Latest News, NBA / Apr 16, 2010 / 10:00 am

Top 10 NBA Championship X-Factors

Kevin Garnett, Dime #30

After avoiding it for years, I finally added “NUMB3RS” to my regular TV cop show rotation. Quick summary: FBI agent has his math-genius brother (a college professor at “Cal-Sci”) assist on cases where his math skills help catch the bad guys. Solid show, and contrary to my initial worries, it’s easy to follow even if you suck at math like me.

The other night I caught the “NUMB3RS” re-run where Pau Gasol and Jordan Farmar guest-starred. In that episode, Charlie (the math genius) is coaching the Cal-Sci basketball team, which is naturally terrible. In their first game they’re getting cracked by about 30 with less than four minutes to go when one of his assistants shows up with Gasol and Farmar, playing real-life NBA players, in uniform. (Apparently this is legal because they signed up for work-study internships at the school. Or something like that. And the opposing coach never complained.) So Gasol and Farmar check in, tell everyone else to get out of their way, and lead the comeback win.

Nobody will have that kind of sudden impact on any of the teams contending for a championship in 2010, but there are still a few notable X-factors who will decide the ‘chip this summer:

1. Antawn Jamison — All due respect to Shaq, but there’s no reason Jamison can’t be Cleveland’s top interior scorer. His knack for hitting tough shots from all angles, plus his off-ball movement coupled with LeBron’s vision and passing equates to plenty of easy buckets if they’re on the same page. When he’s getting those looks and hitting outside jumpers, it’s tough to keep him under 20 points a night.

On the other hand, there are glaring holes in Jamison’s game that could leave the Cavs short of a ‘chip once again. For starters, his defense needs work. In a recent game against Milwaukee, I noticed Jamison was constantly late on rotations, and he had a bad habit of leaving Ersan Ilyasova wide open for jumpers. Not good when it’s Ilyasova; REALLY not good when it’s Rashard Lewis in a seven-game series. And since coming over in the trade from Washington, Jamison is shooting 50 percent at the free-throw line. Ask John Calipari if that can’t come back to haunt you in the postseason.

2. Kevin Garnett — Yes, KG has officially gone from being a go-to superstar to a hit-or-miss X-factor. The optimist and KG supporter says he’s just getting over a sore knee and will ramp it up in the postseason when it really matters. The pessimist and KG critic says he’s washed up and not everyone realizes it yet. If he brings his DPOY shoes, the Celtics can’t be written off as a contender.

3. Nene — If somebody’s talking about a star-in-hiding in Denver who would be a serious problem if he could find some consistency, 99% of the time it’s J.R. Smith. But Nene (13.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg) is a beast on occasion in his own right. And more than the Nuggets need another perimeter scorer to step up right now, they need their strongest guy on the front line to hold it down against a Murderer’s Row of potential playoff opponents: Boozer/Okur/Millsap in the first round; probably Gasol/Bynum/Odom in the second; maybe Duncan/McDyess/Blair or Dirk/Dampier/Haywood in the conference finals. And then? Dwight or Shaq for the championship.

4. Jameer Nelson — He wasn’t there for most of the ’09 Finals run, so in a sense he’s still playing catch-up. By the numbers, it’s been a subpar year for Jameer: His scoring is down, his shooting percentages are down, his steals are down, and his turnovers are up. He also missed a solid month of the schedule with injuries. With Vince Carter assigned to create offense and run the pick-and-roll with Dwight Howard in crunch time, Jameer just needs to protect the ball, hit open shots, and defend his position.

Shawn Marion, Dime #29

5. Shawn Marion — The proverbial X-factor isn’t putting up double-double numbers (12.0 ppg, 6.4 rpg) or getting All-Star nods anymore, but his rebounding, defensive versatility, and ability to score without any plays being run for him is still key to making the Mavericks a contender. And don’t start talking about Marion like he’s an old man; did you see the off-the-glass lob he caught from Jason Kidd a few days ago?

6. Jordan Farmar — The Lakers bench in general is their biggest X-factor and biggest weakness. As the second-string point guard, Farmar is the QB of that unit and some responsibility should fall on him to get them in gear.

