2007 NBA Playoff Teams Struggling in 08
by David Lane of Predictem.com
Although there are plenty of both good and bad stories in the NBA this season, under performing teams seem to be a natural progression. How else can an avid sports bettor know who will win if you have no idea who will not? In my book, placing wagers on who will lose is just as good if not better than picking a winner. That being said, if the NBA Playoffs were to begin today, the Houston Rockets, Chicago Bulls, New Jersey Nets, and Miami Heat, would all, surprisingly enough, be on the outside looking in. Its not yet too late as some of these teams have bright prospects for a winning second half of the season – making them good value picks. For the most part, however, these former 2006/2007 NBA playoff teams have been just the ticket to bet against thus far in the 2007/2008 season. What a difference a year makes
Among these teams the Houston Rockets produced a very respectable 52-30 record last regular season, which turned out to be third place in the Southwest Division, good enough for the fifth seed in a very competitive Western Conference. After being dispatched by the Utah Jazz in seven games, star guard Tracy McGrady was extremely upset with the fact that for the third time in four years his Rockets were not able to get past the first round of the playoffs. Regardless, McGrady and Center Yao Ming were playing well together, the team had developed depth throughout the roster and people were coming to the realization that if healthy, this could be “at times” one of the better teams in basketball.
This season, however, has been a set back so far for first year coach Rick Adelmans squad. The team is currently 22-19 which is not a bad record, and in the Western Conference this season, not too far out of contention. Unfortunately, health issues have been a common occurrence for this team as both McGrady and Ming have missed a total of 61 games between them since the beginning of last season until present. Trying to adjust to either one or both of them being gone has been a normal thing for these guys only usually the team has struggled. Without T-Mac the Rockets have won seven of the last nine games behind inspired play by guards Rafer Alston and Luther Head. The team has been playing so well that McGrady has been coming off of the bench. Since the Rockets have developed this resiliency, they will be a good pick to get hot in the second half of the season and should also have decent value going forward from an against the spread perspective.
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For the Chicago Bulls, last seasons fifth seed in the playoffs, this year has been quite the struggle. After rumors of Kobe Bryants impending trade to Chicago for half of the roster lasted all summer long, the upcoming season would have seemed to have been a welcome sight for most teams. The Bulls on the other hand started the season by winning only two of their first twelve games and they were 9-16 on December 24 when Head Coach Scott Skiles was fired by General Manager John Paxson.
Three days later, Assistant Coach Jim Boylan was named interim head coach for the remainder of the season. The team proceeded to win nine of the next 15 before losing star forward Luol Deng (three weeks) AND guard Ben Gordon (awaiting MRI) to an achilles and a wrist injury respectively, otherwise, things would be looking up for them as well.
Regardless, this year they have built much needed added depth by injecting Andres Nocioni and rookie Joakim Noah into the lineup, among others, and this should make all the difference in the second half of the season. Look for the Bulls to make another run to the playoffs once they get healthy although it might not be pretty as Deng, Nocioni and Gordon, get it all together down the stretch.
Now we move on to the Nets. Almost everything has been said about New Jersey Nets Guard Jason Kidd. He has demanded a trade, lost a step and now, my favorite headline- Does He Still Care? Sure the guy cares about winning and this is probably why he wanted to be traded to begin with. The Nets, last seasons NBA Eastern Conferences sixth seed in the playoffs didnt really get rolling a year ago until small forward Richard Jefferson returned from injury with 12 games to go in the season. They won ten of those twelve!
Thus far, the big three of Jefferson, Kidd, and forward Vince Carter are all relatively healthy. Oddly enough, good health hasnt translated into victories and surprisingly the offense has been anemic. The team lost their seventh straight to the Golden State Warriors last night. Besides the poor offensive output, Jason Kidd is turning the ball over too often. Amid persistent speculation that he and others will still be traded, things havent gotten any better. He banged his thumb vs. the Warriors and had to receive an MRI on it. Luckily for the Nets it turned out to be negative. Whether this team regains its form, falls further, or gets blown up to smithereens in a series of personnel moves remains to be seen, but for my money, until I see any significant signs, this remains a team to bet against.
Finally but not most forgotten is the Miami Heat. Any team that won the NBA title only two short years ago should be miles from the cellar at this point in a season. However, the Heat apparently will be worthy trendsetters in this area. Although the team remains remarkably intact from that championship run, they still feature Shaquille ONeal, Dwayne Wade and Jason Williams. The team appears to be only a shadow of their former selves as ONeal looks old and slow, Wade has suffered knee and shoulder injuries and Williams is working hard to regain the form that once drove this team.
Summary:Although they finished with the NBA Eastern Conferences fourth seed a year ago with a 44-38 regular season record, the New Jersey Nets seem closer to the bottom than the top this year. Even though they rallied together last season at the right time only to lose in the first round of the playoffs to the Chicago Bulls four games to none, they looked like a team that was tired, old, and even a step slow.
At this time the Heat have lost 15 straight and are a lowly 8-34. If this is any indication of things to come and I think it is, Ill keep picking against them.
The “Association” has plenty of success stories this year as well stories of futility to go along with them. Although these are the teams most fans might not notice due to the fact their currently out of favor, they are the ones any gambler should take note of in the grand scheme of things. When doing your handicapping it never hurts to choose a winner by first determining a loser.