Hunger Games Playoff Picture: Part I


Recently, I was introduced with the novel Hunger Games written by Suzanne Collins. And, after poring through the first 100 pages, the book is incredibly interesting. The interesting premise of the book — 12 districts nominating two people (one girl and one boy) to participate in a nationally televised fight to the death — the impetuous nature of the spectacle and Collins prose had me enamored. I was immersed into the story. I’m a fan.

Now, like in most things of my life I tried to correlate my reading with the NBA. And after giving it close consideration, I came up with a 10 team single-elimination tournament (two play-in games) with the victor being the last one standing (figuratively). Unlike Hunger Games, the losing teams would live to fight for next season. The same cannot be said about the Charlotte Bobcats.

Before I get into the matchups, here are a couple stipulations that I added to maintain maximum excitement. Disclaimer: I realize this kind of tournament is subject to wild swings and probably won’t crown the “best team” as champion.

— I used Basketball Reference’s Simple Rating System (SRS) in determining the 10 teams eligible for the tournament. Sorry Magic, Rockets, Bucks, Hawks, Knicks and Pacers fans. You didn’t make the cut.— Those 10 teams did not have to maintain an equal proportion between Western and Eastern Conference teams (ie: 7 out of 10 are indeed Western Conference teams).— I decided to mirror the Hunger Games nomination system. Instead of using win-loss records to differentiate the seeds, I used a random non-weighted draft lottery. This is interesting because it presents the possibility of, for example, Miami and Chicago meeting in a play-in game for the right to play the Philadelphia 76ers.— The better overall seed gets home court advantage regardless of win-loss record.— And that’s about it. After the play-in games are concluded, the tournament will resemble an eight team tournament (remember single-elimination like the NCAA Tournament).— I will be tackling each round in individual posts to prevent an excessive 2,000 word piece. You’re welcome.

Play in games

7 Memphis Grizzlies vs. 10 Miami Heat (winner plays 2 Oklahoma City Thunder).

Now this should be interesting. Miami is better offensively, defensively, shooting wise and largely because LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, holds a huge advantage in free throw rate. Their incredible athleticism and James’ ability to guard 1s through 5s defensively gives Miami a conceivable advantage over just about any team. Yet, this game is far from a no-brainer. Memphis has home-court advantage and the superior Marc Gasol-Zach Randolph tandem to rely on. Miami, for all their defensive prowess, does struggle with containing dominant big man much less two. Spurs fans know the dominance of the Memphis tandem and in a one game playoff series, anything can happen. Still, I like Miami especially because Memphis is one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the NBA. Miami’s defensive philosophy is contingent on creating turnovers and fast break points while sacrificing a multitude of 3-point attempts compared to other lockdown defensive teams (ie: Chicago, Philly). They feel that leak outs and allowing LeBron and Wade to roam the perimeter voraciously will overcome a couple of 3-pointers. In this game, they won’t have to worry about the latter. Memphis will struggle with their constricted floor spacing and their ability to create extra possessions through turnovers and offensive rebounding will be rendered mute. Miami wins, 104-92.

8 Denver Nuggets vs. 9 San Antonio Spurs (winner plays 1 Los Angeles Lakers).

Hmmm. The Spurs will participate on the road where I feel considerably less confident. Interestingly, the Nuggets are one of the few teams in the NBA that have a better winning percentage on the road. Expect for this game to take on a high scoring, back-and-forth kind of tenor. Both teams go 10+ deep and struggle defensively. I like the Spurs in this game because Denver’s length doesn’t frighten me and Denver can’t possibly expect to contain Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker while closing out on Spurs shooters. Gregg Popovich’s articulate game management and the Manu-Tiago Splitter pick-and-roll will also confound the Nuggets. Spurs win, 101-95.