Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tough Decision in Cleveland.

A year or so ago, the biggest Decision facing the Cleveland Cavaliers was out of their hands. Yet, having just landed the 1st overall and 4th overall pick in the 2011 draft, the Decisions are theres. You see, the Cavaliers are in the unique position of needing an upgrade at practically every position, which leaves them spoilt for choice, but also with a bigger margin for error if they choose incorrectly. Let's take a look at some of the different directions Cleveland might be able to go with their two top-5 picks to begin the post-Lebron rebuilding process.
  • It's a guard's league nowadays, and with an unmotivated Baron Davis paired with Anthony Parker, who has relevance only for a contending team, the back-court could really use an upgrade. If the Cavs so choose, they could pick up Kyrie Irving with the 1st overall, and reach a little or trade down for Alec Burks with the 4th. Irving gives them the playmaker at the PG position they lacked in the Lebron days, and Alec Burks has stud potential as a cold-blooded scorer. This would also give J.J. Hickson another year to prove himself as their PF for the future, and Baron Davis could mentor Kyrie Irving. Burks would almost certainly get the start immediately over second-year guards Manny Harris and Christian Eyenga, who are more raw than Burks despite a year of NBA seasoning. However, these two rookies showed promising production in limited minutes, and it might create a log-jam of young talent at the SG position whilst leaving the SF position undermanned. On that note, the benefit of this path is they'll have another year of blooding Alonzo Gee at the SF, and if he doesn't meet expectations, assuming the top eligible prospects declare next season and the Cavs have a top 10 pick, there's a good chance the Cavaliers could snag one of the quality 3s in a very deep SF class in the 2012 draft. Barnes, Jones, Miller, Gilchrist to name just a few. Yet, then you come to the problem of Ramon Sessions, who has played extremely well this season when given the opportunity, and would be a top-rate back-up for Irving. However, unless they can get rid of Baron Davis he would likely wallow on the bench as third man in the rotation. Rookie C Semih Erden who was acquired from Boston for practically nothing, but showed promise in his starts with the Celtics, would also get another year to prove himself as the eventual replacement for the 28 year-old Anderson Varejao. Taking Burks and Irving together could see Cleveland with the best back-court for the future, hands down.
  • Despite this possibility, there remains a Lebron-shaped hole at the small forward position which number one pick candidate Derrick Williams insists he could fill at the next level. Williams showed a mental toughness and his strength of character in leading Arizona to a deep NCAA tournament run, dismantling Irving's Duke team in the process, and also in coming from an unknown to a draft stud seemingly overnight. While there are concerns about his position at the next level, Williams has the outside shooting and athleticism to play the 3, and his leadership skills would be welcome on this team. Derrick would also have a suitable mentor for his predicament in Antawn Jamison, another combo-forward who crafted an All-Star career despite his lack of a "true" position. Derrick's high basketball IQ would also serve him well under Byron Scott, whose players are allowed something of a free reign if his "arms-folded-mouth-closed" coaching style is anything to go by. Furthermore, Alonzo Gee would be relegated to back-up SF position, where he would be more productive and could form a good rotation for the future. However, the gamble in taking Williams as your SF is that you're betting he's better than all the stud SFs who would be available next year and whom Cleveland would certainly have an opportunity to draft unless they pull off a highly improbably turnaround in the 2011-2012 season. Say they take this gamble, they still need a PG for the future, and next year's draft isn't exactly deep at that position, so best to invest in one with the 4th pick. To me, there's only one player worthy, and that's Brandon Knight. These two more than anyone else (barring maybe Harrison Barnes and Kemba Walker) showed the capacity to simply take over a game and hit big shots down the stretch, pairing them up would provide a great situation for the future, and Knight is such a high-character person that you could see him sticking around in Cleveland, whilst the more flashy NJ raised Irving might miss the big city sooner or later and bail. Knight could be mentored by Davis, another scoring PG who learned to create for others and be a leader. Again Sessions would be left out somewhat, but he isn't their starter for the future and a Knight-Williams tag-team would be too good to pass up. Again, this would Hickson more time to be assessed before a final decision is made on whether they carry over from the Lebron era. The beauty of this decision is that there are a surprisingly high number of SGs who would be eligible next season to fill that void at the 2 if Harris and Eyenga don't measure up, with UConn's Jeremy Lamb, Memphis' Will Barton and incoming freshman Brad Beal (dubbed the next Ray Allen) potential laden players who would give Cleveland solid, if not spectacular results at the very least at the SG spot.
  • Now, realistically, unless they reach on Enes Kanter, Williams and Irving are the two sure-fire candidates to be picked number one, yet, with the exception of Brandon Knight, there are a number of players who would be a good fit with either who should be available with the 4th overall pick. One name that comes to mind is Donatas Motiejunas, the 7-ft Lithuanian PF who Dirk Nowitzki (yeah, that same Dirk who torched the Thunder today) has praised as being further along than he was at the same age. Now, we've seen this comparison before (see: Andrea Bargnani), but unlike my Italian compatriot, Motiejunas has no qualms with banging inside, and shows a desire to be the best international player in NBA history, or at the very least be in the conversation. The only problem is that it would force a choice between Donatas and their current starting PF J.J. Hickson, who has shown flashes of brilliance and at the very least is capable of starting on a playoff team, if not a contender. It's a tough choice, as Dirk is reminding everyone how valuable gritty 7-footer who can shoot are, and Donatas would be more concerned about his legacy and getting minutes than where he plays as an international, so he would likely stick around in Cleveland for the long haul. If the Cavaliers decide Varejao isn't working out, and that Erden is a back-up at best, they could always take a chance on Jonas Valanciunas, the athletic, aggressive C from Lithuania also who is a direct contrast of Motiejunas; instead of a polished offensive game he brings defensive tenacity and potential offensively. Cleveland would be an ideal situation for Jonas, as he could grow behind Anderson Varejao and even Semih Erden initially, instead of being thrown in the deep end and being labelled a bust. Last but not least is pairing Williams with Alec Burks; this would give the Cavs an athletic lights-out shooter at the 3, and a very talented scorer at the 2. This pairing would give them their SF and SG for the future, without upsetting their other young talent in Ramon Sessions and J.J. Hickson.
It's hard to say which of these outcomes would be best overall for the Cavs, but the important thing is they can control their own destiny, and begin the healing process from the Decision. Forget laughter, the best medicine for Cleveland is the first and fourth picks in the 2011 draft.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

