The 2007 NBA Playoffs may look like an open and shut case, but lawyer-by-training Big Al McMordie cautions that as good as Dallas (67-15) looks on paper, the jury's still out, especially in the Eastern Conference.
McMordie, a Professional Handicappers League member and winner of the 2007 World Series of Sports Handicapping's $100,000 grand prize, generally agrees with conventional wisdom that any of the West's "Big Three" could prevail, but views the East as a crapshoot, though he's very doubtful the Heat can repeat.
"Detroit SHOULD come out of the East since it has home court advantage, but the Eastern Conference teams are all flawed, so nothing would surprise me -- even a repeat of 1999 when the No. 8 seeded Knicks made the Finals!" McMordie said.
"Detroit is sixth in defensive efficiency (Chicago is first and San Antone second), so if one is looking for a team other than Detroit, Chicago would be a better option than Miami, which ranks just 8th in defensive efficiency.
"Chicago ranks first in defensive efficiency, which is a key statistic, but the problem for the Baby Bulls is that they are just 19th in offensive efficiency.
"So getting Ben Wallace in the middle will benefit Chicago in the Playoffs, but the Bulls still need better scoring options to get in a position to win the NBA Championship."
Looking at the standings and won-loss records, McMordie, an impressive 31-10 during March Madness this spring, concurs it's tough not to go with the Mavericks in the long run.
"Any of Phoenix, San Antonio or Dallas could win this year's title, but the Mavericks surely have the inside track," he said.
"They started 0-4 and then went on a season-long streak that we haven't seen since Michael Jordan played for Chicago.
"They're healthy and they have one of the top coaches in the game in Avery Johnson.
"Certainly, Dallas learned a lot after last season's collapse in the NBA Finals, and they will have a fairly easy road to the Finals this year (the real Finals will be the Western Conference Championship series), having only to get by Golden State and (probably) Houston.
"San Antonio could be upset by Denver and Phoenix will have a tough time getting by San Antonio, so Dallas should emerge with the Larry O'Brien trophy."
Nevertheless, McMordie, who splits his time between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, considers upsets a distinct possibility.
"It all comes down to matchups," he said
"Denver, for example, could shock the Spurs, which would be great for the Suns, who will have a tough time getting past San Antonio in Round 2.
"Houston could give Dallas some difficulty with Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady.
"The Rockets are third in defensive efficiency, and have a great record with both McGrady and Yao in the lineup.
"But the NBA is notorious for being a league whose champion generally has one of the Top 3 records (unlike baseball and hockey, for example, where upsets are common), so the winner should come out of Dallas, Phoenix or San Antonio."
Pro basketball's postseason prom tips off this weekend following an 82-game regular season that concluded with a flurry of dramatics Wednesday night as the league did a whacky seedings dance that was designed to pay homage to divisional winners.
The one-time dynastic Los Angeles Lakers beat Sacramento to grab the seventh seed in the West and a date with No. 2 seed Phoenix.
Golden State, which will appear in the Playoffs for the first time in 13 years, now gets to meet the high-flying Mavs in Round 1.
Meanwhile, Cleveland snatched the East's second seed from losing Chicago, setting up Cavs-Wizards and Heat-Bulls series.
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