Bradford Doolittle has been covering the Eastern Conference playoffs for Basketball Prospectus.
Bradford Doolittle (Basketball): The NBA bills the first couple of rounds of the playoffs as 40 games in 40 nights. Well, we're 18 days and 50 games into the postseason and it's been a grueling affair. For all of our inspection and dissection, all the higher seeded teams advanced past the first round. And so far in the second round, the higher seeds are 6-0. That's not to say that there hasn't been plenty of drama or that there isn't plenty or drama to come. All four conference semifinal matchups are compelling and I'm sure we're in for a few surprises along the way.
I'm even more bleary-eyed than usual this morning so forgive me if I seem a little slow-witted. This time of the year for me means baseball at night and the NBA playoffs even later at night. Sleep is at a premium but I wouldn't change a thing. The queue already has a couple of Royals fans that have tracked me down so I'll throw in a couple of hardball comments while trying to keep the focus on the hardwood. What's on your mind today?
krissbeth (JP, MA): Why did the Celts have such difficulty with the Hawks? Was it a flaw that the Cavs can similarly exploit?
Bradford Doolittle (Basketball): After thinking about that series from every angle I can come up with, I'm ready to chalk up the Hawks' unlikely performance to a bunch of good athletes playing overhead before a pumped up home crowd. That's not very analytical, I know. The crux of my thinking is that if the Hawks had really found some sort of fatal flaw in the Celtics defense--because there really wasn't much variability in the C's offense between the two cities--then they would have been able to exploit it at least to some extent in the games in Boston. The Celtics pounded the Hawks by an average of 23 points per game at home. That says a lot more about the respective quality of the teams than the three wins Atlanta eked out.
That said, what Atlanta did against Boston in those home games was to break down the Celtics defense into a series of one-on-one matchups. That shouldn't have worked as well as it did against a team that plays team defense as well as Boston but it did. Joe Johnson and Josh Smith were able to take their defenders off the dribble and get to the line. The Cavs don't play that way. They give the ball to LeBron James and either A) spread the floor or B) run someone out to run a pick-and-pop. Boston does a great job of defending these strategies. James will adapt to the Boston defense better than he did in Game 1 but it's a tough matchup for him. So, no, I don't expect to see much carry over for Boston from the Atlanta series.
dangor (New York): Hi Bradford, Are you happy with the way the Royals are playing this year? Hopeful for the playoffs by 2010? It's a shame they couldn't be fully geared up this year with the other Central teams floundering.
Bradford Doolittle (Basketball): I'll go ahead and get a Royals question out of the way. In general, I'm thrilled about the way the Royals are coming together. As for their play this year, not so much. The pitching has been very good and if the rotation can stay healthy, I expect a starting staff of Greinke, Hochever, Meche, Soria and Bannister to be one the league's best by 2010. That's an excellent start in developing a contending team. I have a lot of concerns about the team's offensive approach, not just this year's production but in terms of organizational philosophy. As it happens, I'm sitting down with Dayton Moore to discuss this issue tomorrow.
Nick B (Columbia, Mo): Brad, where would you rank Chris Paul among the all time PGs? Do you think the assertions that he's the best true PG ever are hyperbole?
Bradford Doolittle (Basketball): Nick B -- in my old hometown of Columbia, Mo. Go Tigers!
To anyone that is already talking about Chris Paul in terms of slotting him among the all-time greats, I'd say: Easy now. Paul is in his THIRD YEAR. He's a great player, no doubt. While I don't have a problem with Kobe winning the MVP award, Paul was probably just as deserving. Let's give him time to develop over the long term, though. He's similar historically to Tiny Archibald, who wore out after a handful of great seasons. Paul is built like a bowling ball so I'm hopeful he can prove to be durable. But if injuries start to sap some of his quickness, then his peak could be shorter than people realize.
Another thing about Paul: I'm hoping that the Hornets and Jazz play in the West finals because it will be a great chance to test my opinion that Deron Williams is better than Paul--especially when they go head to head.
Peter (Toronto): What would you do if you are Brian Colangelo? It's obvious that they need to trade one of the PG, and they have holes on the wing to help Bosh. But can they get that scorer?
