The 3 Most Compelling Stories Going into the Playoffs

So I'm finally back. Some news before I jump into today's post. I've recently become the domain owner of dishingdimes.com. You can now access the site by simply typing dishingdimes.com into your browser. The webmaster is currently working on a few things, and should have everything up and running by the middle of April. With all of that, my boredom with this years' NCAA Tournament (Wake's ousting killed it for me) has brought me to focus my attention on the final stretch of the NBA season. There are 3 big story lines we need to watch before we hit the third week of April and the first round starts.

1) The 8th seed in both conferences- I'm not saying that there will be a repeat of the 2006 #8 Warriors over #1 Dallas, which I still stand by, is the biggest upset in sports history. I am saying that there are a few ways this could play out. Lets start in the East. I don't see Chicago falling out of the 8th spot right now. I think Charlotte can get there next year, but I don't think they are a consistent enough team to challenge Chicago for that spot. If Chicago hangs onto that last spot, I'm going to give the ROY to Derrick Rose. Lets take it a step further. Detroit has a chance to slip to 8th. Chicago is playing 7 games at home and 3 on the road to close the season. Out of their last 10 games, only Miami, Philly, and Detroit are playoff teams. The Bulls beat Miami without Derrick Rose and the road doesn't turn too sharply as they meet Philly, Detroit, and the rest, which are very winnable games. It is also worth noting that the game against Detroit is at Detroit, and could very well determine the 7th and 8th seeds in the East. If the Bulls can go out winning 8 of 10, they will be in great position. The Pistons lost to the Lakers in the game tonight, they have 11 more games, 1 of those games is against the Cavs, and the only other hurdles will be Philly and the big game against Chicago. Remember to watch the Pistons/Bulls game on April 13th because it will have major playoff implications. So lets think about what this actually means for Chicago and Detroit. An 8th seed means you are probably playing the Cavs, and a 7th seed means you are probably playing the Celtics. If I were the Bulls, I would much rather play against the Celtics than the Cavs. The Bulls have no one who can guard Lebron, but the Pistons can throw Tayshaun Prince on Lebron and contain him as much as any defense can. The Pistons probably don't want to play the Celtics in the first round due to their lack of size. They can't body up against KG, Glen Davis, KendrickPerkins, or Leon Powe very well. It will be a struggle for an undersized Detroit team. In short, it would be in the Pistons' best interest to drop to the 8th seed, but it might just be me. It is picking your poison.

In the West we have an interesting race between, really, #2-9. San Antonio could theoretically fall to the 8th spot at this point. Doubtful, but possible. At this point, anything can happen with those spots. The Suns are desperately trying to make the playoffs, and there is a chance they can pull it off. Dallas doesn't have a favorable schedule in the last 10 games of the season. Dallas plays Cleveland on Sunday, and has games against Miami, Phoenix, Utah, New Orleans twice, and Houston to close the season out. All of those games will have major playoff implications and all of those teams are going to be at full strength trying to finalize their playoff spots. Out of the last 10 games the Suns have, only 4 of them are playoff teams, one of those teams being Dallas. I see this playoff race going all the way until the last game. We may not know what happens, and both teams don't want to rely on the other team losing for playoff position. It will make for very interesting basketball. As for the middle of the field in the West, it is almost impossible to predict what will happen. Virtually every matchup in the West could swing either way from the 2 through 7 matchups. Lets even throw the Lakers in there in the 1 vs 8 matchup. The Lakers have a chance to lose if they don't come out at full strength. Seeding is of the utmost importance at this time of the year, and things are tight in the league right now. It will be interesting to see how the last two spots in the East play out and how the West plays out as a whole.

2) The Boston injuries- This could be the determining factor in the East. The Celtics will most likely get a 2 seed, and Doc Rivers assures us that they don't care what seed they get, "As long as we are healthy, we will lace up against anyone." That statement is true, but is contingent on the first clause. Can they get healthy? They are slowly bringing KG back, and they have a multitude of other injuries. KG has been unproductive as of late, but the Celtics have seemed to be playing relatively well without him at full strength. They lost a tough game to Orlando last night, but you can never underestimate what the Celtics can do with that much talent on one team. We saw the Celtics exploited by the very good Orlando team last night. Dwight Howard punishes them down low. There is virtually no one who can guard Dwight Howard. His style of play will revolutionize young centers with hopes of coming to the NBA. Howard's post presence and athleticism is too much for Boston to deal with if KG is not ready. It is also important to note that Ray Allen has had a few nagging injuries, but we can expect him to be fully healthy for the playoffs. The Celtics have been criticized for not playing with the same fire as they did last season, but a healthy Celtics team is just as dangerous as the championship team we saw last June. If KG is fully healthy, expect the Celtics to be in the Finals, but not without a 7 game series against Cleveland. The question will be whether KG's injuries follow him into the playoffs.

