NBA Playoff Preview 2011

2011 NBA PLAYOFFS PREVIEW AND PREDICTIONS

Whatifsports.com presents its 2011 NBA Playoff Preview. Below is the main bracket and round-by-round series breakdown. To the right of the bracket is a table explaining each NBA playoff team's chances of winning each round including the NBA Finals.

We simulated the entire 2011 NBA playoffs 1,001 times. Home court is taken into account. Average wins and losses per series are indicated in the bracket. Because the bracket is simulated as a whole, matchups vary in the conference semifinals, finals and NBA Finals. Average series results are only provided in the first round.

You can simulate any game in the playoffs yourself using our NBA Sim Matchup feature. You can also learn more about our 2011 NBA Playoff Preview.

1
8
Bulls
Pacers
4
1
4
5
Magic
Hawks
4
1
3
6
Celtics
Knicks
4
1
2
7
Heat
76ers
4
1
1
8
Spurs
Grizzlies
4
2
4
5
Thunder
Nuggets
4
3
3
6
Mavericks
Blazers
4
2
2
7
Lakers
Hornets
4
1
1
4
Bulls
Magic
3
2
Celtics
Heat
1
4
Spurs
Thunder
3
2
Mavericks
Lakers
1
2
Bulls
Heat
1
2
Spurs
Lakers
1
2
Bulls
Lakers

WINNING PERCENTAGES

Eastern Conference
Seed/Team Round 1 Conf. Semis Conf. Finals NBA Finals
1 Chicago
95.2% 61.7% 38.7% 28.3%
2 Miami
90.0% 62.8% 28.1% 16.4%
4 Orlando
98.5% 37.8% 20.9% 11.9%
3 Boston
91.0% 33.4% 12.2% 5.9%
7 Philadelphia
10.0% 2.3% 0.1% 0.0%
8 Indiana
4.8% 0.5% 0.1% 0.0%
6 New York
9.0% 1.5% 0.0% 0.0%
5 Atlanta
1.5% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Western Conference
Seed/Team Round 1 Conf. Semis Conf. Finals NBA Finals
2 Los Angeles
95.6% 66.8% 51.5% 24.6%
3 Dallas
79.4% 28.4% 19.0% 6.3%
1 San Antonio
71.6% 43.1% 14.1% 4.0%
4 Oklahoma City
55.0% 27.2% 7.8% 1.6%
5 Denver
45.0% 20.9% 4.7% 0.9%
6 Portland
20.6% 4.1% 1.6% 0.1%
8 Memphis
28.4% 8.9% 1.1% 0.1%
7 New Orleans
4.4% 0.7% 0.2% 0.0%
Bulls Logo
Pacers Logo
1
8
Bulls
Pacers
4
1
Bulls
Record: 62-20
Analysis: Although Miami and Boston garnered much of the preseason hype, Chicago entered the season as dark horse Eastern Conference contenders thanks to offseason acquirements of Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer. Yet few would have projected prosperity for Tom Thibodeau's team after significant injuries to Boozer and rebounding wizard Joakim Noah. While Thibodeau's defensive dexterity and Luol Deng's dependability facilitated consistency, Derrick Rose was Chicago's stalwart in the absence of the Bulls' big men. Averaging 25.0 points and 7.7 assists, Rose's offensive imagination is often overlooked due to the team's imposing defense (91.3 points allowed). However, his creativity helped guide the team through a delicate assimilation period, integrating Boozer (17.5 points, 9.6 rebounds), who had missed training camp, and Noah (11.7 points, 10.4 rebounds, 1.5 blocks), who had yet to team with a formidable forward in his young career. Besides the fearsome foursome of Rose, Boozer, Noah and Deng, Chicago boasts a potent bench of Taj Gibson (7.1 points, 5.7 rebounds), sharpshooter Korver (8.3 points, 41.5 three-point percentage) and Ronnie Brewer (6.2 points, 1.3 steals). Thibodeau's reps as an assistant in Boston will alleviate any qualms concerning a lack of playoff experience amongst the roster, rendering the Bulls as challengers for the Eastern Conference crown.

