Top 5 Reasons Why the Los Angeles Lakers Won’t Make the Playoffs This Season

Despite acquiring a few fresh faces this summer, the Los Angeles Lakers are not prepared to qualify for playoff contention. Whether it’s an inability to effectively defend opponents, the lack of a true starting-quality center or the presence of too many talented teams, the Lakers just don’t possess what it takes to make the postseason in 2014-15.

Five key reasons exist to explain this case. Each one holds the potential to impact Los Angeles’ performance as a whole, and the criteria are ranked in order of least influential to most influential.

Without further ado, let’s begin. 

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Magic Johnson Says No Team In the East Wants to Play HEAT in Playoffs

The HEAT are going to be good, how good is up for discussion, but they aren’t going to fall apart like the Cavs did when LeBron left them. They have Bosh, Wade (what version of Wade is yet to be determined) and some solid vets.
On the high side they could get up to the #3 seed in the East and on the low side I can’t see them being any worse than #6, so basically a middle of the road team in the weaker conference.
With that being said, I don’t think anyone is going to be intentionally trying to avoid the HEAT in the playoffs, but Magic was in one of his moods to say something with zero follow up explanation.
No team in the East will want to play the Miami Heat in the playoffs!
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) August 19, 2014

I think what he is trying to say is the HEAT will be better than people think and will be a dangerous team come playoff time, but he never articulates his thoughts beyond the simplest form on Twitter.

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Carmelo: Knicks will ‘absolutely’ make playoffs

Not only does Carmelo Anthony have a new, slimmer physique, the New York Knicks star has a new, positive outlook on the prospect of the team enjoying success next season. A few weeks after stating that he does not believe the Knicks have a championship-caliber roster, Anthony hedged his bets by taking a step back […] The post Carmelo Anthony says the Knicks will ‘absolutely’ be in playoffs next season appeared first on Sportress of Blogitude.

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Carmelo Anthony says the Knicks will ‘absolutely’ be in playoffs next season

Not only does Carmelo Anthony have a new, slimmer physique, the New York Knicks star has a new, positive outlook on the prospect of the team enjoying success next season. A few weeks after stating that he does not believe the Knicks have a championship-caliber roster, Anthony hedged his bets by taking a step back […] The post Carmelo Anthony says the Knicks will ‘absolutely’ be in playoffs next season appeared first on Sportress of Blogitude.

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Cuban: Mavs should have beaten Spurs in playoffs

File this under “should have, would have, could have.” The San Antonio Spurs had a relatively easy path to the 2014 NBA title except for the opening round series against the Dallas Mavericks. Dallas tested San Antonio and pushed the Spurs to seven games before eventually falling in San Antonio. However, at the end of the […]

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Raptors edge closer to playoffs, beat Boston (Yahoo Sports)

BOSTON, MA - MARCH 26: DeMar DeRozan #10 of the Toronto Raptors shoots against the Boston Celtics on March 26, 2014 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

DeMar DeRozan understands that a playoff berth for the Raptors has meaning beyond Toronto’s locker room. Terrence Ross scored 24 points, Kyle Lowry 23 and the Raptors edged closer to their first playoff spot since 2008 with a 99-90 win over the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night. ”Not just the franchise, the whole city of Toronto and Canada,” said DeRozan, sitting at his locker with his left foot in a bucket of ice. That would be great for the city and we have to take advantage of the opportunity.” DeRozan added 20 points for Toronto, which increased its Atlantic Division lead to 2 1/2 games over Brooklyn.


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The 1 Team the Portland Trail Blazers Do Not Want to See in NBA Playoffs

The Portland Trail Blazers aren’t quite the offensive juggernaut/title contender that they looked to be in a roaring 22-4 start to the season, but make no mistake, they’re lurking as a team that could make some noise in the playoffs.

Portland is banged up, but it’s also been fairly stingy on defense lately and still has the offensive rebounding and outside shooting to give a team headaches in the postseason. Certain teams, anyways.

The Western Conference side of the playoffs is basically one big game of “Rock, Paper, Scissors.” It’s all about drawing the right matchup. And the one team, above all others, that the Trail Blazers do not want to see in the playoffs is…the Houston Rockets. The team they’re currently slated to meet in the first round. Yikes.

 

Defense

There may be better teams than the Rockets out West, but none of them are as uniquely equipped to give Portland problems on the defensive end.

