It's time to update the standings after one of the best first rounds in playoff history and see how our perspicacious participants fared.
The playoffs have been rapturous so far, although they are no longer Raptorous, especially in the Western Conference where the lower seeds gave the favorites everything they could handle. Between 50 total games, two game (and one series) winning buzzer beaters, four consecutive overtime games in a series and five game sevens there was plenty to satiate the most ravenous of NBA fans.
If you don't care about my quips and just want to see where you ended up feel free to scroll down to the standings (for those of you who didn't already do that).
While the Suns fell victim to the tempest of the Western Conference and narrowly missed the playoffs, the Atlanta Hawks coasted to the eight seed in the East despite a 1-14 midseason swoon. Paul George helped carry a Pacers team that looked eminently beatable past the Hawks and starters (this is awesome) DeMarre Carroll and Pero Antic. It's baffling how Roy Hibbert can play entire games without being seen considering he's a freakishly large human being.
The NBA should be ashamed of itself for letting the Heat drive over this speed bump while the teams out west were butchering each other. Hopefully the new commissioner, unlike the pretentious do-nothing he replaced, takes care of this competitive imbalance with a new playoff structure.
Joe Johnson, who will have
earned been paid $198,647,490 in his career by the end of the 2015-16 season, led the veteran Nets squad with 21.6 points per game and Toronto failed to advance to the second round for just the second time in the franchise's 19 year existence. Paul Pierce snuffed out the Raptors with a series clinching block to the acute vexation of the Dino devotees. That was actually pretty cool that they rallied around that team. Now Brooklyn is on to face Miami in a series between the two oldest teams in the NBA (I hope that's right since I took it off of HispanosNBA).
I'm going to come clean by acknowledging that I barely saw more than a few passing glimpses of this series. While I was busy watching nearly every minute of every Western Conference playoff game I deprived myself of the opportunity to watch a basketball game that ended in a score of 75-69. Sounds riveting. I've heard others claim that Washington's dynamic guard play overwhelmed the Bulls, so I guess I'll go with that even though it appears John Wall only shot 36% from the field (seems like a lot of pretty poor shooting performances across the league - we'll call it good defense).
The Spurs dismantled Dallas in a very anticlimactic game seven after a thoroughly enjoyable romp through the first six. Monta Ellis played better (for stretches) than I ever imagined he would and Vince Carter hit a
half amazing game winner that kept the nettlesome Mavs hanging around, but the inexorable Spurs eventually triumphed in a series that was surprisingly (to me) close. If Parker, Ginobili and Duncan can't take down LeBron James this time around it is always possible they will just outlast him and win a title after he retires.
Memphis was able to ugly up this series pretty good to the point where Kevin Durant was taking serious heat for being flustered and exasperated by Tony Allen, who shadowed Durant better than, well, his shadow. The four consecutive overtime games in this series were electric, edge of your seat basketball. In the end the Thunder's superior talent and athleticism prevailed, as Durant and the volatile, enigmatic Russell Westbrook woke up and helped their team cruise to victories in the last two games. Although I'm not necessarily a fan of the "Grit and Grind" style that the Grizzlies play (sorry, I like points), watching Marc Gasol execute from the center position is a thing of beauty.
I wonder if the 40 point margin of victory was the biggest bloodbath ever in a series that went seven games... A shadow was cast on this series by the Sterling fiasco and there seemed to be more talk about Mark Jackson's impending doom than analysis of the play on the court, but for those of us not in the national media that actually watched the games this was another great back and forth. For my money, DeAndre Jordan was the difference as I believe he outplayed both of his megastar teammates, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, and helped the Clippers survive.
LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard absolutely owned this series. Nobody played better than these guys in the first round. Lillard fittingly delivered the dagger with a series clinching buzzer beater that firmly declared his station as one of the elite players in the league (for those of us who hadn't already caught on). Not many people besides Dwight Howard could average 26 points, 14 rebounds and 3 blocks per game in a series and still take heat for losing, but to be fair he's earned his share of that criticism. After all the work the Blazers did to revamp their bench last offseason they still practically don't play one, as their starters combined to average over 40 minutes per game, but it would be hard for me to take their excellent starting five off the floor, too.
Make sure to check you point totals since I was
barely paying attention somewhat distracted when I was putting this together.
The pack is being led by a pair of Brightsiders whose user names mean absolutely nothing to me. I know that Oterahn is an anagram for another and that if you google it several of his fanposts pop up in the search results. I'm also guessing that Jomer's nickname is Jomerito if I've managed to stalk the right person on facebook.
Special thanks to Lionel Mandrake and Shandy Ong for playing the role of the Charlotte Bobcats. Don't feel too bad, somebody has to finish last and you are somebody.
I also want to thank everyone again (don't you love how people say that when it's really the first time they've thanked them) for participating. There were 36 entries this year, which tops last year's total... I remember seeing it was more, but I'm too lazy to go back to look for the exact number. This would have been really depressing if it was just me against Beavis25. I don't know if you guys peruse other SB Nation basketball blogs, but the Thunder's site doesn't even do gamethreads and gets like seven comments in a playoff game recap. Yeah.
