One of the bad things about a great NBA Finals — maybe the only one — is that it tends to overshadow all that comes before it. This was a postseason for the ages long before the .1 Prayer, the Headband Game and the Confetti Choke, and though the enduring memories for the summer will surely be of the Heat’s victory and the Spurs’ defeat, the true list of winners and losers from these playoffs is a lot longer than just that.
At least 25 long each, anyway. That’s the number of losers I’ve ranked from this year’s postseason — check out yesterday’s column counting down the winners if you missed it — crediting the no-showing stars, the overexposed role-players and the overmatched coaches of these exceedingly memorable playoffs. Relive the second season with the names of the players and coaches who best defined it, and again, let me know why Mario Chalmers should have been higher than all of them.
And yes, there are still honorable mentions:
- Tyson Chandler, New York Knicks. Injuries obviously a factor here, but Tyson’s relative no-showing in the playoffs — particularly his two-point, six-foul performance in the Knicks’ elimination loss to the Pacers — was an underrated factor in the Knicks’ disappointing postseason.
- P.J. Carlesimo, Brooklyn Nets. You realize P.J. has still never won a playoff series as a head coach? He might never have had a better chance than leading the stacked Nets against the undermanned and badly hurting Bulls, and now he might not get another chance again, period.
- J.J. Redick, Milwaukee Bucks. Yes, the biggest deal at this year’s trade deadline was a shooting-rich team heading for the eighth seed trading prospects for a three-point gunner who played 17 minutes a game in the playoffs and made four treys total in the team’s first round immolation. Really, it’s the Bucks who are the losers, but it’s Redick whose free agency payday may suffer for it.
- Kosta Koufos, Denver Nuggets. Koufos played well enough to start 81 games for the Nuggets this year, but proved wholly unplayable in the Nuggs’ first round loss to the Warriors, averaging just three points and four rebounds and shooting 37 percent from the field.
- Derrick Rose/Russell Westbrook, Chicago Bulls/Oklahoma City Thunder. Not their faults, of course, but Russ lost his Iron Man rep and Rose now has to endure a very long offseason (and potentially an even longer next season) of second-guessing. You could maybe throw Kobe in here too, but getting to miss out on that embarrassing Lakers first round series arguably makes him a winner.
That’s about it. Onto the real losers.
25. Ed Davis, Memphis Grizzlies. Davis had a chance to prove himself the real steal of the Rudy Gay trade and play his way into a big role on the Grizz next season, but he struggled a bit in a couple games of the Clippers series, and the notoriously short-leashed Lionel Hollins didn’t give him another chance to prove himself, as Boss played just 48 minutes for the entire postseason. The good news for Davis is that Hollins is out of the picture next year, and hopefully the next Memphis coach won’t be so blatant in his distrust of the promising young big.
24. Tiago Splitter, San Antonio Spurs. A pretty good run through the West playoffs for Splitter was almost completely negated by his drowning-man performance in the Finals against Miami, where he proved a liability in the Spurs’ offense, unable to either finish (especially over LeBron James, natch) or make the correct reads against the suffocating Heat defense. Zach Lowe wrote before the Finals started about how important Splitter’s split-second (heh) decision making would be to the Spurs’ offense being effective. And he was right, which was certainly not good news for San Antonio. Splitter is a big part of the Spurs having any kind of post-Tim Duncan future success, so hopefully for them, this was just a learning experience for Tiago, and not indicative of certain stages being a little too big for the 28-year-old pro.
23. Mike Woodson, New York Knicks. As much credit as Woodson got (or should have gotten) for establishing the Knicks’ identity as a small-ball team surrounding Melo with shooters and using Tyson Chandler as a security blanket, it’s incredible that nearly as soon as things got rough for the Knicks in the playoffs, he seemed to pull the plug on it entirely, short-sightedly going big in the Pacers series and playing right into Indiana’s hands in the process. There were other Woodson decisions to be questioned — playing Amar’e, not playing Chris Copeland, sticking too much with an ice-cold Jason Kidd — but it was starting K-Mart at the four in Game 4, and taking a peaking Pablo Prigioni out of the rotation practically altogether, that had every Knicks fan I know screaming bloody murder, and not undeservedly so.
22. C.J. Watson, Brooklyn Nets. When you feud with Nate Robinson for no particular reason, you better make damn sure to make your wide-open layups. You never know when missing one of them is going to send the little ball of fury into a tongues-speaking hot streak that costs your team the game (and ultimately the series).
21. Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics. A number of Celtic fans — well, one high-profile one who works for ESPN, anyway — continued to contend well into the season that had Bradley remained healthy for the conference finals against the Heat last year, the C’s might have been able to pull out the series. Bradley’s six-game series against the Knicks this year did not help the case for that particular argument, as Bradley was torched on defense by the unstoppable force known as Raymond Felton and contributed exceptionally little on offense, averaging seven points on 40 percent shooting and collecting more turnovers than assists. An insane run in Game 6 to nearly wipe out a 26-point Knicks fourth quarter lead nearly redeemed everything for young Avery, but alas, the Boston-NY juju would only go so far these playoffs.
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