NBA Legends give their take on who will win it all
Legends Take: NBA Playoffs Predictions
April 22, 2005 -- This is one of the most wide open races in years for the Larry O'Brien trophy. With no clear favorites, NBA.com turned to some legends, guys who know a thing or two about winning a title, to find out which teams they think will emerge from the Eastern and Western Conference playoffs and which will be crowned 2005 NBA Champions.
East Winner: I think Miami and Detroit will do well in the East. They've done well all year. Miami has the addition of Shaquille who's gonna be a significant contributor to their playoff effort. So, I kind of like them. I think Detroit will rise to the occasion and try to defend their world championship trophy. So it'll be interesting.
West Winner: I see three teams out West, Phoenix, Seattle, and San Antonio. I think it will come down to one of those teams. San Antonio's been there and knows what it takes. So you've gotta give them some respect for that. However, Phoenix is hungry. They've got young players, they run. They got a really intense approach to the game and it might be time for a change. So, we'll see.
Finals Winner: I like Miami for the whole thing.
It's unanimous: NBA Legends say Miami and Detroit are the clear favorites in the East.
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I would be really surprised if it wasn't Miami or Detroit. I think one of those teams is gonna represent the East in the playoffs. I think Detroit because they have a great well-rounded team, they're the defending champions, they know how to win. I think Miami because of Shaq and his presence. One of those two are gonna come out.
I would say, right now, it's kind of iffy about Shaq. I'd say, right now, I have to lean towards the Pistons. I don't think home court advantage matters a whole in the playoffs. Personally, I don't, as a player. People make a big thing of it, but the two championships I was involved in, we won on the other team's court.
West Winner: The West is a little bit harder because there is so much parity out there. I think you could have a sleeper come out of there. Dallas could make a move. You don't know. They're pretty tough. I hope Phoenix wins because I really like the way they're playing. I like the up-brand basketball. That's what I always liked to play. I like watching that. I think that would be a pretty cool contrast between a Detroit and a Phoenix. One likes to slow it down a little bit, the other likes to just get out and go. So that would be a challenge of who's gonna be able to dictate the pace. I think it's close to call because a lot of those guys have not been in the playoffs so this is gonna be a first-time experience for them. That may hurt them a little bit. Because experience, I don't know that it means everything, but it does mean something just in terms of how you keep your attitude a little bit and your confidence as you get into the playoffs. There are games where you may lose by 25 or 30 and then you need to bounce back and win, yourself, by 25 or 30 your next time. It becomes a chess match in many ways, so they'll have to adjust and they won't be able to get away with all the things they've been getting away with during the regular season. So if they can adjust, I think they'll be fine.
Finals Winner: I think Detroit would probably win. They know how to play to their pace and they probably wouldn't make as many mistakes. It always depends on the matchups, the individual matchups. But the other wild card, I think, they have a really good chance to win it all again would be San Antonio. It's either gonna be Phoenix or San Antone coming out.
East Winner: I like Miami coming out of the East. Miami's a very strong team and they got Shaq, who's perhaps the most dominant player in the game, still. Dwyane Wade is a good compliment. Their premise is defense. A good foundation around the big man is the best system for winning a championship, I believe. Miami is a hardworking team. They're gonna out-hustle you. They got a lot of guys who can shoot the three-Damon Jones, Wade, Eddie Jones. They got offensive firepower and they got the big man in the middle. It depends on what guys like Udonis Haslem and a couple other of the good role players on that team, it depends on how well they perform.
West Winner: Out West, I don't see anybody beating San Antonio. Anything's possible. Phoenix is certainly a very good team But I don't think they're gonna beat San Antonio in a seven-game series. Those two teams are, perhaps, the favorite to come out of the West. Tim Duncan makes beating San Antonio in a seven-game series really difficult. He's just an X-factor. A lot of teams can't match up with him. The Spurs are an excellent defensive team and they play well together. Those guys seem to really know their roles as a team and that's what makes them so dangerous and the fact that they've had success.
Finals Winner: San Antonio and Miami would be an awesome Finals. Shaq against Tim, just really the best the NBA has to offer. Hopefully, that'll be the matchup, but it's up to those teams to do what they're supposed to do to get to that level. But teams like Dallas, which is an X-factor. We don't know what Dallas is gonna do. They could be very dangerous. I think Sacramento, given the opportunity to go deep, can surprise quite a few people. There are a couple teams that could challenge-Phoenix, Detroit, probably the hottest team in the East. Don't ever discount the defending champions. Those four or five teams are my favorites to be the best and to have a chance at the Larry O'Brien Trophy. I'd like nothing better than to see Shaq win it and kind of look at L.A. and say, "Hey, how you like me now?" Which I'm sure he'd do. That would be awesome.
East Winner: I think it's going to go down to Miami and Detroit. They're the two toughest teams. I'd give the edge to Detroit, just because they were there last year. They really play well as a team. This is an era where back-to-back is very possible. We went through a long stretch in the NBA where teams didn't win back-to-back titles. But now you had L.A. do back-to-back-to-back, you San Antonio do back-to-back, so Detroit would have an advantage because of that.
West Winner: Out of the West, Phoenix and Dallas and San Antonio, those are the three, you throw one in a hat on any given night, either one you pick out is gonna be the best team in the league, not just in the conference. Phoenix doesn't have the experience right now in terms of going deep in the playoffs. San Antonio does, so that gives them a slight edge. But Dallas is a sleeper. One of those three, I think, but I don't really know who.