7. Mike Bibby — For a 12-year veteran point guard who’s built his rep on being clutch, it was strange to see Bibby gradually lose his spot in Atlanta’s crunch-time lineup to Jamal Crawford. But remember, Crawford has never been to the playoffs before. How will he react to the big stage? There’s a window for Bibby (9.1 ppg, 3.9 apg) to get back in the mix here, not to mention he can give the Hawks a spark early if he’s hitting shots in the first quarter. In a recent win over the Lakers, Bibby scored the game’s first seven points on mostly wide-open shots and paved the way for an ATL blowout.

8. Jason Richardson — It’s as close to a guarantee as you’ll find in the NBA: If J-Rich gets off to a good start in the first quarter, he will have a big game. If he doesn’t, he won’t. The trick for Steve Nash and Alvin Gentry is figuring out how to get Richardson going without forcing it and upsetting the team’s rhythm.

9. Richard Jefferson — Can make up for a season’s worth of disappointment and letdown by putting it together for the next couple months. Promising stat: In four regular-season games against first-round opponent Dallas, RJ averaged 16.0 points, his highest split against any of this year’s playoff teams.

10. Lamar Odom — In the 38 games he’s started, L.O. has been good for 12.2 points, 11.6 boards and 4.1 assists. Andrew Bynum (Achilles) is supposed to be ready for the Lakers’ first-round series against OKC, but even if Bynum struggles through this postseason like he did last postseason, the Lakers will be fine as long as Odom shows up.

-Follow Austin on Twitter at @AustinBurton206
-Follow Dime on Twitter at @DIMEMag

Related Posts with Thumbnails
  • RC

    Antawn Jamison and Mo Williams should play very good and consistent. I really believe this is the Cavs time to win one. But the Magic is still also a favorite to win the east.

  • Kermit The Washington

    shoulda traded bynum when we had the chance. Now we have WAY too many X-Factors for one team. Odom, Bynum, Farmar, Artest should be on the list too…c’mon! Oh well, I basically just don’t want Bron Bron and Shaq to get a ring. If they get knocked out, then I’ll be good LOL

  • 12t

    Does no one believe Utah has a shot at the title this year?

    If they go on another run like the one they pulled off on the way to looking like they were going to lock up the 2-seed then they could be representing the West in the finals.

  • Brown

    Has Bynum ever NOT limped into the playoffs? He’s no Greg Oden, but damn dude can’t stay healthy, especially around playoff time.

    To me, the biggest X factors are Marion and Butler. Their play will determine how far the Mavs go.

  • http://facebook.com/Mr.Brogden Mr. Brogden

    My TOP TEN NBA Championship X-FACTORs
    1ST ROUND EDITION:

    1 – FLIP MURRAY and BRAD MILLER. They comprise the bench that will have to do work in order for the Bulls to pull off the upset.

    2 – MANU
    Although he’s what Shaq would probably call a “high level” or “high powered” role player. This guy has the ability to wreak all kinds of havoc for opposing teams. He can be all over the place and still give you 110 percent on Offense. This “knack” for the game that he possesses is why he’s the X-Factor that Dallas should be worried about.

    3 – PORTLAND’S BENCH
    Someone’s gotta step up if the Blazers want to win. BROY’s out. Nuff said.

    4 – DENVER’S Tenacity
    The Nuggets, all though very talented, don’t go hard all the time. Last year they turned it on and off when they had to. This year seems different. With Coach being sick, I haven’t seen the killer instinct toughness that these guys are known for. But if they can get it back, they’ll be right back in the WCF

    5 – AK and MEHMET
    Can they regain thier old form…or leave it to Booz and Paul???

    6 — SHEED
    Legitimate bust for Boston in the regular season but it’s a brand new season…and the Simon Gratz Dean Smith product is one of the best PFs in the business and should make the load of Ray, Paul and KG a lil’ lighter when it comes to the games that matter.

    7 — HAWKS Discipline

    If they can focus and exploit the hole left by Bogut — especially on the road — then they shouldn’t have a problem even if Young Money and Johnny Buckets do sumptin.

    8 — SUN’s and MAGIC’s 3POINTER INFATUATION
    If they’re not dropping, please feed Stat and Dwight. Please. It’s the only way to win for you.

    9 — JEFF GREEN
    You will be tested. Please be strong. If not for your team’s sake, for your own individual health.

