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One-Day NBA Playoffs Warning: Monster End of the Season Roundtable

The NBA Playoffs start in one day (!!!!!!!!) so each day until then we’ll be taking a look at some of the most important storylines leading up to the best two months of the year. 

End of the Season Award Picks:

Jack Maloney Matthew Hochberg Sonny Giuliano Matt Constas Michael Wessson Sam Kuperman
MVP Kevin Durant Kevin Durant Kevin Durant Kevin Durant Kevin Durant Kevin Durant
ROY Michael Carter-Williams Michael Carter-Williams Michael Carter-Williams Michael Carter-Williams Victor Oladipo Michael Carter-Williams
DPOY Joakim Noah Joakim Noah Joakim Noah Joakim Noah Joakim Noah Roy Hibbert
COY Jeff Hornacek Gregg Popovich Jeff Hornacek Tom Thibodeau Steve Clifford Gregg Popovich
Most Improved DeMar DeRozan Goran Dragic Anthony Davis Goran Dragic Gerald Green Goran Dragic
6MOY Taj Gibson Taj Gibson Taj Gibson Taj Gibson Taj Gibson Taj Gibson

 

 

What was you favorite game from the regular season?

Jack Maloney (@jmaloney9): There were a plethora of fantastic games this year—from Andre Iguodala’s buzzer beater against the Thunder early in the year to the Warriors-Blazers matchup the other week—but my personal favorite was the Celtics’ 41-point beatdown on the Knicks. This was back when Jordan Crawford was playing his steeziest and there were concerns that the Celtics (10-12 after this win) would play their way out of a top lottery pick in the abysmal East. Steez dropped 23 in this one as the whole Celtics starting lineup was in double figures as Boston came into New York and dismantled a sleepwalking Knicks team on a Sunday afternoon.

Bonus points to this game for prompting this reaction.

 

Matthew Hochberg (@MatthewHochberg):

I was excited when I saw this question come up on the roundtable. While there have been so many compelling games this NBA season, the one that sticks out in my mind is the Miami Heat- Brooklyn Nets matchup from January 10. The Nets pulled out an extremely gutsy double overtime victory to knock off the two-time defending champions. Shaun Livingston played an insane 51 minutes, dropping 19 points and grabbing down a career-high 11 rebounds to will Brooklyn to victory. It was a lot of fun to watch and a great memory of two talented teams leaving it all on the floor. 

Michael Wesson: (@iamWesson):

Even though the team I was pulling for lost, I would have to say the Christmas day night game between the Warriors and Clippers. If that game is any indication of how this year’s first round match-up will be, then we are in for a treat.

Matt Constas (@mconstas41):

Portland Trail Blazers vs. Cleveland Cavaliers, December 17, 2013.

Random game, right? But I think this was one of the most interesting games I was able to watch all year. This was the first game the Blazers had played since Damian Lillard had beat the Pistons with a late fade-away jumper in mid-December. They were 21-4 and shocking the NBA, and the Cavs, who everybody expected to be a playoff team, were still trying to find their identity. Both teams were playing great and one of my favorite players in the league, Dion Waiters, was keeping his Cleveland squad in the game throughout the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, the game was all but over with the Blazers pulling away and up by ten. Down 114-105 with 2:00 minutes left, Kyrie Irving scored nine straight points for the Cavs to just two for the Blazers, bringing it to a two-point game. Their next possession he assisted an Anderson Verajao dunk to tie the game. In my mind at that time was, “Lillard won’t do it again, will he?” Sure enough, he did with .4 seconds left hitting the game-winning three. This game got buzz from all around the league, including former Cavalier LeBron James, who tweeted it was the game of the year so far.

Sonny Giuliano (@SonnyCG):

I’ll dial it way back and go with the Halloween night duel between the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers, and perhaps more appropriately, Stephen Curry and Chris Paul. The two best point guards in the game were in the Halloween spirit and “treated” NBA fans with one of the best individual battles all season long. Curry finished with 38 points, 9 assists, and 9 three-pointers, only to be outdone by Chris Paul’s ludicrous 42 point, 15 assist, 6 steal stat line. The NBA Gods were kind and came through with a Clippers/Warriors 1st Round series. We can only hope for seven more classics like that one.