Bradford Doolittle (Basketball): There are shooters and there are scorers. The Raps have shooters but they don't have scorers, guys that can break down a defense and get their own shot. The offense is predicated around point guard penetration and kicking out to the perimeter and moving the ball around the three-point line. They rely on Bosh to produce inside, keeping defenses honest and preventing opponents from pinching the outside shooters. That's the formula that's worked so well for the Suns, whom Colangelo helped build.
It's clear that he's going to have to pick one point guard and, to me, the guy clearly should be Jose Calderon. He fits the style of offense better and doesn't have T.J. Ford's injury concerns. However the health issues could make Ford tough to move.
Toronto picks 17th in the upcoming draft. Best they could hope for is perhaps another inside banger like JaVale McGee or a shooter like Joe Alexander or Chase Budinger. It think a great fit for Toronto would be Rider's Jason Thompson. The cap situation isn't ideal especially since Colangelo is going to have to ante up to keep Calderon so I don't expect them to be in play for any of the big-name free agents. The ideal would be to flip Ford for a scorer at two-guard.
Trieu (Cambridge, MA): Wow. Do you really think Deron Williams is better than CP3? Head-to-head and otherwise. Is this from a scouting perspective or a statistical perspective?
Bradford Doolittle (Basketball): Trieu, that opinion is based from the head-to-head matchups I've seen between the two. Williams has both a size and a strength advantage and is one of the few points guards with those edges on Paul that also has the lateral quickness to stay with him defensively. Statistically, Paul has the edge, no doubt. But they're both top 10 players. So, again, this is just an opinion, a hypothesis really, and I'd love to see that put to test over seven games with the conference title at stake.
bloodwedding (BK): what would you describe are the Lakers' key weaknesses that might prevent them from winning it all in 2008?
Bradford Doolittle (Basketball): Softness defensively in the middle. The Jazz didn't do a very good job of exploiting that in Game 1 but I expect that to be the theme in tonight's game. That's not necessarily a fatal flaw in the Lakers as they do everything else very well. That includes playing halfcourt defense better than they are generally given credit for. Kobe is one of the few players in the league that, we he puts his mind to it, can shut down almost any perimeter player in the league.
dangor (New York): If you are Donnie Walsh, do you just clear cap room so that in 2010 you can beg Lebron James to come? Would he?
Bradford Doolittle (Basketball): I think you clear cap room because the roster is a mess and you need to have the flexibility to fix it. But I don't think you can approach it as a plan to lure LeBron because that's an awful big gamble. James, I suspect, would like to remain in his home state but that's probably secondary to Danny Ferry surrounding him with championship-caliber talent. That's probably the key to whether or not James opts out. Of course, this is a guy who has stated that he wants to be the richest man in the world. It's easier to do that in New York than in Cleveland.
bloodwedding (BK): nightmare draft scenario for Memphis... they get the #2 pick, and Beasley goes #1 to team X. What do they do, they can't take Rose.
Bradford Doolittle (Basketball): Ironic, too, because if they needed a point guard, drafting Rose would be a much-needed PR boost. Conley, Lowry and, to a lesser extent, Crittendon are nice players but they are not in the class of Derrick Rose. So, yes, I'm saying that if the Grizz don't get Beasley, they take the Rose and trade Conley and Lowry. I'm sure the Blazers would love to team Conley up with his old pal Oden and they have young talent to move.
Trieu (Cambridge, MA): By the way, I really love all the work you've done during these playoffs. It's an amazing joy to have all this analysis with each day of the postseason.
Bradford Doolittle (Basketball): This has really been a labor of love. Yeah, it's a lot of work but for me it doesn't get better than the NBA playoffs. We've got high hopes of becoming a hub for entertaining NBA analysis here at BP. So Trieu, I really appreciate the kind words and that you've been enjoying the articles.
Thanks everyone for sharing a bit of your day with me. Catch you all on the rebound.
tphoskin (Phoenix, AZ): wouldn't the hawks be a great place for d'antoni if/when woodson is fired? i just don't know how good a fit chicago is.