Houston is scoring more efficiently against Portland than pretty much any team in the league, and its two stars have rolled through the Blazers defense. Just take a look at James Harden and Dwight Howard‘s numbers against Portland.

  PTS TRB AST TS%
Harden (vs. Portland) 30.3 7.3 5.3 64.1
Harden (season averages) 24.8 4.6 5.7 61.6
Howard (vs. Portland) 25.5 13.5 1.8 65.7
Howard (season averages) 18.6 12.4 1.8 59.8

That’s some scary stuff. As Grantland‘s Zach Lowe recently detailed, the Blazers defense is designed to take away three-pointers at the expense of giving up more looks at the rim. Houston’s offense is designed to get a ton of shots from deep and at the rim.

The results are what you’d expect—the Rockets are shooting just 32 percent from deep against the Blazers, but they’re scoring over 56 points per game in the paint. Houston’s also feasting on the offensive glass, grabbing around a third of its misses against Portland.

A lot of Rockets fans are (quite fairly) unhappy that the majority of Howard’s touches come from the low block instead of in what should be a lethal Harden-Howard pick-and-roll combo. But against the Blazers, those looks have been dynamite. Houston is shooting 58 percent (!!) on post-ups against Portland, per Synergy Sports Technology (subscription required).

Robin Lopez has been great for the Blazers this season, but he doesn’t have the strength or speed to hang with Howard. Howard can literally move him around in the paint, and even when he’s really humming, Portland has been hesitant to send help.

Houston’s wings cause similar problems. Again, Portland opts to protect against corner threes instead of packing the paint, and Harden in particular has taken advantage of that. The Rockets are taking and making a huge chunk of shots at the rim against Portland, and even worse, they’re drawing a ton of fouls in the process.

The Blazers are typically great at avoiding fouls, but they’ve sent the Rockets to the free-throw line far too often. Even worse, they’re not set up to take advantage of Houston’s turnover problems. Portland’s conservative scheme rarely forces turnovers, limiting one of the easiest ways to attack Houston on the other end.

 

Offense

Unfortunately for the Blazers, things don’t look all that much better against Houston on the offensive end.

Despite what Howard’s presence might have you think, the best way to attack the Rockets is at the rim. Opponents are shooting nearly 61 percent in the restricted area against the Rockets, and 48 percent even when Howard is around the basket, an unusually high number against a defender of Howard’s caliber.

But the fault doesn’t lie with Howard so much as it does with Houston’s perimeter players.

Patrick Beverley is the only steady defender among the starters, and even he is prone to gambling too much. Chandler Parsons is inconsistent at best, and Harden is…Harden-ish (though he’s not usually that horrendous). As a result, Howard is left on an island to deal with a lot of unhindered shots at the rim.

Portland doesn’t really have the personnel to take advantage of that. The Blazers have scored the NBA‘s third-lowest amount of points in the paint, and a good chunk of the shots they do get at the rim come from offensive rebounds or LaMarcus Aldridge post-ups. And as Lowe wrote, those have been pretty ineffective over the last few months.

The “jump-shooting team” label is a tired one, but it fits the Blazers better than most teams. Portland has taken more threes and more mid-range jumpers than they have shots at the rim, and Houston defends both of those areas well. The Rockets are aggressive against pick-and-rolls in order to force opposing bigs into tough mid-range jumpers like this:

Unfortunately for the Blazers, that shot is Aldridge’s bread and butter. Aldridge has taken more mid-range jumpers than the entire Rockets squad and has hit 42 percent of them. That’s a passable number, but not nearly good enough to justify it being such a big part of the offense, even if it does open up outside shots for Portland’s wings.

Aldridge has put up some big numbers against the Rockets, but that’s more a result of him averaging nearly 24 shots in those games than anything else—he’s posting a true shooting percentage of just 50 percent against them.

To be fair, Portland can take advantage of a few mismatches against Houston.

For example, Damian Lillard‘s pick-and-roll three game could give the Rockets (who sometimes struggle defending above-the-break threes) problems. And as much as they’ve failed to secure defensive rebounds, the Blazers have done well on the offensive glass against the Rockets. Still though…not a ton to work with here.

 

Conclusion

Like quite literally every playoff team in the West, the Blazers are going to be a handful in April. They’re more than capable of winning a series—or even multiple series—if everything breaks right. Even a series against the Rockets.