Pacers
Record: 37-45
Analysis: The Pacers were 17-27 when coach Jim O'Brien was terminated in late January. The team responded by winning seven of the next eight, but since that juncture has returned to the prosaic performance that got O'Brien booted. Danny Granger is maddeningly inconsistent, and seems to be the only Team USA member who didn't benefit from the FIBA World Championships last August. Granger saw dips in points, rebounds, assists, steals and field goal percentage, and his shut-down defense has suddenly become suspect. Darren Collison didn't carry the momentum from his 1st team All-Rookie season in New Orleans, as he failed to make noticeable advancements in Indy. The Pacers do feature a ferocious frontcourt of Roy Hibbert (12.7 points, 7.5 rebounds) and Tyler Hansbrough (11.0 points, 5.2 rebounds) that helped Indiana secure the second-best rebounding rate (43.5 boards a game) in the East. Although he wasn't able to maintain his early-season scoring output, Hibbert made strides in his defense and rebounding in '10-11, and Hansbrough displayed his legendary hustle and glue-work when implemented into a starting role late in the season. While they're not projected to go far, the Pacers could present to be a feisty first-round exit.

Winning Percentage of 1001 Simulations: Bulls 95.2% - Pacers 4.8%
Magic logo
Hawks logo
4
5
Magic
Hawks
4
1
Magic
Record: 52-30
Analysis: A new arena wasn't the only change in the Orlando landscape for the '10-11 season. The Vince Carter Experience was mercifully ended, as the decrepit shooting guard was disposed to the desert with Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus, allowing for the return of prodigal son Hedo Turkoglu and shooter Jason Richardson. Curiously, Magic GM Otis Smith wasn't done dealing, sending Rashard Lewis to Washington for Gilbert Arenas. The Turkoglu and Richardson returns have been positive; the advent of Arenas, not so much. Dwight Howard submitted another dominant season with averages of 22.9 points, 14.1 rebounds 2.4 blocks per game, although his childlike behavior clearly wore out its welcome with officials, opponents and the media. Ryan Anderson has been a pleasant surprise for the second unit, pouring in 10.6 points per game, and J.J. Redick is averaging a career-high 10.1 points off the bench. However, Orlando's destiny will be dependent on Jameer Nelson, whose play has been erratic at times. With backups Arenas and Chris Duhon underwhelming at the point, Nelson will have to provide a consistent presence for Orlando to return to the Finals.

Hawks
Record: 44-38
Analysis: In the words of the immortal Dennis Green, "They are who we thought they were!" Joe Johnson didn't exactly overwhelm in the first year of his ridiculous $124 million contract as he saw a reduction in points (18.2 points in '10-11 compared to 21.3 last season), rebounds and assists. Johnson's shooting accuracy appallingly dropped under 30 percent from three-point range for the first time since the 2001-2002 season. Josh Smith renewed his penchant of amazing (16.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks) and exasperating (154 three-point attempts?) coaches and crowds. Al Horford provided one of the few bright spots for Atlanta, as the big man continued to improve, averaging career-highs in points (15.3 ppg), field goal percentage (55.7 percent) and free-throw percentage (79.8 percent) while chipping in 9.4 boards and 3.5 assists. Trading Mike Bibby, whose limited passing skills had diminished, for Kirk Hinrich provided a minor boost to a complacent offensive attack. Yet last season's sweep at the hands of Orlando seemingly still lingers above this Hawks team, and with no fundamental changes to Atlanta's core, the same fate seems destined.

Winning Percentage of 1001 Simulations: Magic 98.5% - Hawks 1.5%
Celtics logo
Knicks logo
3
6
Celtics
Knicks
4
1
Celtics
Record: 56-26
Analysis: The Jamaican bobsled team's limp toward the finish line wasn't as exaggerated as Boston's stagger into spring. Since shipping center Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City, the Celtics stand at a pedestrian 15-12. Imported forward Jeff Green offers versatility and depth at forward, but Perkins' departure left a cavernous void in the post. Worse, general manager Danny Ainge failed to grasp the emotional impact of Perk's exodus. All-Star guard Rajon Rondo, the center's closest friend, spent March mired in a month-long struggle, failing to reach double-digit assists in 10 of 15 games. Despite this late-season collapse, Boston remains a viable candidate to reach their third Finals in four years. Kevin Garnett (14.9 points, 8.9 boards) looks revitalized after dealing with knee issues the past two seasons, and Ray Allen is shooting a career-best 44.4 percent from behind the arc. However, Boston's fate will ultimately lie with the health of Shaquille O'Neal, who's played in just 37 games. If the Big Shamrock is unable to provide enforcement down low, the Celtics will have a short stay in the postseason.

