Weekly Countdown (cont.)
3 Brief reasons to pick the Lakers in the NBA Finals
3. Andrew Bynum isn't there. No playoff opponent has punished the Lakers for the absence of Bynum, a 7-foot center who was unable to return this season after suffering a knee injury in January. Instead of trying to squeeze Bynum back into the lineup during the playoffs, the Lakers have seen Pau Gasol settle in nicely at center since arriving from Memphis in a February trade.
"If you think about the triangle offense, center is the easiest position to play,'' a rival team's scout said. "If Bynum had come back, it might have screwed everything up, because Gasol would have had to try to figure it out all over again as a power forward. That would have made things a lot more complicated for him because the Lakers like to move their power forwards out to the wing.''
As a center, Gasol has been able to play a relatively simple but crucial role by playing near the basket. Had Bynum returned from his knee injury, the Lakers would have been dealing with two major issues: getting Bynum up to playoff speed when he may have been lacking confidence as a young player coming off knee surgery, and working Gasol into a more complicated position.
2. Phil Jackson is the best coach. No coach has a better feel for how and when to apply demands to his team than Jackson. He'll be seeking his 10th NBA championship; his opponent -- Doc Rivers or Flip Saunders -- will be coaching in his first Finals.
1. Kobe Bryant is MVP. The best player on the floor usually wins the NBA Finals. However, the last time the rule failed was in 2004, when Shaquille O'Neal and Bryant were upset by the Pistons.
2 True point guards not named Derrick Rose
There may be only three "traditional'' point guards taken in the first round. Here are the other two ...
2. Ty Lawson. The 5-11 sophomore from North Carolina played well in the predraft camp and could be a late first-rounder. "He's inconsistent with his outside shot,'' an Eastern Conference player personnel director said. "Lawson is better in the open court; he might struggle in a slower-paced game. But if you look at the number of point guards available, his value will be inflated.''
1. D.J. Augustin. As the consensus No. 2 pick among "true'' point guards, the 6-foot Texas sophomore is expected to be drafted in the top 10. "He has improved in his point-guard skills,'' the player personnel director said. "He's pretty smart, but his size will hurt him. I saw Derrick Rose crush him during the season with his size.''
"He is definitely a pass-first, shoot-second point guard,'' another Eastern player personnel director said. "I know many times [Texas coach Rick] Barnes had to tell him to shoot more often. You don't see that very much these days.''
1 Player who helped himself by playing in Orlando
1. J.R. Giddens. No one made a major leap by competing in Orlando, but the 6-5 senior guard probably played his way into the first round. "He has an NBA body and he has a true position, which is important,'' a GM said. "He's the kind of guy that fills up the stat sheet. His shot doesn't look great, but it goes in. He'll compete athletically and he's a pretty tough kid.''
Giddens transferred from Kansas as a sophomore after he was stabbed in the leg during a bar fight. As a junior at New Mexico, he was suspended for being a bad teammate. But the 23-year-old matured to have an impressive senior year at New Mexico, where he led the Mountain West in rebounds (8.8) and ranked in the top 10 in points (16.3), shooting (51.6 percent), assists (3.1), steals (1.4) and blocks (1.2).
"He was my sleeper in the draft,'' added the GM, who hoped to steal Giddens in the second round. "Now I'll have to find somebody new.''