WCF Preview/Prediction: OKC Thunder vs Dallas Mavericks

After what can only be described as an abyssmal round of predicting in the Western conference for most people (who thought Dallas knew how to wield a broom? seriously), let's see if we can pick the second Finals team next to my prediction of the Heat, although even that one is looking murky after the Chicago beat-down yesterday.

#3 Dallas Mavericks vs #4 OKC Thunder:
This is a tough one to pick, because the Mavericks have been defying expectations all season with their new-found toughness, and the Thunder can range from unstoppable to extremely beatable depending on the mindset of Russell Westbrook. The Thunder really had to dig deep and band together to beat the Grizzlies, and that toughness should carry over to this series. Dallas on the other hand, simply out-executed an underperforming Laker team which lacked any sort of athleticism. That won't fly against the Thunder, who's lineup is made up almost entirely of extremely young, athletic players (Ibaka, Durant, Westbrook). They have also shown themselves to be a more disciplined defensive team than the Lakers were down the stretch, and it's hard to imagine OKC not rotating out to the plethora of outside shooters Dallas possess. Of vital importance is that OKC doesn't have the home-court advantage for the first time, and won't for the rest of the playoffs. Given how strong they are at home, this will make it all the more difficult for them to take home a championship. But let's break it down;

  • Key matchups:
    • Ibaka vs Dirk; Ibaka had the perfect warmup for Nowitzki in Z-Bo, whose fadeaway jump-shot is uncannily accurate and whose game doesn't rely on athleticism. Dirk is much the same, except that he's 7 feet tall and can shoot the 3-ball too. Ibaka needs to be aggressive in denying him to ball and not leave him open outside either. Dallas loves to run a pick and roll to get Dirk open, as most players have little chance of contesting one of his shots; however, OKC is in the unique position of having 3 players in their starting lineup who can contest a Dirk jumper in Ibaka, Perkins and Durant, so Dallas' options will be somewhat limited in the pick and roll due to OKCs length.
    • Durant vs Marion: Marion is a great defender, and as a former PF knows how to defend taller and longer opponents, and there's no doubt he was watching Tony Allen and Shane Battier physically wear down Durant for much of the second round and turn him into primarily a jump-shooter. If Durant can be more aggressive in demanding the ball and getting open to receive it then OKC can win this one.
  • X-Factors
    • James Harden: Harden has been outstanding off the bench for OKC in the role of spot-up shooter and playmaker from the SG spot to allow Russell Westbrook more freedom to score. He will likely be matched up with Jason Terry off the bench, and needs to use his superior size and athleticism to bother the Jet.
    • J.J. Barea: Recovered from his ordeal at the hands of Andrew Bynum, Barea will once again be a decisive factor in this series, as one of the few Mavericks who can penetrate to create open looks for his teammates. Eric Maynor will attempt to slow him down, because he showed against the Lakers how effective he can be at just 5'9" with his lightning quickness, super-tight handle and toughness.
  • Most interesting sub-plot: Dr Jekyll or Mr Hyde; which Russell Westbrook will we get? Game 7 of the last series showed Russell at his most effective; scoring when needed, but rebounding aggressively and most importantly, feeding Durant the ball early and often so he could get into a scoring rhythm. The resultant triple-double should be what Westbrook aims for every game for OKC to achieve the best results, but as we know, Mr Hyde sometimes suits up for the Thunder and goes trigger happy, especially down the stretch. Westbrook's decision making is the single limiter on how far this team can go this season and in the future, because if he doesn't figure it out, there's no way OKC can beat out a veteran team like Dallas or a star-studded lineup like Miami.