    10 — HAYWOOD
    Against a team that fields Bonner, McDyess, Blair and Duncan…Haywood can have a blast if he rebounds like the monster he can be. His colleagues Marion, Dirk can provide the O. Thomas can provide the veteran leadership and Dampier gives you a big body and some D. But it all doesn’t come together if Haywood doesn’t do his job.

  • yoda

    ” Yes, KG has officially gone from being a go-to superstar to a hit-or-miss X-factor.”
    he always chocked. never been go-to guy.

  • Dave

    as a lifer with the Jazz I really don’t think they have a shot at the chip this year, not tough enough and not long enough to deal with the Lakers. If the Jazz can beat the Nuggets convincingly (which is a long-shot) and Kobe gets hurt then maybe the Jazz have a shot.

  • Bill

    @Yoda

    If you’re going to burn a future HOF, at least make sense.

    WTF is chocked?

  • QQ

    Magic. ALL DAY.

    Everyone else, Eat a D*ck!

  • Ian

    brogden
    manu isnt a role player

  • QQ

    Where’s Vince???? I’ll replace Meer with Vince seeing that he has TONS to prove. This is the year that he’ll finally break the ‘soft bitch’ label (which I have been a fan of FOR A LONG TIME) or go-back to his lazy ass ways.

    Vince is our X-Factor.

  • sh!tfaced

    LMFAO! This impostor has his moments…

    @Brogden
    Good points. Nice one on Sheed. He may be bust this season but this is his best chance, it’s redemption time for him.

    Denver is a team of x-factors too. JR, Nene, Bridman, etc. Heck even their stars, Chauncey, K-Mart & Melo could use some consistency…

  • dmitry of jersey

    hahaaaa if VC is your x-factor you ain’t winning a championship… sorry buddy.

    –Nets fan.

  • QQ

    @ 16:

    He’s the X factor cause he certainly has the talent, but lacks the necessary drive. Will this be the year that he changes all of that? Lucky for us, our squad is STACKED. If the X-Factor doesn’t deliver, there’s another one, then another one, then another. Then there’s kid called Dwight. I heard his pretty good.

  • QQ

    ‘I heard he’s good’. Damn sorry.

  • Control

    ill eat everyone d*ck except manus.

  • Ian

    way too much d*ck eating on just 20 comments

  • http://www.realcavsfans.com Powerslave

    I’ll only eat a dick if it’s a pussy

  • ENEW

    I love playoff time, simply because this board gets so heated.

    Orlando had a great chance to win a championship last year, but as we all remember their basketball IQ cost them. Last year, they also had little pressure on them as they were not supposed to be there…now with the Celtics struggling and Cleveland not being unbeatable the pressure is on Orlando to win it all. Lets also remember that Hedo was their go to guy for most of the postseason to get them to the finals. Lets see what the do in round two against Hawks.

    Lakers get knocked out by Dallas after a brutal second round series against the Nuggets…

  • Deez Nutz

    @Austin burton and Ian
    dude, gross

  • http://facebook.com/Mr.Brogden Mr. Brogden

    @ ENEW – as long as LBJ is ringless, the pressure is ALWAYS on him and his squad.

  • Ian

    deez
    lol that wasnt us man.

  • dmitry of jersey

    QQ:

    as a fan i know you have to believe that.. it’s all good.
    just keep in mind that Vince has been in the leage, what, 15 yrs now. and he is still seen crackin up after losses and settling for a passive game when it matters most (see: Nets-Heat series a few yrs ago).

    magic finished the season hot, and yea you got dwight. it will make for an interesting series to say the least. also will be interesting to see if VC can handle Josh smith in an Orl-Atl series.

  • dmitry of jersey

    one more note:

    kinda insane that Rashard $110M lewis is a x-factor. i was a big fan of his actually til he wrecked a couple of my fantasy teams this year….

  • barons beard

    J.R. Smith is the definition of an x-factor for me, if he’s on he is one of the most potent volume scorers in the league, but by the same token if he’s not on he is a bone-headed jacker and defensive liability. And its like flipping a coin which one will turn up on that day

  • sh!tfaced

    …Da fuck, man. Finally got ‘impostorized’… LOL

  • QQ

    Damn, a meme in these boards? YOU GOT IMPOSTORIZED!!!!!

    LOL.