Second Round Predictions

Dateline: 05/07/97

In the first round, I missed the Detroit-Atlanta series, but not by much. Everything else was essentially right on. Below are calculated odds of the second round series going a certain distance.

Eastern Conference

Overall Four Games Five Games Six Games Seven Games
1. Chicago 94% 13% 41% 15% 26%
4. Atlanta 6% 0.1% 0.2% 4% 1%
2. Miami 57% 8% 15% 18% 16%
3. New York 43% 5% 10% 13% 15%
Western Conference

Overall Four Games Five Games Six Games Seven Games
1. Utah 88% 14% 35% 16% 23%
4. LA Lakers 12% 1% 1% 7% 4%
2. Seattle 45% 5% 10% 16% 14%
3. Houston 55% 7% 15% 16% 18%

Both 2-3 matchups are very even, more even than any first round matchup was and I would subjectively agree with that. Miami plays very inconsistently and the numbers reflect that, especially through their home court disadvantage, having played better on the road throughout the year than at home. Houston also has been all over the place, which is what happens when you rely upon three-point shots to the extent that Houston did.

Since I am posting these numbers after the first couple games of the first round, one can already say that certain prior possibilities are no longer possible. Specifically, the Lakers' odds of winning their series has now dropped to 5% after losing the first two games. Atlanta's odds haven't dropped much at all since they weren't expected to win at all in Chicago. Seattle's odds did drop to about 30% after losing convincingly in the first game. Still, their chances are not unrealistic.

Riding Rasheed Wallace

Wallace fouls out with two minutes to go, when the Blazers need him most.

When Rasheed Wallace began his sophomore year at the University of North Carolina, he was the top NBA prospect in the land. Neither Joe Smith nor Tim Duncan had his true low post moves or his feathery touch. Teammate Jerry Stackhouse had a stylish floor game, but was not the franchise big man that Wallace was seen to be. Most people had not heard of Antonio McDyess or Kevin Garnett.

During Wallace's sophomore year, however, his game did not improve. He did not dominate games from the low box. The immaturity characteristic of his freshman year was also characteristic of his sophomore year as he ranted and raved about officials, wearing his emotions across his chest and across the country to every scout watching him play. Around the Chapel Hill campus, it was reported that Rasheed stopped going to class. When the Tar Heels lost a few games that they should not have, students would say it was because Rasheed was just waiting for the season to end so that he could turn pro. In the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Wallace was hurt and his backup, Serge Zwikker, came in and saved the game for the heavily favored Heels, which earned Zwikker respect and made a lot of Tar Heel fans feel a little better that Rasheed was leaving.

When Wallace did announce that he was going "hardship", no one was surprised, some were still disappointed, and some said good riddance. Very few said that he was still the top NBA prospect.

Drafted number four in 1995 by the Washington Bullets, Wallace acted pleased. He was passed over by the Golden State Warriors as the number 1 pick even though the Warriors had been in need of a low post player since Wallace was about four years old. He was overlooked by the Los Angeles Clippers (who traded the pick to Denver) to get Antonio McDyess, who was barely known until a good showing in the NCAA Tournament. Then he was passed up by his hometown Philadelphia 76ers in favor of Stackhouse. Supposedly, the Bullets were disappointed that Stackhouse was gone and "settled" for Wallace.

That began a season where Wallace and the Bullets could not quite mesh. Wallace got playing time in a good Washington frontcourt because Chris Webber separated a shoulder. In that time, Wallace's low post game could not get established with Juwan Howard's own game being around the key. Wallace never scored more than 22 points in a game, shot considerably worse than he did in college, including trying too many three point shots, and, like most rookies, he turned the ball over a lot. With the Bullets finishing out of the playoffs and Wallace not living up to the (overly) high expectations of a number four pick, Washington looked to their past and traded Wallace for former Bullet and ordinary joe, Harvey Grant.

The '96-97 season brought the best of Wallace. The best of Wallace included an array of shots from the low post that could not be defended, fewer three-point attempts, more rebounds, and fewer turnovers. Wallace became a focus of an offense with numerous weapons.

Wallace also became just another "attitude" on a team loaded with players known for having bad ones. Teammates Kenny Anderson, Isaiah Rider, and Clifford Robinson have all occasionally gotten bad raps for not being team players and disrupting their teams. But during this season, they all played together and played pretty well. Of the principal players on the team, only Robinson had ever been a contributor on a better NBA team. Somehow, this group of malcontents found ways to make each other better than they ever had been. Maybe they matured. If they did, Wallace still has a ways to go.

During the Blazers' playoff series against the Lakers, Wallace had his stage. He showed his dominance in the low post, shooting better than 60% over the Lakers' interior defense. He also showed the unfocused energy, the emotion, and the immaturity that has been self-destructive at least since his Carolina days. When Wallace fouled out in Game Four of their series, he left a game that he had been dominating. He left it because he let his emotions get away from him. He left it right before that most critical last two minutes when casual fans start watching and when stars are made. Rasheed Wallace spent the last painful minutes of the Blazer loss sitting helplessly on the bench, probably stewing over bad calls and thinking he deserved star treatment.

Not yet.