Three Things

1. Thanks to “moneyp” on the APBRmetrics web page. I thought I shut down my server from downloading stats for my stat page. However, I only turned off the player pages, not the team pages. Hence the playoff teams were being judged by their playoff stats in the team stat pages. I fixed it yesterday, and now the final stats for the 2004 season are up. The good news is since it’s apparently possible for my “program” to run the stats for the playoffs, I might just do that.

2. The NBA Carnival has arrived at Forum Blue & Gold. Only go there if you want to find a ton of NBA blogs, most covering the playoffs.

3. Tonight’s games should be interesting. The three favorites are all up 2-0, all heading to the opposing team’s court for the first time. Any home teams that lose tonight, can call up their friends on the Nets tomorrow to schedule some May tee times. If all three visitors win, that would mean half of the first round is settled. Although my bracket wouldn’t like it, the Bulls can make it 5 series that would be settled with a win on Saturday.

My Final Four

Detroit
Offense: 102.8 (17th)
Defense: 98.0 (3rd)
Net: +4.8

The Pistons don’t scare their opponents like they did last year. The most frightful thing heading into the Palace has become the fans, not the players. The reason this year’s squad doesn’t command the same respect is two fold. First the defense just isn’t as good as it was last year. After acquiring Rasheed Wallace, the Pistons defense was one of the best of all time. A year later the third ranked defense is super, but not dominant.

The second difference between last year’s championship team and this year’s version is the depth. The 2004 Pistons had 8 guys with a PER greater than Tayshaun Prince’s 13.3 on their playoff roster. This year they have 7 guys below that mark. Elden Campbell’s PER has been cut in half as he’s apparently taken a drive off Roberto Alomar Cliff, and worthless “Donnie” Darko Milicic might as well sit on the end of the Pistons bench wearing an eerie rabbit suit.

The core of the championship team is still there, plus McDyess (17.6 PER) who to the consternation of Knick is actually making a positive contribution to his team. Since they play in the Easy East, the only thing between them and the Finals is either a Shaq injury or beating him for the second year in a row.

Phoenix
Offense: 112.0 (1st)
Defense: 103.4 (14th)
Net: +8.6

The Suns are the sexy favorite to win it all. With Steve Nash at the helm, the offense purrs like a new engine through his gifted hands. Amare the Great and Shawn Marion seem to be a new generation of undersized front court players who succeed through superior physical ability. Watching the Suns score is like watching Cary Grant act, they just make it look smooth and easy.

Until of course they go to the reserves.

While I’d classify Detroit’s bench as below average, I’d call Phoenix’s craptacular. Their two best pine riders are uni-dimensional shooter Jim Jackson and shot blocker Steven Hunter. Barbosa has shown improvement and has moved up to being just a below average guard. Rounding out this sad bunch are three guys who would have trouble getting run on Charleville-M?zi?res: Bo Outlaw, Walter McCarty, and Paul “Don’t Call Me” Shirley. The Suns reserves are so bad that in an overtime game against San Antonio the starters played 244 of 265 (92%) possible minutes.

The Suns can win it all if their starters have no ill effect from playing so many minutes during the regular season, and can keep the bench on the bench.

Miami
Offense: 108.3 (2nd)
Defense: 100.1 (6th)
Net: +8.2

Although the Heat are primarily a two man squad, Miami has some decent pieces surrounding Shaq and Wade. Whether it’s the addition of the Big Guy, Wade’s rise into the NBA’s creme de la creme, or something else altogether, the Heat have gotten efficient scoring from the rest of their players. The league average for John Hollinger’s points per shot attempt (PSA) was 1.06 this year, and Miami has 7 guys that better that mark with 2 more that are above 1.03. Additionally, Damon Jones, Udonis Haslem, Christian Laettner, are sporting the highest PSAs of their career.

