1. Chris Paul* is the best player in the NBA right now.
* when healthy
There are sooooo many ways to classify this distinction, but here's mine: Who do you want on your team with 5 minutes left in a tie game situation? My answer is Chris Paul. Over LeBron (who, obviously, I'd much rather have for an 82 game season), Kobe, Dirk, or Durant. He is simply magnificent with the ball in his hands. Smarter than any other star in the league, every move he makes on the court feels calculated. A complaint here, a dish there, it's all done with reason. The problem is that Paul struggles to remain healthy. He ripped through the Grizzlies up until he pulled a nut. He looked better in Game 7, but clearly still not 100%.
2. The Clippers will beat the Spurs in 6 games.*
* if Chris Paul is healthy
Yes, I hate the Spurs and am openly biased with my opinions of them. However, I also correctly picked them to lose to the Grizzlies last year. I honestly can't even watch the Spurs, so I don't really understand how they're so good this year, but apparently Tony Parker is dominant now. Eric Bledsoe (the unsung hero of yesterday's Game 7) might play a pivotal role in shutting down Mr. Longoria-Parker. Just remember, lockout seasons get crazy in the NBA (the Knicks made the Finals as an 8 seed in 1999). The first round was rather tame (aside from an 8 seed beating a 1 seed, although it hardly classified as an upset after D-Rose's injury). This second round could, might get crazy...
3. The Lakers will beat the Thunder in 7 games.
Lets acknowledge some facts. I'm still bitter about Kevin Durant's lucky game winning shot in the opener against the Mavs. I might cheer for the Lakers with the excuse that I want to see an all L.A. Western Conference Finals. The Thunder are extremely young (staggering that their best four players are all 23 or younger). The Lakers have been here before. End facts, cue opinions. I don't think the Thunder are ready. They're too jumpshotty. They're still wet behind the ears (whatever the fuck that means?). I expect Gasol and Bynum to beat them up inside. I think Shitface Artest will break the record for number of times bringing the opposing crowd to such a hostile level that people wonder aloud how good the security in Oklahoma City actually is (currently held by Ron Mudbutt).
4. Kobe Bryant was the 6th best player on the court in Saturday night's Game 7 victory.
Gasol, Bynum, Steve Blake (that game shall be known as "The Steve Blake Game"), Ty Lawson, and Al Harrington make up 1-5. And this is a compliment. Seriously. Old Kobe wouldn't have been able to accept the fact that the Lakers won or lost without him playing a significant role in the game (however, his insecure side still had to let the world know that he was double teamed the entire game. Oh, Kobe). But the Lakers are at their best when he is facilitating. Their strength is their size and their size is their strength. If Kobe figures this out, then the Lakers will the West.
5. Inside The NBA reached best show on TV status this week.
I've heard lots of disses on Shaq, but I don't get it. Sure, his opinions aren't as strong as Barkley's (or even Ernie's), but he brings some comedy to the table. His opinion on Kobe and the Lakers is always interesting. But the show is so open-ended that you never know what debates will spark up (and they're almost always interesting). It's must see TV from now until the Finals.
6. My favorite player to watch in Round 1 was Javale McGee.
This dude. Every play he makes is an adventure. He's like a Saturday morning cartoon on a basketball court. He plays hard, doesn't fully understand goaltending, shoots sky hooks, puts up 21 and 14 one night and 2 and 5 the next, and is watched real closely by his former WNBA playing mom who sits courtside.
7. My favorite player moving forward is Reggie Evans.
Yes, he of the Sea-dragon Hall of Fame. Evans is the thickest dude in the NBA. Maybe not physically, but anatomically. I watched Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol bounce off him without Evans even grabbing a ball. In that series, he eventually became more valuable to the Clippers than Blake Griffin because of Blake's injury and because of the size of Memphis. He shut down Z-Bo. Next up, Timmay.
8. My favorite moment of Round 1 was Kenyon Martin's stalker stumbling on to the court in Denver.
However, the best part was the continued coverage from the television team. Contrary to the NFL ignoring streakers and such, they showed multiple replays and even came out of halftime with the back story on the crazy bitch. She's well known in Denver, isn't allowed in the arena, and used to stalk Kenyon Martin, who no longer even plays for the Nuggets.
