A few weeks back, it was reported Detroit Pistons General Manager Joe Dumars intended to resign at season’s end. Even though his contract is set to expire, Joe D’s “resignation” essentially gave him the chance to quit before being fired. Unexpectedly, it now appears Dumars will stay on with the team in a diminished role.
Detroit’s dismal 29-53 record will most likely result in an 8th overall pick. This is par for the course over these last few seasons and yet, that may be just fine. This year’s draft is all but guaranteed to be better than last year and should be pretty loaded with talent. Should he fall, or should the lottery gods smile upon Auburn Hills, Duke’s Jabari Parker would be an ideal pick.
A dozen or so years ago, the Eastern Conference was a joke with every team not named the New Jersey Nets being god-awful. This season seems somehow worse than those early 2000’s years. Indiana, Miami, and Chicago were all expected to be great. You can excuse Chicago for only going 48-35 after losing Derrick Rose for most of the season. And Indiana and Miami met expectations finishing with the top two seeds in the East. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that the conference has sucked this year.
Last night’s final regular season games both shook up and cemented the playoff picture in the East. In advance of the beginning of playoff Saturday, here’s a look at the first round match-ups:
IND (1) vs ATL (8)
Indiana seems like a shoe-in for the conference finals. They took Miami to the brink last year and seem to have enough talent to get over the hump this year. But to get there, they’ll have to get through the 38-44 Hawks first. That won’t be a problem.
MIA (2) vs CHA (7)
The Charlotte Bobcats, for only the second time ever, are back in the playoffs. No one expected them to be here – Detroit, New York, and Cleveland all seemed more likely to make the playoffs this year. Instead, the Bobcats took advantage of the lowly Eastern Conference and compiled win after win against teams to which they have traditional lost. While Dwyane Wade has dealt with injury issues this season (and most of the last few seasons), the Heat are still the Heat. They struggle against teams with versatile big men, and Charlotte does offer that in Al Jefferson. He may give the Heat a run for their money, but then again Charlotte has never defeated the LeBron James version of the Heat. Miami will make it to the conference finals for a fourth straight year.
TOR (3) vs BKN (6)
At the start of the season, the consensus was that the Brooklyn Nets would run away with the Atlantic Division, and thus be the East’s three seed. Instead, the Raptors surprised everybody and were straight up a good team in a bad conference. The Raptors feature no star players outside of DeMar DeRozan, but still have found a way to be impressive and legitmate all season long. Until last night, the Raptors were expecting to play a young Washington Wizards team. That would have been an intriguing match-up but Toronto is now saddled against a Brooklyn team that ended the season much better than it began. The Nets have more talent on paper, and that could translate on the court. This series should go the limit and the young Raptors, hosting game 7 in front of a rabid Canadian fan base, will squeeze by.
CHI (4) vs WSH (5)
Last night’s games bumped Washington up a spot to the fifth seed, which puts them here against the Bulls. The expected Chicago-Brooklyn match-up would have been more fun to watch given that the two teams went the distance last season and had some exciting games. It will be fun to watch Wizards all-star John Wall in his first trip to the post-season. And Chicago is intriguing given they somehow always manage to be a legitimate threat without former MVP Derrick Rose on the floor. Joakim Noah has been very good this year, and the chance to see a great defensive battle in the second round against Indiana is very alluring. Expect the Bulls to close this out in six games.
Editor’s Note: This is Part I in a two-part series previewing the 2014 NBA Playoffs. Be sure to check back for a preview of the Western Conference tomorrow.