Finals Winner: I think Detroit will probably win again. They haven't changed that much, same team last year. That team, when they put their minds to playing good defense, started holding teams to 65 to 75 points a game. That makes for an easy night offensively. You know you don't need ten players scoring when you hold teams to 65 points. I'd say Detroit has a real good shot at doing it again.
East Winner: In the East, I think it's gonna be between the Pistons and the Heat. That's gonna be an interesting matchup, there. I mean, the Pistons beat Shaq when he was with the Lakers so they kind of know how to deal with him and what to expect. But it's tough to repeat. I think the Heat have obviously had a magnificent season. This kid Dwyane Wade is definitely on the threshold of greatness, so that should be a good matchup. I might go with the Pistons because of their defense. I'm a defensive guy so I think defense wins championships. The Pistons are one of the better defensive teams in the league. So I'd go with the Pistons.
West Winner: Out West, I like the Spurs, again, depending on Duncan's recovery. Phoenix, they don't have the D. I know they're a prolific offensive team but I think you're gonna have to play some defense, especially in the playoffs, the last five minutes of the game when it becomes a halfcourt game. So I'm gonna go with the Spurs.
Finals Winner: I like the Spurs. They have an uncanny blend of offense, defense, perennially among the leaders in good defense. They've got Bowen, a guy who can shut down people. Duncan is a great defensive player, Ginobili, Parker. They've got a lot of guys coming off the bench, Barry. They've got a very versatile team.
East Winner: I like Miami, but I can't rule out Detroit. Detroit is the champs and they're still the champs until somebody beats them. Overall, I like the Detroit Pistons. I really think they're playing some great basketball right now. They've really started playing much better after the All-Star break. They're still the team to beat.
West Winner: Out of the West, I still like San Antonio. San Antonio stops people when its time. I think defense plays a major role in winning it all. I just think they had a team to really step up on the defensive end and shut people down when it counts. So I like San Antonio in the West, even though Phoenix is playing real good basketball. They haven't proven to me that they can stop teams. So San Antonio is still my favorite.
Finals Winner: That would be a good one. Because the Pistons, they play some good defense, too. They got guys that can score also just like San Antonio do. I would hope that San Antonio would come out of it, but to be realistic I think it would be a great series. Detroit is my home and San Antonio is my home and they're two great basketball teams. I think the leadership on the teams really make a difference, too. I think Pop is a great coach and I also think Larry Brown is a great coach. It's a toss-up. They have to play their best basketball to really win it all.
East Winner: I like Miami coming out of the East. If Detroit comes to play, it's gonna be a toss-up. But, right now, I'm gonna pick the Heat to come out of the East. No one's been stopping Shaq for 19 years. If Shaq comes to play, it's gonna be a tough series for anybody.
West Winner: The West is a toss-up between San Antonio and Phoenix. If Phoenix can get their running game going, I'm gonna go with Phoenix. If not, I might go for San Antonio. If the Rockets can get by Dallas, if the Rockets can put it together, it might be them. I got three or four teams I'm looking at in the West. East, I'm looking at two teams, Detroit and Miami.
Finals Winner: May the best team win. I'd like to see what the 76ers are gonna do, but they're not strong enough, they only got one Answer and that's him.
East Winner: I actually like Miami coming out of the East. I guess I'm not too much different from a lot of other people. When you have a guy as dominant as Shaq, he can really dictate a lot of things. Plus, I think the kid Wade brings a lot to the table and he's excellent playing off of Shaq. I think the other X-factor is their point guard. He hits a lot of three-pointers and he pulls a lot of people off of Shaq and it opens up the floor a lot more. Given the fact that they've got those three guys and a pretty good bench and a lot of role players they'd probably be the favorite coming out of the East.
West Winner: I like San Antonio in the West, if, in fact, Duncan gets back playing right and they get all their guys puzzled back together. I think they play very good at both ends of the ball. They're a great defensive team and they run the offense pretty explicitly. Ginobili really brings a lot to that team with his athleticism and Tony Parker is a lot better with another year under his belt. I think they're basically the class of the West.
Finals Winner: That's a tough one, but I'd really go with the Miami Heat. Aside from just the play and experience, I think the other thing they have going for them is some type of destiny. I think putting Shaq and Dwyane Wade together was a stroke of genius and I think it'll play out in the playoffs.
East Winner: Until somebody beats the Pistons, you gotta favor the Pistons. But Miami looks real good with Shaq in the middle. It all depends on his health. He's a little beat-up right now. So, if Shaq gets healthy I think it's gonna be Miami out of the East. He just causes so much havoc. My goodness, he's a load. I would have to say it would be Miami because of how their bench has been playing. Their bench has really stepped up. Especially in Shaq's absence, they've really stepped up and played better. That sixth, seventh, and eighth guy coming off the bench for Miami. On top of that, nobody has an answer for the Big Fella.
West Winner: In the West, I like San Antonio because I think, collectively, they're the best team. They got depth, they got experience, they have the mentality, they're well prepared so you gotta give a nod to their coaching staff and they do it on both ends. They're not one-dimensional. They're not just all offense or all defense. They play the game the way it should be played on both ends.
Finals Winner: It would be a tough one to call, but I'd have to go with the Big Fella. Because I think they don't have an answer for Tim Duncan and they most definitely don't have an answer for Shaq. I gotta give the nod to Shaq.