Looking back at what I've written, it's still hard to pick a winner, as both teams have so many ifs and buts. However, Dallas' victories came against grind-it-out half-court teams, whereas OKC likes to push the ball. Also, both the Mavs and Blazers like to play inside out, and Chandler/Haywood were effective in stopping that. The Thunder on the other hand work off dribble penetration, as they don't really have a low-post scorer worth his salt yet. I think the Thunder pace and athletic defence will overcome the Dallas role-players, and Dirk won't have enough to win it himself. I'm encouraged enough by Westbrook's Game 7 performance to give this series to the Thunder in 6, with OKC stealing back home-court advantage in Game 1 of the series, much to the chagrin of Mark Cuban.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

ECF Predicton/Preview: Bulls vs Heat

After what was a promising round of predictions in the first round, the Conference semifinals in the East panned out pretty disastrously, with my being way off base with the Celtics (although to be fair, I didn't expect Rondo to suffer an injury in game 3) although I wasn't too far off with the Bulls, who managed to close it out on the road.

However, what's past is past, so on to the next round, where my personal loyalty to the teams remaining is watered down somewhat now that the Celtics are gone.

#1 Chicago Bulls vs #2 Miami Heat:
It's fitting I suppose that the 1 and 2 seed battle it out in the ECF, even if it comes at the expense of my beloved Celtics. But again, moving on haha. Now, even though the Bulls beat the Heat 3 times in the regular season without dropping a game, the Heat have become a whole different kettle of fish since the playoffs started. That Boston series galvanised them and they have just been dominant. A lot of people who know me will call me a Heat hater, because I talk about how they sucked against +.500 teams, and said that D-Wade was better than Lebron (something I stand by), but really, I was just in denial. I don't hate the Heat because they are overrated, I hate them because it's hard to conceive of any of the current teams beating them in a seven-game series. But let's have a look at why;

  • Key Matchups;
    • Deng vs Lebron: Deng has established himself as one of the premier defenders at the SF position, and for the Bulls to have any hope, he'll have to hold Lebron down and force Wade to carry the burden of scoring with little help.
    • Rose vs Miami: The Heat are going to throw a bunch of defenders at Rose, and likely double-team him a lot, so it's hard to isolate just one player he'll match up with. As Rose goes, the Bulls go. However, Wade is a consummate defender (arguably the best guard defender in the game) and should limit Rose's effectiveness.
    • Boozer vs Bosh: This one is big, because Boozer has struggled at times, particularly in the post-season, but Bosh isn't featured in the offense of the Heat as much. If Boozer can overcome Bosh's improved defensive mindset and take some of the scoring load off Rose's shoulders, the Bulls will be the first team to win more than a game against them in the playoffs.
  • X-Factor: Kyle Korver. Ashton had a bit of a down game in the closing game against the Hawks, but he'll need to be at his sharp-shooting best to break apart the great defensive schemas of the Heat.
  • Most Interesting sub-plot: Thus far the Heat have been spared a game-winner to decide it all, but who takes the last shot remains up in the air. Lebron got his clutch on by hitting dagger 3s against Boston, but Wade remains the more effortless scorer. Either way, that will be a pressure-laden moment when it likely comes against these Bulls.
As much as it pains me to say it, a switched on Lakers team was the only squad I'd call the favourite against the Heat, but with them knocked out it's probably going to be the first of many Heat titles this season, starting with a 4-3 win against the Bulls, who use their home-court advantage to the fullest, but ultimately stumble at the line.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The times they are a-changin'...

