Friday, April 17, 2015

Domino and Theoharides 2014-2015 NBA Season Recap and Playoff Predictions, Part Two

Matt Domino and Alex Theoharides hand out awards and make NBA Playoff predictions.

OK, now let’s do some rapid fire awards predictions followed by Playoff predictions. Just give me your winner and a quick two or three sentences why. Those two or three sentences can also be substituted with jokes where applicable.

So...MVP. Who you got?

THEO: I’m going with an unpopular choice: LeBron James is the MVP. Why? Last year, the Cavs won 33 games. This year, they’re second in the East and the favorite to make the Finals. No other player did more to influence the success of his team.

DOMINO: I’ve gone back and forth on this a million times. Just last week I was convinced it was Harden. But then, while I was making my argument for why it was Harden, I realized that if you were looking back on the 2014-2015 season, you’d remember Steph Curry the most. The best player on the best (read: an historically dominant) team—and capable of changing the complexion of a game with just a few flicks of his wrist.

OK, we both know Rookie of the Year is Wiggins right?

THEO: Yep.

DOMINO:  How about Defensive Player of the Year? Are you all on board the Draymond Green bandwagon?

THEO: My only problem with Green is that he’s not even the best defensive player on the Warriors. That honor goes to Andrew Bogut. I almost wish they would just make it a team award. But I guess I’d have to say Green because Bogut’s minutes have been limited? He’s also the best example of a modern, small ball, post defender. 

Really, I wish I could give the award to the Most Interesting Very Very Tall Man Since Yao Ming: The Stifle Tower himself, Mr. Rudy Gobert. But he’s only been a factor since the Jazz traded Enes Canter. You agree?

DOMINO: It’s going to be Draymond. He won the media over and that counts for a ton. Imean, look at this.

THEO: I think we can skip the tedium of the two NBA Awards no one wants to win: 6th Man and Most Improved Player and jump into the playoffs. Give me some bold predictions.

DOMINO: What? Why not? For Sixth Man I’m going Isaiah Thomas. The Celtics are a feel good story and are peaking at the right time. His toughest competition would probably be Lou Williams in Toronto and the Raptors are falling apart.

For Rookie of the Year...OK, fine, we know its Wiggins.

Now for Playoff Predictions! Let’s get the East out of the way first since that’ll be easy.


#1 Atlanta Hawks vs. #8 Brooklyn Nets

The Nets are an absolute abomination. They picked up steam over the past month or so behind Brook Lopez coming alive in March (20.9 ppg, 9.1 rpg) and April (20.2 ppg and 9.2 rpg), but basically fell ass backwards into the Playoffs. Does anyone on this team excite you? Jarrett Jack? Deron Williams? Joe Johnson? Seriously, I live down the block and wanted the best for this team, but I’d rather see them go the route of the Sixers than continue on this way:  Watching the Twitter peanut gallery tear apart Lionel Hollins’ baffling coaching decisions over the past week.

Even with all of the Thabo Sefolosha/Pero Antic/NYPD turmoil going on, the Hawks should sweep this series based on their system, Horford & Millsap, and Budenholzer’s superior coaching. Hawks win 4-0.

THEO: Agreed. But here’s a few thoughts. 1) Does Thabo go ahead and sue the NYPD? Or does the NBA persuade him to drop any potential lawsuits? 2) Can you explain the malaise that is the Nets to me? It seemed like such a perfect move when they left Jersey for Brooklyn. Yet, somehow, I’m even more bored by the Nets now than I was when they were finals fodder for the Lakers and Spurs.

DOMINO: I’m not sure what the best play is for Thabo/the NBA when dealing with the NYPD. The video evidence is pretty damningagainst the NYPD, but we still haven’t found out what exactly happened in that club. Chris Copeland was stabbed, but Pero Antic was adamant that he and Thabo didn’t even know he was there. I believe them about that, but if there was something going on that club that led to a stabbing, I mean, who knows what else is going on. Silver (like Stern) is a former attorney and the NBA offices are in New York. I imagine he’s going to exercise patience on this matter.

As for the Nets, there’s not much to explain other than bad personnel moves. They took a risk on Deron Williams and he turned out to be, if not a complete stiff, then fairly close. Joe Johnson seems like a nice guy, but he may be one of the least charismatic or interesting players ever. And he’s not THAT talented to make up for it. Lopez is nice, but oft-injured. And guys like Jarrett Jack just aren’t doing it for anyone. I mean, you could argue that their most exciting player was Mirza Teletovic before he was sidelined with those terrifying blood clots in his lungs. When Mirza Teletovic is in play for your most interesting player, your franchise is in trouble.

