Tag Archives: Paul Milsap

NBA Eastern Conference Playoff Preview: #1 Indiana Pacers vs #8 Atlanta Hawks

By: Evan

The Pacers need to take the Jeff Teague-led Hawks seriously as this series won't be a cakewalk.  Courtesy of AJC
The Pacers need to take the Jeff Teague-led Hawks seriously as this series won’t be a cakewalk.
Courtesy of AJC

The Pacers accomplished their season-long goal of earning the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference, giving them home court advantage until the NBA Finals. The Hawks on the other hand, just clinched the #8 seed with a win over the defending champion Miami Heat. The Hawks have been ravaged by injuries to All-Stars  Al Horford and Paul Milsap. Coach Budenholzer deserves tremendous  credit for the job he has done, seeing as many people believed they would be in the running for a top 5 pick in this year’s draft. Although the Pacers have the best record in the East, they have struggled mightily since the All-Star break with a record of 15-14. Here is why each team could win the series. Why the Pacers will win:

The Pacers need the Paul George of old if they want to advance in the playoffs. Courtesy of ESPN.com
The Pacers need the Paul George of old if they want to advance in the playoffs.
Courtesy of ESPN.com

Despite their struggles the Pacers are still one of the top 5 teams in the NBA, headed by their terrific defense which gives up only 92.4 points per game,  2nd in the NBA. Their scheme of forcing tough, mid-range jump shots is facilitated by the presence of 7’2 center Roy Hibbert, who has clearly established himself as one of the premier rim protectors in the NBA. They also have star power in Paul George, an emerging star who has improved every year of his career especially on the offensive side of the ball. The Pacers also improved their bench this season, adding Luis Scola from Phoenix and signing back-up point guard CJ Watson as well as executing an in-season trade with the Philadelphia 76ers for Evan Turner. Bench scoring is vital in the playoffs as the starters have endured a tremendous physical toll on their bodies, and need scoring help. The Pacers should also benefit from the injury to Al Horford as Roy Hibbert should be able to dominate the low-post (just as he dominates the center less Heat). The Pacers have the talent to make a deep post-season run but their consistency is a concern.

Why the Hawks can win:

Paul Milsap has been the offseason acquisition of the    year will be featured during this season. Courtesy of CBSSPORTS.com
Paul Milsap has been the offseason acquisition of the year will be featured during this series.
Courtesy of CBSSPORTS.com

The Hawks have an advantage at two of the most important positions in this series, point guard and power forward. Jeff Teague garnered some All-Star consideration and Paul Milsap was a bonafide steal for the Hawks at two for years $19 million.  Jeff Teague is an extremely quick guard who creates for others and can attack the basket. He should be able to drive by George Hill, but the problem lies in Indiana’s ability to deny easy baskets around the rim. Paul Milsap could also be a match-up problem for David West, who is more adept at guarding in the post rather than guarding stretch 4s. Although the Hawks are a terrible road team, they have played the Pacers well, splitting the four games they played this year, including winning one game in Indiana. If the Hawks manage to steal a game in the  beginning of the series they could put enough pressure on the Pacers to take this to a six or even seven game series. X-Factor for the Pacers:

Hibbert needs to step his game up against the weak interior defense of the Hawks. Courtesy of CBSSPORTS.com
Hibbert needs to step his game up against the weak interior defense of the Hawks.
Courtesy of CBSSPORTS.com

Roy Hibbert has been criticized for his comments about his teammates, calling them “selfish” and although these comments might be true, seeing as Lance Stephenson and Evan Turner are playing for new, lucrative contracts, Hibbert should look at his own play as a reason for the Pacers’ struggles. This Hawks series could be a boost for Hibbert’s confidence as the Hawks minus Al Horford, have limited big bodies to defend him. Hibbert’s defense is a constant but his offensive game is starting to waver and so are the Pacers. X-Factor for the Hawks: Kyle Korver

The Hawks are going to need Kyle Korver's lethal 3pt shooting if they want to steal a game or two. Courtesy of USAToday.com
The Hawks are going to need Kyle Korver’s lethal 3pt shooting if they want to steal a game or two.
Courtesy of USAToday.com

Kyle Korver might be the best spot up 3-pt shooter in game right now and holds the record for most consecutive games with a 3-pt basket with 127. Although the Pacers hold opponents to a measly 34.5% from 3-pt land, Korver has unlimited range that becomes very hard to guard when he gets hot. Korver also has plenty of playoff experience as he has played in 60 playoffs games and has contributed to the deep runs of the Utah Jazz in 07-08 and the 10-11 Chicago Bulls. There is no doubt that Roy Hibbert means more to the Pacers than Korver means to the Hawks but if Korver can get on a hot streak, he could help lead the Hawks to a monumental upset.

