Each NBA Playoff team brings something unique on their roster. Whether it be a streaky scorer off the bench or system that works well every night, these teams have something to make them stand out from the crowd. ISH will take a look at each NBA playoff team (excluding the top two seeds from each conference) and what they bring that their opponents do not haveand what contenders must be wary of.
Chicago Bulls – Tom Thibodeau’s defense
We have been shown time and time again that no matter who Tom Thibs throws in the game, Chicago still plays well. Behind the heart brought by Joakim Noah and the savvy play of D.J Augustin lies Thibodeau’s system. It is a timeless system that has proven very effective. Despite the loss of Derrick Rose for the second straight year, Chicago still clings to third in the East and is looking right at Washington for a first round matchup. Sure to be a great series, Thibs will need to get creative to stop the three point shooting of the Wizard Wings and the All-Star play of John Wall. But of all teams, I would choose the Chicago Bulls to show up and stop the Wizards and move on to the second round to face the likes of Indiana (or Charlotte?).
Toronto Raptors – Terrence Ross’s explosive scoring
Terrence Ross has shown an ability to be a game-changing scorer. His 51 point scoring performance showed just that. While his averages of 11.0 PPG, 1.0 APG, 3.2 RPG and 43% FG do not scream game changer, he definitely can change the entire course of games. He averages more than 3 points more in wins than losses. That shows that Toronto needs his scoring to win, and that will prove true in the playoffs. Ross may not average more than 11 points a game in the playoffs, but if he can explode like he has shown the ability to in the past, then Toronto has a real shot at a deep postseason run.
Brooklyn Nets – Shaun Livingston
Shaun Livingston has been a revelation for the Nets this season. The Nets turnaround has been well documented and reported this season, as well as Livingston’s revitalized career. The Nets GM, Billy King, has even come out to say that the Nets #1 priority this offseason is resigning Livingston, topping the needs of resigning Paul Pierce among others. Livingston’s spirited play has been vital to the Nets turnaround this calendar year. His numbers are not team leading ( 8.3 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 3.2 APG) but his play has been. As a starting guard in 54 games this season, his PPG has raised to 9.1 PPG. Nets opponents have a lot to look out for this postseason, and Livingston is the under-the-radar weapon that coach Kidd could send out as the main force.
Washington Wizards – 3 point shooting
The Wizards have been a pleasant surprise this season, headed to the playoffs for the first time since 2006. They also look like a team ready to be headed there for a long time. One of their key weapons for the postseason will be the 3-point shooting of Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza, and Martell Webster. Over the season, Beal provided 17.0 PPG, 1.9 3 pointers made per game, and 40% from 3 point land. Ariza posted in a career year 14.3 PPG, 2.3 3 pointers made per game, and 41% from downtown. Webster comes off the bench and provides 9.8 PPG, 1.9 3 pointers per game, and nearly 40% from three. All those numbers are crucial for Washington, especially having all three of them hit over 40% of their three point shots. Having three guys who average nearly 2 or more three pointers per game will cause huge stress for teams playing Washington.
Charlotte Bobcats – Al Jefferson Takeover
Al Jefferson has been the best center in the league post All Star break, averaging 25.0 PPG and 11.0 RPG since then. Jefferson has joined forces with Kemba Walker and company this season to create a true defensive stalwart and contender’s nightmare. Jefferson makes 51% of his shots this season, showing that he really is one tough player to guard. In a tweet from the Charlotte Observer’s Rick Bonnell, Bonnell tweets a quote from Paul Pierce that shows exactly that-
“Paul Pierce on Big Al: “No one on the planet can guard him. We tried to double him, single, triple. There’s nothing we could’ve done.”
Al has finally gotten some recognition in the association for his deadly post moves and scoring capabilities. He has shown that he can really show up in big games, posting 38 points and 19 rebounds in a game versus the Miami Heat on March 3rd. Absolutely no team wants to face the Bobcats this postseason. Right now as it stands, the Bobcats would play the ice cold Indiana Pacers. If the Cats do end up reclaiming the sixth seed, they would face Chicago in the first round. Neither are good matchups for Charlotte, but big Al’s stardom could shine through if he leads Charlotte to their first playoff series victory in franchise history.