#2 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. #7 Boston Celtics

This is actually in the running for my favorite first round series. The Celtics have sneakily put together the second best record since the All-Star Break and Brad Stevens is one of the five or six best head coaches in the entire league. They have terriers like Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley to sic on Kyrie Irving. Hell, Smart will probably even be chomping at the bit to take a swipe at LeBron when Jae Crowder’s not trying to slow the King down. Tyler Zeller’s undderrated post moves and Olynk’s outside shooting could cause some problems for Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov. Kevin Love has never played in the postseason. Shumpert’s overrated and despite J.R. Smith’s recent turn as a veteran NBA sage, I still don’t trust them.

Look, I’m not drinking the Simmons Kool-Aid, but I really like this Celtics team. It will be 1-1 going back to Boston and the media’s questioning of the Cavs’ playoff resolve in the leadup to Game 3 will be unbearable. I’m going to say this series goes to SIX GAMES! Cavs win 4-2.

THEO: I’d feel better about the Celtics’ chances if they had a reasonable rim protector. I think the Celts steal one game at home but lose 4-1. LeBron and Kyrie are too good at getting to the rim and there is going to be at least one stretch each game when the Cavs go on a ridiculous scoring run. As much as I’d like this to be a series, I’d expect a ton of blowouts.

Speaking of Stevens, I love how much Simmons promotes him. At his best, Simmons writes and speaks (podcasts?) from the perspective of a fan. I understand the appeal of Stevens in the context of the modern NBA game and there is a very good chance he becomes one of the top coaches in the league. However, I’m not ready to christen Stevens a top 10 coach until we see what he does in the postseason. I mean, we have to take everything he’s done with grain of salt that the Celtics play in the East and didn’t even have a winning record, right?

Here are my top 10 current coaches: Pop, Carlisle, Erik Spoelstra, Doc Rivers (although he’s an atrocious GM), Thibs, Stan Van Gundy, Terry Stotts, Kevin McHale (doesn’t get enough credit for Houston’s success), Dave Joerger, and George Karl (if only for his Seattle days). Stevens could join the list but right now I’m keeping him in the wait & see group with Kerr, Budenholzer, Quin Snyder, Dwane Casey, and Brett Brown. One of these guys will become the next generation’s Phil Jackson or Pop. My money is on Kerr.

#3 Chicago Bulls vs. #6 Milwaukee Bucks

DOMINO: Clearly, Part One of this conversation exhibited the fact that I love the Bucks.

As for the Bulls, Pau Gasol has been a revelation for Chicago this year, maintaining a steady presence down low while Rose, Noah, Butler and Dunleavy have been in and out of the lineup with a variety of injuries. Meanwhile, Thibodeau managed to drag the team to 50 wins...and yet there are rumors of him getting fired after this season.

But back to the Bucks. Look, I want to believe they can beat the Bulls the same way the Wizards did last year. However, this year’s Bulls team is better. The Bucks’ length will give the Bulls (who already have trouble scoring) some problems. I do think the absence of Brandon Knight will actually be a huge factor in this series. Michael Carter Williams is going to be a huge liability on offense and defense. Butler, Pau, Mirotic and even a depleted Rose are going to be too much for Milwaukee.

Since I like this Bucks team so much (as well as their amazing new logo designs!) and I want to see the Greek Freak as much as possible, I’m saying Bulls in SEVEN! Bulls win 4-3.

THEO: Can we just talk about the Bucks redesign for a second? Young, athletic, and they have an awesome new logo? I’m rooting for them but I’d be surprised if they take more than 1 game from the Bulls.

#4 Toronto Raptors vs. #5 Washington Wizards

DOMINO: This is the honorary NBA TV ROUND 1 MATCHUP!! These two teams deserve to face each other in the first round. Regular fans and NBA insiders had much higher expectations for both the Wizards and the Raptors. Each team came out of the gate strong, but seriously faded down the stretch.

There are a lot of pieces to like on each team, but in each case something is just not gelling. It also doesn’t help that both teams used last year’s Playoff breakthroughs to extend the contracts on a head coaches (Dwayne Casey and Randy Wittman) who aren’t really that good. In Washington’s case, they extended a coach who is actually terrible.

BUT...I like Paul Pierce’s strategy of trying to motivate John Wall and Bradley Beal during his no holds barred interview on He’s the Truth for a reason. I think Wall (one of my current favorite players) is going to step up to the challenge. I say Wizards in SEVEN even though they lost the season series 0-3.

Wizards win 4-3.

THEO: These teams are so frustrating. They both started the season well and then stumbled into the playoffs. Just to be a contrarian, I’ll say Toronto wins in 7 because the Wizards are saddled with possible the worst coach in the NBA. But I doubt I’ll watch much of this series.

DOMINO: OK, moving on to the Semifinals.