Miami’s weakness on offense is at the SF spot. For 10 years Eddie Jones has had a perfectly groomed moustache and an above average PER. This year he only has the ‘stache. Jones’ (13.9 PER) substitutes, Rasual Butler (10.6 PER) and Shandon Anderson (9.2 PER), don’t provide much in terms of scoring other than a nice free throw percentage. I’d have picked them as champions this year if it weren’t for …

San Antonio
Offense: 105.1 (6th)
Defense: 95.7 (1st)
Net: +9.4

If San Antonio and Miami meet in the Finals this matchup would be close, but I think the Spurs have a slight edge. Last year’s team was an average 14th in scoring, but this year the defense won’t have to carry the team alone. Tim Duncan has received a scoring boost from the continuing maturation of Tony Parker (18.4 PER) and Manu Ginobili (22.8 PER). While Devin Brown (14.9 PER) and Beno Udrih (14.6 PER) have given them some surprising production for youngsters, the Spurs have added veterans Brent Barry (14.3 PER), Nazr Mohammed (16.8 PER), and even Glenn Robinson (17.5 PER in 9 games). The Spurs have the deepest bench of the top 4 teams. Despite having all those offensive upgrades, the excellent defense is still the corner of this franchise.

Of course San Antonio’s problem is their health. In addition to Duncan taking it easy the last 4 games of the year, Rasho Nesterovic has been out two weeks with his ankle problem. Nazr Mohammed is more able than most backup centers, so San Antonio will be OK even if it takes a few more games for Rasho to get back. However they won’t reach the Finals without Duncan, who is pivotal to this team’s success.

Summary:
This year’s playoffs seem to be a departure from previous years, where only one or two franchises were clearly dominant over the rest. While the Spurs are a holdover from the dynasty teams that ruled the NBA throughout the last decade, last year’s Pistons win coupled with the dissolving of the Lakers has created a fresh canvas for any team to make their mark. Not only are these 4 teams strong enough to go all the way, but none are so dominant that we can begin to etch their name into the record books. In fact I could argue that the field could be extended to 7 clubs. Consider that Seattle is still confounding their opponents, Denver had that phenomenal second half, McGrady and Yao look unstoppable, and Dallas had too good a regular season to write them off just yet. It shouldn’t be a surprise if any of these teams were crowned champions in June, and speaks well of the current parity we’re enjoying in the league.

Notes on the KnickerBlogger Bracket Contest

If you don’t know about the KnickerBlogger Bracket Contest, you can scroll down and read about it.

* I forgot to add Kurt from Forum Blue & Gold. Kurt picked all the favorites in the first round, save for Sacramento in 6. The Laker fan also has the Spurs taking out the Pistons in 7. Sorry Kurt! I’ll go back & add you in to yesterday’s post.

* Although Detroit, Phoenix, San Antonio and Miami were unanimously selected to win their first round matchup, the Heat were the only team that all the prognosticators picked to win their second round matchup.

* Dallas would have been included in that group, if it weren’t for Father KnickerBocker being the sole believer in the Rockets surviving into the second round. He was also the only person to pick the Spurs to lose in the second round as well (to Seattle).

* Best upsets for the first round were Indiana (67%), Sacramento (60%) and Washington (27%).

* The Heat’s first series is expected to last 5.5 games, but their second series 4.9. Does everyone think the Nets are that much better than Washington/Chicago?

* Even though only 29% of the forecasters selected Boston to make it to the second round, two participants chose them to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. (Granted one was the CelticsBlog.com author.) The irony is that although Indiana was enormous favorites, nobody picked them to make it to the round after that.

* The lowest seed predicted to make it to the Finals are the Mavericks, by Roland Beech and Martin Johnson.

* Oddly enough nobody picked the best team in the league, the Phoenix Suns, to win it all! Only one person had the Suns getting to the Finals. Of course it’s that same dissentor again, Father KnickerBocker. The breakdown for the 2005 champion is: San Antonio (47%), Miami (33%), Detroit (13%), and Dallas (7%).

KnickerBlogger 2005 NBA Playoff Brackets Contest

Welcome to the second annual KnickerBlogger NBA Playoff Brackets Contest. This long standing tradition dates back to last year, where a field of 8 NBA experts donned their Carnac the magician hats before gazing into their crystal ball. These sages dared to envision the future, and use their vast hoops knowledge to predict the next NBA champion. Unfortunately none of the soothsayers chose the Detroit Pistons to take the title, but that hasn’t deterred us from trying again this year.

This year I’ve widened my search in the hopes that someone can get the darn thing right. The benefit for mainstream writers to join this motley group would be to gain “street cred” by rubbing elbows with the buzzword of last year (“blogger”). Meanwhile bloggers can brag to their friends from their windowless basement apartment by being associated with people that actually get paid for their writing.

