Four teams are vying for two spots left in the NBA playoffs: The Pelicans and Thunder in the West and the Nets and Pacers in the East. But can any of these teams make noise in the playoffs? Let’s take a look.
New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans boast that they have the best big man in the NBA: Anthony Davis. If they defeat the Spurs tonight, they are in the playoffs. Beside him, Omer Asik plays center, Quincy Pondexter plays the 3 and Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon man the backcourt. If they are going to upset the Warriors (who they would face in the first round if they make it), they need Ryan Anderson to play well off the bench. Other players off the bench are rejuvenated center Alexis Ajinca, former Heat PG Norris Cole, ex-BYU stud and 3-point shooter Jimmer Fredette, energy big Dante Cunningham, three-point shooter Luke Babbitt, and newly-returned former starting ponit guard Jrue Holiday. Overall, this team would not defeat the Warriors or any of the other teams in the West in a 7-game series.
Oklahoma City Thunder
We all know this team is ravaged by injury, and 2 of its 3 best players are out right now. Reigning MVP Kevin Durant is out for the playoffs after having bone graft surgery on his foot at the end of March. Serge Ibaka had a knee scope procedure and as labeled as being out four to six weeks. It’s a little over four weeks now. Russell Westbrook and Dion Waiters take a lot, a lot, a lot of shots in the backcourt, and physical Steven Adams and offensively gifted Enes Kanter start in the frontcourt. Kyle Singler was acquired from the Pistons at the trade deadline, and has been pressed into starting duty after the Durant injury. Important bench players include backup PG D.J. Augustin, energy big man Mitch McGary, PF Nick Collison, 3-point shooter Anthony Morrow, and defensive star Andre Roberson. Honestly, after the Durant injury, this team may be able to compete with the West, but it’s unlikely.
Team leader Paul George came back from his disgustingly gruesome and horrible leg injury on April 5, and the team has made a late push for the playoffs. Bigs Roy Hibbert and mid-range-savvy David West man their inside, and career-year owning George Hill and perimeter threat C.J. Miles lead the backcourt. George has not yet started a game at the 3, but that will probably change if the team makes the playoffs. For now, Solomon Hill mans that position. Rodney Stuckey helps the team as its sixth man and has the ability to create his own shot. Luis Scola and Lavoy Allen get some minutes as bigs who can stretch the floor from mid-range. Ian Mahinmi is another important big who provides physicality, and C.J Watson and Donald Sloan are the team’s back-up point guards. This team can compete because it brings back most of its important players from last season’s Conference Finals team. Experience counts, especially in the, uh, weak Eastern Conference.
This team, on paper, has tons of talent. But… they’ve underachieved this season, 7 games under .500 at 37-44. Deron Williams, oft-injured and overpaid, has disappointed at the point (just ask Paul Pierce), but can provide shooting and shot creation. Same of Joe Johnson, who is an expert of making his own space. Brook Lopez and Mason Plumlee start in the frontcourt, and the athletic Markel Brown starts at Shooting guard. Important back-ups include shot creator and athletically-inclined PF Thaddeus Young, 3-point shooter and shot-maker Alan Anderson, perimeter option Bojan Bogdanovic, and back-up big Cory Jefferson. If all of the players on this team perform to their potential, this team could make noise. But that won’t happen, so they will most likely be a quick out.