Knicks
Record: 42-40
Analysis: Never has so much hype hovered around a .500 team. The Anthony-Amar'e duo hasn't been as potent as promised, with the two failing to surrender individual shots in order to synchronize their games. More troubling is their personal approaches mirror that of ballstopping, a concept that's in direct dispute with the ethos of Mike D'Antoni's "seven seconds or less" strategy. While comprise and concession may eventually occur, this spring won't provide that platform. Not helping matters has been the unpredictable play of point guard Chauncey Billups. The 2004 Finals MVP has failed to fully grasp D'Antoni's attack, leading to occasional confusion and chaos on the offensive end. A bigger point of contention in Madison Square Garden is the Knicks' defense, which is surrendering 105.7 points per game, last among playoff teams. New York's second-round draft pick Landry Fields has consistently contributed in '10-11 with 9.7 points and 6.4 rebounds, and Toney Douglas has occasionally ignited off the bench, but the Knicks won't have enough firepower to sustain success in the postseason.

Winning Percentage of 1001 Simulations: Celtics 91.0% - Knicks 9.0%
Heat logo
Sixers logo
2
7
Heat
76ers
4
1
Heat
Record: 58-24
Analysis: Miami's season didn't quite go to script, with the bench decimated by injuries to Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller, leaving the Heat to acquire washed-up vets like Mike Bibby and Erick Dampier to augment their depth. The acclimation process was postponed due to a preseason hamstring issue to Dwyane Wade, equating to a 9-8 start. Rumors of disconnect between LeBron James and coach Erik Spoelstra leaked to the media, reports that James didn't necessarily refute. Losing five of six in January and six of seven in late February/early March heightened the hysteria of dysfunction of the supposed super team. Yet through all the trials and tribulations, the Heat finished the season second in the conference with a 58-24 mark. James turned in another MVP-worthy season with 26.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.0 assists, with Wade right behind with a line of 25.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 4.6 dimes. But as effective as James and Wade have been, Miami's title aspirations will come down to the play of the much-maligned third component of their infamous triad, Chris Bosh. The former Raptor contributed 18.7 points and 8.3 rebounds this season, but will have to intensify his resistance against the rim if the Heat hope to be relevant in June.

76ers
Record: 41-41
Analysis: After a dismal 3-13 start to the season, the Sixers head into the playoffs with a 41-41 record. This revival is not ignited by a single scoring catalyst; rather, Philly employs an egalitarian offensive attack, with six Sixers averaging over 10 points per game. Elton Brand (15.0 points, 8.3 rebounds) bounced back from two atrocious campaigns, and Andre Iguodala (14.1 points, 6.3 assists) has turned into one of the league's elite defenders. Jodie Meeks and Jrue Holiday quietly submitted solid sophomore seasons, with Meeks posing as a three-point threat (39.7 percent) and Holiday becoming more secure with the rock. The rejuvenation is even more remarkable equating the contribution, or lack thereof, from Evan Turner, the second overall pick in the 2010 Draft. However, that trend should terminate with an injury to Lou Williams, bestowing Turner more playing time. Turner has shown flashes of brilliance (21 points and five assists in an April 5th meeting with Boston) but will need to be steadfast in the postseason if Philadelphia has any desire to play into May.

Winning Percentage of 1001 Simulations: Heat 90.0% - 76ers 10.0%
Spurs logo
Grizzlies logo
1
8
Spurs
Grizzlies
4
2
Spurs
Record: 61-21
Analysis: In what's becoming a preseason ritual, basketball aficionados wrote off the Spurs as contenders for the '10-11 season, citing San Antonio as geriatric and injury-plagued. Yet as April arrived, the Spurs sat atop the Western Conference standings with a 61-21 record. A healthy Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker propelled the Spurs throughout the regular season, as well as the rise of rookie Gary Neal; yet San Antonio's catalyst remains the venerable Tim Duncan. The former Demon Deacon's physical skills are rapidly deteriorating, but the Big Fundamental endures as an elite defensive power thanks to his unparalleled hardwood IQ. Assisting Duncan, Ginobili and Parker has been the downtown deftness of Matt Bonner (45.7 percent from long-range) and Richard Jefferson (44.0 percent from three). George Hill (11.6 points) and DeJuan Blair (8.3 points, 7.0 rebounds) have also excelled in auxiliary roles for San Antonio. However, the Spurs aren't riding a wave of momentum in the playoffs, as Gregg Popovich's squad has lost eight of its last 12 ballgames. Of more concern is the health of Ginobili, who hyperextended his elbow in the season-finale against Phoenix. As disconcerting as both issues appear, the San Antonio Spurs will undoubtedly be a Finals factor once again this spring.

