Playoff Thoughts

1.    More Home Stuff:    Last night, the Celts, were again beaten on the road to drop their road record 0-6 in the playoffs.  We reviewed this a bit last time but I wondered how unique this playoff’s home dominance was.  Fortunately (for me), John Hollinger was kind enough to beat us to the research punch, letting us know in a great article today that home playoff teams won 65% of second round games in the 2000s.  This year the home teams are winning at a 95% rate (until the Lakers beat the Jazz last night).  Okay, so we’re watching a bit of an anomaly this year.  But has a team ever won a title without winning home games?  Let’s take a look:1983-84 Boston Celtics, 3-7 on the road

1984-85 Los Angeles Lakers, 6-2 on the road

1985-86 Boston Celtics, 5-3 on the road

1986-87 Los Angeles Lakers, 5-3 on the road

1987-88 Los Angeles Lakers, 3-7 on the road

1988-89 Detroit Pistons, 7-1 on the road

1989-90 Detroit Pistons, 5-4 on the road

1990-91 Chicago Bulls, 7-1 on the road

1991-92 Chicago Bulls, 6-4 on the road

1992-93 Chicago Bulls, 7-2 on the road

1993-94 Houston Rockets, 5-5 on the road

1994-95 Houston Rockets, 9-3 on the road

1995-96 Chicago Bulls, 5-4 on the road

1996-97 Chicago Bulls, 5-3 on the road

1997-98 Chicago Bulls, 5-4 on the road

1998-99 San Antonio Spurs, 8-1 on the road

1999-00 Los Angeles Lakers, 4-6 on the road

2000-01 Los Angeles Lakers, 8-0 on the road

2001-02 Los Angeles Lakers, 7-2 on the road

2002-03 San Antonio Spurs, 8-4 on the road

2003-04 Detroit Pistons, 6-4 on the road

2004-05 San Antonio Spurs, 7-4 on the road

2005-06 Miami Heat, 5-6 on the road

2006-07 San Antonio Spurs, 7-2 on the road 

In theory, the Celtics need not win a road game to win a title but this would be a fairly unprecedented event.  History tells us that you need about five road wins, at least, to win a title.  The only teams with less than five wins were the 1983-84 Celts and the 1987-88 Lakers, both of whom ran a gauntlet of tough series.  Those Lakers actually played three straight seven game series (against the Stockton-Malone Jazz, the Mavs with Derek Harper and Roy Tarpley, and the Bad Boy Pistons), all of which were drawn out and draining.  We also have to take the time to marvel at the 2000-01 Lakers, who went undefeated on the road (and only lost one game the entire playoffs, when Allen Iverson went nuts in Game 1 of the Finals).  For the Celts of 2007-08, all is certainly not lost.  They should beat the Cavs in Game 7 but they must answer when the better teams pop up in Boston the next two rounds. 

2.   First Round Fall Out:     Another thing we like to do each playoffs is to take a look at the eliminated teams and see where they are headed this summer.  Without further ado, here’s a look at the eliminated teams so far from the Eastern Conference (Western to follow later in the week): 

-Atlanta Hawks:  Even in success, things aren’t that fun in Atlanta.  First, Billy Knight quits as general manager after his most successful season.  Next, there is speculation that Mike Woodson is also on the way out.  While Woodson is not a great coach, I don’t see any reason to can a coach coming off a franchise quasi-peak.  So the organizational flux is still there and now the Hawks (who have no draft pick) have to deal with Josh Smith and Josh Childress, who are both free agents.  You would think that Smith is going nowhere.  Even the cheap Hawks aren’t going to let their explosive best player go.  Childress, who has turned out to be a pretty good player, is another story.  If another team gives Childress a contract similar to Mike Dunleavy or Vlad Radmanovic, the Hawks will let him go.  This is particularly true where the Hawks are oversaturated with swing men with Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams.  At this point, Childress looks like a better player than Williams (he is certainly a much better defender) and a case could be made for trading Williams and re-signing Childress.  That makes sense only if they can get something good for Williams and Childress can be gotten for a sane contract (mid-level exception or lower).  Keeping Williams over Childress would essentially allow the team to delay the decision on giving either player a big contract (Williams won’t be a free agent until after next year) and Atlanta can see if the 21-year old busts out.  The bottom line is we should expect the team to lost Childress but be the same team otherwise.  

