If there is one thing we can guarantee about the NBA Playoffs — besides incessant TNT promos for their shows — is this: There is going to be a first-round upset. One of the top four seeds — some of them have very difficult matchups that will test them, we’re looking at you Clippers — is going to get beat.
To get you ready for the playoff fun that starts this weekend, we present ProBasketballTalk’s NBA Playoff previews for the first round. All eight series broken down so you can decide for yourself where that upset is coming from. And how we are so wrong with our predictions. Which the commenters will be more than sure to remind us of if we are wrong.
Read, enjoy, and refer back during series, because the first round drags out so long you’ll forget a lot of what happened by game five.
The Hawks began last season with just two point guards, one fewer than most teams – especially notable because neither starter Dennis Schroder nor backup Malcolm Delaney was experienced for his role.
Schroder and Delaney return, but Atlanta is adding another option – Quinn Cook.
Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:
Cook is a borderline NBA player. He might not make the regular-season roster. He also might supplant Delaney for a rotation spot.
A 24-year-old who has spent most of the last two years in the D-League (also getting stints with the Mavericks and Pelicans), Cook is a good outside shooter. He’s also steady, if unspectacular, in his lead-guard duties.
This is a solid flier at a position the Hawks could use depth.
The Knicks signing Nigel Hayes leaked first.
But New York didn’t stop there.
The New York Knickerbockers announced today that the team has signed forwards Jamel Artis and Nigel Hayes and guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes.
Like Hayes, Artis (Pittsburgh) and Rathan-Mayes (Florida State) went undrafted this year – making them eligible to be waived and assigned to the Knicks’ minor-league affiliate. That’s likely all three’s fate.
But first, each will have an opportunity to make the regular-season roster. The Knicks have just 14 players with guaranteed salaries, leaving one roster spot for someone on a standard contract. Chasson Randle (unguaranteed) is the incumbent choice, but these three could supplant him.
Last year, O.J. Mayo was banned from the NBA for at least two years due to a drug violation. Aside from stating a plan to come back, Mayo didn’t say much publicly.
Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated:
He acknowledged smoking marijuana and abusing a prescription pain medication that triggered his two-year ban because it is on the NBA’s “drugs of abuse” list. (He emphatically denied testing positive for hard drugs like cocaine.)
Mayo also concluded that he had been “overwhelmed” by a string of difficult life events: his father, high school basketball star Kenny Ziegler, was sentenced to more than 10 years in prison for distributing crack cocaine, his brother was placed in juvenile lock-up, a close friend went to jail, and another was killed. “I was bred to play basketball and I thought I could balance everything,” he said. “I couldn’t.”
That’s part of an interesting feature on Mayo, who’s training for his come back. Golliver’s story makes it easy to pull for Mayo.
But the guard will be 30 when he’s eligible to apply for reinstatement, and he played lousily in his last three seasons with the Bucks.
Hopefully, Mayo has and keeps his personal life in order. But returning to the NBA will be an uphill battle.
What chemistry problem?
There are legitimate questions about how Chris Paul and James Harden will share the backcourt and ball with the Rockets, but none of those were on display on Sunday. That’s when CP3 joined his new teammate in Harden’s charity game (raising money for Harden’s charity, which helps children from single-family homes get a higher education), a kind of pro-am with some names thrown in to draw a crowd.
Harden and CP3 put on a show for the fans.
This is a charity event, not every team is going to defend like this or the Phoenix Suns. It’s going to be harder when the games matter.
But the Rockets are going to be entertaining to watch this season. No doubt.