NBA Playoffs Preview: Sleeper Picks Edition

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Memphis Grizzlies

Anchored by legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidate Marc Gasol in the middle, the Grizzlies allow opponents only 89.4 ppg (1st in the league), only 38.2 points in the paint per game (4th in the league) and give up only 47.8 rebounds to opponents per game (3rd in the league).

The biggest obstacle for the Grizzlies going forward will be their matchup in the first round with the Clips which could spell an early exit, but due to their suffocating defense they are certainly a team no one wants to meet early on.

Chicago Bulls

The Bulls once again have one of the best rebounding (51.7 per game 7th in the league) and defending (allowing 92.8 ppg, 3rd in the league) teams in the league this season. They have been without all-star Center Joakim Noah for the past few weeks and have not had former MVP Derrick Rose all season. Despite this fact, the Bulls managed to stop long winning streaks by the East’s two top seeds, Miami and New York, in the span of a week.

The Bulls defensive tenacity keeps them in most games and gives them a chance to upset any team on any given night. The return of Noah and the potential return of Rose make them a dangerous team in the playoffs.

New York Knicks

Only in the NBA’s Eastern Conference can a second seed be considered a sleeper pick, but the Knicks represent the greatest obstacle to Miami winning their third consecutive conference title. The Knicks have seized that second seed by going on a 13 game winning streak in which Carmelo Anthony has looked unguardable. J.R. Smith is playing the best basketball of his career and Steve Novak and Chris Copeland round out one of the most offensively capable benches in the league.

Added to that is the fact that the Knicks seem to be getting healthy at the right time. Tyson Chandler, Rasheed Wallace and Kenyon Martin all look to be back by the start of the playoffs. Meanwhile Amar’e Stoudemire has stated he will be back from his knee injury before this season is over.

Indiana Pacers

The Pacers’ star has faded over the past couple of weeks as the New York Knicks have overtaken them for the number spot in the East, but they still remain one of the toughest defensive teams in the league and they always play Miami tough. In last year’s playoff matchup against Miami, the Pacers led the Heat 2-1 after 3 games before Miami won the series in 6 games.

There was a lot of hard fouls and bad blood in that series and the Pacers have a lot of size in the middle which could bother the Heat. If they do end up facing the defending champs in the conference finals expect a hard fought entertaining series.

Golden State Warriors

Warriors PG Steph Curry is one of the most dynamic players in the league and certainly one of the most entertaining scorers to watch. At any given time he is apt to turn the lights out from three-point range. Added to that is the size of a legit seven-footer in Andrew Bogut and a scoring PF in David Lee and you have a Warriors club that depending on the matchup could get to the second round of this year’s tournament.

The Warriors versatility at the offensive end of the court gives them a punchers chance against any team in the West. They are currently slated to face Denver in the first round and with the Nuggets reeling from a season ending injury to Danilo Gallinari and an ankle sprain to Kenneth Faried that team may be ripe for a first round upset.

 

 

The Heat, Spurs and Thunder have all had the years that were expected of them when the season tipped off six months ago. However, there have also been some surprises along the way creating a handful of sleepers in this year’s playoff field.

While parity has never been the NBA’s strong suit, there are a few teams not located in Miami, San Antonio or OKC that have a good chance of advancing deep into the playoffs and some possibly making a trip to the NBA Finals.

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