Locked Out League Playoffs Round 1, Brian V. Darrell
In the first matchup we have the Goodfellas (Darrell) and the Sharpshooters (Brian), as both teams had identical 10-4 records, tied for 2nd best in the league.
The keys to victory for the Goodfellas are;
1. Ricky Rubio
A waiver wire pickup, Rubio has gone from 'intriguing guy coming off of injury' to 'flashiest ball handler in the league' almost overnight. His fantasy points in the last four games; 51, 45, 32, 27. Good to great totals, but a distressing decline in production. If he plays at a high level, the Goodfellas could put the contest out of reach fast. A determining factor could be the health of partners in crine, Kevin Love and Andrei Kirilenko, as their returning creates more opportunities for offensive production. One of my favourite players in the league and possible franchise candidate.
2. The frontcourt
Arguably the 2nd best player in the world, Kevin Durant, is the teams starting small forward. Horford, Aldridge, Duncan and Bosh are stablemates at PF and C, giving the Goodfellas the best and deepest collection of bigs in the pool.
3. Indiana Pacers
The Pacers have a deep team with few legit superstars, but they are tenacious on defense, and built to grind games out in the playoffs. As the 2nd best team in the East (behind the Heat), they don't have a lot of incentive to play their best guys every night down the stretch. Both George Hill and Paul George have been terrific for the Goodfellas this year, but they may see their minutes pared back as Indiana puts it into cruise control from here on out.
The keys to victory for the Sharpshooters; '
1. Dwayne Wade
As the season has progressed, Wade has played better and better, and with the Heat on a historic 22 game winning streak, Wade is at the top of his game. So here is the thing, if/when the streak ends, do Wade's minutes take a hit to preserve him for the playoffs? (answer: likely Yes). Until the streak is over though, expect Wade to be stuffing the stat sheet.
With both Jose Calderon and Greg Monroe on the Sharpshooters, how Detroit fares over the next few weeks is of outmost concern to the Sharpshooters. Monroe is a way above average offensive center with decent rebound abilities, and Calderon is a waiver pickup who is getting surprisingly good results with the Pistons. If Detroit can get into a couple of run-n-gun shootouts these two guys might elevate the Sharpshooters to a victory.
3. Greivis Vasquez
The point guard in New Orleans has been flying under the radar all year while playing at a near All-star level. His assist production is amongst the best in the league, and he may be the beneficiary of being a very decent player on a terrible team. That all said, New Orleans has exactly nothing good to play for, and losing to improve draft position may be the mindset that takes over.
My bet? The Goodfellas are simply too deep for the Sharpshooters to overcome.