The unthinkable has happened... a two-time defending championship team was just swept in the second round by a lower seed without a major injury to any of their rotation players. Magic Johnson was right when he said they need to blow it up, but what then? Let's take a look at the things which I think should happen for the Lakers to bounce back sooner than normal.

  • Kobe and Fisher should retire. This isn't just the best thing for the Lakers, it's best for Kobe. He clearly has become a pure jump-shooter, and lacks the capacity to take over games on either end anymore. His body is worn down, he's played 15 seasons, won 5 rings, two Finals MVPs and a regular season MVP, plus a wealth of All-NBA and All-Star selections. Before he goes the way of his draft-mate Allen Iverson where he is forced out for not being able to accept a position as less than alpha dog, it might be time to call it quits and preserve his legacy. It's hard to believe that the Lakers can win another title with Miami only getting better as time wears on and a number of young teams (OKC, Memphis) nipping at their heels. With Phil Jackson going, it would be best for all concerned to get a clean break for Kobe, Fisher and the Lakers.
  • In Bynum we trust. I've long argued that Bynum has all the tools to be a franchise C with more touches, and with Bryant or without, he should be the focus of their offense. When he's healthy, and playing aggressively there's very little teams can do to stop him when he gets the touches.
  • Lie, cheat, steal and trade to get your hands on Donatas Motiejunas. This guy is the perfect compliment to Bynum; a versatile young scorer inside who at 7 feet will preserve the size advantage the Lakers have over every other team. I wouldn't hesitate for a second in trading Gasol for Motie, who looks to be a younger, more physical player who would thrive in the bright lights of LA and serve as an insurance against a Bynum injury. Often compared to a young Dirk, the Lakers should consider trading everyone outside of Bynum to nab this kid.
  • Trade for a pick in the late first or early second to draft Josh Selby; a formerly #1 ranked player, Selby battled injury and inconsistent playing time in Kansas, but he still has star potential, and in a league dominated by athletic, scoring PGs, the Lakers are a few steps behind where they are now. Selby and Bynum would form a potent pick and roll tandem, and while they might end up in the lottery next season, blooding your young talent and getting a shot at landing one of the star potential SFs (Gilchrist, Jones, Barnes, Miller) in 2012 could see L.A. be on the upswing faster than you'd imagine.
For argument's sake let's say these things happen and they manage to pick at say #5 in the 2012 draft. Their team would look like this:

Selby - PG
Brown - SG
Gilchrist - SF
Motiejunas - PF
Bynum - C

That team is young, long and most importantly, rife with athleticism, which is something current Lakers sorely lack. Are you telling me that with good coaching and health from Bynum that team couldn't be back in the title hunt as early as 2015? Make it happen Mitch, because it would just be too weird seeing the Lakers fade into irrelevance whilst the Thunder and Memphis dominate the West.

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Princely Decision

For much of the 2000s, the Detroit Pistons core of Billips, the Wallaces, Prince and Hamilton formed a roadblock for anybody wanting to make it out of the East. However, like many great teams from the 2000s, they have faded from being a legitimate contender for the title (see: San Antonio Spurs), and are looking to be joined by the Lakers sooner than expected it seems. Since the glory days, Billups has been moved around to two teams and is ageing at a lot faster than expected, Rasheed Wallace has retired, Ben Wallace is no longer relevant, Hamilton has been ineffective and the Pistons themselves are in the midst of a rebuilding process, with the likes of Greg Monroe, Jonas Jerebko, Austin Daye and Rodney Stuckey forming the team of the future in Detroit. But what of Tayshaun Prince?

Barring maybe Chauncey Billups, Prince has arguably the most life left in him at age 31, averaging 14, 4, and 2 in 32mpg and shooting just under 50% from the field in 2010-2011. Now a free agent, could be the difference for a team looking to make a quick rise up the rankings who need just one more solid piece to reach the playoffs and put a scare into a top seed. If he could be had for a reasonable price, Prince's decision of where to play could save a floundering franchise in need of veteran leadership and D. It's been suggested that he might end up in Dallas, likely coming off the bench behind Marion, but after all too much time spent on the bench this season, I feel that Prince will go somewhere he'll be apprectiated.

