All 16 NBA Playoff Teams’ Biggest Weakness
By Mike Elworth and Josh Morgan…
1. San Antonio Spurs- Age
– The Spurs really have no weaknesses, but there is one concern; age. Tim Duncan is 37, Manu Ginobili is 36, Tony Parker is 31 and Matt Bonner and Boris Diaw are also in their 30’s. Along with Kawhi Leonard, the 1st 3 players are the 4 best and most important Spurs and their 3 veteran stars have a lot of regular season, international and playoff miles on them. They will be playing a lot of minutes, 3 times per week, so seeing if their bodies can hold up through 5 playoff series, which is what it will take to win a title and is their only goal is a lot of playing time for men the age of Duncan, Ginobili and even Parker.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder- Reliance On Youth, Age and Perkins
– The Thunder, like the Spurs really have no real weakness, as they are elite on offense and excellent on defense and on the boards, but they have a few concerns. Derek Fisher is 39 and Caron Butler is 34 and they are each a big part of their rotation, Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb are too, but are 23 and 21 and their starting center is Kendrick Perkins, who is useless. Having 2 elderly, 2 very young and 1 useless player all in their rotation is disconcerting.
3. Los Angeles Clippers- 3 Point Percentage
– The Clippers take a lot of 3’s; nearly 22 per game, but they are the league’s poorest long distance shooting team by a wide margin at 33.1 percent. They may have the NBA’s top scoring offense, but if they are unable to make their 3’s, teams will be free to double team Chris Paul as he runs the offense or Blake Griffin in the paint, which could limit their offensive production.
4. Houston Rockets- Defense
– The Rockets are 23d in the NBA in defense, which is the lowest of all Western Conference playoff teams and even though they have Dwight Howard in the middle and Patrick Beverley at point guard, who are each excellent on defense, they play James Harden and Jeremy Lin more than 60 combined minutes at guard. Each of these 2 are very poor defenders, meaning they will get pummeled by opposing guards. Their playoff chances are based on one question; can their elite offense score more than their poor defense allows? No. Defense wins championships and they don’t have enough.
5. Portland Trail Blazers- Depth
– The Blazers have an excellent, excellent starting 5, featuring All Stars LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard, borderline All Star Nicolas Batum and 2 elite role players in Wesley Matthews and Robin Lopez, but their bench; it’s pathetic. Mo Williams is a solid scoring sixth man, Thomas Robinson plays his energy role nicely, but after them, there is really nobody. No depth means they have no chance at doing much in the playoffs.
6. Golden State Warriors- Paint Defense
– The Warriors climbed all the way to 9th in opponents points per game on defense, but with an injured Andrew Bogut, who is the one of the better paint defenders in the NBA, Jermaine O’Neal in his 18th season and unfit to play starter’s minutes and David Lee and Marreese Speights nowhere near the level of Bogut and O’Neal on defense, how will their defense fare in the best case scenario that Bogut can play, but is hurting? It could be a big problem, especially since it looks like they will be facing Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan in the 1t round.
7. Dallas Mavericks- Defending Point Guards
– The West has Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, Jeremy Lin, Mike Coney and Chris Paul at point guard, while the Mavericks have Jose Calderon. Calderon is an excellent distributor, but a porous defender and Monta Ellis can’t do much better. They will have to find a way to stop opposing point guards if they want any chance of winning even a single game.
8. Memphis Grizzlies- Offense
– The Memphis Grizzlies have the NBA’s 27th ranked offense, which is by far the lowest of any playoff team in the Western Conference. Besides Memphis, each West playoff team is in the top 10 in the NBA in points per game and although they have the best defense in the West, 96 points a night isn’t going to cut it. If they want to have any chance of winning a playoff series, they will have to keep playing elite defense, but at the same time, they need their Marc Gasol/Zach Randolph centric offense to thrive and for Mike Conley to continue to play All Star level basketball for them at the point.