Two notables from last year’s contest that aren’t competing this year are John Hollinger and Scott from RaptorBlog.com. Scott decided to retire after winning last year’s contest. He was interested in preserving his place in the KnickerBlogger record book with an insurmountable career winning percentage of 1.000. On the other hand the prolific Hollinger said he’d get his picks in as soon as he finished writing his ESPN Insider column, a piece for the New York Sun, next year’s Pro Basketball Forecast, his taxes, the grocery list for the supermarket, and that homework assignment he forgot to finish in the 4th grade.

To replace Hollinger, we had to resort to two writers. Kelly Dwyer is from Hollinger’s former employer, SI.com, while John’s co-worker at the New York Sun, Martin Johnson, represents the print media. Venturing outside of the blogosphere, I’ve invited Roland Beech who runs 82games.com and Justin Kubatko of basketball-reference.com who will fight it out for stat site honors. This year we’re graced by an overseas basketball blogger, the mysterious author of basketblogger.com from France. Finally, we’ve extended our reach outside of basketball, as Aaron Schatz of the immensely informative footballoutsiders.com and Brian Bassett who covers my favorite NFL team.

I’ve added a little wrinkle to this year’s contest. Not only do participants have to choose the winner in each series, but they also must guess the number of games the series goes. Each correct team will net the contestant with 5 points, and if they correctly guessed the number of games they’ll receive a bonus of 2 points. No points will be awarded for forecasting the number of games without guessing the proper team. This year’s winner will receive the inflated sense of self esteem comes with winning such nonsense.

And now for the moment you’ve all been waiting for… THE PICKS!

EAST

Name URL
ER1T1
ER1T2
ER1T3
ER1T4
ER2T1
ER2T2
ECC
Kelly Dwyer sportsillustrated.cnn.com
MIA in 5
DET in 6
IND in 7
CHI in 7
MIA in 4
DET in 7
DET in 6
Aaron Schatz www.footballoutsiders.com
MIA in 6
DET in 5
IND in 6
CHI in 7
MIA in 5
DET in 5
MIA in 7
Brian Bassett www.thejetsblog.com
MIA in 4
DET in 5
BOS in 5
CHI in 5
MIA in 6
BOS in 7
MIA in 6
Jeff www.CelticsBlog.com
MIA in 5
DET in 6
BOS in 5
CHI in 7
MIA in 6
BOS in 7
MIA in 6
Kevin Broom www.RealGM.com
MIA in 6
DET in 5
IND in 7
WAS in 6
MIA in 4
DET in 6
MIA in 7
Larry Fleisher knicks.mostvaluablenetwork.com
MIA in 6
DET in 5
IND in 7
CHI in 6
MIA in 6
DET in 7
DET in 7
Mr. BB www.basketblogger.com
MIA in 4
DET in 5
IND in 5
CHI in 6
MIA in 4
DET in 4
MIA in 4
Ron Hitley www.hornets247.com
MIA in 5
DET in 5
BOS in 6
WAS in 6
MIA in 5
DET in 6
MIA in 6
Matt Bernhardt bulls.blogspot.com
MIA in 6
DET in 4
IND in 7
CHI in 7
MIA in 4
DET in 6
DET in 5
Roland 82games.com
MIA in 6
DET in 5
IND in 6
WAS in 7
MIA in 5
DET in 7
DET in 6
KnickerBlogger www.knickerblogger.net
MIA in 5
DET in 4
BOS in 7
WAS in 6
MIA in 5
DET in 6
MIA in 5
Justin Kubatko www.basketball-reference.com
MIA in 5
DET in 5
IND in 7
CHI in 6
MIA in 5
DET in 6
MIA in 7
Kevin www.supersonics.com
MIA in 6
DET in 6
IND in 7
CHI in 7
MIA in 5
DET in 6
MIA in 7
Martin Johnson www.nysun.com
MIA in 7
DET in 4
IND in 6
CHI in 7
MIA in 5
DET in 5
DET in 7
Kurt www.forumblueandgold.com
MIA in 6
DET in 5
BOS in 7
CHI in 7
MIA in 5
DET in 5
DET in 6

