Oklahoma City Thunder @ Memphis Grizzlies Game 3 Prediction: The Thunder evened up the series after the Grizzlies pulled the stunner in Game 1, outplaying Oklahoma all night and continuing their amazing playoff run. It’s not that surprising, however, as Memphis has a couple battle tested, defensive minded, tough-nosed players like Tony Allen and Shane Battier keeping their defensive together while Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol give opposing front courts all kinds of trouble. The Grizzlies are good, folks, it’s no fluke.
The Thunder got one hell of a game from their bench in Game 2, and that’s a huge reason why they came out well on top of the Grizz to even the series. 15 and 21 from Eric Maynor (3/4 from the three-point line) and James Harden was even nicer when added to Marc Gasol and Randolph teaming up to shoot 5 for 22 from the floor.
If I were the Thunder, I’d be ready for a battle on the road.
That being said, I still think the Thunder are the team to pick here. Unlike the Spurs, they aren’t at an athletic disadvantage against the Grizzlies, and I do believe they are the better team. With Perkins and Serge, they can match up pretty well against Gasol and Zach, and that makes a ton of difference.
Prediction: Thunder 94 – Grizzlies 89
Oklahoma City Thunder (+3.5) @ Memphis Grizzlies (5/7)
Chicago Bulls (-3400) VS. Indiana Pacers (+2200)
Starts Saturday, 1pm ET, ESPN
Those hoping for an upset, the chance is pretty fat. Danny Granger could always go wild for a game and sneak the Pacers out a win, and it’s not like this Indiana team doesn’t have some talent – but they truly are the biggest long shot underdog of the NBA Playoffs (maybe equal to New Orleans). If there’s a gimmie out there, the Bulls to win is it.
Miami Heat (-1800) VS. Philadelphia 76ers (+1000)
Starts Saturday, 3:30pm ET, abc
Those looking to cash in on the Heat will probably win their bet, but this isn’t nearly the gimmie it would seem. Sure, Philadelphia has lost all three times against the Heat so far this season, each by 9 points or more, but strung together a lot of wins over the latter half of the season, and looked good doing it. Philly lost it there toward the end, dropping 5 of their final 6, and they finished the season 6-13 ATS, but this is a deep team with a lot of options. Miami is the type of team that could drop a game and get real nervous. I think the Miami gamblers are pretty safe with their big minus bet, but a gimmie, not like LA and Chicago.
Boston Celtics (-360) VS. New York Knicks (+300)
Starts Sunday, 7pm ET, TNT
They made this one close, and I’m guessing the Knickerbockers get a lot of series bets taking them to pull the upset – but I don’t buy it. Sure, the Celtics have been playing some poor basketball down the stretch, and this team has obviously been hurting without a big man to be a defensive centerpiece, but it’s really hard for me to see the wing-it Knicks taking out the seasoned Celtics. If anything, I know Boston has more fight in them. Defensively, they play like a team, and while New York has shown the ability to beat good teams, I don’t think they can do it consistently. Winning 4 of 7, I just don’t believe.
San Antonio Spurs (-500) VS. Memphis Grizzlies (+350)
Starts Sunday, 1pm ET, TNT
Why isn’t it tougher to buy the Grizzlies pulling this upset when they don’t even have their highest paid player (Rudy Gay) in the line-up? You’d think that the NBA’s best record out West would hold a little more weight in this match-up, but the Grizzlies have become a scary team for an aging Spurs squad. This series was tied, 2-2, this season – but the Spurs were winning early, when they were beating everybody and the Grizzlies were underachieving. The Grizzlies were winning late when they started to figure it out, and the Spurs slipped a little. Certainly the Spurs get the benefit of the doubt here, but if you’re looking for an upset, you could certainly do worse than taking the Grizzlies. Zach Randolph has double-doubled the Spurs a couple times in a row, and Tony Allen has given them fits each of the last two games. If Mike Conley can hit shots, and if Marc Gasol can cause some problems with his size, looking for a 8-seed beating a 1-seed!