Philadelphia 76ers:  We already discussed the Sixers a little bit before the playoffs and everything noted then is still true.  In a nut shell, they are a nice team with some promising young players.  Like Atlanta, they have two key free agents coming up.  Here, it is Andre Iguodala this summer and Andre Miller next year.  Miller played like a star but he’s not young and really is not a good investment long term and his value really is at its peak.  It would take some guts, but he might allow the team to land the power forward they’ve coveted.  

Toronto Raptors:   Weird time for the Raptors.  They have rebuilt into a pretty solid, if not great, team.  They also have coach that Bryan Colangelo probably isn’t particularly excited to have.  For what it’s worth, Colangelo has a history as a good GM but he’s been tepid in Toronto.  The core of this team, Chris Bosh and Jose Calderon, were actually drafted by Glen Grunwald.  Now, Colangelo is faced with several issues.  Generally, he’d like to find the moves to jump Toronto to a 50-win team.  Bosh is a nice starting point but what else is to be done?  First and foremost, the Raptors have to settle the point guard issue.  They have two bona fide starting point guards.  Colangelo traded for Ford and gave him a big contract but Calderon seems to be the better (and healthier) player.  Let’s see their stats: 

Ford, age 25, 23.5 mpg, 12.1 ppg, .469 FG%, .294 3FG%, 2.0 rpg, 6.1 apg, 2.0 topg, 20.3 PER

Calderon, age 27, 30.3 mpg, 11.2 ppg, .519 FG%, .429 3FG%, 2.9 rpg, 8.3 apg, 1.5 topg, 20.5 PER 

It’s actually pretty close.  Ford is younger and faster but his spinal issues are always looming (he missed 30 games after a hard foul this year).  Calderon is much more durable but a little older and he is now a free agent.  Both players have made it clear that they want to start and would create problems if that didn’t happen.  So, you either trade Ford (likely at a discount because teams know you have to trade him) or let Calderon go for nothing.  I like the first option.  Calderon is the more durable player and has a more complete game.  Ford could be used to getting the scoring shooting guard that they desperately need to jump up a level (a Ford for Jamal Crawford trade makes a lot of sense). 

The next issue is deciding what to do with Andrea Bargnani.  He’s still very young but the future doesn’t look promising.  Bargnanin is an abysmal rebounder and defender and he didn’t actually shoot well this year (.386 FG%).  Bargnani isn’t a megabust, he should probably turn into a pretty good scorer from the perimeter (a la Vlad Radmanovic).  With his this one-dimensional style, however, you are much better trading now while he may have some perceived value, if not what he had a year ago.  

Washington Wizards:   Of the eliminated teams, however, the Wiz are clearly the team with the biggest issues to deal with.  Gilbert Arenas is likely to opt out and Antawn Jamison is also a free agent.  Jamison will be 32 but he has shown no signs of decline yet and is a big part of the Bullets/Wizards’ best stretch of basketball since the 1970s.  Arenas is still pretty young but is coming off of a major knee injury and does not seem to have recovered yet.  So, the Wiz are faced with committing to players with question marks or letting them walk and going back to the lottery.  With Jamison, returning has to do with whether they can re-sign him at a sane price (maybe a three or four-year deal at $12-13 million is not a bad deal).  While it would hurt to lose Jamison, Caron Butler and Andray Blatche at a fraction of the cost is more than acceptable solution to the frontcourt issues. 

As for Arenas, that is the true gamble.  Arenas was steadily improving before the knee injury.  Generally, Arenas’ torn meniscus-type injury doesn’t permanently mar a career.  Still, Arenas has now torn the knee twice (once in 2006-07 and again this year when he returned too soon from the injury).  Despite the uncertainty with the knee, someone will offer Arenas a pretty big deal because if he’s healthy, he will have huge value.  I have some doubts that the Wiz are interested in taking that risk, especially after they had the same sort of season without Arenas in 2007-08 as they did with him the previous three years.  That analysis is a bit simplistic.  The Wiz stayed at their usual 40-win mark without Arenas because of some surprises (Brendan Haywood had a career year).  Re-signing Arenas is will be a poker game.  The Wiz should try to keep him but they need to have the medical staff really review the knee films AND the contract has to be quasi-reasonable.  No matter how good a prognosis Arenas may have, the prior history must mean that a long term deal can’t be for max money.  It’s still an open question if Arenas will accept that fact.  In short, I don’t envy Ernie Grunfeld this summer.  He is faced with Hobson’s Choices on both players.  His best hope is that Arenas doesn’t opt out, which would allow both sides an extra year to make more sure what Arenas’ market value will be going forward.

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