Grizzlies
Record: 46-36
Analysis: When Rudy Gay went down in mid-February with a season-ending shoulder injury, many believed the Grizzlies' playoff ambitions went down the drain. Yet the improved play of Tony Allen (14.0 points, 2.4 steals) in Gay's absence helped earn Memphis a first-round date with San Antonio. Helping Allen on the defensive end is center Marc Gasol, one of the tougher post protectors in the Western Conference. Zach Randolph delivered a second-straight All-Star caliber campaign for the Grizz, posting 20.1 points and 12.2 rebounds. Second-year shooting guard Sam Young has been a nice surprise along with backcourt buddy Mike Conley, who achieved career-highs in points (13.7) and assists (6.5). Shane Battier doesn't possess the same shutdown defense as years' past, but will give Memphis a veteran voice in the locker room. And after a bizarre season marred by a steroid-suspension and a near-trade to Indiana, O.J. Mayo has filled in well in his new role of bench player. It will be tough to knock-out the No. 1 seeded Spurs, but don't be surprised if this series reaches six or seven games.

Winning Percentage of 1001 Simulations: Spurs 71.6% - Grizzlies 28.4%
Thunder logo
Nuggets logo
4
5
Thunder
Nuggets
4
3
Thunder
Record: 55-27
Analysis: The Thunder transformed from an "embryonic company" to "imminent threat" with the midseason acquisition of Kendrick Perkins in exchange for Jeff Green. The impact of the imposing Perkins may not be transparent in box scores, as the former Celtic is averaging 5.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 0.9 blocks since the trade. However, the presence of Perkins has given Oklahoma City a much-needed toughness and temerity that was clearly absent in last season's playoff defeat at the hands of the Lakers. Additionally, the trade expedited the emergence of Serge Ibaka. The transition from undersized center to power forward has metamorphosed "Air Congo" into a shot-blocking beast, as Ibaka has averaged 12.5 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.6 blocks starting alongside Perkins. Green's departure has likewise allotted time to James Harden, who responded to the increase in minutes by dropping 16.8 points per game in March. Oh, and OKC still employs the services of the league's leading scorer in Kevin Durant (27.7 points, 6.8 rebounds), as well as All-Star Russell Westbrook (21.9 points, 8.2 assists) and defensive stopper Thabo Sefolosha. With the status of Andrew Bynum's knee up in the air, as well as the durability of Manu Ginobili in question, the Thunder may ascend to the Western Conference throne sooner than imagined.

Nuggets
Record: 50-32
Analysis: After Carmelo Anthony was shipped to New York, many forecasted the Nuggets to be sitting at home come April. However, the Anthony exodus trigged an "addition by subtraction" subplot to the Denver season, as 'Melo's departure allowed coach George Karl to implement a run-and-gun mantra for his team, an attack that was impossible to execute with the ball-hogging Carmelo in uniform. Pacing this blitzkrieg is up-tempo guards Raymond Felton and Ty Lawson. This two-headed monster gives Karl the luxury of keeping both players fresh without seeing a drop-off in production when going to his bench. J.R. Smith, ill-famed for his inconsistency throughout his career, has risen to the challenge in the absence of Anthony, averaging 15.0 points with a 46.8 percent three-point percentage in March. Nene Hilario has quietly become one of the premier post players in the West, as the center lead the NBA in field-goal percentage with a 61.5 percent mark. With the suffocating defense of Arron Afflalo and Kenyon Martin, the Nuggets are a squad no one wants to see in the playoffs.

