The NBA Final Four is set and The Baseline is here to preview the conference finals in both the east and the west. To help break things down with expert analysis is Sports Illustrated up and coming feature writer Jeremy Woo.
ECF: Cavs vs Hawks
LeBron James has led the Cavs on a miraculous run to the conference finals without Kevin Love and a hobbled Kyrie Irving. Can he continue his playoff dominance faced against the team basketball orientated Hawks? Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap and Al Horford have taken turns leading the team all season but it will be the play of DeMarre Carroll and Kyle Korver that could turn this series in favor or the underdog Hawks.
WCF: Rockets vs Warriors
It’s a battle of the MVP candidates as Stephen Curry and James Harden showdown in what didn’t seem like the most likely scenario just a week ago. The series will hinge on the Rockets ability to defend with guys like Trevor Ariza, Josh Smith and Corey Brewer. But Dwight Howard will also have to play Robin to Harden’s Batman posting double-doubles like they are going out of style. Golden State sits comfortably with versatility as Draymond Green and Klay Thompson backup ‘Chef Cury’ but they can’t take the foot off the gas versus this under appreciated Houston team.
The Clippers blew a 3-1 lead to Houston and now face a summer of questions without much in the way of financial flexibility. Doc Rivers, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan may have taken the ride as far as they are capable of going together. It’s apparent L.A.’s other team will never gain respect until they finally win.
In Chicago all the pieces were in place. Derrick Rose was healthy, Jimmy Butler emerged as one of the best two-way players in the league and the Bulls seemingly had a bench Thibodeau could rely on. But still the Bulls fell to a short-handed Cavs team in six games and the future of the Bulls is very much in question. Mike Dunleavy is a free agent but Chicago has to focus on retaining Butler and keeping him grouped with Rose and Pau Gasol. It looks like Thibs is out the door and the winds of change will be sweeping through Chi-town this summer.
The DC Rising for the Wizards was shorter lived than expected. Despite an epic playoff run by Paul Pierce, Washington fell to Atlanta and they had some misfortune along the way they probably changed the series. Still this team has a bright a future with John Wall and Bradley Beal but they will need to get consistent post play from Marcin Gortat and Nene when it matters most in the playoffs.
Have we seen the last of Marc Gasol in a Grizzlies’ uniform? Chances are not but Memphis’ loss to the Warriors just highlighted their continued offensive defieceieny. With Gasol and Zach Randolph down low and Mike Conley running the point they are adequately equipped but its the wing position that needs improvement offensively. Will Jeff Green return and what will Tony Allen‘s role be next season?
Coast to Coast
We touch on some of the highlights from the NBA Draft combine, peak in on the upcoming Draft Lottery and bid farewell to Monty Williams in New Orleans.