Atlanta Hawks – Savvy play of Jeff Teague
Jeff Teague has been the brightest spot on a very dull Atlanta Hawks team. Paired with Paul Millsap, Teague has led Atlanta into the playoffs for the 6th straight Atlanta playoff appearance. While Atlanta does have the shooting of Kyle Korver to fall back on, the loss of Al Horford has really shot down Atlanta’s hopes of playoff success. Atlanta stood at 3rd in the East before the All Star break, but subsequently fell off to the 8th seed. Atlanta may not be a playoff contender, but if Jeff Teague can dominate either George Hill or Mario Chalmers in the first round, Atlanta may have a real shot at an upset.
Los Angeles Clippers – Depth
The Los Angeles Clippers have the most of one thing of all the teams in the league. That thing is depth. With a depth chart of 2 star point guards (Paul, Collison) 3 deadeye shooters at SG in Crawford, Redick, and Green, depth at SF with Danny Granger, Matt Barnes, Jared Dudley, and Reggie Bullock, strong power forwards in Blake Griffin and Glen Davis, and good options at center in Deandre Jordan and Ryan Hollins, the Clippers are by far the deepest team in the league. With a lineup like that, it is hard to find any holes. They are so deep that injuries have not been too much of an issue, shown by Darren Collison’s great play in wake of all the Chris Paul injuries. Los Angeles is headed to the postseason fully healthy after getting JJ Redick back and will be the biggest contender not ranked in the top 2 of their conference.
Houston Rockets – Inside Out Game
Houston has had a great season thus far, despite injuries to main players like Jeremy Lin, Dwight Howard, and Patrick Beverly. The high intensity play from James Harden, Chandler Parson, and Terrence Jones has kept Houston in the hunt. The main weapon that Houston has is the ability of the inside out game. The outside shooting of Lin and Harden coupled with the post play of star center Dwight Howard and young prospect Terrence Jones is very effective. While Dwights numbers are not career numbers like some thought he would boast this year, his numbers of 18.4 PPG, 12.2 RPG, and 1.8 BPG are still top 5 center caliber. Harden has had a fantastic season down in Texas, and the pairing of D12 has done nothing but help his numbers. This duo should look to capitalize off each other and finally find some playoff success for these finals-thirsty Rockets.
Portland Trailblazers – Speed
The Blazers have a lot of different weapons on their roster, but one stands out in a lot of their players. That attribute is speed. The starting lineup of Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Robin Lopez is not the fastest, but the players coming off the bench can really blaze it. Players like C.J McCollum and Mo Williams can really get out on the open floor and run it alongside Damian Lillard and the surprisingly athletic LaMarcus Aldridge. If the Blazers want to get past the Rockets in the first round, blowing by Dwight Howard in transition may be the only way to penetrate the basket.
Golden State Warriors – Steph Curry takeover
Steph Curry has lit up box scores all season. His PER of 23.87 is good for 11th in the league, and his 4 triple doubles is tied for 1st. Curry has been a consistent weapon for GSW since being drafted. He posts percentages of 42% from downtown and 47% from the field. If he can continue his hot play into the postseason, Golden State does have a shot in a major upset of LAC. While Curry cannot do it all by himself in that series, it is a necessity for him to be the leader for this team. His matchup with Chris Paul should be an exciting one, and should be telling whether who is the more important guard to their respective teams.
Dallas Mavericks – Brandan Wright
This choice may sound surprising, but Wright has had the same effect on Dallas as Shaun Livingston has had on Brooklyn. Wright came back from injury early in the season and averaged 9.0 PPG, 4.2 RPG, and 1 BPG. While these numbers do not jump out at you, they are more than just numbers. Wright’s length provides Dallas with a down low rim protector, something Dirk has never been. Signing a 2 year, $10 million contract this past offseason, Dallas management knew it would be smart to keep him around. What they did not realize was the effects Wright would cause out on the court. Despite only playing an average of 18.5 minutes per game and not starting once, Wright is Dallas’ key to postseason success, especially if playing a team like Oklahoma City with players who like to get to the basket.
Memphis Grizzlies – Twin Towers
Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol form a nice down low tandem that is probably among the best in the league. Randolph’s numbers of 17.0 PPG and 10.0 RPG paired with Gasol’s 14.4 PPG and 7.1 RPG provide Memphis with two big offensive options. Facing a team like San Antonio (who they are slotted to go against in the first round as it stands today), Memphis will need these 2 big guys to be on fire. They will also have their hands full covering San Antonio big men Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter. But don’t fret Memphis fans, its not like you haven’t done it before.
all stats courtesy of espn.go.com
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