphis Grizzlies have one the softest schedules to finish the season. This squad caught a lot of these opponents at the best possible time for them:

Utah, @New Orleans, @Minnesota, New Orleans, @Charotte, Portland, Cleveland, Orlando.

Honestly, it is possible and probable they will win all of these games. They will be streaking into the playoffs.

People keep raving about the Grizzlies and how teams should watch out for them as a sleeper team, but the forgotten-about Mavs that people tend to point out could possibly miss the playoffs are only one game back from the Grizzlies.

Dallas has an interesting end to their season that could go in either direction based on one game:

@Los Angeles, @Utah, Houston, Golden State, @Chicago, @Atlanta

When the Mavs play the Los Angeles Lakers on ABC, this could change how this season ends for the reigning NBA champions. Coming into this game on a soft three-game winning streak, winning here could validate their hot streak. They have not defeated the Lakers this year and could possibly face them in the playoffs. A victory could not only change the national perception of this team but give this team a statement win moving forward. Even if the Bulls are resting Derrick Rose when Dallas visits the United Center, that team has proven they can play without their MVP and that should be an important game.

Expecting that the Mavs land the No. 6 seed, let’s look to see who will be No. 3.

The Los Angeles Clippers look to be a better matchup for Dallas than the Lakers, who is the other option for the No. 3 seed. Looking at the Lakers schedule, don’t be surprised if the Clippers pass them. It doesn’t seem possible with the way the Lakers have been playing but their schedule looks to be too difficult to ignore:

Dallas, San Antonio, @Golden State, @San Antonio, Oklahoma City, @Sacramento

While the Lakers will be battling it out four times with top-tier Western Conference playoff foes, look who the Clippers will be going up against:

Golden State, Oklahoma City, @Denver, @Phoenix, New Orleans, @Atlanta, @NY Knicks

The Lakers hold the 2-1 tiebreaker, so they have that in their back pocket. However, if the Clippers take down the Warriors Saturday night, they will be one game back from the Lakers. That point forward, don’t be surprised if the L.A. teams swap positions.

 

Can the Mavs compete in the first round and beyond? Well, no matter what L.A. team they’re playing against, this will be one of those situations where they will need certain players to find their top game. Right away.

Jason Kidd will need to be rested and ready to go in a seven-game series. Delonte West will need to fill the shoes of Barea (penetrating), Stevenson (perimeter defense) and Chandler (get-in-your-face attitude) as he has been doing when he’s healthy. Wright will need to continue to play efficient minutes off the bench.

But most of all, Jason Terry will need to be the JET he was in last year’s playoffs. He is the x-factor. Dirk will get his – he always does. This team will go as Terry’s jump shot goes. It’s as simple as that.

So again, can the Mavs compete in the first round and beyond? *Yes.

*As long as the best possible Mavs team decides to show up.

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