By John Schmeelk
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The NBA playoffs serve as a huge reality check for teams, showing them their true weaknesses and where they have to get better if they want to win a title. The Knicks confirmed that their offense would struggle unless Carmelo Anthony played out of this world. They need an effective point guard in the worst way.
It’s been no different for every other team.
The Lakers learned that they are at a crossroads and need to decide what the identity of their team is going to be. Are they going to be a team focused around Kobe Bryant and perimeter play, or will the Lakers be a post team that runs everything inside-out? Their personnel (Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol) dictates the latter approach to be the prudent one, but is it a realistic possibility? Will Kobe Bryant’s ego and the Lakers’ fans really allow something like that? Can Mike Brown, or any coach for that matter, convince Kobe Bryant not to take more than 25 shots in a playoff game? What the Lakers know for sure is that their current combination of players doesn’t work. Expect changes in Laker-land before long.
The Bulls, if they didn’t already know, discovered beyond a shadow of a doubt that Carlos Boozer is no second option. He might be a third, but no better than that. Already a liability defensively, Boozer disappeared on offense, rendering himself completely useless. Once Derrick Rose went down, Boozer had to step up, and he did just the opposite. With no salary cap flexibility, the Bulls are going to have to be creative in finding a true sidekick for Derrick Rose, or there won’t be any more titles in Chicago for quite a while.
In being dismantled by the Spurs, the Clippers have to wonder who their go-to guy is going to be down the stretch of games. Can it be Blake Griffin with his limited post game and terrible free-throw shooting? Can they go far in the playoffs if Chris Paul is forced to score when the game is on the line, and not distribute? I think the answer to both those questions at this point is no.
The Grizzlies should have learned that they should stay the course. If not for a clearly subpar Zach Randolph, they would have beaten the Clippers. Without Zeebo, they simply didn’t have enough firepower and were forced to rely too much on Rudy Gay scoring in one-on-one situations. The Grizzlies must wonder how much they can rely on Marc Gasol, a very good player who has the tendency to disappear for games at a time.
The Hawks need to face the reality that they are stuck in mediocrity, and even with everyone healthy they are nothing better than a second-round playoff team. They will have to shake things up. The Nuggets need to find a go-to scorer, because Danilo Gallinari’s 1-for-9 in Game 7 showed that he is just not ready to carry that burden. You are not winning anything if Al Harrington leads your team in scoring in a Game 7. The Mavericks need another star, and have the cap space to get one. Hello Deron Williams! Orlando got the point since they fired both their coach and GM, but was it the right one? I hope Utah already knows that they can’t win with three of their best players all being power forwards.
Both the Celtics and the Sixers, regardless of who wins that series, will realize that they just can’t score enough to challenge for a title. Same for the Pacers. The Heat will eventually realize that they need to shake up their supporting cast because LeBron and Wade can’t do it alone. The league will realize that he NBA Champion will be whomever comes out of the west. The Thunder, even if they fall to the Spurs, will have to come to grips with either going over the luxury tax to keep both James Harden and Serge Ibaka, or let their perennial shot blocker leave via free agency. The playoffs are fun for fans, but for general managers they are cruel and relentless, as they show everyone their shortcomings and path to a potential title.
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If you had to choose right this moment, who would you say has the best chance to win the NBA title: the Heat, the Thunder or the Spurs? Offer your thoughts and comments below…