Orlando Magic (-550) VS. Atlanta Hawks (+425)
Starts Saturday, 7pm ET, ESPN
Now here’s one that could certainly happen, probably the best payout for an actual chance to win that you’ll get with an underdog. I know the regular season means little, but the Hawks beat the Magic in each of the last 3 games these two teams played – Al Horford and Josh Smith have done a good job of keeping up with Dwight Howard in the post, sometimes even outperforming the big man. The only time Orland beat Atlanta this season was back before the trades that revamped Orlando’s roster – since then it’s been all Hawks. Again, Orland will probably play a little different in the playoffs – and my guess is that they win in 6 – however, if I was here to gamble, the Hawks to win at +475 would be one of my wagers.
Los Angeles Lakers (-2000) VS. New Orleans Hornets (+1400)
Starts Sunday, 3:30pm ET, ESPN
Fat chance? No chance. Chris Paul is good, but he’s had better seasons, and I don’t think he’s at the top of his game. Outside of him, the Lakers are better at every single position, and it’s not close very often. If the Lakers don’t sweep this one, I will be stunned.
Dallas Mavericks (-205) VS. Portland Trailblazers (+175)
Starts Saturday, 9:30pm ET, ESPN
I think this one is a toss up, and, in fact, I like the Blazers to win this series in 6 or 7 games. I think they have the guys to match up with the Mavericks, and quite honestly, they are playing better basketball right now. Portland’s won the last two meetings, and as I said earlier, the teams over .500 that Dallas has beaten over the last quarter of the season are very few. The playoff teams they’ve beaten over the last 21 games? New Orleans. Once. The final game of the season. The New York Knicks. Once. That’s it. I like Portland, so I’m taking the +175 and loving it.
Oklahoma City Thunder (-215) VS. Denver Nuggets (+180)
Starts Sunday, 9:30pm ET, TNT
I think this one is very, very close. I love the Nuggets since the trade – what a fun team to watch, they play a lot closer to the college style, which is by far the elite style of basketball. This team shares the rock and they run, the only problem is, I think Oklahoma City can run with them. This is probably the worst match-up in the playoffs for Denver, a team that has two players greater than anybody on your team, and can match you athletically. I like the Thunder, but I’m not sure how many. Denver’s going to fight, but it could be 5 very close games or 7. I’d stay away from betting this one.
San Antonio Spurs @ Miami Heat Monday NBA Free Pick: After their win over the Lakers earlier in the week, and a straight beatdown of the Memphis Grizzlies yesterday, Monday’s rematch with a Spurs team that embarrassed the Heat just a week ago should be awesome. The Heat are still good, folks, don’t get it twisted. They just need to remember what they’re good at… This week, they have.
I know it’s easy to say it now, but through all of the Heat’s struggles with end-game situations, I’ve been begging them to give Wade the ball and send LeBron in for a pick and role – a win/win situation because you have to pick a very poisonous poison, and even if Wade misses, Lebron headed to the hoop for a putback is a good thing. They did that against L.A. when they were up 2 with less than a minute to go, it worked like a charm. Those people that I talk to on a normal basis know I was demanding the Heat do that. Those that don’t know, well, you’re just going to have to trust me or write me off as some clown that claims he said something noteworthy when he really didn’t – so you’d just have to put me in the category of most sportswriters – ha, either way, I’m telling the truth!
Sunday’s rematch with the Spurs is still big, and I don’t know how great the Heat have played in BIG games this year. Wait, I do know, and it hasn’t been very impressive.
The Spurs are also a tough match-up for the Heat. They have a TEAM – which means, they have a bunch of pieces that fit nicely together that can attack you from a lot of different spots. They have a few offensive bigs, Duncan, Blair, and McDyess, all guys that will be nearly impossible for the Heat’s bigs to stop. They have an offensive point guard with the ability to drive and finish, something the Heat really struggle with (and that the Lakers don’t have). Then they have Manu and Richard Jefferson, a couple guys LeBron and Wade will have to pay attention to. Gary Neal hits 3s off the bench and does little things. George Hill is a very tough PG that will give the Heat trouble again. It won’t be like last time, but I still think the smart play is San Antonio.
San Antonio Spurs @ Miami Heat (ESPN) (3/14)
2010 NBA Mock Draft: Part II (15-30)
As promised, here is the second half of my 2010 NBA Mock Draft. Workouts are still taking place, but I think you’ll get a lot out of my take on the draft. Just like my first Mock, (The Lottery Picks), this write up has who I think the teams will take, followed by who I would take. Once a player is chosen, he leaves my draft board. If you missed my first half of the NBA Mock Draft, check it out HERE. Enjoy!