1. Indiana Pacers
Yes their defense has struggled just as much as their offense during their recent slide but that is still their calling card and I believe they will turn it on once again when the playoffs start. However, they are just 24th in points per game, 27th in assists and 20th in turnovers on offense. The ball sticks too much in one players’ hands, mainly Paul George, and the other four guys just stand and watch, leaving him in no man’s land if he is stopped. When they have ball movement and player movement they have some dangerous offensive players, but they must set their egos aside and play team basketball to prove they actually are all in on getting that NBA ring Indiana is desperate for.
2. Miami Heat
LeBron James is the best player in the galaxy and he can hide just about any weakness his team may have but there is no denying how bad Miami is in this department. They are dead last in offensive and total rebounds and 28th in defensive rebounds. They were in such dire need of production in this category that the decaying knees of Greg Oden were brought in to help and he likely won’t play in the playoffs thanks to another part of his body giving out on him, his back. Their main East competitors are Indiana and Chicago, who are excellent rebounding teams and can easily exploit this to get extra possessions.
3. Toronto Raptors
Weakness: Playoff Experience
This is something that is hard to quantify but four of the Raptor’s five leading scorers have no experience when it comes to being in the playoffs and there has never been a team that I can think of that has been of great consequence come playoff team that had never been there before. They are the biggest surprise of the Eastern Conference this season and have a very bright future ahead of them if they can keep their core together, but I don’t see them making a lot of noise this season due to the inexperience in the unique challenges that the playoffs create.
4. Chicago Bulls
With all due respect, it is a surprise to me that the Bulls are the fourth seed in the East even with how bad overall the conference is. Derrick Rose getting injured once again looked to be crippling to this team but thanks to Joakim Noah and their incredible defense, the Bulls fought their way into this position. What they are missing in Rose is someone that can create his own shot and thus shots for others when defenses collapse down on him. They scored the fewest points in the league per game and overall and if they should have an off day on the defensive end, they will most likely not be able to keep up scoring points.
5. Brooklyn Nets
I could’ve went the easy route here and said their age, as their stars have been around at least 8 years each but the atrocious rebounding stats were just too glaring to pass up. They rank 29th in offensive rebounds and dead last in the other two categories, giving up extra possessions to other teams and not getting them on their end. This could be due to Brook Lopez missing the large majority of the season and the trade of Reggie Evans at the deadline but they have an athletic rookie in Mason Plumlee and a veteran in Kevin Garnett that should have been able to take up some of their slack at least. Extra possessions will kill a team and when your scorers are as jump shot oriented as the Nets this does not bode well for them as a threat to win the Eastern Conference.
6. Washington Wizards
Their starting five has been very good this season with John Wall finally turning into the franchise player we all expected, Trevor Ariza playing very well on the wing, Bradley Beal proving to be one of the best second year players in the league, Marcin Gortat solidifying the five and the combination of Nene and Trevor Booker rounding things out nicely but after that, well there’s Martell Webster. Thirty seven year old Andre Miller is the backup at the point and Drew Gooden is the primary backup in the post. If they get into foul trouble or someone should happen to get injured it could be disastrous.
7. Charlotte Bobcats
Weakness: Offensive Efficiency
The Bobcats had a great turnaround this season lead by addition Al Jefferson who has been outstanding. He should’ve been an All Star this season and has finally given them a go-to player inside to go along with Kemba Walker. Where the Bobcats come up short is efficiently putting the ball in the basket. They are 22nd in three point percentage, 27th from inside the line and 24th at the free throw line. This could come back to haunt them come playoff time as the Heat are one of the best offensive teams in the league and if they can’t keep up they could be run out of the gym.
8. Atlanta Hawks
Paul Millsap was an All Star this season and Jeff Teague had spurts of excellent play but the talent in Atlanta is lacking to be kind. Kyle Korver is their best player on the wing, DeMarre Carroll is next in line and after them there is nothing. With Al Horford out Millsap is their only threatening player in the frontcourt and players such as Mike Scott, Mike Muscala, Shelvin Mack and James Nunnally have seen minutes at various times. The Hawks embarrassed the Pacers in Indianapolis on the first Sunday in April but don’t count on that happening again. Atlanta needs a big time talent infusion if they expect to return to the playoffs next season.