May 9 - Detroit and San Antonio: both made it to the NBA Finals last season, both had the best record in their respective conferences and both hold a 1-0 edge in their current playoff series. Both will be difficult for Cleveland and Dallas to shake off.
And so, following the strategy of picking players from the teams most likely to fail to advance in the playoffs that generally is best for Drive to the Finals, it is from the Mavericks and Cavaliers that I form my talent pool for Tuesday's action.
Dirk Nowitzki and LeBron James are obviously the two top players from these respective teams. James, however, was selected by an NBA.com expert last week, and accordingly, is off the books. Likewise, the Mavs' Josh Howard was selected Sunday.
Since Detroit and Dallas play on the same night for every one of their Conference Semifinal games except for Game 7, I have to fill five nights with the remaining players on that list for Games 2 through 6. Nowitzki, Terry and Stackhouse – all Mavs -- are the three highest rated players based on playoff PRA, followed by Cleveland's Hughes, Gooden and Ilgauskas.
Now let's draw up a hypothetical for a moment: What if Dallas – who only lost Game 1 by just two points – goes on to win the series? If I go through the highest rated PRA's in this talent pool, what would I have left in the Conference Finals? Not much.
On the other hand, Detroit blew out Cleveland in Game 1, and the difference in wins during the regular season for these two teams was 14 victories compared to three for San Antonio and Dallas. Therefore, Cleveland is less likely than the Mavericks to advance past the second round.
Will Hughes be served?.
Gregory Shamus/NBAE/Getty Images
Which leads me to believe I should select a Cavalier tonight.
If Dallas goes down 0-2, I can always pick up Dirk and Terry in Games 3 and 4, and in the unlikely case of a San Antonio sweep, only miss out on using Stackhouse, who isn't that much higher rated in PRA than any of the Cavaliers that could take his slot for one game.
If Dallas ties the series 1-1, and it looks like it could go seven games, I can tap into the talent pool of Nowitzki, Terry and Stackhouse and Spurs' players Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili over all five final contests of the series, or not pick a Spur or Mav in Game 7 and go with a player competing in the potential Game 7 in the LA Clippers-Phoenix series also scheduled for the night of May 22.
I admit it, given how up and down Larry Hughes has been in the playoffs, and given how little he did in Game 1 against Detroit, I'm not the most confident guy in the world in selecting him. But, both these contests tonight are road matches for Dallas and Cleveland, and I'd like to save Dallas' big guns for home games, when they're most likely to erupt.
Finally, I'd like to leave one last important message with you: I'm going to hate myself for that last thought after Dirk goes nuts this evening.