It's not too late. Play Drive to the Finals Now!

By John Schuhmann

Previous Expert Picks

May 8 - Starting from scratch.

The First Round started slow, quickly picked up speed and had us panicking by Game 5 of each series. Because there were so many games every night, we missed out on some good players, like Lamar Odom, Ron Artest, Brad Miller, Marcus Camby, Andres Nocioni, Caron Butler and Anthony Johnson!

It hurts to think about all of those points, rebounds and assists we missed out on.

Today's Expert Pick
Player: Sam Cassell, LA Clippers
Opponent: Phoenix
Regular Season Averages
May 7 -- Josh Howard
May 6 -- Kobe Bryant
May 5 -- Gilbert Arenas
May 4 -- Kirk Hinrich
May 3 -- LeBron James
May 2 -- Steve Nash
Previous Expert Picks
May 5 -- Now What?
May 3 -- He Did What?
May 1 -- Just Getting Interesting
April 29 -- Adjusting On the Fly
April 25 -- No Doubt
April 24 -- Break Out the Abacus
April 23 -- Let's Roll
April 22 -- The Clock Ticks
So now we have a fresh start, a chance to make up for all of our mistakes. Well, sort of.

Over the next two weeks, we've got two games per night, with off days on the 11th and 20th. Each night has one Eastern Conference matchup and one Western Conference matchup, with the Pistons and Cavs sharing nights with the Spurs and Mavs, while the Nets and Heat share with the Suns and Clippers.

So as we ponder our pick for tonight, we take into account that the Heat, Nets, Suns and Clippers will all be playing on the same day for Games 1-6. It switches up for Game Seven, but we won't worry too much about that now, since most series don't go seven games anyway.

Six days and six picks for four teams. Two of those four teams will be advancing to the Conference Finals, but in my (expert's) humble opinion, both of these series are toss-ups, so it's tough to determine which players we want to save. Hopefully, that will become clearer once they've played a few games.

In order to be thorough, we'll take a look at the best candidates from these four teams, ranking them by playoff PRA (Points + Rebounds + Assists)

Player PRA R.S. PRA Playoffs
Vince Carter 34.3 43.1
Dwyane Wade 39.6 36.4
Steve Nash 33.5 36.0
Shaquille O'Neal 31.1 32.6
Richard Jefferson 30.1 31.7
Elton Brand 37.3 31.4
Boris Diaw 26.4 30.2
Shawn Marion 35.4 29.2
Nenad Krstic 21.0 26.0
Jason Kidd 29.0 25.7
Tim Thomas 16.6 24.4
Corey Maggette 25.2 23.8
Antoine Walker 19.3 23.5
Sam Cassell 27.2 23.0

If only they awarded points for personality.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
We've already used Carter, Nash and Marion. Nash and Marion we used because the Suns faced elimination three times. Carter ... don't get me started. Jon Loomer decided to use him when the Nets were down 2-1 to the Pacers. Well, the Nets won the next three games, and while Carter got us a nice 41 PRA that night, we don't have him against the Heat. Carter averaged 38.5 points and 51.3 PRA against Miami in four games this season. Oh well, if you haven't used Carter yet, save him for Game 3 (Friday) or Game 4 (Sunday). In the first round, he averaged 49.7 PRA at home and 36.3 PRA on the road.

Anyway, back to the present day. If we look at our list and take away the three players that we've used already, we have three players from the Heat, three from the Nets, three from the Clippers and two from the Suns. So, let's save the two Suns, especially since they're the third and fourth options on Phoenix and they're on short rest compared to everyone else.

If we extend our list to one more player, we get Cuttino Mobley at 22.2 PRA in the playoffs (the only other player from these teams over 20), a fourth Clipper, breaking our three-way tie. Since the Clippers give us one more option, we're going to go with them. They're on the road, but they're facing the worst defense of the four teams playing tonight, and as we stated above, the Suns are on short rest.

We'll save Elton Brand for now, and look at Sam Cassell and Corey Maggette. For the playoffs, they're pretty even, but in the regular season, Sammy was 2.0 PRA better. Also, when we're choosing between two closely matched players, I prefer to go with the guy who has the ball in his hands more often.

Before we finish, we'll just take a look at Cassell's regular season PRA against the Suns: 30.7. Pretty good. His PRAs against Dallas and San Antonio are 16.7 and 25.0 respectively, so we're not making a mistake by not saving him for a team that he torches.

Now, you could say, "Wait a minute, we only have six (or five or seven - I'm guaranteeing no sweeps!) days to pick from this group, and you've chosen the ninth best option?"

A good point, but remember, we need to save some of these guys for the next round. Once a team has taken a lead in the series, it will be clearer which guy to pick. If the Clippers fall behind, you will still have time to take Brand and Maggette. If they pull ahead, you will be able to save them for the next round and take Diaw and Thomas.

The Pick: It took a while, but I'm pretty happy with the conclusion we came to after all of that analysis: Sammy.