May 3 -- This might be one of the easiest decisions you'll have to make during the entire postseason: Pick LeBron James today. Doesn't sound so easy, does it? Well, if you were one of those who took the King in Game 1, feel free to stop reading and continue your tour of NBA.com. Otherwise, hear me out.
There are only two games tonight, which is what you're likely to have in the next round as eight teams continue their quest for the Larry O'Brien trophy.
The Pick: You might be inclined to take Michael Redd. If you haven't already, tonight might be your last chance. We, however, have, so he's off the board. There's really no other Bucks player we're thinking who's going to have a big game in Detroit to avoid elimination. As for Detroit, we're not wasting any picks on them this early. We're thinking they'll be around later this month or next, so hold out.
That leaves us with only the Wizards-Cavs matchup. Antawn Jamison's already been picked, so we could go with Gilbert Arenas or Caron Butler, but won't. Arenas has put up solid numbers consistently, giving better than a 35 PRA each game. Butler's had two contests with a 30-plus PRA. But let patience win out on this one. The game is in Cleveland and rest assured the Cavs know they need to win this game if they want to advance to the next round. Asking either of these teams to win Games 6 and 7 to advance is a bit much at this point. So, Arenas or Butler could give you more in an elimination game at home later this week.
So, we're left with Cleveland and, really, only James at this point. Drew Gooden (42 PRA, once) and Donyell Marshall (28 PRA, once) are the only other Cavs to surpass 25 thus far. It's possible either of those two, Larry Hughes, Flip Murray or Zydrunas Ilgauskas could acheive that against the Pistons in the second round. So, save those pedestrian marks for the next round and pad your total with James now; the numbers are going to be harder to come by for James vs. Detroit.
LeBron at home at the Q is a safe pick for you.
Gregory Shamus/NBAE/Getty Images
General Strategy: During the regular season, James averaged a 45 PRA in his 79 games. That number dipped to 36 through four games against the Pistons -- among all Playoff teams, only Memphis (34 PRA) held James to fewer.
"But, that was in the regular season," you say, "and this is the playoffs." Yes, and I reply, "Michael Jordan."
You may recall, the Pistons were a thorn in Jordan's side in the late '80s, routinely halting his playoff charges. Detroit did it by developing a defensive scheme for containing the single most dangerous player in the game. The initial defender in those days was Joe Dumars -- now leading the team from the front office -- who got help off the ball from Dennis Rodman, John Salley, Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn.
Sure, Flip Saunders isn't as hell-bent on "D" as Chuck Daly was, but you can bet he's watched the way Washington roughed up the youngster at times in the first round. And when you substitue the names Tayshaun Prince, Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace ... well, you get the picture -- the scene looks remarkably familiar. It's again a case of a supremely gifted offensive force vs. a collective defense capable of shutting down even the best of players.
All this has me thinking that hanging a 50 PRA on the Pistons won't be easy. Expect them to key on James and force the Cavs' supporting cast to beat them.
Time and again, the Bad Boys locked down M.J. and sent the Bulls on summer break. It could be the same story for James and the Cavs this year. Which means you should grab the easy points now. In this year's Playoffs, three of the top eight PRA marks belong to James. That could very easily become "four of the top nine" after tonight. We'll be adding his point total to the 338 already on the Experts' ledger. Will you be adding them to your score?