With that being said, though, the Rockets are the worst-case scenario for the Blazers. Portland fans shouldn’t exactly be cheering for their team to lose games, but let’s just say it wouldn’t be the worst thing if they happened to get passed in the standings.

 

All statistics accurate as of 3/24/2014 and courtesy of NBA.com and Basketball-Reference unless specifically stated otherwise.

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Ackerman: Chandler Parsons Holds the Keys to Rockets Success in 2014 Playoffs

With the 2014 NBA playoffs right around the corner, we caught up with Rockets play-by-play announcer Craig Ackerman to see who he thinks is the team’s X-factor.

You can see his answer in the video above!

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Will Making the Playoffs Cloud NY Knicks’ Housecleaning List?

As much as the New York Knicks need organizational reform, there is no downside to this team going on a run to make the postseason.

There are plenty of reasons to worry about inflated egos when it comes to New York. After a season full of dysfunction and disappointment, the last thing this team needs is to overvalue flawed personnel after a late spurt of competence.

Though, it would be selling a playoff-bound Knicks team short to say it merely knows what it’s doing; the Knicks will have to be scorching down the stretch to wrest the final playoff spot away from the Atlanta Hawks or the Charlotte Bobcats.

After falling to the Cleveland Cavaliers on March 23, snapping an eight-game winning streak, New York sits at 29-41, three games back of the Hawks and five behind Charlotte.

That’s too big a gap for Carmelo Anthony to close himself—not with so little schedule remaining and even less margin of error available. This comeback will require significant contribution from all corners of the roster, with inconsistent players upping their production in support of New York’s workhorse star.

Even after this recent stretch of well-rounded play, the novelty factor of a balanced Knicks attack is still off the charts. Consider this: ‘Melo is second to Kevin Durant with 28.0 points per game; second on New York, with 13.3, is Andrea Bargnani, who hasn’t made a basketball contribution since falling in an overambitious attempt at athleticism.

Delusions of grandeur, playing beyond one’s means and outside of one’s role—that’s what everyone expects from the Knicks. To make the playoffs, they would have to defy all the mockery by playing smart, sensible, effective basketball.

Once in the postseason, they would draw either the Indiana Pacers or the Miami Heat and almost certainly get demolished, if not swept. In this maddening sub-.500 season, a playoff berth would be a silver lining, not any sort of meaningful redemption.

Therein lies the concern for Knicks fans who have seen too much: In the James Dolan era, the franchise has repeatedly used unreliable evidence to jump to unsubstantiated conclusions, leading to catastrophes like Allan Houston’s nine-digit contract and Isiah Thomas’ entire tenure. New York is capped out and in need of new blood, so is a signifier of on-court success really what the team needs right now?

It depends on whether you think Phil Jackson is stupid.

Short answer: count the rings.

The new Knicks president hasn’t held a permanent front-office position before and likely has, at best, just a cursory knowledge of the NBA salary-cap code. Yet, if you’re asking him to be an organizational sage for team building and player evaluation, the 11-time NBA champ has a plenty sufficient pedigree.

And as he said in his introductory press conference, he’s been watching the team since Tyson Chandler went down in November, per Posting and Toasting. After all the turmoil he has witnessed this season, he is not going to value a nice finish over all the wreckage that preceded it.

So that means Mike Woodson is gone. No one has officially announced he’ll be fired at the end of the season, but he has overseen too much discord to get Jackson’s vote of confidence as New York’s coach in 2014-15.

After that, he’ll go to work on the roster—no small task with so little money to spend and no draft picks before 2018 to trade. But there’s an ironic quirk of the Knicks’ struggles that will make Phil’s job easier: Other than ‘Melo, each of the Knicks has exhibited his flaws so distinctly that no amount of late success could fully distract from them.

Take Amar’e Stoudemire, for example. In an interview with Bleacher Report’s Jared Zwerling, he seems to be still regarding himself as part of a Heat-esque Big Three with ‘Melo and Chandler:

After I went down with injuries, everyone was saying, “Amar’e can’t play with Melo and Tyson.” I’m like, “Where are you guys getting this from? We haven’t really had a chance to do these things.” I’m thinking, “We’re all All-Stars. Tyson is the Defensive Player of the Year, Melo is a seven-time All-Star, I’m a six-time All-Star. We’ve all been successful. We’re top players in this league. It doesn’t take much. We can figure this thing out. It’s not that hard.” Now in the fourth year, chasing the playoffs, we’re showing that all three of us can play together on the same court. The sky’s the limit with that group.