Now, there are a number of teams who could use a savvy vet at the SF to steady their young talent and who need to make a splash this season; the Clippers could use a mentor for Aminu until he's ready to start, Toronto needs a veteran to bring defensive toughness, Minnesota could use the calming influence of Prince to mentor Beasley and hopefully bring out his vast potential, the Kings need to prove they can make playoffs either this season or next or they are most likely leaving Sactown. Clearly, there are a lot of viable options for Tayshaun.

However, after reading a recent interview on SLAMonline with Deron Williams saying they needed to bring in some heady vets, it became apparent that Prince and the Nets would be a perfect fit. The clock is ticking for the Nets to satisfy Williams after their all-in trade which left them without their starting PG in Harris and the potential-laden Derrick Favors. If D-Will leaves, it might squash any hope for the Nets to make the playoffs in the next five years, let alone win a chip.

Prince would certainly help alleviate some stress; he would allow Outlaw to be a more productive (albeit overpaid) bench player, whilst bringing a still very capable defender to fit in with Coach Avery Johnson's demands for lock-down D.

With an owner who isn't afraid to spend a little cash, with some wise off-season moves, the Nets could be in a great position, as a lot of players have expressed interest in playing in Brooklyn when the move is finally made.

Let's assume that Mikhail splashes out to bring in Prince for say a three year deal, and resigns the surprisingly productive Kris Humphries, both achievable goals. The Nets will look something like this;

PG - Deron Williams
SG - Anthony Morrow
SF - Tayshaun Prince/Travis Outlaw
PF - Humphries/Damion James
C - Brook Lopez

Are you telling me that 7 man rotation couldn't nab a playoff spot in the East with Avery Johnson at the helm? Forget about it. For a "has been", with a change of scenery Prince could be relevant on a whole new level.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Western Conference Previews/Predictions: Semifinals

With the Western Conference first rounds wrapping up and my predictions more of less correct (sorry Dallas fans), it's time to move on to the next, much more interesting round. The West is hard to predict from top to bottom, because there's such a small sample size for Mavericks vs Lakers in a series, and of course, the Thunder and Grizzlies haven't been in the playoffs much period. But, let's have a crack shall we?

#2 Los Angeles Lakers vs #3 Dallas Mavericks:
For years I've heard commentators in the NBA talk about how the Mavs were built to take down the Lakers, but never got that chance because they crumbled in the first round. Well, no more. The two time defending champs have struggled more than usual this season, and despite their motivational series against the Hornets which got them playing well towards the end, the Mavericks' defeat of Portland was characterised by something we haven't seen before from them; resilience. That inspirational effort by Brandon Roy could have been the turning point, instead it was simply a brief respite for the Blazers, who couldn't find a way to win on the road, and finally dropped one at home. But let's break it down...
  • Key matchups:
    • Pau vs Dirk: These two are similar in a lot of ways; each stand near the top of the PF rankings, they are both European and most importantly, have had to shake the label of being soft for much of their careers. Just like when comparing Rose and CP3 as PGs, so too do I say with Dirk and Pau; the former is the best player playing that position, the latter is the best AT playing that position. Dirk thrives off switches, where he backs down a smaller opponent and shoots over him, but with the length of the Lakers, Dirk might be switching onto Odom instead of Artest, which wouldn't be much of an advantage. Gasol needs to get going inside to win this matchup and also bother Dirk defensively with those lanky arms. This is a match made in heaven really, and I can't wait to see it.
    • Bynum vs Chandler: One thing the Lakers have over the Blazers is an offensively gifted big man; instead of Chandler bothering the finesse player Gasol with his physical D, he'll be getting bumped and grinded by Bynum, one of the last true Cs left in the NBA who can play both ends when healthy. This matchup will also determine the Pau and Dirk matchup, because if Bynum is enough of a threat to warrant Chandler's attention, then Gasol can have his way with Dirk offensively.
    • Kobe vs Terry: These guys are getting on in years, but they both know how to turn it on in the playoffs, and more importantly the 4th quarter. I always used to hate Terry, thinking he was overrated coming off the bench with little responsibility and using fresh legs to win close games, and while this is still a part of how I feel, I also respect him more having watched the Blazers series where he was absolutely cold-blooded, hitting dagger jump-shots every time the Blazers went on a run. Kobe is slowing down but he's still Kobe. Enough said. This series might just come down to who is the most clutch, and while I'd go with Kobe, Terry might well prove me wrong.
  • The X-Factor: Peja Stojakovic. This guy can still flat-out win games with his shooting, and while Lamar is a versatile player who brings a lot to the table, in the playoffs, having a guy who can dominate one aspect of the game like Peja is a big factor. If the Lakers give him as much room as Ray Allen had last year, they could be in trouble.
  • Most interesting sub-plot: The big-little man, J.J. Barea. I used to love this little guy because he's actually my height, white, and somehow contributing in the NBA without any crazy athleticism that short guys Spud Webb and Nate Robinson have. However, he does seem to get a lot of calls when people back him down because he is rewarded for flopping because of his size. The Lakers have a decent PG rotation this year, with Brown, Fisher and Blake on the team, I'll be very curious to see how they each play Barea; with strength, athleticism or length, respectively.
I think Lakers win this one; their experience, depth and superior coaching in Phil Jackson will be crucial, and let's not forget the home court advantage, which will be vital in this series. If the Lakers can go up 2-0 to start the series I find it very hard to imagine the Mavericks coming back from that deficit. I'll go with a 4-1 Lakers win, because the Mavs are strong enough at home to win at least one game there.

