1. The Bucks are going to be really good in the next few years
The Milwaukee Bucks led by 2nd year coach Jason Kidd, gave Chicago all they could handle in the first round of the eastern conference playoffs. Despite the large difference in poise, talent, and experience the Bucks matched up favorably with the Bulls minus the back court. Michael Carter Williams got his first taste of playoff intensity and he did not answer the bell with trepidation. Derrick Rose just was too much for the former Rookie of the Year MCW. Although his length did bother Derrick at times, DRose was highly motivated and on a different mission and there was no one on the Bucks team who would be able to stop him. Giannis Antetokounmpo gave us glimpses of the ceiling he could have. He has an average handle and jump shot, but superb athleticism and length. If he continues to work he will rise in the wing position power rankings. Henson is a fundamentally defensive sound player coming off the bench and Kris Middleton ended up being a serviceable shooting guard for Jason Kidd's young team. Keep in mind that all of their progress was made this season without their future "star" player in Jabari Parker who was having a decent season before a torn ACL took him away from action. If Jason can add a solid front court player in Free Agency (a la DeAndre Jordan), and a scoring or explosive talent to come off the bench after the Greek Freak and Jabari Parker, the Bucks will be a serious contender in the East for years to come.
2. The Clippers go according to Austin Rivers' bench production
The Clippers have one of the thinner benches out of all the remaining playoff teams. There is no depth at the front court positions, Jamal Crawford provides a scoring spark off the bench, but after him there is no one for Doc to turn to in order to carry the 2nd unit through turbulence until the starters return. Enter son--Austin Rivers, Austin has the talent to keep the Clippers on par in Chris Paul’s absence. During his brief career he has not seen consistent playing time. He was an afterthought in New Orleans with the Pelicans until being traded to the Boston Celtics who eventually let him out of his contract. And although many coaches and General Managers may be able to ignore him on the bench, his talent cannot be ignored and his father Doc needs him now to play an essential role in the Clippers rotation. Austin does not have to be CP3 and be the heroic figure alongside Blake Griffin. Austin just needs to play a steady leader role, someone who will create easier shots for Blake, someone who can knock down the occasional tre ball to keep the defense honest, and someone who can provide length on defense against the remaining smaller point guards left in the west (Steph Curry, Jason Terry, Mike Conley). If Austin can provide consistent production off the bench or starting in place of an injured Chris Paul, the Clippers will roll all the way to the NBA Finals.
3. The Mavericks window is closed
Dirk Nowitzki is no longer the 23 point 9 rebound guy he once was. In fact he is no longer a 20 point per game guy period. In a playoff series, assuming he is at full health, he may give you two 20 point games out of a seven game series but that is it. Monta Ellis is a good shooting guard, but not the game’s elite, and cannot carry a team. Tyson Chandler is aging, and the bench for Dallas is atrocious. The problem with the Mavericks is that they are always respectable but rarely elite. So they typically end up in the 7th or 8th seed of the Western conference brackets, which usually means an early exit and a late 1st round draft pick—either which are not okay for owner Mark Cuban. To make matters worse, the Mavericks have managed to lure away Chandler Parsons to Dallas with a max contract but not max talent. So Cuban and Mav fans everywhere are banking the next era of Dallas Basketball on Chandler Parsons?!?! Parsons is not much more than a Gordon Hayward, and I can make the argument that Hayward is more valuable and consistent. Rondo was kicked out of the Franchise before even getting settled in, and became a detriment to the team. Now with no real star point guard available in Free Agency, Chandler returning off of injury, Monta's status up in the air, and Dirk in his wheel chair, the Maverick's window of contention has now closed and their best bet is to allow Dirk to retire, trade Tyson for Draft picks, allow Ellis to hit Free agency and TANK.
4. Kevin Love will not be in a Cleveland Cavalier uniform next year
The most talked about player who is not playing in the playoffs right now is Kevin Love. Due to the "bush-league" play of the Boston Celtics in round 1 Kevin is forced to watch the remainder of the playoffs from the sidelines. Regardless of Love's status it is clear that Lebron is driven to compete and potentially win another championship. The success of the Cavaliers will have no impact on Kevin Love's looming free agency decision. Instead, the lack of Love in the lineup provides a glimpse of Lebron James' flexing power. Kevin Love is proving to be an above average, but serviceable stretch forward that can be replaced by next season. I have spent time dissecting Kevin Love's makeup throughout the season and Kevin is all about "fitting in". He is less concerned about winning a championship and more concerned about being recognized statistically as one of the game’s elite players. Most players who are meaningful to their team would use the time away from their team as fuel to come back and make an impact, but Kevin will evaluate this experience as a sign that he needs to re-assert himself in the NBA as an old star in a new city new season.
5. The Warriors will be in the same situation as the 2012 Oklahoma City Thunder
The Warrior have been a dominant ball club over the past season, and have very similar traits, and team make-up of the 2012 Oklahoma City Thunder team that lost to Lebron and the Heat. The most notable event following that season was the James Harden trade, knowing that the owner did not want to creep into the luxury tax, the Thunder found themselves having to make a decision between Serge Ibaka and James Harden, who at the time was looked at as the lesser of two evils. James ended up being sent to Houston for some picks, and a few athletic guard-forward combinations. Now the best team in the league has similar cap and roster issues on the horizon. Steph Curry is a max player in the 2nd year of a 44 million dollar extension. Klay is a max player, and now Draymond Green will hit free agency this summer. All analysts, and GM's believe that Green will remain a Warrior and receive the max. You have Andre Iguodala coming off the bench and another potential "late bloomer" in Harrison Barnes. Barnes is the odd man out in this equation. First off, the Warriors do not have a legitimate big man that will be able to carry the load of this team for the next 4 years. Although Andrew Bogut has remained relatively healthy this year, this was the first in a string of injury plagued seasons. As of now the bench is strong and deep with Livingston, Lee, Holiday, and Iggy but this will be hard to maintain for another season. David Lee will most likely remain on board because of the fear he will not be able to find work elsewhere. Holiday (the older brother to Jrue Holiday) is a good fit, and will be a cheap signing. Iggy received the max, but has now assimilated into a role player off the bench. There is no way they will be able to keep Harrison Barnes, and Draymond Green. Even worse is the fact that Draymond Green is a really a small forward who is playing big and that will not be sustainable in a Western Conference year after year. The Warriors have some decisions to make this summer and next season, and their window much like the Thunder's window in 2012 is right now.
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