It has definitely seemed pretty hard to figure out the ultra-expensive core of New York’s roster, but Stoudemire is doing his best to power these wallowing Knicks to greater heights. Check out how he has raised his game in March.

At long last, the brittle power forward with the uninsurable knees is Standing Tall and Talented again; no longer just ST, STAT is back in the starting lineup and the Knicks are winning.

Still, would anyone be the slightest bit surprised if tomorrow he went down with another injury? Amar’e might be considering himself a star player once more—and he can even produce like one in small doses—but Jackson isn’t going to give his $23 million man that kind of credit.

Hopefully STAT will stay STAT next year (there’s no way the Knicks can move him anyway), but Jackson won’t rebuild with him at the heart of the team. As for Chandler, he can prove himself the best 

Ditto for J.R. Smith as a consistently potent scorer or Raymond Felton as a steady point guard. Both would have to play as such to fuel a late-season run, but both have delivered far too many miserable performances to overlook. It won’t help their New York prospects to play well; it’ll just be more fun to watch.

Those two vets are locked into multiyear deals, so their roles will likely be diminished rather than eliminated entirely. Even so, there will be room for youngsters like Tim Hardaway Jr., Iman Shumpert and Jeremy Tyler to prove their worth as Phil ponders their futures.

Shump, who has been involved in trade rumors for much of the season, could achieve some real redemption if he can stay steady on the court.

He has second-guessed with the ball in his hands and gambled on the defensive end this season, but a composed three-and-D guard can be a valuable part of a team running the triangle offense, should Phil choose to angle for it. As Taylor Armosino writes over at Knickerblogger, Shump can get the change he needs with a simpler role to play:

They won’t shoot as many threes as they have the past few seasons, but at the very least, they’ll move the ball better, grab more offensive rebounds. If it works the way it’s supposed to, Anthony will dominate, role players like Iman Shumpert will thrive in more defined roles and the team won’t be so reliant on one or two key scorers.

Shump thriving in a new system is the best-case scenario, but at worst, he improves his trade value so Jackson can get a different piece to put around ‘Melo.

Of course, there’s the uber-talented elephant in the room: Anthony and his looming decision where to go in the summer of 2014.

That’s where a playoff push can actually provide substantive good.

The Zen Master can feed him a practiced championship mantra and his hometown of New York City can beckon, but right now, this season is all that matters.

So right now, inspired basketball would be the greatest motivator to make Anthony want to remain a Knick.

So much misery has preceded this long overdue show of liveliness in New York, but somehow the Knicks can still make the playoffs. In the case of Anthony’s free agency and where he will spend the next five years of his professional basketball life, emotion will inevitably play some part, and ending on a high note will mean something.

‘Melo has often appeared to be grinding alone through a personal peak season, so a last-ditch team effort will be better than nothing. It won’t make this season much less of a disappointment, but a playoff berth will show the Knicks still care and will fight to undo as much of the damage done earlier in 2013-14 as possible.

Besides, if Anthony walks, New York’s housecleaning list gets much, much longer as Jackson launches a comprehensive rebuilding effort. Anything to keep him in town must be done.

With that doomsday scenario on the table, along with everyone’s clear strengths and weaknesses, one thing becomes abundantly obvious for the always complicated, convoluted Knicks: Winning is a good thing for this team, without exception.

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Fantasy Basketball Playoffs – Warriors Play Just Twice

As the fantasy basketball playoffs continue, so do the injuries!  Before the start of last week, the Cleveland Cavaliers lost Kyrie Irving, the Minnesota Timberwolves lost Nikola Pekovic, and even the King himself, LeBron James missed a game.  Russell Westbrook even left OKC’s matchup with the Raptors after injuring his knee again.  Now there is news that J.J. Hickson has torn his ACL and will miss the rest of the season for the Denver Nuggets.  While these injuries can destroy one roster, they create new options for fantasy owners like myself, who will advance in the playoffs thanks to the addition of Matthew Dellavedova and Gorgui Dieng.Dellavedova scored 30 points over the Cavs 3 games and added 26 assists and 13 rebounds!  He also knocked down 5 of his 11 3s!  Gorgui Dieng has 2 double doubles totaling 32 points and 33 rebounds,  Both players get one more days worth of action today when the Cavs play the New York Knicks and the T’Wolves play the Phoenix Suns.The …

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