Prediction: Pacers in 6

Lance and PG

A #1 seed has only lost in the first round four times in NBA history and I don’t think that number will change with this series. The Pacers just have too many weapons on both sides of the court and eventually I think they will wear the Hawks out. Coach Vogel deserves kudos for pushing his team through their rough patch, all while achieving their goal of winning the #1 overall seed. The Hawks also deserve credit for their accomplishments, not many teams could lose their two All-Star players to injury and still find a way to sneak into the playoffs. Sure the Eastern Conference was weak in terms of wins and playoff positioning, but making the playoffs is still a respectable achievement. After the Pacers defeat the Hawks, they will have to take on the winner of the Bulls/Wizards series who both split the regular season series with the Pacers, 2-2 with the Bulls and 1-1 with the Wizards. Either matchup would present matchup difficulties as the Bulls’ series would be a drag-out, knockdown type series where whoever scores 80 points first will probably win the game. With the Wizards, the mismatch at point guard would be highlighted even more as John Wall is just head and shoulders above George Hill in terms of talent and productivity. To conclude, the Pacers roll on to the second round.

Eastern Conference Southeast Division Preview

By: Evan

The Miami Heat clearly rank supreme in the Southeast division as well as in the Eastern conference.  Having won back-to-back titles, they  show no signs of slowing down. LeBron James is dazzling basketball fans around the world, making them wonder if he really is the best to ever play the game.  The Heat will win this division, but there is hope for some other teams  in the Southeast, like the Wizards, who have a chance to make the playoffs.  Let’s look at how the division will play out (*denotes playoff team).

1.) *Miami Heat

LeBron James is on top of the basketball world, but will he stay there?                                         Courtesy of ESPN

If I were a betting man, my money would be on the Miami Heat to pull a three-peat and win the NBA championship. They have all of the pieces and even found a way to improve their team from a year ago. They signed Greg Oden, an injury plagued center who has not lived up to his #1 overall pick six years ago, and Michael Beasley, a talented but immature small forward who was once considered the best player coming out of college. These are two low-risk, potentially high reward picks could significantly help Miami’s bench.  Of course, distractions are part of the game, and there will be a huge focus on LeBron’s  impending free agency and whether he will return to South Beach next year. The X-factor for the Heat is Dwyane Wade’s health.   Although Dwyane is working with Tim Grover, the legendary trainer who has worked miracles with athletes and their injuries, he still has a lot of miles on his knees and has clearly shown deterioration in his explosiveness.  Chris Bosh is another important player for the Heat as he stretches out opposing defenses with his mid-range game, opening up the hole for LeBron and D-Wade to attack. If Bosh improves on the defensive side of the ball, the Heat will be tough to beat.  The Miami Heat has great talent off the floor as Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra have brought in viable role players who have meshed with the big three quite well.   Riley and Spoelstra will be busy managing the media scrutiny about LeBron’s free agency while also formulating a plan for the future in case LeBron decides to leave.  Watch for the Heat in the headlines as they create a lot of excitement on and off the court.

2.) *Washington Wizards

The Wizards have one of the youngest and most talented backcourts in the NBA.                                                                                           Courtesy of Nike Talk

The Wizards take a big step and reach the playoffs this season with their young stars starting to pay dividends.  After  John Wall returned from a serious knee injury last year, the Wizards finished the season with a .500 record, which would have been good enough to make the playoffs considering the Bucks got in under .500.  John Wall received his much-desired max contract extension, they drafted Otto Porter, a versatile wing player who can defend and Bradley Beal showed significant improvement as the season wore on. The Wizards also have some expiring contracts in Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza that could be traded for some younger assets to help the Wizards in the long-run. But the Wizards lack post presence, as Nene has not been able to stay healthy, Emeka Okafor is not the player he once was, and the Wizards don’t have any reliable back-ups.  This put the onus on Wall, Beal and Porter to carry the offense and both Wall and Porter are inconsistent shooters, which is partially why the Wizards ranked 27th in field goal percentage last season. If the Wizards can attack more, and trade Okafor and/or Ariza for a viable big man, the Wizards could vault themselves from an 8th seed to a 6-7th seed.

