Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe 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.
> Winners and losers of the first round? Player and team, please.
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Leaving Donald Sterling (loser) and Adam Silver (winner) out of this, I’d go with LeBron James as the biggest winner so far just because of the clear path he and the Miami Heat appear to have to their fourth straight Finals and possibly third straight championship. Sweeping Charlotte earns them extra rest, they won’t have to face pain-in-the-rump Chicago at all and the big projected challenge from the Pacers doesn’t look like it will materialize. One of the biggest losers has to be Indiana and, specifically, guard Lance Stephenson. An almost-All Star and an early favorite for Most Improved Player, the Pacers’ shooting guard saw those honors slip away. His team’s swoon and his increasingly helter-skelter play might have cost him millions in free agency this summer.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Thanks for the two Nerf balls sitting on the tee. John Wall and the Wizards are the obvious winners. Third playoff win for franchise in last 35 years and most of the country outside D.C. gets to see how good Wall is. As far as losers, could it be any other player than Roy Hibbert and any other team than the Pacers? In more than three decades of covering the NBA, I have never seen a group or an individual fall faster than a bag of bag of hammers off a roof.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: John Wall has been telling us for a while now that he’s the best point guard in the league. Not sure I’m buying that yet, but what a breakout party he’s having in the postseason. This is only the beginning. As for team, hard to top Washington as the surprise of the postseason, but give me Terry Stotts’ Portland Trail Blazers. My biggest loser so far is the man who will likely soon accept the MVP trophy, Mr. Kevin Durant. As for the team, the Thunder certainly are disappointing, but the Indiana Pacers are the only true answer here.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Biggest winner: the Wizards. Beating the Bulls would have been impressive enough. Beating the Bulls in five, while winning close games on the road, grinding out wins against that Chicago defense is a big accomplishment. Biggest loser: Donald Sterling. And not just of the first round.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Team winner: Washington, for finding ways to score against a the league’s best non-Indy defense, despite a lack of their precious corner threes, and for having an open lane to the conference finals. Individual winners: Free agents for Toronto (Kyle Lowry, Patrick Patterson and Greivis Vasquez) and Washington (Trevor Ariza, Marcin Gortat and Trevor Booker) who are earning themselves some money by playing well in the postseason. Team loser: Indiana, of course. Individual loser (other than Roy Hibbert): James Harden, because his defense has been awful, his offense hasn’t been much better, and because he hasn’t been alive as long as Fran’s been covering the NBA.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: John Wall and the Washington Wizards are clearly my biggest winners. I remember all of the bellyaching that went on when the Wizards presented him with that huge contract extension. He justified the Wizards’ faith by leading his team into the playoffs and past the Chicago Bulls in the first round. He’s already paid back at least a down payment on that extension. My biggest loser is, and this comes before we even know what happens to them, is Roy Hibbert and the Indiana Pacers. It’s almost too easy, picking on them, after the way they have performed (or not) against the Hawks. Hibbert’s tough guy talk from last season’s playoff run is coming back to bite him in the worst way. That 0-for-everything performance of his in Game 5 the other night sums it up perfectly.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com All Ball Blog: Let’s stay in the same series. Biggest winner thus far has to be Mike Budenholzer. He didn’t really rate in the coach of the year voting but he took a team with nothing to gain and convinced them to share the ball and play defense. Even after Al Horford went down and they had a dreadful post-All-Star stretch, they snuck into the playoffs and Budenholzer been masterful thus far in pushing the Pacers to the brink. The biggest loser? Roy Hibbert. In a crucial Game 5 at home, Hibbert went for zero points and zero boards, against a team without a center. Again, Hibbert went for 0 and 0 against a team with no center that mostly uses a 31-year-old “rookie” at the 5. Hibbert has been struggled, and Indiana has mostly followed his demise.