April 15, 2012; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose (1) drives to the basket against the Detroit Pistons during the second quarter at The Palace. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-US PRESSWIRE

Final Pre-Playoff Thoughts

So this will be my final thoughts on the NBA playoffs…well…at least my final thoughts on them before they start. I’ll have a whole lot more to say when they start, as I’ll be covering the Chicago Bulls vs. Philadelphia 76ers series specifically, and I’m sure I’ll have opinions to spout off about the other series. I’m sure you’re all excited about that.

So I looked at the Bulls and Lakers earlier this week here, and I covered the Heat and Thunder over at my blog previously. I’ve examined what I’ve felt as each team weaknesses, and I’ve even revealed who I thought was the top contender out of all of them – the Chicago Bulls.

All that being said, I’ve still got a couple of other teams to look at before I’m done with this series – the Spurs and the Clippers. I know back a couple weeks ago when I started this whole series I mentioned the Mavs as a contender and the Grizzlies as a darkhorse. Well, that’s somewhat changed. I still think the Grizzlies are a dark horse to make some noise out West, but I don’t think the Mavs have a real shot at winning it all. Especially not having landed a first round date with the second seeded Thunder. However, I do still think both teams are plenty capable of advancing past the first round, and I wouldn’t be shocked at all if the Mavs manage a colossal upset of the Thunder.

Looking at the Spurs first, it’s actually pretty hard to find a real weakness on this team. They’re ridiculously well coached, they’re deep, and they’re actually healthy. What’s not to like about this team?

And honestly, I don’t know if I have an answer to that question. And it’s for all the reasons I just said. This team is deep. Ridiculously deep. They have the ability to go 10 or 11 deep on any given night, and they’re really the only team that can rival Chicago in that aspect. And it’s not just that they have the ability to do this, but Pops takes advantage of this. He only had one player on his entire team playing 30 minutes per night, and that was Tony Parker – clocking in at a whopping 32 minute and six seconds. The man masterfully used every asset he had, and his team is going to be better off in the long run because of it. He’s going to have a healthy and rested Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli for this playoff run, and that’s going to be huge. On top of that, the fact that he’s got confidence in his bench will certainly pay dividends for him in the playoffs  when he has to go to it.

They also happen to be the second highest scoring team in the NBA, averaging 103.7 points per game, while only giving 96.5 points a night. That’s damn good. On top of that, they led the NBA in field goal percentage, three point percentage, were fourth in assists per game, and only turned it over 13.2 times per game, which was tied for third best in the NBA. This offense was a well oiled machine all year, and there’s no reason to think they won’t be in the postseason either.

Honestly, the only gripe you can really have about them is their age. But is it really even a gripe anymore? Popovich managed minutes like crazy this year. Duncan was at a career low, Ginobli had his lowest per game average since his rookie year, Parker played the third fewest minutes per game in his career, Blair only got 21 minutes and some change this year…it just keeps going. Popovich managed to keep all his big time guys at low minute totals, and that’s going to be huge come playoff time, especially for his older guys that already have a ton of miles on their legs (I’m looking at you, Mr. Duncan and Mr. Parker).

On the flip side of all this, we have the Clippers, arguably the most flawed team out of any of the teams on this contender list. But before I hit their flaws up, I’ll go in to their list of advantages…because it’s pretty short.

Chris Paul.

Blake Griffin.

Yea, that’s about it. Those two guys are game changers, especially on the offensive end. If both of them get going, it can be a long night for any team in the NBA. They’re also a terror to deal with on the break.

But like I said, that’s where their list of advantages end, and in a way, their list of flaws begins here too. Because this team is not deep. They’re basically a two man team on offense, with Mo Williams chipping in on occasion, as well as Nick Young bringing his no-defense, ball stopping style to the plate on occasion too. Don’t get me wrong, those two have talent, but you can’t really rely on them. You can’t really rely on anyone consistently outside of Griffin and Paul, and that kills the Clippers.

Beyond their offensive flaws, this team also has a huge defensive flaw…in that they don’t play it well at all. Don’t let the fact that they only gave up 95 points per game fool you, because they weren’t that good. They were only 18th in the NBA in defensive efficiency this year per Hollinger, giving up 102.9 points per 100 possessions. That’s not good.

They’re also pretty terrible on the boards, only snagging 41.6 per game. Though to their credit, they also gave up the fewest in the NBA at 39.8 per game. But still, if they play a team like the Lakers, Spurs, Nuggets, Thunder, etc. that can clean the boards, they could be in trouble.

Also, going back to their offense real quick, they don’t really run anything close to a real NBA offense. They rely far too heavily on the pick and roll and they rely even moreso on Paul’s brilliance with the ball, especially late. And that’s going to something that’s tough to get away with come the end of the game, especially in the postseason. And especially against their first round match up in the Grizzlies, who happen to give up the fifth fewest points per game this year. They also have a guy in Tony Allen (who you can make a legitimate argument for DPOY for) that they’re likely to throw on him to hound him all game. And that’s going to make life a living hell for Mr. Paul. I’m sure he’ll still be able to get his, but it won’t be easy. And the fact that it won’t be easy for him means that an already anemic offense is going to have even more issues creating scoring opportunities in the half court.

Despite all this though, they’re still a contender, granted a very flawed one at that. Why, you ask? Because of Chris Paul. His brilliance has turned this team around and will get him his fair share of MVP votes, too (though that’s LeBron’s to lose). Too bad I can’t see them making it past the second round (and I still would think a first round knockout care of the Grizzlies is highly likely).

As we wrap this up, I’m sure you’re all wondering: “What do you have the Finals looking like?” Well, I’ll tell you. I think it’s going to be the Los Angeles Lakers against the Chicago Bulls, with the Bulls taking it in 6.

I know I raved about how much I loved the Thunder, and I know they’ve thumped the Lakers a couple times this season, but something about me really like this Laker team right now. They’ve played really well since they acquired Sessions, and I think their length is going to be too much for any team out West to handle. They also have Kobe Bean Bryant, who is as hungry as ever for that sixth ring. They just need to weather the storm while waiting for World Peace to get back. As up and down as he’s been this year, he’s still their best perimeter defender and he’d really found his groove in the offense for April. The fact that the Lakers basically need that first round series with Denver to last six games is crazy, but they do. They need World Peace for the entirety of a potential second round matchup against the Thunder. As good as Ebanks is on defense, I’d much rather have Metta out there checking Durant each time down the court.

And I already went over my thoughts on why I’m picking the Bulls to win it all. Depth. Talent. Coaching. They have it all. The team really has no flaw shy of the ability to stay healthy. If Derrick Rose can be 100 percent by the time they square off against the Heat (c’mon, no one honestly thinks we’ll see any other series for the Eastern Conference Finals, do we?), I don’t think the Heat can beat them. Their lack of depth and over-reliance two, ableit very good, players will come back to kill them.

So there you have it. Lakers vs. Bulls for the Finals, with the Bulls winning in six.

Onto the Playoffs!

Tags: Chicago Bulls Derrick Rose Los Angeles Clippers NBA NBA Playoffs 2012 San Antonio Spurs

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