With the NBA playoffs almost among us, each of the sixteen teams who will eventually make up the post season will have dreams of going all the way and be crowned the NBA Champions of this season. Of course for some this is still merely a pipe dream, while for others it is the absolute end goal, with any other result deemed a failure. With that in mind we take a quick and lighthearted look at how each team can potentially do once the playoffs start.
Why They Can Win It All
Perhaps no team is more intriguing to keep an eye on as we enter the playoffs. To start the season, this Brooklyn Nets team was a car crash, hopelessly wandering from one game to another with no formula or game plan whatsoever. Injuries contributed to this, but all in all it was just extremely poor to watch. Since the turn of the year though, you could argue they are the best team in the league, with maybe only the Houston Rockets for company in that respect.
They are a version of what the Los Angeles Lakers had hoped to be a year ago, a collection of veterans and All-Stars put together to win a championship. Deron Williams is no longer an All-Star but still a top tier point guard. Paul Pierce has gotten over the heartbreak of leaving the Celtics and plays the game in a way only a clever veteran such as himself can. Mason Plumlee has been a pleasant surprise, both in filling in for the injured Kevin Garnett and also giving some youth and energy off the bench. Joe Johnson isn’t finished as a top level player yet and the addition of Marcus Thornton from the Sacramento Kings looks to have been a masterstroke.
This team is loaded and ready to assault the playoffs, and with a regular season sweep of the Miami Heat too, has the belief that it can do big things. A rematch with the Chicago Bulls is what fans would love to see, but this time you feel the Nets could get the best of them and give any other team in the East fits with their crafty ways. An interesting statistic too, rookie Mason Plumlee leads this team in blocks and field goal percentage (64.7%) which is proof that this team can harm others from unlikely sources.
Why They Might Exit Early
For the first time all season, suddenly there is expectation in Brooklyn once more. This team fell off the radar for a while and was non-existent, but now are firmly back in the picture. Not the deepest team in the league, injury to one of their key guys could spell real trouble for this team. It’s about staying healthy really. The slower tempo of playoff basketball will suit this team down to the ground, and really they have bucketloads of experience. Where they may be found out though, is if this game gets physical in a hurry.
Yes we all know Garnett is fond of a good scrap, but he too lets his head rule his heart. If the Bulls or Indiana Pacers can get in their heads and subsequently use their younger legs to run rings around the riled Nets, they could be bounced pretty quick. Although they’ve found form too, it only takes a couple of off games and your postseason is done. It is unlikely to happen at this point, but remember, this team was just awful at the start of the season. A return to any kind of similar form and they are done. Proof of this can also be seen in that the Nets only average 99 points a game while holding opponents to 98 points per. This leads to far too many contests that are a lot closer than this team would like.
The window for this team to win a championship is pretty small too, and surely that has got to be at the back of their minds. In that sense the pressure really is on this team, and nobody has ever played well once they’ve succumbed to pressure.
Marcus Thornton. A little bit of a puzzling one when he first came on board, it has quickly become clear he has given this team a major lift. Stranded out at sea while playing for Sacramento, it is clear this guy can really play and make a difference on a contending team. He just seems to have a knack for coming up with the kind of play that keeps this team ticking over, and in the stifling atmosphere that is the playoffs, that is just what this team needs. His 11.5 points aren’t particularly special, but his free throw shooting has gone under the radar. Thornton is converting at an .822% rate at the charity stripe in what are essentially free points. He only gets to the line twice a game though, so any improvement on that in the playoffs would be welcome. Really though for a player only getting about 22 minutes a night, he is doing all he can as a role player to make the starter’s lives easier when they check back into the game.
A special mention must go to Shaun Livingston too. Little was expected of him coming into the season and yet to date he has played the third most minutes of any Nets player, giving them some punch off the bench. 8.3 points, 3.2 assists and 3.2 rebounds are all nice numbers to look at from somebody who was expected to play mostly garbage time. He has stayed injury free too, and seems to be enjoying himself and getting slowly better as the season goes on.
How They’ll Do
Head coach Jason Kidd deserves a ton of credit for turning this around, there were calls for him to quit after only a couple of weeks remember. Before Christmas, they were 10-21 and heading nowhere fast, so this has been some turnaround. They should advance past the first round, but really there are better teams out there. A match up with the Pacers in the semis could prove interesting, and if the Nets get out to a quick start against them, they may find themselves in the conference finals. That still seems a step too far for this enigmatic team, so the conference semis it is.