Top Ten Themes for the 2012 NBA Playoffs
10. The battle for the final spots. With a shortened schedule there is a fatigue factor that is going to definitely make a difference this year. Older teams such as the Dallas Mavericks are having fatigue issues both on and off the court.
9. Veteran Leadership- This year it is especially important to have veterans on your roster that can help with the pressure of the playoffs. With the shortened season this year there are not as many opportunities to scout your opponents. Having a player like a Shane Battier, Derek Fisher, Tim Duncan will be essential. Teams like the Suns, Lakers, Heat, and Knicks, all have players with tremendous playoff experience.
8. Slow but steady wins the race- With the grind of seven game series in each round the importance of not over exerting yourself on the court becomes essential. With a team such as Chicago this year you have seen them go through and let players rest when they could feasibly come back for a game.
7. Keeping your composure- The teams that are able to succeed in the postseason have the ability to stay in the game and not become rattled. A great example of this is Tony Allen of the Memphis Grizzlies. He is known for being a pesky defender who can rattle superstars and get them out of their game. It is important for players like a Manu Ginobili, Kobe Bryant to not get frustrated and let their offense come to them.
6. Use the youth wisely on your team- This is simple in concept but hard to execute in principle. The Spurs are a great example of this concept. This year they have new rookies in Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard in the starting lineup. Gregg Poppovich has veteran leadership on the Spurs in Parker, Ginobili, Duncan, Jackson, but the real asset Poppovich has the ability to plug players in different roles.
5. Boris Diaw and George Hill- Now I know you are saying why they are a theme for the postseason. The answer is simple. The Spurs are deeper with him on the bench. The rip on the Spurs in the past is they never had a second unit big that could perform. Antonio McDyess can hit a fifteen foot jump shot but is not going to stretch the defense at all. On the flipside you are yet to see how well the Spurs play without George Hill. He was a game changer last year for the Spurs. He has the ability to split gaps and penetrate and kick to the outside shooters (Bonner, Splitter, Neal). Now, if you look at the numbers George Hill has put up in Indianapolis it is amazing. Can Patty Mills live up to that standard and give coach Poppovich 20 minutes a game. I am not sold on this one.
4. Orlando without Dwight Howard- the Magic is hands down a different type of team without Howard. They are forced to play big minutes out of Glen Davis and hope he doesn’t get into foul trouble. He brings a different element to the team though over Howard- the ability to hit a twenty foot jump shot. The key for Orlando is going to be the play of their slashers and their ability to get to the rim and either score, draw fouls, or kick to an open shooter. Orlando needs to have Jameer Nelson step up and be the captain for this team. The Magic as a franchise really need to think about the point guard of the future, because I am not convinced it is Jameer Nelson. I remember back to when the Magic picked up Rafer Alston as a last second replacement and he helped them win some tough games. Nelson came back from the playoffs and was struggling so bad Stan Van Gundy had to keep Alston in. X Factor for the Magic is Ryan Anderson. He not only needs to keep shooting threes, but he needs to pick up his rebounding total to make up for Dwight not being there.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder’s opening round performance- The Thunder need to start out these playoffs with a foot on each team’s throat. You have the veteran leadership of Derek Fisher which will hopefully calm the nerves of the young guys and allow them to set the pace. Fisher is an interesting theme by himself, due to all of the things that have happened to him this year. You have the whole issue of the players Union and the lockout. Then there is the issue of the Lakers trading him for a young guy to a non title contender, and now there are the calls for him to resign as the head of the players union. It will be interesting to see where Fisher’s level of effort will be in the playoffs, and if he is granted a playoff series vs. the Lakers. The Thunder also needs to have Kendrick Perkins be the dominant big in the middle, rebounding and fighting for every possession. Perkins will be needed for teams such as the Lakers, Spurs, and Clippers, who have the ability to attack the basket.
2. Sleepers- which team can pull off the upset this year and be a title contender. I really like the overall team that the Indiana Pacers have. They have a young center in Roy Hibbert, a star in Danny Granger, a good power forward in David West. Most of they are hungry in the East and no one is talking about them beating the Bulls or the Heat. I could personally see them beating the Heat. George Hill is good enough to clobber Mario Chalmers or Norris Cole.
1. Bulls vs. Heat in Eastern Conference finals rematch- can the Bulls beat the Heat this year? Can Derrick Rose have an MVP performance over a seven game series? Can Richard Hamilton play like he was on the Pistons with Larry Brown as his coach? Yes and no as the answers to these questions. There are no mysteries to what each team is going to try to do in this series. Miami is going to play big on Derrick Rose. They are going to put Lebron James defending him all series and move Chalmers to the two guard and etc. Miami is also going to play a lot of sets with Lebron or Wade in isolation situations. The Bulls are going to counter that by playing at Wade with a Ronnie Brewer defending him. They are probably going to keep Luol Deng on Lebron and try and stretch the floor with Carlos Boozer. Each time the Bulls have beaten the Heat this year it is because of their bench. Taj Gibson, Omer Asik, Kyle Korver, and C.J. Watson are the keys to this series. When you take Chicago’s second string lineup vs. Miami’s they win by a landslide. The key for Miami is to limit Rose from the paint. Make him shoot jumpers all day long, and preferably three pointers. He is just coming back into the starting lineup and is not going to be in game shape right away.