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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sixers, NBA Playoff Predictions

In case you missed it, the NBA season ended yesterday. If you didn’t notice, I have to assume David Stern will forgive you. After all, the Cleveland Cavaliers didn’t notice either, giving pretty much all of their best players the night off against the 76ers despite having a chance to tie the best single season home record in NBA history. Then again, the Cleveland scrubs took the Sixers to overtime, and only a slip to the floor by Daniel Gibson – who put up a career-high 28 points – allowed the Sixers to get a 111-110 win.

If that doesn’t paint a pathetic enough picture, consider that the Sixers had plenty to play for. Not only were they attempting to avoid entering the playoffs on a 7-game skid since clinching a playoff spot, they had the chance to move up a seed in the playoffs and face Orlando instead of Boston (which may not have been quite as bad as once thought). In fact, just 3 more wins in that stretch would have allowed them to move up to the fifth spot to face Atlanta.

I really don’t want to rip the Sixers. They used to be my favorite team by far, but this team is just terrible more times than not and it’s nearly impossible to get a read on which direction they’re headed. Somehow, Thaddeus Young, who missed the entire 7-game losing streak, has become the savior. Of course, the season became a waste of time after Elton Brand went down with a season-ending injury. The team still has no clue whether or not the prodding power forward can fit in to their running style, which I think has less chance of happening than any current head coach in Philadelphia having an interesting post-game news conference.

While Young’s emergence is obviously a positive, it leaves Andre Iguodala without a position. Despite a surprising 47% shooting percentage, Iguodala just doesn’t shoot anywhere near well enough to play shooting guard. That percentage is built on breakaways and slashes to the basket. He shoots 30% from 3-point range.

Playing both of them at forward doesn’t really work either. Brand will be fine to play next season, and he practically has to play power forward. That means Samuel Dalambert has to stay at center, with either Young or Iguodala at small forward. Trading Iguodala appears next to impossible with his bloated contract.

The shame of it is that Andre Miller is the quintessential point guard, and his time in Philadelphia looks like it will go to waste unless he re-signs this summer. He can run the offense very well, shoot when the opportunity presents itself but doesn’t seem to complain if he doesn’t gets shots, and he’s not going to get killed on defense.

But dealing with all of that, especially signing Miller, is for the off-season. The playoffs, which have been one of the most predictable parts of the sports calendar, are at hand. This year Garnett’s injury status certainly throws things into a bit of doubt, and the Western Conference is too tough to call many series a “lock.” Regardless, for the fun of it, here are my NBA playoff predictions:

• The Sixers actually did themselves a favor last night. Even with Garnett out, I’m not sure the Sixers win one game against Boston. They could steal a game or two against Orlando, and it’s not impossible for the Sixers to win the series, but I think the Magic win the series easily. I don’t like picking a specific number of games a series will go, but since it’s the Sixers I’ll predict it at 6.
• Normally, I think as many as 7-out-of-8 first round series are locks, but I’m not as confident this year. For me a lock means that, if you partake in such things, using a significant amount of whatever you have in the entertainment budget makes sense. Besides the obvious pick of the Cavs and Los Angeles Lakers, I only have Boston as a lock to win their opening round series.
• I’m tempted to put the Magic and San Antonio Spurs in the above category, but I just can’t pull the trigger. I am still extremely confident in these series picks, I’m just not sure I’d put them into any kind of parlay with the above.
• In the remaining series, I’ll take Miami because I think Dwayne Wade is possibly the best player in the league when healthy, Denver, and in the one series I really have no feel on I’ll take Houston. Ho-hum picks, I know.
• If Garnett is healthy by the Eastern Conference Finals, I think Boston will face the Lakers in the Finals and repeat as champions. But it doesn’t sound like that’s going to happen, so I’ll make my “official” pick . . . because I know how important that is . . . the Lakers over the Cavs in the NBA Finals.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

MDefl posting:

The Sixers will get swept. They are literally limping into the playoffs. Still, I think they have a very bright future. The team can be built around T. Young who should become a true star next year. They need a true big man to replace Sammy who is way too moody for the long run.

Now is the time for patience. Better days should be here soon.