9. Blake Griffin may have figured his shit out in Game 7.
It was one of the best games I've watched him play, a game that he finished with 8 points and 4 rebounds. But he battled all game long. Those easy baskets that the Grizz were scoring on him weren't there in Game 7. On the offensive end, he kept his theatrics to a minimum. I believe he creates a frenzy around his team because he overreacts every time he gets touched, both in body flailing and in staring down the refs. Too often, the entire Clippers team comes away thinking they're being officiated unjustly. Somebody had to have said something to him before Game 7, and I'd put 100 bucks on it being Chris Paul. Jeff Van Gundy chronicled the whole situation beautifully throughout the game yesterday.
10. Jeff Van Gundy should become the next Commissioner of the NBA.
He is leading a one-man charge against the flopping pandemic (PANDEMIC!) in the NBA, even getting it brought up to Commissioner Stern in an interview during yesterday's Heat/Pacers game. Until the NBA responds to flopping with fines or suspensions, then it'll continue to remain a problem with the game (especially if the Clippers and Heat continue to advance).
11. Tie game with 24 seconds left, I'm not going to Kobe, Lebron, Wade, Carmelo, Durant, or even Dirk.
I'm putting the ball in Paul Pierce's hands, the most underrated player in all of sports. Pierce never gets his due. Never, ever, ever has he been mentioned among the game's elite, and yet there he is carrying his team to a playoff victory on the road sans Rondo and Ray Allen. There he is guarding the other team's best player. There he is waddling his fat ass to the elbow, stepping back, and hitting big shot after big shot, game after game.
12. The Celtics will beat the 76ers in 6 games.
And I probably won't watch more than one.
13. The Pacers will be lucky to win a game against the Heat.
They're already freaking out about the foul discrepancy in Game 1 (not even bad). They play no-star basketball (not an insult, watching the Pacers play is rather refreshing when compared to Lebron and Wade's dueling banjos routine). Their best player, Danny Granger, has been afraid of every big moment I've seen him in. They had a chance to steal Game 1 and couldn't get it done. They got owned in crunch time. Heat in 5.
14. The impending Heat/Celtics Eastern Conference Finals will be the best series of the Playoffs.
I give the Celtics the best chance of taking out the Heat this year. It takes a certain mental make up to beat the Heat, one that everybody was surprised the 2011 Mavs had. But they had it. And the Celtics have it. They (irrationally) believe that they would've taken the Heat down last year had Rajon Rondo not gotten hurt. That's both incorrect and admirable. They're rolling this year though. They beat the Heat up last two times they played. I think they fully realize that if they lose to the Heat this year then their run is over and done with. The Celtics will be all in, and when those warriors are all in, results usually follow. I cannot wait for this series. I kinda wish they'd cancel the semifinals and just let them play a 15 game series (could you imagine the home crowd for a Game 15 in Miami? They might even show up before the end of the first quarter).
15. After debating Mark Cuban's offseason decisions for 6 months, I still have no idea if he made the right decision or not.
Maybe you can help me. I'll lay out the arguments on each side of the debate. First off, the decision under discussion was to not resign Tyson Chandler, JJ Barea, and DeShawn Stephenson following last season's NBA title run.
Cuban was right - The team's money would all be spoken for right now. And the team would be old. The team would've struggled to match the hunger of last year's team. What happens if you bring everybody back and you lose in the first round? You're looking at starting over from scratch. With the cap room, Deron Williams more than likely joins the team this offseason, and the Mavs are back to being title contenders for the foreseeable future.
Cuban was wrong - The Mavs didn't defend their title, they didn't even really try. The team was still decent, but the players (especially Jason Terry, the Mavs' emotional leader) could read the writing on the wall - This is your last year in Dallas. Meanwhile, the West was wide open and you could've made the Finals for a second straight year. You're sacrificing a year of Dirk's prime (which might have ended with the title as well). What do you do if Deron Williams doesn't come to Dallas? That's the worst case scenario and would be an absolute disaster for the Mavs.