3) The Blazers- Does anyone remember them? They haven't made any headlines since the incident between Ariza and Fernandez. I truly believe that they can beat any team in the West. They have two interchangeable bigmen inside, a great young star, a scoring PF, and solid role players. They have upset written all over them. As of now, they would be playing the Rockets. From the history of the Rockets, an upset by the hands of the Blazers is not outrageous. Pay attention to how they play in this critical point in the season. It will be very telling to how they will perform in the playoffs. They are my sleeper pick for the playoffs.




So I'm already expecting to get a lot of controversy from this post, but that's probably why I'm posting it...to get YOU readers looking at things from another perspective.

Tiger Woods yesterday made the comment, that has been all over analysts' minds this season...Dwyane Wade merits MVP talk, but it still only comes down to Kobe and Lebron. Seriously?!!?...that's just cockamamie. For one thing, Woods should be paying more attention to Phil Mickelson climbing closer and closer to take his Number 1 world rank, than trying to be an NBA analyst, but I digress.

Maybe you've noticed that Dwyane Wade is on a MONSTER TEAR right now with his last five games averaging 34.6 points, 8.6 assists, 6.4 rebounds, a whopping, 3.4 steals, and 1.2 blocks, all on 48% shooting. As impressive as these stats were, they included a 50 point near triple double game win against the Utah Jazz. And, two games before that a much publicized 48 point performance which included a steal and buzzer beating 3 all in the final seconds.

Guess what though? You'd probably be surprised to hear that he's been playing at this level ever since the All Star break. Since the break he's averaged 35.7 points, 9.85 assists, 5.78 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, and 2.78 steals. Wade also has his team winning at a slightly better mark of 57% compared to 54% before the break.
Unfortunately, it has taken those huge performances by Dwyane Wade to even get people to look at South Florida's team. This is seriously a travesty, and representative of how centered the NBA is around Kobe and Lebron.

Now I'll admit both the Lakers and Cavs share the best record in the league and that's obviously a huge testament to what both James and Bryant do for their teams. With that said, I think Wade is doing so much more. After last year's knee injury, which made him miss over a third of the season, Wade completely disappeared from the conversation about the "NBA's Elite". Even though we are only 3 years removed from Finals MVP and playoff championship averages of about 28/6/6.

Also in the conversation, it's important to talk about what Wade is doing for his team. Last year without Wade the Heat were the worst team in the NBA with a record of 15-67. In already 66 games this season (not missing a single one) Wade has helped the Heat double their record, giving them the 5th seed in the playoffs. Especially with a roster that has talent far from stellar. Haslem and Beasley are poor undersized PFs, Rookie PG Mario Chalmers is still extremely inexperienced and has Wade handling the ball most of the time, but to top it all off there was not a single legitimate Center until the always-injured and declining Jermaine O'Neal was brought in. Come on, who is Joel Anthony and why has he been starting 28 games? Get the pictures? To top it off, can you name how many other players are averaging over 14 points for the Heat? If you came up with 0, you were correct.

To end this discussion, I could talk about Wade leading the league in points with 29.9ppg with Lebron and Kobe (number 2 and 3 respectively), or how Wade, in his 6 years (rookie and injury year included), in the league has already overtaken Alonzo Mourning's 11 seasons as the Heat's all time leader scorer, however, I need to take it back to the argument of why he would be MVP over Kobe and Lebron. One could immediately argue that the talent surrounding Kobe is the best of the three. Take him away from the team, and I believe you still have a team that could probably compete for a playoff spot. Doing the same for Lebron and Wade would not lead to the same results. Kobe has more talented players around him, no doubt. The critical question is, what about the Cavs versus the Heat? The difference here all comes down to the Cavs experience from recently being in the finals, and their veteran guys who get a significant amount of minutes. The average age of the Cavs is 27.5 versus the Heat's 26.2. Combined, Wade, Cook, Beasley, Chalmers, Haslem, Quinn only have 13 years of NBA experience while Lebron, Williams, West, Varejao, Ilguaskas, Gibson have 30 years of combined experience. Taking away Wade and his leadership would not only drastically hurt the Heat, but leave the rookies and 2nd year players lost on the hardwood.

Now I'm not saying D-Wade should emphatically be named MVP, but there are a long list of legitimate reasons of why that the award should fall his way. Even Wade himself is being too modest by just being happy to be in the discussion. The truth is, even though it's all coming down to how the end of the season goes for all 3 players, if Wade continues the stellar play he has had after the all star break, this NBA season, and even during the Olympics, the award for MVP should rightfully be his.

Now I leave you with video documenting his top 10 plays of the year.

Double L



I'm leaving on a trip tomorrow. It is my spring break vacation, and so I won't be able to post until after March 15th. I will definitely get back into the grind of things when I get back. My trip will probably make me miss some of the ACC tournament, and about 10-14 games of the critical month of March in the race for the playoffs. I will try and keep up with most of the news that I can, but since I am going abroad, I won't have much chance for internet. That is the problem with international traveling, the thing I miss most is basketball. I may go through some withdrawals, but I somehow manage. Take care, and enjoy this exciting part of the NBA season. I guarantee that you all will watch more of these games than I will. Before I take my break, I leave you with the infamous Chuck Hays freethrow shooting video.