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NBA Playoffs, Spiced Up

There may not be a better time of year. 40 nights of NBA playoff basketball in 40 days. What could be more exciting? Glad you asked…

(Photo by Tony Dejak)

The NBA Playoffs start today. Normally, I would dive into a full-fledged preview. Maybe later. Instead, I’m going to introduce a little competition that will add to the playoff excitement and hopefully make the playoffs interesting for long time NBA haters like my Pops. To be fair, I can’t really blame him for his opinion because the NBA did go through some rough years. However, the NBA is back and you won’t want to miss this year’s postseason (or where the league is headed in general). So here’s your invitation to come back and join the fun with a few of your friends. Yes, the regular season is over. No, it’s not too late to jump on the 2010 NBA bandwagon. After all, the real season starts today.

NBA Playoff Competition
As you can tell, I didn’t think about naming the competition. I’ll have to work on that.

Background
Essentially, I wanted to add another level of excitement to the NBA Playoffs. My Philadelphia 76ers haven’t been relevant in the postseason since Allen Iverson made Tyronn Lue “Kiss the Baby.” That was nine years ago. Even as Tyrone Hill, Glen Robinson, Chris Webber, and Elton Brand floundered around like fish out of water, I still found a way to enjoy the Playoffs. (I can pretty much enjoy any sporting event I want. Last weekend I enjoyed the Masters by thoroughly watching the galleries and laughing at the 40 year olds who clap for a professional golfer as if that golfer was Batman saving someone from a burning car. It’s pathetic, but highly entertaining. I digress.)

With my Sixers having little playoff relevance over the past years, I usually picked a team to support throughout the playoffs (most often the Spurs). Even if/when my chosen team tanked early, I still watched through the Finals because I love playoff basketball. However, I wanted to add some more excitement to help carry those down years like the 2009 playoffs. A little competition could create interest for less passionate fans as well.

So here we are. To finalize my competition, I decided to convene with my brother and our friend Jordan for the inaugural event.

How it Works
First, you draft (snake-style) the teams you want on your squad. Obviously, the teams that have a real shot at winning the title are preferred choices because the longer a team sticks around, the more points you’ll receive. As the draft continues into the 3rd or 4th round you get to the fringe teams that are capable of an upset and crashing the Conference Finals, or better yet, the NBA Finals. The trick is to pick the best fringe team while also avoiding teams that match up with your higher picks in the early rounds because an upset there doesn’t do you much good. This was a little difficult for our competition because we met last Saturday (4/10) to conduct our draft. Therefore, we had no clue who would match up where, except in the East. Such is life. Here’s how the draft played out…

  1. Derek: Orland Magic – Big D likes Orlando’s depth and balance. More importantly, he doesn’t believe in LeBron James’ supporting cast.
  2. Ryan: Cleveland Cavaliers – I’m also inclined to question LeBron’s cronies, especially the guy that ate Shaquille O’Neal. However, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to draft the team with the best player in the world. That would be like going to Burger King and not getting the Whopper.
  3. Jordan: Los Angeles Lakers – Jordan wasn’t real vocal, so I tried to read his thoughts; “I’m picking the Lakers because I wish Phil Jackson was one of my professors. Being a Zen Master must be awesome.”
  4. Jordan: Denver Nuggets – Actually explanation from Jordan: “I didn’t want to pick Dallas.” Good enough.
  5. Ryan: Utah Jazz – I love Deron Williams and I love Salt Lake City …and I didn’t want to pick Dallas either. Betting on Dirk to come through in the playoffs is equivalent to betting on Colin Farrell to nab an Oscar. Never gonna happen.
  6. Derek: Atlanta Hawks – Derek thinks the Celtics are closer to joining the AARP than competing for another title. Also, he has a man crush on Al Horford.
  7. Derek: Phoenix Suns – D Nizzle can’t get enough of the Nash/Amare Pick-n-Roll. Brings us all back to the Stockton/Malone days, only without the Daisy Duke Shorts and illegitimate offspring.
  8. Ryan: Dallas Mavericks – Oh c’mon. You would pick them here too. If it makes you feel better, I immediately threw up after this pick.
  9. Jordan: Boston Celtics – My interpretation of Jordan’s body language; “The Celtics are old. The best wine is often old. I like the Celtics. I really like wine. Yep, this is going to work.”
  10. Jordan: Portland Trail Blazers – We all agreed this WAS a great pick here. “Was” is the key word because at the time the Blazers were playing the best defense in the West and Brandon Roy hadn’t torn up his knee yet. Too Bad.
  11. Ryan: San Antonio Spurs – Did it take all my brain power NOT to pick them with my first pick? Absolutely. They’re old, tired, and slow, but I can’t walk them out back and go all “Old Yeller” on them. Not yet at least.
  12. Derek: Oklahoma City Thunder – Unfortunately for D Man, the Thunder fell to 8th this week. Hopefully Kevin Durant can steal a game or two, or three or four.

