2016 NBA PLAY OFFS PREVIEW
It was another eventful 82 game regular season with plenty of the usual excitement. But we are now at the business end of the season, where 16 teams will battle it out, until one team is left standing as the champions in June.
Once again there were a few shocks for the season. The likes of Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards both miss out on the play offs. Also surprisingly, this year the Eastern Conference, baring the Warriors and Spurs, seemed to be the stronger overall conference in regards to team win records.
Below is my 16 team by team preview…..
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS: 73-9 – 1st in Western Conference
1st Field Goals Made
1st Three Points Made
1st Defensive Rebounds
1st Field Goal Percentage
1st Three Point Percentage
The Warriors had a record-breaking season. You can hardly bet against the defending champions, who have just become the first team in the NBA to win 73 games in a regular 82 game season. Golden State looked irresistible with their almost effortless shooting and relentless perimeter points scoring.
Led by of course Steph Curry (1st points, 1st field goals made, 1st three points made, joint 1st steals) and adequately supported by Klay Thampson (2nd three points made, 11th field goals made, 12th Points) along with huge contributions from Draymond Green (2nd triple doubles, 7th assists, 10th def rebounds). Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut.
The only faint hope their challengers can cling to is, maybe they burned up a lot of energy chasing the regular season record…..I guess hope springs eternal.
Offensive Rank: 1
Defensive Rank: 5
SAN ANTONIO SPURS: 67-15 – 2nd in Western Conference
1st Opponents Points
2nd Blocks Against
2nd Field Goal Percentage
2nd Three Point Percentage
3rd Field Goals Made
5th Defensive Rebounds
The general consensus is, if there was a team who could deprive Golden State of back to back titles, it would be the San Antonio Spurs. Their own superbly consistent season where they equaled a NBA home record of 40-1 was somewhat overshadowed by the Warriors heroics but LaMarcus Aldridge has really paid dividends and he has fit like a glove.
The Spurs are a formidable defensive unit giving away nothing. Going forward I am not sure if Kawhi Leonard (12th steals, 15th points, 16th field goals made) is now the go to guy or is it still Tony Parker with his big game and vast post season experience. With that being said, the evergreen Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili have also weighed in with important contributions. If you also add Danny Green, Patrick Mills and David West, you know the Spurs will still have a big say in the play offs.
Offensive Rank: 3
Defensive Rank: 1
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: 57-25 – 1st in Eastern Conference
2nd Three Points Made
4th Opponents Points
8th Field Goals Made
Though the Cavs finished in top spot, for their standards, it was an indifferent season which included firing their coach mid-season. The question remains, can LeBron and co topple the top sides in the west? Offensively, we all know anything is possible with LeBron James (5th points, 3rd field goals made, 9th assist, (3) triple doubles, joint 6th) who is trying to get to his sixth NBA finals in a row.
In support, the Cavs will need the likes of Kevin Love (9th defensive rebound, 11th rebounds, 14th double doubles) and a fully fit Kyrie Irving (21st field goals made) to take them to the promise land. Along with a focused JR Smith (9th 3 points made) Triston Thompson, Matthew Dellavedova and Timofey Mozgoz firing on all cylinders.
Offensive Rank: 4th
Defensive Rank: 10th
TORONTO RAPTORS: 56-26 – 2nd in Eastern Conference
2nd Free Throws Made
3rd Opponents Points
5th Three Point Percentage
The Raptors surprised all by improving on their recent few years of regular season success, by winning a franchise record 56 games. They will now hope to improve on their dismal play off record, as they have gone out in the 1st round for the past two seasons. Toronto look a really good side with the dynamic duo of DeMar DeRozan (9th points, 14th field goals made, 4th free throws made) and Kyle Lowry (15th points, 5th three points made, 14th assists) putting up great numbers.
Toronto are a very balanced squad with good rotation. The superstar duo are adequately supported by the likes of Jonas Valanciunas (10th offensive rebounds, 15th rebounds) DeMarre Carroll (19th steals) Bismack Biyombo (17th blocks). Terrence Ross, Cory Joseph, Patrick Patterson and the emergence of rookie Norman Powell.
Offensive Rank: 5th
Defensive Rank: 11th
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER: 55-27 – 3rd in Western Conference
1st Offensive Rebounds
2nd Field Goals Made
2nd Defensive Rebounds
3rd Field Goal Percentage
4th Free Throws Made
Apart from last season where they missed out on the post season due to key injuries. We have been here before, several times. There is no question OKC have two of the best players in the league with Kevin Durrant (3rd for points, 2nd field goals made, 7th three points made, 5th free throws made) and of course Russell Westbrook (1st triple doubles (18), 9th points, 9th field goals made, 2nd assists, 6th steals). But they still can’t get over the hump and are still very predictable.
