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.
Which Top 4 team is most ripe for a first-round upset?
Steve Aschburner: San Antonio hasn’t looked like its old self lately. Indiana seemed to spit out the bit early. But for one-and-done among the top seeds, I’m looking at Brooklyn. C’mon, the Nets are a “Top 4” team by math only, tin medalists in an Eastern Conference Olympics that has one gold-medal club and two more duking it out for silver and bronze. The Nets have had a fine season and a playoff series is a nice way to punctuate the inaugural year in the borough. But they don’t have the defensive gear into which they can shift, in my view. I’ve seen Joe Johnson in recent postseasons (40.5 FG percent the past three). And if their opponent is Chicago — and the Bulls have reasonable healthiness from Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Luol Deng, Richard Hamilton and the rest — even the absence of Derrick Rose might not to get the Nets to south Florida for Round 2. Now if the Nets face Atlanta … nah, I’m still saying Brooklyn.
Fran Blinebury: I would hardly consider any outcome in a 4-5 series to be an upset, so that leaves out the Nets and Clippers and brings us to San Antonio. If Manu Ginobili is back soon and the Spurs stay healthy, they are a threat to go to The Finals and likely the toughest overall matchup for Miami. But if Manu isn’t Manu, Tony Parker is limping and they draw the Lakers, the Spurs are vulnerable.
Jeff Caplan: Well, I’ve got a crisp Benjamin that me and my cohorts all pick the same squad: San Antonio. Manu Ginobili is hurt, Boris Diaw is hurt, Danny Green remains unproven under the hot lights of the playoffs, Stephen Jackson is counting his Benjamins somewhere far away and Tony Parker is battling through all kinds of ailments. Houston or Golden State could do the deed. In the East, how can Chicago be counted out against suddenly struggling Indiana or Boston against New York if Knicks big men Tyson Chandler and Kenyon Martin struggle with lingering injuries?
Scott Howard-Cooper: The Nets if they play the Bulls. Because Chicago is ripe to pick somebody no matter who it plays in the first round. Bulls-Pacers could be a good one.
John Schuhmann: It’s got to be the Nets, especially if they’re matched up with Chicago, against whom they couldn’t score in their four regular-season meetings. Brooklyn hasn’t shown any kind of defensive consistency all season, and as well as they’ve played offensively over the last few weeks, a good defensive team (like the Bulls) will take advantage of the fact that they’re starting two guys who can’t shoot – Gerald Wallace and Reggie Evans – at the forward positions. I’d still pick the Nets in that series, but they’re obviously the most vulnerable top-4 seed in the East. In the West, I fear for whoever — the Nuggets or Clips — has to face the Grizzlies, who are the second-best defensive team in the league and who have been much improved offensively since the Rudy Gay trade.
Sekou Smith: Can we pick two teams? The 4-5 matchup on both sides leaves the Los Angeles Clippers and Brooklyn Nets most vulnerable. The Clippers could be in serious trouble against the Memphis Grizzlies, whose frontcourt bruisers will be eager to go at Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan in the playoffs for the second straight postseason. The Nets will have their hands full with either the Atlanta Hawks or the Chicago Bulls, two teams that have all the firepower needed to attack the Nets’ weak spots. Home-court advantage doesn’t always serve as the force field needed for the No. 4 seed. And in these matchups in particular, home court could be rendered irrelevant early on.