Picking a team of the playoffs that everybody agrees with is pretty much impossible. However, this for me is the starting five, a little different to what most would pick, but my personal favourites.
Rajon Rondo: Of course it is madness to overlook Derrick Rose, and in all fairness he should probably be here, his statistics don’t lie. But, just as last year Rondo diving betweeen Jason William’s legs to grab the ball and then lay it up against the Magic was one of the iconic pictures of those Playoffs, Rondo falling over Dwayne Wade and mangling his arm and elbow is burned into the memory of all who watched this time around. Injuries like that result in players missing months of action. Indeed, Andrew Bogut suffered an injury along the same likes and in truth is still not the same player he was before the injury. Having Rondo return, not months later, or weeks, heck even days, but that very same GAME, now that is heart. Diving for the ball and making baskets, all with his arm in a splint, gave the crowd and his team a boost that sadly they could not capitalize on. In truth playing again 48 hours later and playing generous minutes too, was more of a hinderance to the team. Still though, his effort was a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing post season for the Celtics. Runner Up: Derrick Rose, (I know, I know.) Honorable Mention: Jason Kidd, (Hey, he’s winding back the years out there in pursuit of that elusive chip.)
Dwyane Wade: Has not had to be at his explosive best throughout the playoffs with all the help he has had, but against both the 76er’s and Celtics he was genuinely class. A suspected shoulder injury kept him quiet against the Bulls, but the beauty of the Heat is that real quality such as Wade’s can be replaced by James, who can then carry the load. Make no mistake though, he is the heartbeat of this team, Miami’s adopted son, and if the Heat win it will be as much because of Wade as James. Runner Up: Jason Terry: Consistant, a constant threat off the bench who, along with J.J. Barea brings some great energy to the second unit. Brilliant against the Lakers with his shooting ability and work rate, it would be great to see an honest player like him lift the Larry O’Brien this season in what may be his last serious run for the title. Honorable Mention: Kobe Bryant, (My oh my how times change. Seen as favourites going in by many as they always come good when the post season begins, but Kobe and the Lakers just could not get it done this time round. Going all the way two years straight can take its toll though.) Honorable, Honorable Mention: Monta Ellis, (Yes not even in the playoffs, I just wish he would get there soon as I think he is a very talented player and a joy to watch.)
LeBron James: After all of the ridicule and all of the hype, and we’re not going to go back through it all, LeBron James is back in the finals and well, he’s looking better than ever. What’s more, he’s added the one facet to his game that really has been missing throughout the years, he has become a closer of games, and the Celtics and Bulls are proof of that. A ring seems inevitable, if not this year then next, but interestingly some of his best ball this post season has come from playing the point guard position too, making him a canditate in two catagories almost. Yes the team around him is better, but my word is he a better player too, even Scottie Pippen has thrown his hat into the ring on the subject, and Scottie’s word is gospel! He goes off big when it counts, and seems relentless in his quest to win. If this list were to be done every year for the next eight to ten years, it is a safe bet ‘Bron would top it. Runner Up: Kevin Durant, (Viewed by most as being a year or two shy of being serious contenders, Durant brought the Thunder to the Western Finals with some stunning displays, but did go cold at the wrong times too.) Honorable Mention: Luol Deng, (Produced some heroic displays and is surely one of the most underrated players in the NBA today. D Rose is the focal point, but without Deng, the Bulls would not have made the run to the East Finals that they did.)
Dirk Nowitzki: What more needs to be said other than the fact that Nowitzki finally came good and delivered a championship to Dallas. He continued to grow as the playoffs went on, heck he even had a Jordan moment with that ‘Flu Game’ in the Finals, and put a ring on his CV. By defeating a heavily fancied Miami Heat team and grabbing a title just as his window seemed to be closing, Nowitzki has cemented his legacy in the NBA. Possibly the best European player to ever play the game, certainly the best German. Runner Up: Zack Randolph, (The Grizzlies were the surprise package of the playoffs, with Randolph leading the charge with Rudy Gay sidelined. Stunning the top seeded Spurs was some achievement, but the way he played against Oklahoma was even better, inspiring them to a seven game series. Although they did fall to the Thunder, Randolph’s heroics did not go un-noticed.) Honorable Mention: Chris Bosh, (It pains me to put Bosh as the honorable mention it really does, I think that he flies under the radar far too often on his Heat team. He has had a fantastic post season, sacraficing some personal statistics whilst still playing at an All-Star level. Some huge games against the Bulls lifted his team, and he played great against the Mavericks too. He will be back to claim revenge next year for sure.)
Tyson Chandler: Although perhaps an unlikely choice, it was Chandler’s grit that got them through some tough times, notably against the Thunder who pushed them hard. Both he and Kendrick Perkins had some great battles in that series. His defence was invaluable against the Heat too. An unlikely hero and unlikely champion this year. Runner Up: Jokim Noah, (An excellent year all round for Noah, and against the Heat in particular he was a menace on the boards. Part of a Bulls team that looks to be around for years to come, expect to see Noah on lists like these for years to come too. If the rumours are true and Chicago refused to trade him in a deal for Carmelo Anthony, it seems to have been the right call.) Honorable Mention: Marc Gasol, (Another player who surprised a lot of people, his heart, commitment and ability to play at a consistant level helped the Grizzlies on their unlikely post-season run. Perhaps it is time for Marc to break out and trade to a championship contender, just as brother Pau did? Even if he doesn’t he is a part of a very exciting Memphis team. Confused Final Note: Dwight Howard, (How a three time defensive player of the year doesn’t make this list is crazy, but the Orlando Magic seem to be a team in trouble, even with Howard’s outrageously good performances.)