15. Ekpe Udoh– Milwaukee Bucks: Who would I draft? James Anderson. I think both guys make a lot of sense. I liked Udoh in college, but am not sure he’ll be able to out-athlete guys at the next level. Against Duke he seemed like an NBA player to me, and the Bucks could definitely use more bigs to play behind Bogut. However, with Salmons hitting free agency and the Bucks really taking off after John joined the club, I think getting a big scoring guard with polish would help them continue to win now. Anderson could get that done.
16. Donatas Motiejunas– Minnesota Timberwolves: Who would I draft? Damion James.I understand stashing a foreigner away, especially when you have 3 1st round picks, and if they grab Donatas at #16 then they pick up the highest rated foreigner in the draft – which all makes a lot of sense – but this team could really use some polished players to become a winning team, and picking up a small forward with a winning pedigree like Damion James, makes the most sense to me. James can hit jumpers, he likes taking big shots, and he plays tough as all hell. Good qualities for a Timberwolves team that needs an identity.
17. James Anderson– Chicago Bulls: Who would I draft? James Anderson. The Bulls really missed Ben Gordon’s scoring punch, and if James Anderson is still on the board, he makes sense here. There are a couple other shooting guard, scoring types that could find their way to Chicago (especially when you consider free agency and what might take place) but a guy like Anderson makes a lot of sense for the Bulls. Eric Bledsoe, if they think they can play him at the two and not be at a defensive disadvantage, might be a guy they would hope for. Dominique Jones, the SG from South Florida, is another guy I like who isn’t getting much 1st round attention, but should be a solid scoring option. Jordan Crawford is another guy with some big upside, a guy that might do well in Chicago if a solid leader is picked up to coach the team.
18. Eric Bledsoe– Miami Heat: Who would I draft? Eric Bledsoe. The Heat need somebody to run the point in Miami, and where Chalmers used to be looked at as a steal, he’s now being used minimally as a back up. I think Bledsoe’s upside is grand, and if John Wall had attended anywhere but Kentucky, we would have really seen what Bledsoe is capable of. As is, Bledsoe showed that he can succeed and have big games as a second fiddle in the backcourt – a great thing for a place like Miami. If the young pg/sg is available, I think the Heat would be stupid to pass him up.
19. Solomon Alabi– Boston Celtics: Who would I draft? Damion James. I think the Celtics have earned the right to take the best player, and I think that guy is likely James. If Bledsoe dropped, a back up shooting guard/point guard might be a brilliant decision, but he’s gone in my mock. Alabi, I see what the Celtics are doing by picking him – he has great defensive upside, works his but off, plays very smart, and is a huge body down low. They don’t need an offensive center, and Alabi could take care of some bench minutes. However, James is a polished player with a very solid all around game that is ready to be a pro right now. The Celtics have a small window, and James could show up for big minutes right off the bat. Tough call, but I would go with James if I were making the pick.
20. Damion James– San Antonio Spurs: Who would I draft? Jordan Crawford. Oh, the Spurs could go many different ways here, including over seas. I wouldn’t be stunned if they grabbed James because the kid knows how to play, will be a solid player in the NBA, is greatly undervalued, and they always seem to make sound decisions on draft day – and I think James will be good. But Crawford is a scoring guard that could flourish under the Spurs’ solid leadership, but in the front office, the coaching staff, and amongst the players. It’s a very good atmosphere for a kid with tons of scoring upside. San Antonio could get the most out of a guy like Crawford.
21. Patrick Patterson– Oklahoma City Thunder: Who would I draft? Patrick Patterson. This kid was a great player for Kentucky. At times, he looked like the best player on the floor, and that team was not only loaded with talent but claimed two of the best guards in the draft, the best player in the draft, and a big that might slip into the lottery that didn’t even get minutes because of a guy like Patterson. I don’t know how Patterson doesn’t get more love as a solid PF at the next level. He’s explosive, aggressive, plays smart, has range on his jump shot, and finishes hard at the rim. Oklahoma could use a power forward that works hard and can spread the floor a little – I guess I’m not sold on the Thunder being able to defend your average power forward with the likes of Jeff Green.
22. Lance Stephenson– Portland Trailblazers: Who would I draft? Terrico White. I think Stephenson has solid upside. He might be the most talented player left, he has good size, and while he underperformed last season – he looks like he has plenty of room to improve and grow as a player. The Blazers aren’t dying for anything, so taking a high upside kid with plenty of potential and ideal size might just makes plenty of sense. I like Terrico White a little more than Stephenson, as I see him as a little more polished and very explosive.
