The Mavs, Suns, Spurs...And Everyone Else.
from both conferences and certain award winners because I'm just nice like that.
Of course, all lottery teams need not apply for these proceedings, as they have already wrecked and are in the garage for the remainder of this race. Thanks for coming kids, try not to catch a ping pong ball in the eye on your way out.
First, the East, also known as the JV Conference, where analysts openly refer to mediocre units as the Cleveland Cavaliers as contenders. Hell, the Cavaliers are the second best team in that conference! Yeah, the jokes just write themselves in this place. Well, the division winners are fairly easy to read...I think. The Pistons aren't losing the Central to the Cavs, hands down the media's darling thanks to their Swap Meet Player [a few steps down from being a "Franchise Player] LeHype James. [Check out the last two minutes of last night's Mavs/Cavs game to see why he's earned his Swap Meet Player label.]
All told the East breaks down like this...
The Heat, contrary to the beliefs of most, are not finished. If Superman falls by way of Inju-Red Kryptonite and Wade's not back, THEN they are finished. As long as the Heat finish anywhere other than 8th in the East, they're probably heading for the Eastern Conference Finals and a date with the Pistons. If they finish 8th and draw Detroit, nothing short of an absolute miracle will keep Detroit from winning the East.
The Wizards, Raptors, Bulls, Cavs and Pacers are in. If Richard Jefferson comes back sometime this month and the Nets can remember what they're supposed to be doing this year, the Nets are in. The Nets and their non-achieving has turned what should've been a Turtle Race into the foot pursuit it shouldn't be with the Raptors. I don't trust Isiah Thomas and the Knicks down the stretch. They lost their best clutch shooter in Jamal Crawford and simply put, Zeke's coaching abilities aren't that great, but neither is the damn conference this year.
As for the Wizards, as good as Agent Zero has been this year, he's streaky. WAY too streaky. His good games have been really good this season, but when he's been off, not even a scantily-clad Jennifer Tilly could turn that boy on. Off games like that cost teams their season and that's why I don't think Washington will be a huge factor in the playoffs. So there are your 8 teams. Nets, Cavs, Pacers, Raptors, Bulls, Heat, Wizards, Pistons.
The West is fun. As Ice Cube once said, "Westside is the best side..." and in this case, that couldn't be more true. The usual suspects are in [Mavs, Suns, Spurs, Lakers...] along with a couple of returning faces to the party [Rockets & Jazz welcome back] which leaves one spot open and three teams I think that are legitimately in the running.
There's the Clips, who according to most are the most disappointing team in the league this year and I'm inclined to agree. Just when everyone thinks this franchise is on its way up, they decide to regress into their tomfoolish days and start finding ways to stink it up. Bill Simmons believes they've quit on their coach which is bad, considering ole Mike Dunleavy did such a great job of coaching the Clips back to respectability, he got an extension before the year started. Guess they're rethinking that eh?
Then you got the Hornets, who are back home in the N-O, appear to be ready to make the playoffs for the first time since leaving Charlotte. In any event, Chris Paul's making folks in Atlanta think about making Billy Knight appear on the side of milk cartons after passing over him for Marvin Williams in last year's draft [not working out too well, is it?].
But...then there are the Nuggets who are currently in 7th, but don't have enough room for me to really consider them mortal locks. Of the three teams I mentioned, I gotta admit the Nuggets have firepower that nobody wants to see in the playoffs because as they both said in an interview last month...nobody's gonna beat them 4 out of 7. Especially when they both click as I'm expecting them to do before the end of this month. When that happens, they're gonna pull away from the bottom half of this pack.
Okay, awards time or projections right quick.
MVP - Steve Nash. I'm sorry, but Dirk's squad is way too loaded for me to even give him this. My personal like of Nash aside, you saw what happened when Nash missed a couple of games this year. They lost three in a row, one of which came to the HAWKS. Yes, THOSE Hawks. Take Dirk away from the Mavs and I can assure you as certain as I'm sitting here, they wouldn't miss much. Some random guy off the bench you're not even thinking about would step in, step up and life would go on. Nash is more valuable to his team and his play this year has been out of the stratosphere.
Coach of the Year - Sam Mitchell, Toronto Raptors. I'm sure there are those who think Sloan should get this for the job he's done in Utah...but look at the talent he's got there. I'd think the game passed him by in a Joe Gibbs kind of way if he couldn't get that team to the playoffs. But if the Raptors can hang on and win the division, this man deserves it for taking a Foreign Legion roster, sans Bosh who's American and what not...to the playoffs.
Rookie of the Year - Brandon Roy, Portland.
See y'all in a month for my playoff column and season in review. :)