As you can see, we only selected 12 of the 16 playoff competitors. Surprise, surprise; none of the East’s bottom four seeds were selected.

Here’s the scoring system for winning a series in the four rounds of the playoffs. As you can see, the points awarded vary by draft pick and playoff round. A lower draft pick winning a later playoff round is unlikely, but also has a greater payoff. A sweep in any round is also worth an additional 2 points.

Draft Pick First Round Second Round Conf. Finals NBA Finals
1st 1 2 3 5
2nd 3 3 5 7
3rd 3 5 7 9
4th 5 7 9 11

In addition to selecting teams, we also selected two “Ollie MacFarlane Superstars”-essentially a surprise breakout player.  We argued about who qualifies as a breakout player for a while. We eventually settled on “not already a superstar” and must be unanimously approved by all other contestants. Essentially, it is someone who may win a game or a series for a team even though he wouldn’t normally be thought of or expected to perform in that capacity. We then chose two of these players, one from each conference. One of our selections was also designated as a full playoff commitment while the other may be changed from round to round.

To award “Ollie MacFarlane” points we created a simple statistical formula; [Points + Rebounds + Assists + Blocks + Steals – Turnovers] / Minutes Played. That number is then multiplied by 1.X. X is the number of the dice roll that was designated for each “Ollie MacFarlane Superstar” multiplied by two. For example, If I chose Kevin Ollie as my “Ollie MacFarlane Superstar” (hey, it could happen), I would roll a dice to determine his multiplier. That number is then multiplied by two. If I rolled a 4, his game formula would then be multiplied by 1.8. Kapish? Here’s how that draft unfolded. (“L” is the locked player. The number following the player was the dice roll.)…

  1. Derek: Jamal Crawford [3 L] – Heated debate on this one. Jordan and I eventually buckled because Derek’s favorite football player is WR Steve Smith of the Carolina Panthers. (We all know what he does when upset.)
  2. Jordan: Caron Butler [5 L] – Rule number 286 of playoff basketball: Anyone who drank 11 cans of Mountain Dew per day for several years can’t be reliable. Being alive is even pushing it.
  3. Ryan: Rudy Fernandez [4] – Rudy! Rudy! Rudy! What’s not to like?
  4. Ryan: J.J. Reddick [6 L] – That’s right. My “Ollie MacFarlane Superstar” roster is made up entirely of white boys. I’m pretty sure Steve Kerr was the last white dude to make a meaningful shot in the NBA playoffs. I think white guys are due.
  5. Jordan: Michael Beasley [3] – Jordan confused this pick with his pick from the “top draft pick most likely to be out of the league, dead broke, and strung out on drugs in five years” competition.
  6. Derek: Lamar Odom [2] – Rumor has it: If the Lakers repeat, Odom has tentatively signed an agreement with E! to alter his last name to Odom-Kardashian and join “Keeping up with the Kardashians” on a full time basis. This could be huge for my little sister.

I think that covers it all. Oh yeh, prizes. I almost forgot. The winner of the competition gets a substantial prize. I can’t disclose it here because we can’t have people knowing we’re all THAT rich. It would just be unsafe.

Now take some time, understand the competition, and find some friends to join you. Then email me in May to tell me how much you enjoyed the NBA playoffs as a result. You won’t even have to thank me.

(By the way, I’ve never done this before. If my system completely fails-which it very well may-please don’t send me hate emails. It wasn’t my fault. Ben Roethlisberger made me do it.)

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