Sam Kuperman (@samkoop):

KD’s 54 points vs. Warriors. It seemed that every time these teams matched up this year the result was a shootout that came down to the wire. The first two games back in November were fantastic in their own right, with Andre Iguodala hitting a game winner in the first game, and Russell Westbrook hitting one in game number two. However, Kevin Durant had to take on the Dubs without Westbrook this time, and it made for something very special.

Durant was simply a man on a mission that night hitting shots from every possible angle and doing so in bunches. KD ended up scoring 54 points in all including 11 during a two minute stretch in the fourth quarter. OKC won this game 127-121, so this wasn’t just Durant putting up irrelevant points. He literally carried his team from start to finish. This was the moment I realized he truly was the most valuable player in the league.

 

Which player surprised you (good or bad) over the course of the season?

Jack Maloney (@jmaloney9): Goran Dragic. What an incredible year from the Suns’ point guard. He’s always been a solid player, but this year he stepped his game up to another level, leading the Suns to just a game short of the playoffs. In a year in which nearly everyone expected the Suns to once again be among the worst teams in the league, Dragic turned them into one of the league’s most exciting squads. Really a shame that Phoenix didn’t get into the playoffs.

Matthew Hochberg (@MatthewHochberg):

Ah, tough question. So many players to choose from. Multiple players on Phoenix’s roster (Goran Dragic, Miles Plumlee, Gerald Green, the Morris twins) were all surprisingly highly-productive and had the Suns on the brink of the playoffs. Then you have the disappointments – Josh Smith, J.R. Smith (and, well, the Knicks as a whole), etc.

But, sticking with the Nets, Shaun Livingston has been my biggest surprise of the 2013-2014 NBA Season. After what he has gone through – his gruesome injury, the recovery – it is absolutely fantastic to see him playing at such a high-level again. The Nets would not be in the position they are currently in without him, and they know it, too. General Manager Billy King has previously stated signing him this offseason is “priority No. 1,” and for good reason. The 28-year-old has already surpassed his totals from the two previous seasons combined this year in games played, minutes played, total points, total assists, total rebounds and total steals. Livingston has been the glue that has held the Nets together.

(#ShamelessPlug: My recent piece for Dime Magazine, highlighting Livingston as one of the keys to Brooklyn’s success this season. Also, a piece from the great Jared Zwerling of Bleacher Report, in which Livingston writes on his injury in his own words. Great stuff) 

Michael Wesson: (@iamWesson):

Shaun Livingston really played well this season for the Brooklyn Nets and we can honestly say that the team plays better when he is in the lineup running the team. Deron Williams was a disappointment, but it says a lot about Livingston when your head coach puts the ball in your hands instead of the star point guard.

Matt Constas (@mconstas41):

Michael Carter-Williams. I’ll be honest, I watched a lot of MCW in college and I thought he would be a flop. He couldn’t shoot well and he plays an out of control style. I felt that as long as NBA defenders kept him out of the paint then he would be easy to guard. Well, he proved me wrong the first game of his career, stunning the defending champions with a near quadruple-double performance, one of the most impressive stat lines of the season (22 pts, 12 ast, 7 reb, 9 stls). Now he is one of the favorites to win the Rookie of the Year award. He averaged 16 points, six rebounds, six assists and almost two steals on the season, but turnovers and a 40.3 percent shooting mark show he has a lot of room to grow, but he definitely burst out onto the scene. Anybody who can do what he can at that size and with that much confidence definitely has the potential to be a success in the league, I just didn’t see it happening. So far, he has done a great job of proving me wrong. 

Sonny Giuliano (@SonnyCG):

I don’t typically enjoy being a Debbie Downer, but I was very surprised by the play of Roy Hibbert this year. After he tore about the Heat big men in the Eastern Conference Finals last year, I was not alone in thinking that this season would serve as a breakout year for Hibbert. Even though Hibbert’s impact as an interior defensive force is evident, he’s actually regressed from a statistical standpoint. It’s so bad that even Kwame Brown’s best statistical season is better than the one Hibbert has put forth.