West

Name URL
WR1T1
WR1T2
WR1T3
WR1T4
WR2T1
WR2T2
WCC
Kelly Dwyer sportsillustrated.cnn.com
PHO in 6
SAS in 6
SEA in 5
DAL in 7
DAL in 7
SAS in 7
SAS in 7
Aaron Schatz www.footballoutsiders.com
PHO in 5
SAS in 7
SEA in 7
DAL in 5
DAL in 6
SAS in 7
SAS in 7
Brian Bassett www.thejetsblog.com
PHO in 4
SAS in 6
SAC in 7
DAL in 6
PHO in 6
SAS in 5
SAS in 6
Jeff www.CelticsBlog.com
PHO in 4
SAS in 7
SAC in 6
DAL in 7
DAL in 6
SAS in 6
SAS in 6
Kevin Broom www.RealGM.com
PHO in 5
SAS in 4
SAC in 7
DAL in 7
PHO in 7
SAS in 5
SAS in 6
Larry Fleisher knicks.mostvaluablenetwork.com
PHO in 5
SAS in 6
SEA in 6
HOU in 7
PHO in 7
SEA in 6
PHO in 7
Mr.BB www.basketblogger.com
PHO in 4
SAS in 4
SAC in 6
DAL in 4
PHO in 5
SAS in 6
SAS in 6
Ron Hitley www.hornets247.com
PHO in 4
SAS in 7
SAC in 5
DAL in 7
PHO in 6
SAS in 5
SAS in 6
Matt Bernhardt bulls.blogspot.com
PHO in 4
SAS in 4
SAC in 6
DAL in 6
DAL in 6
SAS in 4
SAS in 5
Roland 82games.com
PHO in 5
SAS in 6
SEA in 7
DAL in 5
DAL in 6
SAS in 7
DAL in 6
KnickerBlogger www.knickerblogger.net
PHO in 5
SAS in 6
SEA in 6
DAL in 5
PHO in 7
SAS in 6
SAS in 6
Justin Kubatko www.basketball-reference.com
PHO in 5
SAS in 6
SAC in 7
DAL in 6
DAL in 7
SAS in 5
SAS in 6
Kevin www.supersonics.com
PHO in 6
SAS in 7
SEA in 7
DAL in 6
PHO in 7
SAS in 6
SAS in 7
Martin Johnson www.nysun.com
PHO in 7
SAS in 6
SAC in 6
DAL in 7
DAL in 6
SAS in 5
DAL in 6
Kurt www.forumblueandgold.com
PHO in 4
SAS in 7
SAC in 6
DAL in 6
DAL in 7
SAS in 5
SAS in 7

FINALS:

Name URL
CHAMP
Champ Score
Kelly Dwyer sportsillustrated.cnn.com
SAS in 6
92-83
Aaron Schatz www.footballoutsiders.com
MIA in 7
89-84
Brian Bassett www.thejetsblog.com
MIA in 7
105-98
Jeff www.CelticsBlog.com
SAS in 6
97-86
Kevin Broom www.RealGM.com
SAS in 7
92-86
Larry Fleisher knicks.mostvaluablenetwork.com
DET in 6
103-99
Mr. BB www.basketblogger.com
MIA in 5
94-89
Ron Hitley www.hornets247.com
MIA in 7
91-84
Matt Bernhardt bulls.blogspot.com
SAS in 6
90-82
Roland 82games.com
DAL in 6
115-98
KnickerBlogger www.knickerblogger.net
SAS in 6
94-85
Justin Kubatko www.basketball-reference.com
MIA in 7
91-86
Kevin www.supersonics.com
SAS in 6
91-84
Martin Johnson www.nysun.com
DET in 7
85-79
Kurt www.forumblueandgold.com
SAS in 7
86-74

Good Luck!

[EDITED: to add Kurt from Forum Blue & Gold. Sorry Kurt!]

2005 First Round Notes

Thanks For Playing
The Nets wonderful “end of the season run” will itself end once they get run over by Shaq Diesel. Being a Knick fan, I’m just not big on resting all your hopes on an injured shooting guard coming back to the rescue. Even if Jefferson were healthy, he’s not good enough to make the 8th seed all of a sudden topple the best team in the East. Also extending their season for only one more week are Memphis, Philly, and Denver. George Karl will have his seventh first round exit 20 years after the first.

Pondering in Seattle
A month ago considering the Sonics as upsetees would have been APBRmetric heresy, but since then they’ve limped to the finish line. Seattle’s 2-8 conclusion to the season included going a pitiful 0-6 versus West playoff teams. What happened to the APBRSonics? Did other teams figure them out? Was it the injuries? Did McMillan’s jenga move of pulling Danny Fortson out of the rotation topple his team’s on-court chemistry? (Or was it Fortson who forced the withdrawal?) Maybe they decided to sleepwalk down the stretch?

