Shoals and Ziller preview each NBA playoff series.
Let's get this out of the way first: Were Andrew Bogut alive and well, this series would be a prime tangle, maybe the most sex (not sexiest) series of the opening round. As it is, the Hawks have a chance to continue proving that they're very, very good -- old associations die hard, I guess -- and the Bucks get some seasoning for when they make it back next year. Can I make a prediction about next year's playoffs in here?
What dost thee Deities of Basketball decree?
Wow, good question. Isn't that naked lady statue of Justice some goddess or other? Forget for a second that she's blind. The key point is, there's just no great injustice or imbalance at play here. The Hawks have steadily built their way up, with even Josh Smith reining in his game this season. They are now fully-legit and ready to step out into postseason as men, men to be reckoned with. The Bucks, infused with Good Skiles, defend like crazy, and have milked the old-style combination of stud center and guards who pay attention. We like to think that God abandons Man to watch him squirm, get himself into trouble, and fall into the bellies of whales. Not so with the Basketball Gods. In this case, they are content to lay back, fix their ambrosian popcorn, and enjoy whatever this series has to offer.
Okay, I'm not being totally honest here. If the Gods pay any attention to my prayers, they will send a message to John Salmons for being so vapidly inconsistent. Never has a player confused me as much when it comes to usually self-evident labels like "impact player", "star", and even, at times, "the man". Set him on the path of destiny, I say. Otherwise I will be forced to think he holds the key to quantum computing.
Everything revolves around 2010 free agency. How will this series affect the summer most?
Joe Johnson is unrestricted this summer; Ziller has him ranked as #7 overall in the class. You'd think this would be a big deal, especially with Mike D'Antoni coaching the Knicks, D'Antoni being the first coach to believe in Johnson, and the Knicks looking to do something with their cash once the top few pass them by. But this is Joe Johnson, people. If ever there was a player, and personality, who seemed tailor-made for the "I just want to finish my career in Atlanta", it's JJ. That the team no longer relies on him in isolations so much also makes him a wiser long-term investment than he would be otherwise. A twenty-nine year-old shooter/scorer isn't such an attractive proposition, but with reinforcements like Jamal Crawford around, Johnson can now show that he can do more than dribble and force shots. I will call him Penny Soft and Lite here and regret it forever. Oh, and he's never been so reliant on physical ability, which makes aging not such a big deal. I hope you enjoyed this Joe Johnson update.
Believe it or not, these Bucks have a lot to sew up this summer. The aforementioned Salmons will be free to move on, and since I'm sure nothing about his game will be clarified in one single series (that the Bucks will lose), Milwaukee's stuck with figuring out his worth. And yet he's indispensable, so the record says. Um, okay. And while Brandon Jennings will very shortly emerge as a major true point guard -- more on that in a second -- Luke Ridnour has had a renaissance of sorts this season, and also played quite well alongside Jennings.
We snuck into baseball's underground lair to pilfer one of its most lovely tools of prognostication -- the log5 method, invented by Bill James himself.
The data doesn't know about Andrew Bogut's absence, and the data don't care, because Atlanta did well enough in the regular season get the big log5 edge. A Hawks sweep is just slightly more likely than Bucks-in-six. -- T.Z.
Yes, hipsters have infiltrated NBA fandom, "instant-expert fans overrating certain players."
One thing overlooked in this year's tremendous draft class is how many flat-out rad, "that's my dude" players came out of it. Maybe it's because this cohort wasn't supposed to be so excel; there's something sneaky and insider-y about it. But even the three best rookies have that cred to them. Tyreke Evans has truly unique game, does it all, and is a dynamo on a lowly team. Stephen Curry, for all the rote hype that followed him into the league, has proven himself a pretty sick combination of teammate Monta Ellis and, well, someone who tries to run the offense occasionally. But Brandon Jennings still deserves the most t-shirts made about him. It's downright subversive that he's the purest point guard of the bunch, and the only one in the playoffs, since in many ways, he's still seen as the most edgy.
Jennings has been up-and-down, and justly ignored, since his torrid first month. Rodrigue Beaubois and Darren Collison definitely earned their brief bits of shine. Now, though, it's the playoffs, and guys with his level of style, personality, raw skills, and convoluted, power-fighting narrative are truly rare. But here he is. He did it. Nice try, Tyreke. Enjoy your summer, Steph. The Champ is here -- or at least the rookie who will take most naturally to the bigger stage.
Just because the babysitter's dead, doesn't mean we can't have a funky good time.