The 2009-2010 D-League season has come to a close and the playoffs are right around the corner. I thought since Scott has given his predictions for the D-League playoffs, I thought I would give my thoughts as well. I might not be as in-depth as Scott but I thought I would give it a shot...
#1 Iowa Energy vs. #7 Utah Flash: This will be an interesting match-up. You have two of the best coaches arguably in the D-League going up against each other with Iowa's Nick Nurse and Utah's Brad Jones. Iowa still has there leader in Curtis Stinson, but have been decimated by all of the call-ups the last month (Jeffers, Martin, and Barron). I think Pat Caroll will have to play big for Iowa to advance. As for Utah, they had a tough break with Carlos Wheeler getting injured and Kosta Koufos getting re-called back to the Utah Jazz. If Kevin Kruger and Andre Ingram get hot and shoot well from the outside, I like their chances. I am going with the upset here and taking the Flash over the Energy in three games as they will not be able to overcome all the roster change they have had the last few weeks.
#2 Rio Grande Valley Vipers vs. #6 Reno Bighorns: I agree with Scott that the Rockets can send down a player to the Vipers tomorrow and is very hard to predict this series. Reno has been the hottest team in the D-League coming into the playoffs and the addition of Will Blalock mid-season might be one of the best trades of the year. RGV has had so much change all year with call-ups and assignments you never know who will be on the roster. While I want to pick Reno because they have really been playing so well, I will go with the Vipers in three games. Too much Will Conroy as he will lead RGV to the semifinals.
#3 Austin Toros vs #5 Dakota Wizards: This might be the best series of the first round. Maybe Thabeet will show up for the playoff run? (okay, maybe not) This will be a dog fight and with Dwayne Jones with the Suns and Curtis Jerrells possibly moving up to the Spurs, it's hard to predict. Let's just assume Jerrells will be with the Toros for this series. It is difficult to play Dakota with how tough they play and all the guards they can throw at you. Essentially, the only big men in this series are Dakota's Corsley Edwards and Austin's Luke Bonner (aka Big Hugga). It will come down to guard play and the way Marcus Williams has been playing lately its hard to bet he will cool off. I think the series will come down to the match-up of Williams and Dakota's Renaldo Major. Have to go with the Toros in three games and my man Quin Snyder moves on.
#4 Sioux Falls Skyforce vs #8 Tulsa 66ers: While this 66ers have a very talented team with NBA players Mustafa Shakur and Byron Mullens, I still don't see them beating the Skyforce unless DJ White is assigned. And even with White I think they still advance. I like the Skyforce in three games as they are LOADED inside and with the pickup of Kirk Penney bombing away for outside they will be very tough to beat. If you like 3-point shooting, this is the series to watch, with two of the best in Tulsa's Moses Ehambe and Sioux Falls' Penney.
#7 Utah Flash vs #4 Sioux Falls Skyforce: With Wheeler and Koufos gone, Sioux Falls will dominate inside. Maybe Utah can suit up assistant coach Mark Madsen to help? The only way I can see Utah winning is playing small-ball and even with that don't see it happening. Skyforce own the paint and win in two games here.
#2 Rio Grande Valley Vipers vs #3 Austin Toros: This matchup all depends on who is on the roster at the time. If RGV assigns Mike Harris or Jermaine Taylor I like the Vipers. If not, I have to go with Austin. Marcus Williams is on a mission and even though RGV has some very talented guys, I don't see anyone slowing him down. Austin advances to the Championship in three hard fought games. Also, should be a great battle of two of the best PGs in the D-League with Jerrells and Conroy.
#2 Austin Toros vs #4 Sioux Falls Skyforce: Once again the Skyforce will have a huge advantage inside in this series, maybe moreso than they had in the semifinals vs Utah. While I can't disagree with Scott picking the Skyforce to win it all, I am going to do just that. No Dwayne Jones, no problem. Jerrells will outplay David Bailey, Marcus Williams will score at will, and Eddie Basden will lock-down Kirk Penny. As for the inside play, Austin will get all the hustle plays and gang rebound in this series to win the D-League Championship. The great city of Austin will be rocking all night long as Jon L. and his boys bring home the crown in three games!