Sam Kuperman (@samkoop):

Andrew Bynum. Call me foolish but I genuinely believed that Bynum would turn it around this year. After being injured all of last season for Sixers, I figured that Bynum would help a young Cavs team improve and ultimately make the playoffs. I couldn’t have been any farther off in saying that.

The former all star only played in 24 games for Cleveland before being traded to Chicago, where he was subsequently released for salary cap relief. While Bynum wasn’t great on the court for the Cavaliers (8.4 ppg 5.3 rpg in 20 mpg), he had major issues off of the court. A poor work ethic from the 7 footer coupled with causing disturbances in the locker room essentially ended his time in Cleveland before it even started.

While Bynum is in Indiana now and could be useful during the playoffs, health permitting, this doesn’t change the fact that he proved that his reputation as being too immature was accurate. Just two years ago people were seriously debating whether Bynum or Dwight Howard was the best center in the league. Now people are debating whether or not Andrew Bynum will even have the opportunity to play in the NBA again after this season.

 

Heading into the playoffs, which one individual player are you looking forward to watching the most?

Jack Maloney (@jmaloney9): This is a tough question because there are so many players to choose from, but if I had to pick one, I’ll go with Steph Curry. Last year Steph put on an incredible show leading the Warriors to the second round, and I can’t wait to see what he does this year. If it’s anywhere close to last year’s performance, we’re all in for a treat.

Matthew Hochberg (@MatthewHochberg):

Stephen Curry. The Golden State Warriors are facing the Los Angeles Clippers in the first-round of the playoffs, which will surely be no easy task. I will, however, be interested to see how Curry – who is emerging into an NBA superstar – responds to the loss of Andrew Bogut, after the big man fractured his rib and is now out indefinitely. The Warriors certainly have an uphill battle to climb. 

Michael Wesson: (@iamWesson):

This really is a hard question with so many choices, but if I had to choose one player it would be Dwight Howard. He is truly the only player who could change the course of the whole postseason if he decides he wants to channel his inner “Shaq”. I want to watch his play and his demeanor to see how much he truly wants to win a championship.

Matt Constas (@mconstas41):

LeBron James. I sat here trying to think of somebody else, I really did, but it was just impossible. If you love him, hate him, hate all the attention he gets, it doesn’t matter. EVERYBODY wants to know what this guy has in store for us this postseason. There are so many players that will be in his way and I’m excited to see how they handle him, but as fans of the NBA it is hard to not fall in love with greatness. We are witnessing just that with LeBron James and I’m very interested to see how this postseason works out for him. In a year where I think there could be as little as four and as many as six teams that could win the title, it will be interesting to see how King James responds with more pressure on him than he’s ever had in the league, going for his third straight championship.

Sonny Giuliano (@SonnyCG):

I thought about using the cop out answer and just going with “Everyone”, but what fun would that be? I’ll go with Bulls center Joakim Noah and his wacky box scores, all-out effort all the time, screaming, and hair… I’m completely enamored by this guy. He’s just awesome for the NBA. Last year Noah was hindered with a bad foot and a “minutes restriction” and he gutted out a Game 7 for the ages against Brooklyn in the 1st Round notching 24 points, 14 rebounds, and 6 blocks. I’m excited to see what he does for an encore.

Sam Kuperman (@samkoop):

Stephen Curry. The Warriors were very inconsistent this season, but a legitimate playoff run is certainly not out of the question here. This team can score with the best of them, and is very underrated defensively, as the Dubs are one of only four teams in the West to allow less than 100 points per game. If Golden State is to make some noise in the postseason, it all starts with Curry.

Last season, the sharpshooter led his team all the way to the Western Conference Semifinals, where it took the Conference Champion Spurs to six games before falling. With another year under his belt, Curry should be poised to lead his team a step further, despite the Warriors’ lack of consistency.

With Curry’s one-of-a-kind shooting stroke, great playmaking ability, and elite athleticism, he is truly a unique player. He is also one of the most fun players in the league to watch, so I am excited about getting to watch him try to take his game, and his team, to the next level.

jmaloney