Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
Give us a potential low seed in the playoffs that you see is the most likely to pull off a big upset?
Steve Aschburner: Gotta define the terminology here. A “low seed” could be any team that opens on the road, IMHO. Yet a No. 5 beating a No. 4 scarcely qualifies as an upset. I don’t see any seventh- or eighth-seeded teams knocking off the Nos. 1 or 2 on either side of the bracket. That leaves a No. 6 vs. No. 3 possibility and, frankly (using the teams as they sat Wednesday morning), I could make cases for both Atlanta over Orlando and for Memphis over the Lakers. How ’bout we go with the Hawks, who could milk Josh Smith at the peak of his powers and pose problems for the Magic with point guard Jeff Teague? An early exit for Orlando would crank up the Dwight Howard turmoil for the ensuing nine months too.
Fran Blinebury: You want big. I’ll give you big. Houston over OKC, No. 8 over No. 1. Despite their talent and record and athleticism and enthusiasm and energy, there is still something unsettling about the way the Thunder play down the stretch of close games. They still don’t have a plan to attack the basket. The teams tied the season series, but Houston won at home and in OKC. The Rockets are young and fearless and will play with absolutely nothing to lose. They have added Marcus Camby to Samuel Dalembert up front, giving them two shot blockers, which turns the Thunder into even more of a jump-shooting team. I’d feel even better about this pick if I knew Kyle Lowry would be back in the lineup and completely healthy. But this still a potential match-up that should cause worry in OKC. Now all the Rockets have to do, of course, is actually make the playoffs.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Problem is, we don’t know which teams will be on the bottom of the West. And we only need to consider the West — No. 8 or No. 7 in the East is not beating the Bulls or Heat. (No. 6 dumping the Magic would be a surprise, but not a big upset, given the Magic’s lack of dependability all season.) But in the West, the Clippers or Mavericks, maybe the Lakers, could drop to 6-7. They could top No. 2 San Antonio.
Shaun Powell: I don’t see any No. 7 or 8 seed upsetting the Spurs, Thunder, Bulls or Heat, the likely No. 1 and 2 seeds, in Round One. However: Currently at No. 6, do the Hawks count as a low seed? If so, then they can beat the Magic and then give Miami a run, especially if Al Horford is back. Just the same, Memphis can beat the Lakers (not sure if that’s an upset) and then give the Spurs a scare. But that’s where it ends.
John Schuhmann: I would say Memphis, but the Grizz could be back in fourth place by the weekend. So I’ll go with the Hawks (No. 6 in the East), who are aligned once again to face the Magic in the first round. Atlanta has Orlando’s number, with nine wins in the last 11 meetings (including last April’s first-round matchup). They got their Dwight defender, Jason Collins, back from injury 10 days ago, and they always defend the 3-point line pretty well.
Sekou Smith: Every team in the top half of the Western Conference standings has an eye on the Grizzlies. They know this group has a (recent) history of pulling the big upset. They have the same sort of scenario presenting itself to them this season, and you better believe coach Lionel Hollins will play that card with his team once the playoff positioning is finalized. The Grizzlies have all of the components to cause major trouble for any team in best-of-seven format. With Zach Randolph back in the mix and a healthy Rudy Gay this time around, they could be even more dangerous in the playoffs.