#1 Atlanta vs. #5 Washington

Atlanta absolutely smoked Washington in the regular season, but, again, I believe that Paul Pierce’s recent interview will motivate John Wall and Bradley Beal; even though I have no evidence to show that the Wizards are even capable of putting together even one series of competent basketball. I’m going to say that the Wiz steal Game 1 in Atlanta; barely lose Game 2; get blown out in Game 3 at home; win Game 4 and then lose the next two. Atlanta wins 4-2.

#2 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. #3 Chicago Bulls

If Chicago really shows up in Round 1 and puts a beating on the Bucks, then I could see them digging in and possibly upsetting the Cavs. Butler plays LeBron tough; Rose can put pressure on Kyrie on the defensive end even if he isn’t the force he once was; Pau and Love basically negate each other and Noah and Gibson have an edge over Mozgov and Tristan Thompson. It comes down the additional weapons and Cleveland just has more. I do think its going to be a tougher battle than many think. I’m going to say Cleveland in seven! Cleveland wins 4-3.


#1 Atlanta Hawks vs. #2 Cleveland Cavaliers

Everyone knows that the Cavaliers are defensively challenged, so the Hawks may just be able to space them out and pick them apart. But the Cavaliers have been one of the best offensive teams in the last half of the season. Atlanta plays a sound, switching defensive scheme, but when you have LeBron and Kyrie taking turns driving right at you, it’s going to be hard to withstand that attack over a seven game series.

In the end, the Cavaliers have three of the best five players in the series and that kind of math usually seems to work out in the Playoffs. As much as it pains me to say, the Cavaliers are going to win this one in six. Cleveland wins 4-2.

THEO: What can I say. I agree with all of it. The only must watch series will be Chicago - Cleveland. It will be interesting to see how Love, Irving, and Mozgov respond to the physicality Chicago brings. Chicago best hope is that they get into LeBron’s head by sending multiple defenders at him and none of the other Cavs step up. I wouldn’t bet on it, but there’s a small chance Chicago squeaks out a series win--especially, if Pau has a dominant series.

Before you lay out the West, lets run through who has the most at stake in the playoffs this year.

5. Pop, Duncan, Manu, and Parker have a real chance to win another championship this season. In doing so, they would make a strong case for supplanting either Jordan, Pippen, and the Zen Masters’ Bulls; Bird, McHale, and Parish’s Celtics; or Magic and Kareem’s Lakers on the list of dominant modern NBA teams.

4. Steph Curry is almost certainly going to win the MVP this season. Most of his career has been spent as a media darling, but if the Warriors fail to make the NBA Finals, he’ll face an off-season of talking heads saying Steph is the “best regular season player,” “that kind of basketball doesn’t work in the playoffs,” and “he’s overrated.”

3. Doc Rivers has been widely criticized for his work as GM of the Clippers, which has included getting rid of Jared Dudley and signing his son. His most notable work this season has been calling out NBA writers without reading their articles, getting in a war of words with the Warriors Draymond Green, and his non-stop promotion of DeAndre Jordan for Defensive Player of the year. By this point, his charm is beginning to wear a little thin. When Doc came to the Clippers, he made overtures about bringing his “championship culture” with him. So far, it seems like mostly just talk.

2.  Chris Paul is, perhaps justifiably, considered by many to be the best “pure” point guard in the league. That metaphysical title doesn’t matter much if he can’t drag the Clippers to the Western Conference finals. Especially, after the mistakes he made last year against OKC.

1. Kevin Love and Rajon Rondo are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Love has had a trying season. Even though LeBron will get much of the blame if the Cavs don’t make it to the NBA Finals, he’s heard it all before and has two rings to shove in any critics faces. Plus, he’s still, quite clearly, the most dominant player in the game. I have been pretty hard on Love in this space, largely because of the plethora of off the court stories swirling around his time in Minneapolis. However, at his best, he is a force of nature on the court, who can overwhelm weaker players on the post and shoot the lights out from deep. If the Cavs don’t make or win the NBA finals, most of the focus will be on how he is being used, how he “fits” (in or out) with LeBron and Kyrie, and on where he’ll go in the off-season.

Meanwhile, Rajon Rondo has gone from leading the Celtics, with one working arm, on miraculous charges through the Eastern Conference playoffs to stinking up the court for the Mavericks. By this point, everyone is sick of hearing how smart he is supposed to be. If the Mavs lose in the first round, he’ll carry most of the blame. Let’s just put it this way: next year, both of them will most likely be wearing purple and gold.

DOMINO: I like how you steered the ship there. It’s not the Playoffs unless we’re talking about legacies! Though, I’d have to say that I would slot Chris Paul at #1. This is perhaps one of the Top Five Point Guards of all-time; an, at times, transcendent player and he hasn’t even come close to sniffing the Finals. Look at this list: every one of those players has reached the NBA Finals besides Chris Paul.

