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NBA AM: Which Higher Seed Is In More Trouble?
Posted By Yannis Koutroupis On May 13, 2013 @ 9:37 am In NBA | No Comments
Washington point guard Abdul Gaddy is out in Las Vegas training at Impact Basketball in preparation for the 2013 NBA Draft. He talks about what he's working on there and what he hopes to bring to a NBA team in today's video of the day.Watch More Video Here
It only gets tougher is a common saying at this time of year. It describes the NBA playoffs perfectly, especially this postseason where each of the four higher seeds are involved in grueling series that very well could end up with upsets based on what we’ve seen so far.
The Miami HEAT is the only higher seed to hold an advantage right now at 2-1 over the Chicago Bulls. That lead couldn’t be more deceiving, though. Despite going up against a Bulls team that is missing Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich, the HEAT have more than had their hands full. They ran way with Game 2, but the Bulls stole Game 1 and were within arm’s reach in Game 3. While the HEAT look poised to advance, nothing about this matchup has been easy for them outside of Game 2.
The New York Knicks, San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder are not in the driver’s seat like the HEAT. The Spurs are tied 2-2 with the Golden State Warriors, while the Knicks are down 2-1 to the Indiana Pacers and the Thunder have an identical deficit in their series with the Memphis Grizzlies.
As unlikely as it seemed on the outset, these three higher seeds could find themselves exiting the playoffs earlier than expected. With that in mind, we examine which team is in the most serious danger.
New York Knicks
The Pacers deserve a lot of credit for being able to slow down Carmelo Anthony, one of the best scorers in the league, and turning J.R. Smith, the Sixth Man of the Year, into a virtual non-factor. With Roy Hibbert protecting the rim their defense has been stout. The Knicks got Amar’e Stoudemire back for Game 3, but his impact was minimal and he may be too far away from in-game shape to make a difference in this series.
Anthony has to get help. He can’t win this series by himself, nor can he and Smith. Other guys are going to have to step up like they have for Indiana, a team playing without a Danny Granger, who was arguably considered their best player coming into the year.
To make things look even more bleak for the Knicks, Smith is currently battling an illness. He’s expected to play in Tuesday’s Game 4, which is basically a must-win for the Knicks when you consider how unlikely coming back from a 3-1 deficit is.
Danger Level: High
San Antonio Spurs
The Warriors have every reason to just be happy to still be playing right now. They’re in the second round for just the second time in the last 20 years, are missing their only All-Star in David Lee and Stephen Curry, their best player, has a bum ankle that he admits won’t be 100 percent for the rest of the playoffs. Yet, they are giving the far more experienced Spurs a heck of a series.
Just when it looked like the Warriors were going to head to San Antonio for Game 5 with their season on the line, they locked down defensively and took complete control of the boards to tie the series up at two all with Game 4 overtime victory.
The Warriors’ confidence is at an all-time high. Not only did they find a way to beat the Spurs in a game where they could only muster 97 points in 53 minutes, but they’re a Game 1 collapse from being up 3-1.
They should expect to see the best Spurs team they’ve seen yet in Game 5 on Tuesday night. The Spurs know how critical of a game that is. They want to avoid going back to Golden State down 3-2 at all costs. It’s unlikely they allow themselves to get bullied on the backboards like they did on Sunday, so the Warriors will have to shoot much better if they want to push them on the brink of elimination.
Danger Level: Medium
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder have the extreme misfortune of going up against a team in Memphis that is really peaking right now. As valiantly as the Thunder have fought so far, they’re just nowhere near their best without Russell Westbrook. As great as Kevin Durant is, he cannot do it by himself and that’s pretty much the position he has been in the last two games.
It’s no coincidence that the Thunder were able to win Game 1 when Kevin Martin helped ease Durant’s load with 25 points. Since then he’s shot 8-28 from the field, scoring six in Game 2 and 13 in Game 3. Equally concerning is the Thunder’s inability to stop Marc Gasol. He’s scored at least 20 in every game so far and has been racking up the rebounds and assists as well. And unlike Durant, he’s getting plenty of help from his supporting cast as Zach Randolph and Mike Conley Jr. have put together strong series of their own so far.
Thoughts about how this series would have gone if Westbrook was healthy will only serve as a minor consolation. This season was all about winning a championship, but as of right now it doesn’t look like they have what it takes to get out of round two.
Danger Level: Max
Wiggins Set To Decide: Outside of the NBA playoffs, the biggest story in basketball right now is Canadian sensation Andrew Wiggins’ upcoming decision on where he will be playing next year. Wiggins, the consensus number one player in the 2013 recruiting class by basically every talent evaluator, reclassified this year to speed up his graduation to May. As a byproduct of that choice, he also had to make his college choice a year sooner than he originally expected.
Wiggins has taken his time, waiting until the last week of the late signing period to finally bring his recruitment to an end. His list has been trimmed down to North Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky and Florida State for some time, but many believe it to be a two horse race between the Wildcats and Seminoles.
Very few recruitments have drawn the type of attention and criticism that Wiggins’ has. He’s looked at by many, including yours truly, as a potential All-Star at the next level. The 18-year-old shooting guard has the build and game of a young Kobe Bryant. Scoring comes easy to him, but he’s capable of doing anything he sets his mind to on the basketball floor.
Wiggins is an absolute one-and-done prospect. In fact, in a draft class lacking star power like this year’s is, Wiggins would probably go number one overall this June if high school players were still permitted to make the jump straight to the NBA.
So, Wiggins decision basically boils down to which destination is going to be the best fit for him for roughly the next year. Earning an education is not going to be his primary concern, developing and fine tuning his million dollar gift to play the game of basketball is.
Kentucky’s John Calipari has proven to be the premier coach in college basketball for kids like Wiggins who are just making a temporary pit stop in college before going to the NBA. He has an untouchable track record, especially during his time at Kentucky, of making the most of the time he does have with guys and supporting them as they pursue every basketball player’s dream of going pro.
However, Coach Cal already has a team that could end up being the preseason number one without Wiggins. They’re certainly top five thanks to the incredible recruiting class he’s signed so far and the return of Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein. While Cal would certainly find time for Wiggins, the fact of the matter is that team is already suffering from a talent overload (a problem most coaches would kill for).
Now FSU on the other hand, everything changes for them if they win the Wiggins sweepstakes. He immediately makes them a much more serious contender in the ACC and the national landscape as a whole. Wiggins will be relied on there in a fashion that he wouldn’t be at Kentucky. FSU would need him at his best every night to compete at the highest level, Kentucky would just need him to buy into the program and take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves.
At the Nike Hoops Summit Wiggins was spotlighted as the guy to watch, but he had no trouble deferring to his teammates in a convincing victory for the World Team. He showed the willingness to let the game come to him rather than forcing the issue and getting caught up in how many eyes were on him. That mentality would serve him extremely well in Lexington.
But, great players like Wiggins love challenges and FSU is definitely a bigger challenge. The best players to come through there in recent years have failed to become impact players at the next level. He’s capable of changing that, it’s just all about whether or not he wants to shoulder that kind of burden. His parents are both alumni of FSU. It would be a feel good story that conceivably gives them some type of advantage, but the amount of time it’s taken Wiggins to decide indicates that he was generally torn on where he is going to go.
Tomorrow afternoon Kentucky could cap off what may already be the best recruiting class ever with the class’ top ranked player, FSU could land their biggest recruit ever, or Wiggins could shock us all and go to Kansas or North Carolina. Anything seems possible; the only known at this point is that the suspense will finally be coming to an end come Tuesday.
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