Winning Percentage of 1001 Simulations: Thunder 55.0% - Nuggets 45.0%
Mavericks logo
Blazers logo
3
6
Mavericks
Blazers
4
2
Mavericks
Record: 57-25
Analysis: The cast may be different, but it seems like a case of "Groundhog Day" for a Mavericks franchise that has been ousted in the first-round three of the past four years. Dirk Nowitzki battled through injury to steer Dallas to a 57-25 record, leading the way with 23.0 points and 7.0 rebounds. However, Dirk's significance to Dallas was best illustrated in the Mavericks' 2-7 record when the German was sidelined with a knee issue. Jason Terry continued to be one of the most reliable sixth men in basketball, with the assassin adding 15.8 points off the bench. If Mav fans want to believe this postseason will deviate from the past, they will have to pin their hopes on Tyson Chandler. For the first time in the Nowitzki Era, Dallas has a tenacious rebounder and defender in the frontcourt in Chandler, opening up the floor for Dirk and forward Shawn Marion. But will Chandler's resolve around the rim be enough to overcome the aging bodies of Marion, Jason Kidd and Peja Stojakovic and avoid another premature exit?

Blazers
Record: 48-34
Analysis: After recurring injuries hit All-Star Brandon Roy and fragile center Greg Oden, the Blazers appeared to be heading into NBA abyss. Yet a midseason trade of Gerald Wallace resurrected the downtrodden franchise, spurring the team into the sixth seed in the West. Wallace's arrival provides Portland to feature a defensive-minded frontcourt of Marcus Camby, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge and Wallace. Although Roy has returned in a part-time role, the Blazers new star is Aldridge, who posted averages of 21.8 points and 8.8 rebounds despite playing out of position when injuries struck Oden and Camby. Free-agent acquisition Wesley Matthews has also been vital to the Trail Blazer turnaround, adding 15.9 points from the shooting guard spot. The only thing hampering Portland from a deep playoff run is point guard Andre Miller, who brazenly believes himself to be one of the top guards in the game despite all evidence to the contrary. If Andre the facilitator shows up, Portland has an opportunity to challenge for a Finals appearance.

Winning Percentage of 1001 Simulations: Mavericks - 79.4% - Blazers 20.6%
Lakers logo
Hornets logo
2
7
Lakers
Hornets
4
1
Lakers
Record: 57-25
Analysis: The biggest issue for the Lakers this season? Complacency. A quick glance at other back-to-back champions throughout NBA history will illustrate the same sentiment, as the long haul of 82 games can hamper one's desire to compete night-in and night-out. While a question of mental fortitude amongst his team appeared to be Phil Jackson's biggest concern, a recent injury to big man Andrew Bynum has translated to trepidation in Laker Land. Despite their center's susceptibility, Los Angeles remains the favorite in the West. Kobe Bryant doesn't possess his notorious first-step, but the two-time Finals MVP still poured in 25.3 points per game in '10-11, using a well-rounded repertoire of offensive moves to outsmart his opponents. Pau Gasol (18.8 points, 10.2 rebounds) maintains his designation as one of the league's most underrated players, as the adroit seven-footer tends to fall in the shadow of Bryant's personage. And although he's arguably more famous for his exploits off the floor, Lamar Odom (14.4 points, 8.7 rebounds) was a force off the bench and provides Jackson versatility in the post and open court. Aside from Bynum, Derek Fisher could be the team's Achilles' heel, as the elder statesman has been blown away by opposing guards like a paper bag in a hurricane. If the Lakers can provide reinforcement to Fish on defense, expect Los Angeles to be playing in June for the fourth straight season.

Hornets
Record: 46-36
Analysis: New Orleans made early-season headlines by jumping out of the gate with an 11-1 record. Unfortunately, it's hard to buy into the Hornets' hope with their leading scorer David West (18.9 points, 7.6 rebounds) in street clothes due to a torn ACL. All-NBA guard Chris Paul doesn't appear to be fully recovered from his knee injury in '09-10, as the point guard hasn't illustrated his celebrated explosion all season. New Orleans does have sharpshooter Marco Belinelli (10.5 points, 41.4 percent from behind the arc) and defensive extraordinaire Trevor Ariza at their disposal, and Emeka Okafor proved to be a sound presence in the paint. Carl Landry has done an ample job of filling West's role, averaging 12.5 points and 5.2 boards in April. However, the Hornets simply don't have the horses to compete in the West, making their postseason stay a short one.

Winning Percentage of 1001 Simulations: Lakers 95.6% - Hornets 4.4%

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