23. Quincy Pondexter– Minnesota Timberwolves: Who would I draft? Darington Hobson. Both these guys are productive players at the college level that some think might not transfer to the NBA. Pondexter probably played himself into a sure thing first round position with his awesome second half of the year at UW – but then he played him self into the latter picks of the round by stinking it up for most of the NCAA Tournament. He’s a good player that goes on streaks, but Minnesota could definitely use his long body and improved offensive game at small forward. But I like Darington Hobson just a little more. Hobson struggled big time during the post-season, but this kid showed me flashes of greatness all year – I see him being a solid pro.
24. Jordan Crawford– Atlanta Hawks: Who would I draft? Jarvis Varnado. The Hawks are going to lose Joe Johnson, don’t get it twisted – the guy is as good as gone. Crawford can score the basketball, has good upside, and has shown that he has the will to show up big time in the most important games. A lot of people don’t love his attitude, but every team needs a guy that wants the ball with the game on the line. This pick makes sense to me. I like Varnado because I think the Hawks suck against teams with a post presence. I think Varnado is a very good shot blocker that could help to give opposing offenses some trouble. The Hawks need post defense really bad.
25. Terrico White– Memphis Grizzlies: Who would I draft? Terrico White. White showed all season long how athletic he is. At the NBA Draft Combine, he proved it once again. The kid is super explosive and he can shoot the basketball. His speed and ability to handle the basketball give him a big point guard upside, while still being able to help put points on the board as a shooting guard. Memphis isn’t saddled with any huge holes, so taking an athletic scorer with upside makes sense.
26. Paul George– Oklahoma City Thunder: Who would I draft? Larry Sanders. George can really shoot the ball, and I understand the Thunder wanting to add some shooters around Durrant, because face it, guys are going to get open. But I don’t think this team needs any more players getting shots. They have Durrant, Westbrook, Jeff Green, and James Harden is going to be a good pro as well. You’re telling me a 5th guy to get shots is what they need? I don’t see it. I think Larry Sanders would be a much better pick. His size is very impressive, as is his athleticism. He isn’t a very polished player, but he’d give the Thunder another look, and his upside is a good value pick here.
27. Armon Johnson– New Jersey Nets: Who would I draft? Willie Warren. If I were the Nets, I’d take a chance on Warren. He was a lottery possibility last year, and some struggles off the court seemed to get the best of his this season. But the kid can really play, as he showed during his freshman campaign. Injuries, issues with the coaching staff, a disappointing season – whatever you want, there’s plenty of reasons to go a different direction – which is what I expect New Jersey, and the rest of the first round, to do. But Warren is still that potential Top 10 player, and at 27 I think he’d be a steal. Armon Johnson is a beast of a point guard, very strong, athletic, and fast. He has long arms and he can really score the basketball. He doesn’t have a great jumper, but his physicality and quickness could make him a productive late round pick.
28. Kevin Seraphin– Memphis Grizzlies: Who would I draft? Trevor Booker. Yeah, I would take Trevor Booker. Some people say him and Zach Randolph are a lot alike – they are wrong. Sure, Booker can score on the post, has a solid touch, and is a smooth player – but he’s also a hard worker that is much faster and more athletic than people think. He might not have All-NBA upside, but he can help any team in the league. Seraphin is a very big body, a nice project player from overseas. He might pull out of the draft, but right now he’d be a guy that Memphis could grab with one of their 1st round picks, stash him away for a few years, and grab him when and if he’s more NBA ready – or if they need post help.
29. Hassan Whiteside– Orlando Magic: Who would I draft? Trevor Booker. Whiteside is an interesting guy. He thinks he’s going to be an all star, he claims that he wants to be one of the best, but he just doesn’t put in the work to back up all his talk. Lots of people claim they want to be something, but when it comes right down to it, their dedication and hard work is a good indicator of what they really want. Whiteside, to me, is a perfect example of why an NBA body doesn’t mean you’ll ever be a success at that next level. Talent-wise, he’s got plenty, but mentally he’s too immature. The Magic have plenty of leaders on and off the court to keep Whiteside grounded. Getting his face dunked on by Dwight Howard in practice might be just what the doctor ordered for Hassan. However, I would go with Booker. The kid is way faster and stronger than people give credit. He’s a tough kid that would be a perfect compliment player to any good team. As workouts continue, and Booker dominates competition, he’ll move up the draft charts into the first round.
