NBA Playoff Team Previews - NFL Draft: Guards and Centers

THE NBA PLAYOFFS ARE SET AND WE DELIVER QUICK-HITTER COMMENTS ON ALL 16 POST-SEASON TEAMS

OUR NFL DRAFT REPORT: TIME TO CHECK OUT THE GUARDS/CENTERS

Folks, our Jim Sez NBA Playoffs series-by-series previews will fill up the next two columns right here - just remember the "Second Season" gets underway on Saturday afternoon with four games on both Saturday and Sunday ... but right now we wanted to take a few moments to give an overview of the teams in this year's post-season with a line or two about each one:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

The first-round playoff series matchups are ... Brooklyn vs. Atlanta; Boston vs. Cleveland; Milwaukee vs. Chicago; and Washington vs. Toronto:

#1 ATLANTA (60-22) - The Hawks are proof that the sum-is-better-than-the-parts still works in pro hoops but how will Mike Budenholzer's gang handle the job of being a conference top seed?

#2 CLEVELAND (53-29) - King James and the Cavs will be overwhelming favorites to reach the NBA Finals but can PG Kyrie Irving stay in one piece this whole post-season?

#3 CHICAGO (50-32) - The Bulls have navigated their way through an injury-riddled season and still managed to play .658 ball against Eastern Conference clubs - dare we say Chicago might be the deepest team in the conference.

#4 TORONTO (49-33) - If the Raptors wish to be anywhere in this year's playoffs then PG Kyle Lowry (back) must give 'em 35-to-40 high-quality minutes per game, got it?

#5 WASHINGTON (46-36) - If PG John Wall and the Wizards go pedal to the floor, then the D.C. gang could win a couple of rounds but you don't always see spirited play from these guys.

#6 MILWAUKEE (41-41) - The Bucks are a lot more athletic than you might think and if Jason Kidd's team plays big-time "D" than watch out. One player to zoom in on this opening-round set is "Greek Freak" Giannis Antetokounmpo who shoots nearly 50 percent from the field.

#7 BOSTON (40-42) - The Celtics might have waved bye-bye to leading scorer Jeff Green and PG Rajon Rondo in a pair of in-season deals but they've been re-invented and brilliant boss Brad Stevens knows his team's strengths.

#8 BROOKLYN (38-44) - The Nets rode the career-best 28 points by smooth-stroking Bojan Bogdanovich to the winner's circle last night versus Orlando and then watched Indiana self-destruct in Memphis ... guess Lionel Hollins did get the last laugh!

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers/Bloggers are all geared up for the NBA Playoffs that tip off this Saturday - just go online right here or call our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 each/every day during these NBA Playoffs and we'll send you straight into the winner's circle. Or remember that you can sign up for the whole NBA Playoffs today - check it out online here or at our toll-free telephone # now! Plus, remember there's Major-League Baseball on tap every day and so the time is just right to cash in big this spring as the NBA Playoffs and Baseball pounds out major profits for you!

WESTERN CONFERENCE

The first-round playoff series matchups are ... New Orleans vs. Golden State; Dallas vs. Houston; San Antonio vs. Los Angeles Clippers; and Portland vs. Memphis:

#1 GOLDEN STATE (67-15) - We wish folks would stop saying that the Warriors will "live by the 3 and die by the 3" this post-season because Steve Kerr's club can do so much more but we'll be truly interested in seeing if G-State (39-2 at home this year) can continue to dominate in its own backyard.

#2 HOUSTON (56-26) - The Rockets gained major satisfaction in snaring this second seed in the West and now all Houston needs is someone to chip in when scoring whiz James Harden (our NBA MVP runner-up) is scoring less than 25 ppg. A very dangerous team here if C Dwight Howard can be a major numbers-hanger here.

#3 LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (56-26) - Athletic Clips may have some internal bickering (see PG Chris Paul and F Blake Griffin) but they do go 10-deep and have A+ head coach Doc Rivers who's no stranger to deep post-season runs.