Even with those questions, I’m not confident enough with taking the Kings, especially with Stojakovic’s injury. Even if Peja was taking the last few games off as a precaution, it’s not out of the question that the injury isn’t fully healed. Additionally, when they made the Webber trade, I thought Sacramento’s defense would improve. However they’ve gone from 20th to 23rd, so color me unimpressed. No matter how bad Seattle was down the stretch, I’m not going to throw out 72 good games for the last 10. I’ll pass on the Kings.

No Joy In Hoosierville
I’m going to pass on the Pacers as well. This is not the same team that I picked to go all the way last year. Their defense has gone from awesome to a mortal 11th. Consider that the Celtics 13th ranked D is only two spots behind, and that their offense is superior, 105.0 to 102.4 points per 100 possessions. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Pacers won, but I’ll take Boston with the home court advantage.

The Last Seed
While the 4th versus the 5th seed is usually a toss-up, because of the absurd tri-divisional alignment the Dallas Mavericks are much better than their playoff position would indicate. With a top 5 offense and a top 10 defense, they’ve compiled the 4th best record in the NBA. Despite having two phenomenal players in Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, Houston still hasn’t gotten enough offense from the rest of their team. Their PER at PF is a laughable 11.9, and the PG position is only a point higher. The Rockets offense will be their downfall until they fill in some of those big gaps.

On the other hand, the East’s last matchup might be the first round’s closest battle. Like the Sonics, the Bulls would have been one of my dark horse teams a month ago because they sported the #2 overall defense. However the injury bug has landed in Chicago and stung Deng & Curry. Chandler was bitten as well, and sat out the last game with a bum ankle. Right now the Bulls have more question marks than an old episode of Batman with the Riddler as the villain.

Ironically their opponents, the Wizards, are usually the ones limping to the finish line on crutches. From my view, Washington looks as healthy as can be, but before you lay down a few bills on the Wizards consider that I got a D in biology in high school. The Bulls winning would certainly be the better story: their first playoff series since Jordan, top notch defense, Ben Gordon’s wonderful rookie year, and the team overcoming injuries to two key players. While Chicago has gone 7-4 since both Curry and Deng were lost, most of those were against weak clubs. Filter that to only playoff teams, and the Bulls are a winless 0-4. I’ll take the Wizards in 6.

My Round 1 Picks:
Miami in 5
Detroit in 4
Boston in 7
Washington in 6
Phoenix in 5
San Antonio in 5
Seattle in 6
Dallas in 6

Carnival: A to Z

If you don’t know what a Carnival is, click here. Otherwise welcome to KnickerBlogger’s NBA Carnival. I dedicate this to the Pixies who in the late 80s did their concerts A to Z. Meaning they took all the songs they wanted to play that night, and arranged their setlist in alphabetical order.

We’ll start with All That Jazz who features a bunch of Gleeman-length blogs, the latest being “Jazz Ride Rollercoaster to Victory“. Moving midwest, Bulls Blog climbs out of his sick bed long enough to check out what swingmen might be available this offseason. Stopping his division winning shimmy long enough to rate the Boston rookies is Celtics Blog. They’re not bloggers, but Kelly Dwyer previews the final week of the season, and Eric Neel proves the West Coast bias that my coworkers and I bitch about while staring at the Atlantic Ocean. Continuing with a West Coast flava, Forum Blue and Gold defends Kobe’s bad grades

HoopInion is the place you want to go if you want to scout out some second rounders. While he’s no John Hollinger (but who is), Father KnickerBocker discusses the Knicks bad defense. Lovin’ the NBA, non-sports blogger Make Me Some Cocoa covers both the East & West. Maybe he can guest write for NBA Fan Blog, who is resting himself for the playoffs.

While Steve Francis sheds his self-serving image on Orlando Magic Fan’s blog, the APQRmetrics group discusses Kobe’s selfishness. Oh typo, I mean APBRmetrics. Further down emotional lane, RaptorBlog.com talks about Wimpsanity’s return to Canada, and SuperSonicSoul feels bad for KG & the Wolves.

The Pistons, representing the East, talks about LeBron bolting after 2007, while the San Antonio SpUrs Blog bemoans the disparity between East & West. I’m sure LeBron leaving isn’t something The CaValier Act wants to consider. Warriors in the City is probably hoping there is a change in the power out West, and hoping eXactlY the same happens in the East is CraZy for the Heat.