Maybe next year I'll muster up the initiative to solicit some swag from Seth for the winner.
Here's a look at some of the power forward prospects prior to the NBA Draft Combine later this month, whom the Suns may be able to choose from with one or more of their three first round picks in the coming draft.
These are some of the power forwards that the Suns could be keeping a close eye on in the coming draft combine that could be potential candidates for their 18th or 27th pick.
6'8", 230lbs, 20 years old, North Carolina St.
Strengths: Great Scorer, Strong, Good Shooter, High B-ball I.Q.
Weaknesses: Tweener, Not Great Athlete, Average Length
Although T.J. Warren may project to be more of a small forward in the NBA, I think his game is much better suited to the power forward position, with his strength and natural ability to score in and around the post....especially for the Suns, who depend on their wings to spread the floor.
If Warren had a few more inches of height and wingspan, he would be one of the top big man prospects in the draft. Warren was the third leading scorer in college basketball this season, behind Doug McDermott and Antoine Mason...and did so while shooting 55% from the field overall...higher than both of them. He would be a tremendous value as a mid round pick.
6'11", 210lbs, 19 years old, Chalon (Intl)
(click to enlarge) (stats courtesy of realgm)
Strengths: Great Athlete, Runs Floor Very Well, Long, Good Rebounder, Great Finisher, Long Wingspan
Weaknesses: Very Raw, Lacks Post Game, Needs to Add Strength
Capela was once mocked as a mid first round pick, with some scouts claiming he could go in the late lottery. He certainly has all of the tools...and his length, athleticism, 7'4" wingspan, and defensive ability make him a very intriguing prospect for the NBA.
However, he disappointed some in the latest Nike Hoop Summit failing to make much of an impact which caused him to slide in the mocks lately. He also doesn't have a great deal of offensive or defensive awareness, and is still learning how to play the game at a high level. He also has a reputation for a lack of effort at times.
Still, he is a young and very raw prospect with a lot of physical tools and natural talent. He could be a very worthwhile investment for a team willing to be patient and develop him slowly.
6'9", 225lbs, 21 years old, North Carolina
Strengths: Elite Athleticism, Long, Strong Frame, Good Defender, Good Finisher
Weaknesses: Inconsistent Jump-Shot, Limited Offensively
James McAdoo is an interesting case. I remember watching him coming off the bench as a freshman at UNC thinking that he could end up being a star once he figured it all out. Well...three years have past and I'm still waiting for that to happen.
McAdoo has all of the physical gifts you could want in a basketball player. He's 6'9" with a 7'1" wingspan, a chiseled frame, and pogo sticks for legs. However, in his three years at UNC, he hasn't really progressed much at all. He still doesn't have much of a post game beyond his ability to dunk, and he hasn't improved his jump shot enough to be a reliable option within 15 feet.
Still, McAdoo has so much potential that he makes for a very intriguing prospect, especially in the late first round. Most mocks have him pegged to be a second round pick, but with his raw physical talent and his attributes I could definitely see him as a late first round pick for a team willing to take a chance on him. Could the Suns be that team?
6'9", 245lbs, 22 years old, Florida
Strengths: Athletic, NBA-Ready Frame, Super Strong, Good Rebounder, 7'1" Wingspan
Weaknesses: Very Limited Offense, Undersized (height), No Jump Shot, Inconsistent, Not Dominant
Patric Young has to be the most physically impressive basketball player I've ever seen...certainly at the college level. Seriously, the guy is jacked. He has muscles on top of muscles and looks more like a tight end than a center...In fact, rumor had it the coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was interested in Young for the NFL...but that's a story for another day.
However, once you get past just how amazing a physical specimen he is...you start to wonder what else is there? A guy with Young's size, strength, and athleticism should be absolutely dominating at the college level. He looks like a man among boys out there...but his play is mostly underwhelming. Sure, his stats aren't bad, and he's done a pretty good job as the starting center for Florida. But what about in the NBA?
Regardless of his limitations, Young should have no problem carving out a spot on someone's roster as a back-up center, or possibly a low post power forward, if he can ever develop some sort of offensive game. His size and rebounding alone is enough to almost guarantee that he can be successful in some role. Although Young is currently mocked to go in the early to mid second round, I think there's a good chance he'll slip into the end of the first. Could the Suns use a strong post player like Young to help fortify their front court?
So there you have it, the first batch of players to watch for in the coming NBA Draft Combine. I'll be posting another position group soon full of other players that the Suns will be looking at soon to follow.
With as many as three first round picks available, the Suns have a lot of choices to make. Who do you like out of this group, if anyone, and what pick do you think the Suns will use on them? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.
The Phoenix Suns have not had an MVP candidate since Steve Nash left town, but now have Goran Dragic joining the list in 2014.
Goran Dragic had a great season for the resurgent Phoenix Suns. He won the Most Improved Player Award last week, and he was one of only three players in twenty years to finish a season with 20+ points, 5+ assists, 50+% field goal shooting and 41+% three-point shooting.
Dragic did not make the 2014 NBA All-Star Game, but he seems a lock for an All-NBA bid and now at least showed up on a list of the top 17 most valuable players in the NBA.