Competitive numbers aside, I doubt they again will be able to topple either the Warriors or the Spurs. To do so, they will need huge and consistent defensive contributions from the likes of Enes Kanter (11th offensive rebounds) Serge Ibaka (8th blocks). Steven Adams, Andre Roberson and Dion Walters. A Conference Final will be an achievement at this point.
Offensive Rank: 2nd
Defensive Rank: 12th
LOS ANGELAS CLIPPERS: 53-29 – 4th in Western Conference
6th Field Goal Percentage
6th Three Point Percentage
The typically Hollywood Clippers go into another post season embroiled in off the court stories. They certainly missed Blake Griffin (7th field goals made, 14th points) following his assault and suspension. And although they are certainly better with him in the team. I was impressed with how the duo of Chris Paul (4th assists, 1st steals, joint 8th double doubles) and DeAndre Jordan (1st defensive rebound, 2nd offensive rebounds, 3rd rebounds, 2nd blocks) maintained their good form throughout. Thus proving how capable this team can really be.
I also think it’s imperative they keep JJ Riddick (6th three points made) fit going into the play offs. They will also call on the experience and penetration of Paul Pierce & Jeff Green as well as Jamal Crawford off the bench and the defensive qualities of Luc Mbah a Moute in what could be the last year you may see this group competing together.
Offensive Rank: 6th
Defensive Rank: 6th
MIAMI HEAT: 48-34- 3rd in Eastern Conference
3rd Blocks Against
4th Field Goal Percentage
5th Opponents Points
6th Defensive Rebounds
I was very impressed with how the Heat’s new acquisitions have integrated. Those players have combined well over the course of the regular season and they are looking like a decent team with good squad depth. Dwayne Wade (23rd points, 21st free throws made) is still the leader and focal point but the torch is gradually being passed.
Heat now have a well-rounded squad led by the inside talents of Hassan Whiteside (1st blocks, 3rd rebounds. joint 8th double doubles (41), (3) triple doubles, joint 6th). They have coped with the long term injury of Chris Bosh with the likes of Goran Dragic, Luol Deng, Joe Johnson, Amar’e Stooudemire, Justice Winslow and Gerald Green providing telling contributions on the way to winning the Southeast Division.
Offensive Rank: 12th
Defensive Rank: 7th
ATLANTA HAWKS: 48-34 – 4th in Eastern Conference
6th Three Points Made
10th Field Goals Made
In a crazy 4 way tie in the Eastern Conference. The Hawks lost out on the Southeast Division to the Heat. They won 12 fewer games than last year, which could be a concern going into the play offs. That being said, they have an extremely drilled and reliable defense and their starting line up are a settled and solid outfit. Though losing Tiago Splitter for the season is a blow.
Their offense but especially the defense works off Al Horford (20th blocks) then relies upon stellar and consistent performances from the likes off Paul Millsap (10th blocks, 16th rebounds, 12th steals) Jeff Teague (21st assists) Dennis Schroder, Kent Bazemore and of course Kyle Korver in a team full of potential and possibilities.
Offensive Rank: 18th
Defensive Rank: 2nd
BOSTON CELTICS: 48-34 – 5th in Eastern Conference
3rd Offensive Rebounds
6th Free throw Percentage
7th Field Goals Made
Last year they just sneaked into the play offs. This year they stormed into it and matched the record of the 3rd placed team in the conference. That’s signs of real progress. Boston have a squad full of depth and athletic runners in a team who are really starting to develop together.
The Celtics are led by the highly impressive and one of my favourite players Isaiah Thomas (11th points, 17th assists, 21st three points made). He will hope the likes of Jae Crowder (17th steals) Tyler Zeller, Jared Sullinger, Avery Bradley, Evan Turner and Amir Johnson can provide an ample amount of offensive support to advance.
Offensive Rank: 13th
Defensive Rank: 4th
CHARLOTTE HORNETS: 48-34 – 6th in Eastern Conference
4th Three points Made
4th Defensive Rebound
5th Free throw Percentage
7th Blocks Against
8th Three Point Percentage
Firstly, I will say its a massive achievement for the Hornets to match the records of the likes of Heat, Hawks & Celtics. They made some very good acquisitions this term which has transformed them into a very competent 3 point shooting team.
With Al Jefferson constantly fighting injury, Kemba Walker (17th three points made, 18th free throws made, 22nd steals) continues to be the go to guy, with help from new boy Nicolas Batum (24th three points made, 22nd assists, 2 triple doubles). Jeremy Lin who has made another new home, Cody Zeller and Marvin Williams in a lively Hornets team that has to cope with the injury loss of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Offensive Rank: 9th
Defensive Rank: 9th
INDIANA PACERS: 45-37 – 7th in Eastern Conference
14th Three Point Percentage
11th Defensive Rebounds
16th Field Goals Made
This season The Pacers had a glimpse of their potential, when they have fully fit star players to work with. When I say star players, I actually mean potential franchise player Paul George (10th points, 8th three points made, 18th field goals made, 11th steals) who had the type of season Indiana was hoping he would before his fractured leg a few years ago.