#4 OKC Thunder vs #8 Memphis Grizzlies:
I was thinking the other day how last year I really wanted these two teams to make it to the playoffs, it's crazy to think they are already playing each other in the second round. That said, one team is a contender, the other a cinderella story. The Spurs had obvious weaknesses in age and injury to Manu. The Thunder? Their only weakness is inexperience, which the Grizzlies are also suffering from, which makes it null and void. But before I dismiss the Grizzlies out of hand, let's get into why they'll lose...
  • Key matchups:
    • Gasol/Z-Bo vs Ibaka/Perkins: If the Thunder wanted a series to prepare them for the loaded frontline of the Lakers, playing against the loaded frontline of the Grizzlies is a good place to start. Dynamic defensive duo Perkins and Ibaka will have their hands full against Gasol and Z-Bo, especially given that the Grizzlies play a very inside-out game, so they'll be feeding the post a lot. However, while Duncan and McDyess were also a solid defensive unit, they didn't have that defensive energy to really bother Memphis. These two do, especially Ibaka, who dunked from the free-throw line in the dunk contest this season - if that doesn't say energy I'm not sure what does! - and Perkins is the perfect choice to stop Gasol, he will be one of the few burly Cs in a league of sticks who Gasol must face. If Ibaka can get going offensively, then Thunder wins this matchup, but I'm giving the edge here to the Grizzlies, even if only because the Thunder's greatest strengths lie elsewhere by design.
    • Conley vs Westbrook: Conley was the unexpected spark which carried the Grizzlies over the Spurs, but Westbrook is a whole different beast from Parker; his size, aggression and athleticism is going to eat Conley alive. All Conley can hope to do is lure him into being trigger-happy on the jump-shot and bank on him missing a whole heap. Other than that, pretty one-sided match-up.
  • The X-Factor: Kevin Durant. As much as I wanted to put him into the key matchups section, with Rudy out the Grizz don't really have anyone who will bother him, and will likely have to throw a whole number of defenders at him to try and slow him down. Somehow, "Kevin Durant vs Memphis defenders:" seemed a bit cruel. So yes, if Durant plays well, the Thunder win, simple as that.
  • Most interesting sub-plot: The Durant and Westbrook dilemma; who is their closer? Ask anyone and they'd say Durant. Ask Russell Westbrook and you might get a different answer. We might be blowing this all out of proportion, but execution in close games is what wins championships, and if Russell can't accept his role as second option and distributor, the Thunder could be in trouble once they get to the Lakers.
I know I spent most of the time talking about the Thunder and the Lakers, but honestly, that's all this one is. The Grizzlies are going down 4-1, because I can't see them winning more than one game on pluck against a very well constructed and determined Thunder team.

That's me out, it's nearly 5pm over here, the Thunder-Grizzlies and Heat-Celtics are starting at 1am and 3.30am respectively, so I'll probably have a nap and then watch them.

Second round baby, can't wait!