Doyle Rader and Travis Huse discuss the basketball world, namely the Western Conference playoff picture (We can’t think of a creative name for these segments. Help us out.):
DR: I wrote briefly on the race to get into the playoffs and how cluttered it is yesterday with the knowledge that it wouldn’t be relevant today. It isn’t. In fact, it was smashed to pieces (not really). Right now, though, the West is stacked up from the sixth through tenth seeds and there will be a lot of position jockeying over the next week and a half to see who will actually make it into the postseason. Even the third through fifth seeds aren’t set in stone and the Spurs could win the Western Conference outright. It’s cray, essentially. Tonight the Rockets and Nuggets face off once again as both teams fight to keep their playoff chances alive. Last night Denver came out in the second half and ran rough shot all over Houston, getting out in transition for easy buckets. Corey Brewer, Arron Afflalo, and Ty Lawson were seemingly everywhere. It was an impressive win. If they can do it again tonight, Houston’s chances at making the playoffs will certainly begin to dwindle. How do you feel the West could pan out?
TH: I actually envision the conference standing pat from here until the playoffs, unless a team tanks for better positioning, like the Grizzlies did last year. The Jazz have been playing fantastically as of late, but they’re still a game and a half behind Houston, and frankly, there’s no way that the Suns manage to squeeze in. If there is any movement at all, I feel it’ll be upward movement from either the Mavs or the Spurs. Dallas has been playing much better since the departure of Lamar Odom, which goes to show exactly how poisonous he was to that locker room; in fact, it seems as if the team has been brought together by kicking him out. So there’s a distinct possibility they can overtake Memphis, in my mind.
In a typical year, San Antonio would be heavily resting their stars, so a few losses this week and next wouldn’t be surprising. But with the increased workload Tiago Splitter‘s been able to handle, as well as the addition of Boris Diaw, Tim Duncan‘s been kept to 28.4 minutes a game. Talk about cray. Gregg Popovich is now in a situation where he might actually increase the minutes for Duncan and Manu Ginobili, to prepare for their roles in the playoffs. For entertainment’s sake, I really, really, REALLY hope the postseason matchups stay as they are, though. Clips-Grizz would be one of the most exciting, physical series of all time. Blake Griffin can dunk over anyone, but if anyone can contain them, the Memphis bigs could. Posters galore. Lakers-Mavs would be a wonderful rematch of last year’s stomping, but a Bynum-Haywood matchup could be problematic for Dallas. Spurs-Nuggets could be a highlight of the importance of depth, with each team being able to run 3 full squads at an opponent. The 7-game format would be a dream for those interested in NBA coaching tactics, and George Karl against Pop is as close to the best as we can get in the first round. The 8th seed is going to get reamed, though. No question.
DR: Yeah, the fate of whoever lands in 8th has had their fate sealed. I hope Utah can sneak in there, though. The Jazz won their last meeting with the Thunder so that gives me the slightest bit of hope that if they make it to the playoffs they won’t be swept. Tyrone Corbin has done a fantastic job with Utah and should be rewarded with a playoff berth.
As for Memphis, doom and gloom is in the air as they head into the postseason. Marc Gasol hyper extended his left knee on Sunday and the entire city of Memphis is holding its collective breath. He will have an MRI today to determine the severity of the injury. For the sake of Memphis, who I see as a “dark horse” (what a cliché term) in the playoffs, I hope he is going to be able to come back quickly.
TH: Derrick Favors! I still love that kid, but he needs a role with a different team, or they need to get a guard out of one of their bigs. The Jazz will rocket right back into the playoffs in the next season or two, their front office is too smart. Which team missing out on the playoffs this season do you think will make it next year?
DR: I honestly feel like it’s the Blazers. They have been a steady playoff team over recent years but they blew it up this year. They are rebuilding and if they can get one or two solid players around LaMarcus Aldridge I don’t see any reason why they should miss out on the playoff party next season.
Also, the Timberwolves are right there. When Ricky Rubio went down you could hear that team’s balloon burst. Everything changed. Their defense collapsed, their offense grew stale. Nothing was working right for them except for Kevin Love. He’s the man. If the NBA had an NIT, these two teams would be a lock for it.
TH: See, I’ve got two possibilities, and they hinge on one signing. If Steve Nash stays in Phoenix, it will signify some roster moves to improve the team. Therefore, they’ll be able to make the playoffs. If they don’t, Nash is gone and they’ll be looking at a major rebuilding. Which, to be fairly honest, might be the best thing long term for the Suns. In this very-likely scenario, I like the idea of the Timberwolves next year. That roster is filled to the brim with underrated talent, and Rick Adelman’s already done wonders. It’s the funniest goddamned thing that David Kahn actually set up a pretty complete basketball team. Imagine if we’d told ourselves in 2009 (or 2010, or 2011) that it could all fit together.
DR: Well, the Wolves still have their issues. Michael Beasley still has yet to find a defined role on the team and it looks as though he isn’t even going to get a qualifying offer from Minnesota, so he will be playing elsewhere next season, and Adelman just doesn’t seem to like Darko Milicic. What will be interesting to see is how much Nikola Pekovic can improve his game during the offseason and whether Martell Webster will get a haircut. Above all else, they need to stay healthy. Rubio, Love, Barea, Beasley, Luke Ridnour, Darko, and Pekovic all missed serious time this season. No matter how well the team is playing at any given point, injuries are a team’s death knell.
Maybe David Kahn is craftier than we all thought, or maybe he just got lucky. I’m going with the latter.
As for the Suns, BLOW IT UP.