The key now is to obtain some consistent, offensive performers to work off him and they will have another team worthy of a conference final. They already have a good defensive base to work off with the likes of Monta Eliis (9th steals) Myles Turner, George Hill, Ty Lawson, CJ Miles, Ian Mahinmi and Jordan Hill. The future could be bright.
Offensive Rank: 23rd
Defensive Rank: 3rd
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS: 44-38 – 5th in Western Conference
4th Three Point Percentage
4th Offensive Rebounds
5th Three Points Made
9th Field Goals Made
I really feared for Portland after they lost a few of their star players, but to everyone’s surprise, they have rallied and I’m pleased to see them in the play offs. They have managed to maintain their athletic offensive game, credit has to go their coach Terry Stotts who seemed to get the very most from all members of his young squad.
They say cream rises to the top and Damian Lillard (3rd three points made, 6th points, 8th field goals made, 10th assists) has really stepped up to the plate. He has also been supported by fast becoming one of my favorite players CJ McCollum (10th three points made, 13th field goals made, 19th points) to make it a dynamic duo. Not to be out done, Ed Davis (17th offensive rebounds) Al-Farouq Aminu, Allen Crabbe, Mason Plumlee and Gerald Henderson have all contributed to a very decent regular season.
Offensive Rank: 7th
Defensive Rank: 21st
DETROIT PISTONS: 44-38 – 8th in Eastern Conference
2nd Offensive Rebounds
8th Defensive Rebounds
10th Three Points Made
The Pistons return to the play off for the first time since 2009. Ousting the likes of the Bulls and the Wizards, which is an achievement in itself. Their success has been based on the impressive, but still improving Andre Drummund (1st double doubles (66). 1st rebounds, 1st offensive rebounds, 2nd defensive rebounds) whose been dominant in the paint.
Their key was to get consistent performers around, working off him. Reggie Jackson (17th assists) certainly played his part. As did the newly acquired Tobias Harris. In addition Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Marcus Morris, Stanley Johnson and Aron Baynes also made telling contributions.
Offensive Rank: 14th
Defensive Rank: 13th
DALLAS MAVERICKS: 42-40 – 6th in Western Conference
3rd Free Throw Percentage
7th Three Points Made
8th Blocks Against
12th Defensive Rebounds
I was very surprised the Mavs made it to the play offs. With an aging squad and injuries, especially to Chandler Parsons, I really have to give credit to coach Rick Carlisle for getting his players to perform. It also helped that the Western Conference was poor this year. Though their regular season heroics may take a toll on the post season with pending injuries and fatigue.
That said, Dirk Nowitzki’s shooting will be relied upon, even though his movement is not the best. He will obviously need a lot of help up and down the court which is where Wesley Matthews (13th three points made) Zaza Pachulia (14th rebounds) Raymond Felton, J.J. Barea and Deron Williams have contributed for the very experienced looking Mavericks team.
Offensive Rank: 10th
Defensive Rank: 16th
MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES: 42-40 – 7th in Western Conference
5th Free Throws Made
8th Free throw Percentage
8th Offensive Rebound
The Grizzlies have had a terrible time with injuries and used a record 28 players this term. They were on course for a higher finish but for a disastrous second half of the season which included losing 15 of their last 20 games. This was mainly down to key injuries which will see Marc Gasol, Brandan Wright and Mike Conley missing the play offs.
That leaves Memphis relying even heavier on their notorious defence where Zach Randolph will have to bare the brunt. He will need the experience of Vince Carter, Matt Barnes, Chris Anderson & Mario Chalmers along with Lance Stephenson, JaMychal Green and Tony Allen who had his own injury issues. All in all sadly, this could be the beginning of the Grizzlies decline and a rebuilding process.
Offensive Rank: 21st
Defensive Rank 19th
HOUSTON ROCKETS: 41-41 – 8th in Western Conference
3rd Three Points Made
3rd Free throws Made
7th Offensive Rebounds
I am still scratching my head wondering how a team that got to the Western Conference final last year, just managed to sneak into the play offs this year. Especially with no major, long-term injuries? It may have something to do with firing the coach 11 games into the season and the on-going myth of Dwight Howard (4th rebounds, 4th offensive rebounds, 5th defensive rebounds, 12th blocks, 38 double doubles) being notoriously difficult to work with.
It’s likely they would have missed the post season if it wasn’t for the offensive talents of James Harden (1st free throws made, 2nd points, 4th three points made, 6th field goals made) despite his defensive lapses. That said, despite Trevor Ariza (15th three points made, 8th steals). The likes of Clint Capela, Michael Beasley, Patrick Beverley, Corey Brewer, Josh Smith, Terrence Jones, Jason Terry and Donatas Motiejunas really need to pull their weight.