#4 PORTLAND (51-31) - Keep in mind the T-Blazers have the higher seed but must open the playoffs in Memphis this weekend and all those Portland injuries are bound to catch up with "Rip City" crew, right?

#5 MEMPHIS (55-27) - The Grizzlies are keeping fingers crossed that PG Mike Conley will play this weekend but if Marc Gasol is gonna go for 33 points in any game, then these guys are downright unstoppable.

#6 SAN ANTONIO (55-27) - Amazing late-year that included nine-game winning streak just wasn't enough to land that #2 seed, but would you really be surprised if Gregg Popovich's club snagged a sixth championship this June?

#7 DALLAS (50-32) - Lest anyone believe that Mavericks' star Dirk Nowitzki is "done" take note he averaged 17.3 ppg this season to rank second on the squad behind no-conscience G Monta Ellis (19 ppg) and now Lone Star Showdown versus Houston is making folks wonder if Rockets' race to #2 was the smartest thing to do.

#8 NEW ORLEANS (45-37) - The Pelicans electrified the whole "Big Easy" with last night's playoff-clinching win against 5.5-point fav San Antonio as Anthony Davis (31 points and 13 rebounds) was masterful but do you really believe they can "shock the world" and KO Golden State here? Not likely!


THE NFL DRAFT REPORT

Our extensive Jim Sez NFL Draft coverage rolls on with a look at the top incoming Offensive Guards and Centers:

CAMERON IRVING, C, Florida State - This 6-foot-5, 315-pounder from Moultrie (GA) generally is considered the most versatile blocker in this man's draft and note he made a smooth transition from G to C midway through the 2014 season. Irving has great hands/feet and stays with his block right to the whistle and most draft boards believe he will be selected somewhere in the top 25 with Kansas City (#18) and Detroit (#24) said to be interested in his services.

A.J. CANN, G, South Carolina - Massive mountain of a man stands at 6-foot-3, 313 pounds and was a real iron-man for the Gamecocks as he started 51 games in his storied college career and scouts claim he's got great physical strength but needs to improve his mobility on sweep/run plays and thus Cann is expected to fall into the middle portion of Round II. Could be a nice fit in the physical AFC North - perhaps Baltimore makes a run at 'em.

LAKEN TOMLINSON, G, Duke - Not often that the Blue Devils send an O-lineman into the pros but this monstrous 6-foot-3, 324-pounder should find himself nabbed somewhere in Round II despite a "squatty" body and some limitations on how well he moves side-to-side. Tomlinson - a Chicago native who was born in Jamaica and spent his first 10 years there - was a four-year starter at right guard for Duke and should be a 10-year pro.

HRONISS GRASU, C, Oregon - Don't be fooled by his 6-foot-3, 298-pound frame as most NFL scouts believe he moves about as well as centers 25 pounds less plus the word on this Los Angeles native is that he does well to recognize blitzes and is very heady while being favorably compared to current New Orleans Saints C (and one-time Seattle center) Max Unger.

TRE' JACKSON, G, Florida State - This 6-foot-4, 330-pounder is described as being "surprisingly quick" and he was ultra-dependable for the Seminoles with 42 consecutive game starts (including starring in their national championship season in 2013). Likely to be a late second-rounder but lots of NFL teams love to tab Florida State linemen (both offensive and defensive) and so he could scoot up a few notches on Draft Week/Weekend.

ALI MARPET, G, Hobart - You're right, we didn't hear about this 6-foot-4, 308-pounder until he started to get some mention as a potential late second-rounder but scouts love his durability (started his final 37 straight games at left tackle) and ability to stay motivated but fact that he played against inferior "comp" might drop 'em down a few pegs - he's a Hastings-on-Hudson (NY) product, so let's see if the Giants or Jets reach for 'em.

Note: Catch our NBA Playoff Previews beginning in tomorrow's jam-packed edition of Jim Sez.

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Aug

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