Bradford Doolittle (Basketball): I've got to shove off but I want to address this because it's a good question and I hadn't thought of Atlanta as a destination for D'Antoni. And I'd say, yes, it'd be a good fit for the Hawks but I think D'Antonio fits in anywhere. They guy can flat coach. Chicago would work fine because Paxson is in a spot where he needs to win next year to keep his job. He's in no position to be grinding axes over a preference for defensively-oriented teams. If he wanted that, he never should have fired Skiles. As for the Hawks, they aren't blessed with great shooters but D'Antoni would get those great athletes out running the floor. It would be fun to watch.
By the way, in regards to the previous Raptors question, D'Antoni would be a great fit there, for obvious reasons. With Bryan Colangelo a little bit hamstrung in what he can do to upgrade his roster, one thing he could do is upgrade his coach. The Raptors don't play at nearly as fast of tempo as they should.
kevin (maryland): This is a serious question, not sarcastic. If Deron Williams is better head-to-head than Chris Paul (which seems to be the case), why does Paul have betters stats against the rest of the league? Does Williams match up better with Paul, but others match up better with Williams?
Bradford Doolittle (Basketball): Well, I'm pretty dumb when it comes to this chat stuff and I forgot to sign off properly. So I come back and find more questions in the queue. So I'm going to answer them lightning round style. Then I'm done this time for sure.
DWill vs. CP3: Part of it is matchups, as you suggest, part of it is system. Everything New Orleans does is generated by Paul. Utah's system is very point-guard friendly but is nevertheless more egalitarian that the Hornets'.
dogtothedog (Toronto): Why is Basketball such a dumb sport?
Bradford Doolittle (Basketball): Dumb sport is an oximoron.
Bison (Denver): Brad, what should the Nuggets do this off-season?
Are they fundamentally flawed and need to start rebuilding from scratch, or would a new coach/new gameplan do the job? They have a number of large contracts on their books now.
Bradford Doolittle (Basketball): They are kind of stuck with what they have and apparently don't have any real desire to blow things up just yet. There is a lot of talent there. What they need is a true stopper for the defensive perimeter to soak up Anthony Carter's minutes. Someone who is an efficient scorer but doesn't demand ball. I don't know who this player might be but Mark Walkentien is a pretty sharp individual and I have confidence he can figure it out.
Eddie (Milwaukee): How can the Bucks blow it up? Any way they can hope to get Conley?
Bradford Doolittle (Basketball): The Bucks can blow it up by hiring Scott Skiles to coach the worst defensive team in basketball.
Tynell Jefferson (Gahetto, GA): What are the chances Howard and the rest of the Magic start playing smart and pull out this series with Detroit?
Bradford Doolittle (Basketball): Not great. The Pistons are just too deep and versatile. The matchup problems that Orlando presents for the majority of teams just aren't there against Detroit.
Pete (NY): If you are the Knicks, and you have a top five pick, (lets say at #4 or 5) would you draft OJ Mayo? I understand the risk and all but to me, he may have the best upside of any guard in this draft and that includes Rose. What you think?
Bradford Doolittle (Basketball): I'm not sure I'd want Mayo over Rose but I do think that Mayo is going to be a dynamite NBA player. He'd fit anywhere but there is so much work to be done in overhauling that roster, I'm not sure where you'd even begin.
Craig (Fayetteville, AR): As a long-suffering fan of New Orleans sports teams, what do you peg the Hornets' odds of winning the title at? Too early to get overly excited?
Bradford Doolittle (Basketball): Hey, the Hornets are up 2-0 over the defending champs in the conference semis. If you're not excited now, you'll never be. I'd estimate their chances at winning the title at 10%-15%. That's based on what I think their projected log5 would play out as they advance. I don't have the spreadsheet handy so I can't do the exacty math.
James (FLA): Say Miami gets the first overall pick. Clearly, they should draft Rose... A lineup of Rose/Wade/Marion/Haslem is pretty sweet. But they have a hole in the middle and is their bench good enough? How good can Miami be next year if they land the top pick?
Bradford Doolittle (Basketball): The roster is still pretty rough but Orlando has shown you can win a lot of games with four really good players. No matter who they add, they key is for Wade to return to elite production.
Bradford Doolittle (Basketball): OK, thanks again everyone. Happy playoffs.