OK, let’s bring it out West. This should be easy!

Oh, wait...its going to be nearly impossible to dissect all of these series. I’m going to go rapid fire through this and do my best at making “predictions.”

#1 Golden State vs. #8 New Orleans Pelicans

The juggernaut Warriors meet the sneakily dangerous Pelicans. New Orleans stole one from the Dubs the other week when Golden State was trying to win. We’ve covered Davis’ brilliance, but Jrue Holiday’s return, Eric Gordon starting to look frisky and an always dangerous Ryan Anderson could make this series tricky. The Pelicans will, of course, be operating from a deficit due to their head coach, Monty Williams, but they are not going to roll over. I anticipate Golden State Going up 2-0; New Orleans stealing Game 3; barely losing Game 4 and then Golden State Pulling away in Game 5. Golden State wins 4-1.

#2 Houston Rockets vs. #7 Dallas Mavericks

The Texas War of Attrition. These teams have plenty of bad blood: whether it’s between Mark Cuban and Daryl Morey, Parsons and his ex-teammates, and Rondo and everybody. Carlisle is a MUCH better coach than McHale and always brings out his bag of tricks for the Playoffs. Dirk is on his last legs and the Mavs’ defense leaves a lot to be desired, but Houston is operating shorthanded without Beverley, Motiejunas, and a still-injured Dwight Howard. I’m saying MAVERICKS in seven! Dallas wins 4-3.

#3 Los Angeles Clippers vs. #6 San Antonio Spurs

As you pointed out above, there are so many legacies on the line here. God, this is going to be an absolutely insane series. So many personalities--from the star players to the head coaches. The Clippers have nothing to offer after their starting lineup (plus sixth man Jamal Crawford), though. The Spurs’ depth is going to help them win out. San Antonio wins 4-2.

#4 Portland Trailblazers vs. #5. Memphis Grizzlies

Thanks to the NBA’s whacky Playoff system, Portland is actually the underdog in this series, despite the seeding. Memphis has been struggling, but they play perfect basketball for the postseason. They will wear down a shorthanded Portland team that has LaMarcus Aldridge playing through injury (which he has been for the second half of the season.) Memphis wins 4-1.


#1 Golden State Warriors vs. #6. San Antonio Spurs

Holy shit! Worlds are going to burn in this one. These games are going to feature absolutely beautiful basketball. Kerr is going to go up against one of his mentors in Pop. Kawhi is going to embarrass Curry at least once. Curry is going to catch fire at least once. Bogut is going to piss of Tim Duncan multiple times. And I think the Warriors are going to win in an epic. Golden State wins 4-3.

#5 Memphis Grizzlies vs. #7 Dallas Mavericks

After a long series with Houston, its going to be tough for Dallas to withstand the hard-nosed Grizzlies basketball. While Memphis can’t match Dallas’ offense, they should be able to slow Dallas down just enough to win a close series. I don’t feel comfortable about this at all because Dallas has Carlisle—the ultimate secret weapon. Memphis wins 4-2.


#1 Golden State Warriors vs. #5 Memphis Grizzlies

Unfortunately, our real Western Conference Finals will have occurred during the Warriors/Spurs series. Memphis will put up a solid fight against Golden State, but I think the Grizzlies’ lack of offense will really be on display when they have to contend with the Dubs’ and their top-ranked (in efficiency) defense. I see Golden State winning this series fairly easily. Golden State wins 4-1.


#1 Golden State Warriors vs. #2 Cleveland Cavaliers

This is the matchup the NBA wants: The presumptive MVP, Steph Curry, and the 67-win Golden State Warriors going up against The King. What’s on the line? The NBA Title as well as LeBron’s promise to deliver the first championship to the city of Cleveland since 1964. The Cavaliers may have the best player in LeBron James, but they definitely do not have the best team. Golden State wins this one in six games and they deliver the first NBA Title to the Bay Area since 1975. Warriors win 4-2.

THEO: Man, the West is going to be rough. I’d like to say I see Memphis or San Antonio sneak past Golden State (I have an irrational dislike for Golden State based solely on the fact that the Wolves DEFINITELY should have picked Curry over Rubio and Flynn). But I don’t see it happening. Golden State has just been too good this year.

A couple last thoughts. In many ways, this years playoffs could mark the changing of the guard in the NBA. The seemingly endless era of Duncan and Dirk might soon be over. Lebron might be soon supplemented by the Brow in the category of best all around player in the NBA (even though I, for one, think the Brow still has a long way to go to catch Lebron). The Bulls and Thibs looks like they’re going to part ways after this season. And who knows what will happen this offseason to throw everything out of whack. All I know is I’m excited for the first four games to start tomorrow night!

DOMINO: It's insomnia season! The Playoffs!

No comments:

Post a Comment