30. Stanley Robinson– Washington Wizards: Who would I draft? Stanley Robinson. Nobody is sure about what Stanley Robinson is going to bring to a basketball game, but at his best he’s athletically gifted with an NBA body ready to play right now. With a leader and quick floor general like John Wall on his squad, I feel like you would get the best from Robinson on a consistent basis. If the Wizards are going to run, Robinson would be a nice energy player that could finish around the rim and score points on the break. Somebody has to take a chance on this guy.
The NBA takes a deep backseat to NCAA Tournament action this week, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any good games. I’m spending most of my efforts on the Big Dance, however, as Wednesday’s two games will be my only picks in Pro Basketball this week. The Spurs/Magic game was appealing at first, but I’m a little worried now realizing that the aging Spurs will be playing the 2nd game of a back-to-back, if they don’t turn to dust first. The Grizzlies will also be playing the 2nd of a back-to-back, which could give them trouble against the young and energetic Rockets – but both teams should have plenty of energy as most of them can just barely drink legally. Here’s the breakdown.
San Antonio Spurs @ Orlando Magic (-7.5) (3-17: 8:00 PM ET – ESPN): The Magic are favored by 7.5, and I like that bet. They are playing at home, they average nearly 7 points more than they give up, and they are playing an old team in the midst of a back-to-back, and they certainly out-man the Spurs. San Antonio is just one game over .500 on the road, though they have played pretty well lately (4-1 on the road over their last 5, their only loss a 2 point L in Cleveland). The Spurs have won the 2nd game of a back-to-back each of their last two chances, but I still like Orlando. Sometimes I can’t be bothered by the numbers.
Memphis Grizzlies @ Houston Rockets (3-17: 8:30 PM ET) The Grizzlies and Rockets go at it, and while the line isn’t out yet, I think I like the Rockets in this one. Memphis hasn’t played very well over their last 3 games, losing 125-108 against Denver and winning two games over the Knicks and Bulls, but both were close, and both were against injury plagued diving teams. Houston has played well of late, and look to be getting healthy. The Grizz are playing their 2nd game in as many nights, and the Rockets are playing at home. If the spread is less than 5, I think the Rockets should cover.
Friday Night’s Basketball action might not have a Celtics/Cavs or Lakers/Nuggets feel, but there’s a couple good games that can grab my attention. The first of my two games of the night sees two of the “next best” teams in their respective conferences. The Lakers rule the West’s popularity contest and the Cavs (or Celtics, or even Magic) often sit atop the East’s, but there’s reason to believe the Mavericks and Hawks have what it takes to reach the NBA Finals. The Charlotte Bobcats and Memphis Grizzlies are both looking for a birth into the group of 16, and while both have had great times this year, they have seen plenty of struggles as well. Both need this win on Friday Night.
Dallas Mavericks (+3.5) @ Atlanta Hawks (2-26: 7:00 PM ET – ESPN): I know the Mavericks have gotten a lot better, but the Hawks are tough. Still, I think Brenden Heywood and Dirk Nowitzki end up giving the smaller front line in Atlanta a tough time. Two legit 7 footers will give a lot of teams trouble, but now that Dirk doesn’t have to defend the paint as much, things are going to get easier for the Mavs. I like Atlanta, and they certainly have a punchers chance, as they are probably the better team right now – but the Mavs have a lot to play with, and I think they are a tough match-up for the Hawks.
Charlotte Bobcats @ Memphis Grizzlies (-3.5) (2-26: 8:00 PM ET): The deciding factor for me in this game is the fact that it’s being played outside of Charlotte – and away from home, you never know what Stephen Jackson is going to do – that cat is a gong show. He’s also the best player in Charlotte. Tough combo, I guess – as the former Warrior, and Pacer, and Spur, breathed some playoff hopes into a franchise without any history outside of the regular season. But he’s been up and down, and he’s tough to rely on, and his troubles away from home certainly go with the Bobcats struggles. The Bobcats haven’t been playing great lately, and I think Zach Randolph ends up doing bad things to Charlotte’s front line. That’s enough for me to go Grizzlies at home.