The What Could Have Beens:
A number of teams were derailed by injuries.
Golden State Warriors – Couldn’t help but think that with a healthy David Lee and Andris Biedrins they would have at least been within striking distance of the 8th seed. Lee wasn’t the same after Wilson Chandler went all True Blood on him.
Cleveland Cavaliers – We knew after LeBron left they would be bad. But this was still a team that won over 120 games the last 2 seasons. How did they fall so hard? Well at one point in the season Danial Gibson, Antawn Jamison, Anthony Parker, and Anderson Varejao, you know, pretty much their starting lineup were all injured at once. They were pretty much a D-league team 3/4 of the way through the season. And not a good D-league team.
Milwaukee Bucks – Delfino, Jennings, Redd and Bogut missed a ton of time. Salmons also got that virus a lot of people get right after they sign a big contract. It usually lasts until about a year before the contract is up.
The What the Hell Group:
The Boston Celtics – They were the best team in the league in the first half of the season. Perkins got traded and everything fell apart. Perkins played in about 7 games up to that point. Even when he’s healthy he plays 30 minutes and scores about 5 points. Rondo playing with one arm in the playoffs didn’t help, but they were done long before that. So Celtics, what the hell?
The Los Angeles Lakers – Had an up and down season, but everyone thought that was because they were so good they got bored. I guess it was a sign of things to come. Instead of making the finals like everyone assumed they would they got swept in the second round. And game 4 was an old school beat down. But hey, at least Bynum stayed healthy for a few games.
The That’s Pretty Much What I Thought Group
The New York Knicks – Completely gutted their team to get a second big player and a third that New Yorkers like to call part of a big three, but that ship sailed a few years ago. So they make the playoffs for the first time in 7 years and get swept in the first round. Yup, sounds about right. Welcome to the next 5 years Knicks fans! Hey, at least James Dolan raised ticket prices 49% next year as a thank you for putting up with a decade of misery and having one mediocre season.
Denver Nuggets – AKA the West Coast Knicks or the Knuggicks. Gave OKC a good fight in the 2nd round despite Wilson Chandler delivering a stink bomb of epic proportions. A lot of good young talent and cap space as well. The Knicks need a PG and Center and this team just traded for pretty much the entire Knicks roster while keeping their PG and C. Should be an interesting experiment. They even drafted Faried whom I was hoping the Knicks would draft.
Philadelphia 76′ers – A young team with a few nice pieces and a lot of holes to fill. They lost in the 1st round of they playoffs but most of the games were competitive. That’s what you’d expect from a young team.
Phoenix Suns – Poor Steve Nash. The Suns made some terrible decisions, starting with deciding they didn’t want to pay Stoudemire but then paying Childress and Frye what Amar’e would have made. Now they are pretty much in rebuilding mode yet they are still holding on to Nash. I understand he is their most popular player, maybe ever, but have some mercy and trade him to a contender!
Los Angeles Clippers – We knew any team let by Baron Davis wasn’t going to do much. They had a few injury problems as well. Blake Griffin is going to be a monster in this league this clip is just what he did the first two months of the season. They got rid of Baron and things are looking up for the Clips.
Indiana Pacers – A young team that just made it into the playoffs. They lost in 5 but it was a competitive series. Hansbrough looked really good and they have some other nice pieces in Collison, George and Hibbert. Unfortunately I see them as a 1st round out for the foreseeable future.
New Orleans Hornets – They are good as long as Chris Paul is healthy…and in New Orleans. If we lose the 2011-12 season and Paul bolts to a different team (and David West too) this will be a lottery team real fast. This season however they were a playoff team and gave the Lakers a bit of a scare in the first round.
Atlanta Hawks – Since they lost by an average of 20+ points against the Magic last year in the playoffs I thought this would be a quick series when the two teams played again this year. It was quick, but the Hawks won. They still don’t make the overachiever list because they never had a chance in the 2nd round, which is the way it has been for a while now. I don’t see this team making the conference finals in the future either.
Orlando Magic – Another team that is going to be good as long as their best player Howard sticks around. Key word good. They are not and will not be great. They traded Lewis away which was great but took on Arenas which was terrible. Nelson is a good PG but injury prone and inconsistent. Pretty much everyone played terrible in the playoffs this year. I’m tempted to move them to the underachiever category…..
Oklahoma City Thunder – They went from a 1st round out to the conference finals this season. They have one of the youngest rosters in the league and also one of the most talented. They upgraded in their center position which was their only weak spot. Westbrook needs to improve their decision making, but if that’s their biggest problem they are in good shape. This team took it’s time rebuilding and are not reaping the benefits. They are set to be contenders for 5+ years.
Portland Trailblazers – Aldridge had his coming out party this season. Oden didn’t play most of the season again. They also just picked up is 8.8M option which I think is a huge mistake. Ups and downs are par for the course for this team. I like the theft of Gerald Wallace from the Bobcats. Not too sure how I feel about this team, especially with Brandon Roy’s knees seeming to be on the fritz.
Chicago Bulls – Who thought they would have the NBA MVP and make the conference finals before the season started? I sure didn’t. They have some problems, like scoring. And Boozers playoff performance worries me, but they are going to be a contender for a while in the weak eastern conference.
Miami Heat - Say what you want about how annoying they are, how conceited, obnoxious, full of themselves, whiny, crybabies, floppers, front runners, self absorbed….where were we? Oh yeah, they came to within two huge blown leads of winning the finals. I thought you couldn’t have a team with three great players and a bunch of loose change, but apparently you can. And that was without Haslem and Miller for most of the season. Despite what Miami fans say, they can’t significantly upgrade their bench in the offseason and Wade is turning 30 with an injury history. In other words I wouldn’t bank on 6, 7, 8 championships.
San Antonio Spurs - 60+ wins for one of the oldest teams in the league? Yup. Most people figured them to be a 4-8 seed, not finish with the best record in the league. I don’t knock them for losing in the first round. They had a really bad matchup and they played way over their heads for 5 1/2 months and came back down to earth for the final 2 weeks.
Memphis Grizzlies - Every season there is a Cinderella team and this year it was the Grizzlies. Left for dead after Gay went down for the season they rallied and shocked the entire league by stomping on the Spurs in round 1. They gave the Thunder all they could handle as well. They are really young and have Gay back next season. If they resign Gasol this will be a team to recon with next year.
Dallas Mavericks – One of the oldest teams in the league and a team that a lot of people didn’t even pick to get out of the first round. People forget, but if Dirk didn’t get injured they would have been in the running for best record in the league. Brilliant performances from pretty much everyone at some point in the season. Oh and they won the championship. With Butler coming back (I’m not sure Beaubois will be healthy enough) they have a good chance at being in it at the end next year too.