3.) Atlanta Hawks

The Paul Milsap signing was a solid move for the Hawks.                                            Courtesy of Bleacherreport.com

The Hawks are positioned for a rebuilding year as they let Josh Smith go to Detroit and they fired Larry Drew.  And while the Hawks  have a solid core of Al Horford, Jeff Teague and Lou Williams, they are still several significant upgrades from making the playoffs. In the NBA, there are teams who are consistently mediocre with little potential of advancing but are not the dregs of the league.  The  Atlanta Hawks are the quintessential example. They missed out on Chris Paul and Dwight Howard but signed a nice complimentary piece in Paul Milsap while also re-signing Kyle Korver. The Hawks also had a nice draft by selecting Dennis Schröeder, a talented point guard who could be a surprise ROY and might even take over the starting job from Jeff Teague. He still needs time to adjust to the NBA game but has the potential to be a cornerstone of this franchise. The Hawks are young and need more pieces to be contenders.

4.) Charlotte Bobcats

Will Al Jefferson help the Bobcats move in the right direction? Courtesy of Rotoinfo.com

The Charlotte Bobcats have been the laughing stock of the NBA for years now as they have consistently drafted players who have turned out to be busts including Adam Morrison, Brandan Wright and DJ Augustin.  Fan attendance is low and the Bobcats don’t have a player worth advertising.  Insert Al Jefferson.  Although Jefferson may not be a star, he has a consistent game of 18 points and 9 rebounds per game, solid numbers for a new NBA game that focuses on perimeter play. This signing is  important for the growth of the Bobcats and for showing the fan base that the team can attract free agents.  But even with the Jefferson signing, the Bobcats don’t have enough talent to get out of the lottery, which is a good thing for them as they traded a protected 1st round pick to the Bulls back in 2010 and that pick still has protection until 2016.  The Bobcats also have a Blazers protected top twelve pick and a Pistons protected top eight pick that the Bobcats may get this year as the Blazers and Pistons look to make the playoffs.  Given how stacked the draft is expected to be, a midrange pick could turn into a star, so the Bobcats have a great opportunity on the horizon.  Multiple picks can change the course of their franchise in just one night. This might be the last year for Bobcat nation to root for tanking and hopefully owner Michael Jordan and GM Rich Cho can turn this team around.  As for this season, the Bobcats need Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to find a jumpshot, Cody Zeller to play physical against bigger players and for Kemba Walker to become a more efficient shooter.  I don’t like this team now, but next year, it may be an entirely different story.

5.) Orlando Magic

Will Victor Oladipo play the point or shooting guard for the Magic?              Courtesy of USA Today

The Magic will be one of the worst teams in the NBA, no doubt about it, but they do have some exciting young players such as Victor Oladipo, Tobias Harris, Mo Harkless and Nikola Vucevic. These players will become complimentary pieces to the high first round lottery pick they will draft this year. The question becomes what kind of player will they draft, as Victor Oladipo has played point guard throughout the summer league as well as in preseason.  If the Magic get the #1 overall pick, there is no question who they will take Andrew Wiggins; if they fall to a lower spot, and they think Oladipo will be more of a shooting guard, then the Magic may draft a point guard, potentially Marcus Smart, a player they wanted last year who didn’t declare for the draft.  Other possibilities are Dante Exum, an Australian player with good height and play making ability or Andrew Harrison, a physical guard who can play both guard positions and will know how to play under pressure because he will star for the University of Kentucky this season. The Magic will also get the lesser pick of the Nuggets-Knicks trade that involved Carmelo Anthony, which could turn into another valuable asset. This season will not produce many wins for the Magic but the future is looking brighter.

 

Stats from ESPN/