I’ve just paid too much money for online coverage of the NBA Playoffs. Needless to say, I’m very excited. There are problems with the structure of the NBA season – its too long for a start (IPL take note) – but the playoffs are fantastic.

(Also, in Pakistan, if you are studying for exams, you can conveniently wake up and get some NBA action before revision; or if you work the other way around, it can be a nice post all-nighter diversion)

7 game series allow the storylines and intrigue to develop in a way which you don’t get in single elimination tournaments or a league format.

Is there a particular match-up which gives one team a big advantage? Can a star player overcome this deficiency through persistence, innovation and skill? Is a player choking? Are the coaches choking? Can teams hold on to their home-court advantage? These are all issues which feed into the ebb and flow of the series.

So what should the casual NBA fan be looking out for?

1) Lebron James – The undisputed best player in basketball. NBA players are often compared to others, especially when they are coming into the league. For Lebron, it was a combination of Magic and Jordan. Usually its impossible to live up to this type of impossible hype.
Lebron has managed to exceed it. He has the athleticism of MJ and the passing and vision of Magic. His shooting improves almost every year – he is a great player.
His team’s not stacked though which means the Cavs might not win. There’s also the drama of his free agency and the possibility he changes teams this summer. If you want to watch greatness and drama, tune in.
2) The Western Conference – All 8 playoff teams won 50 games. The Lakers are favourites but only just, and its not impossible for the 5,6,7 and 8 seeds to cause upsets in the first round.Unfortunately, some of this might come down to injuries which would be a shame. However, no matter what happens, its going to be intense.

3) The Orlando Magic – The dark horses. Statistically they were the best team in the regular season and have the best big man in Dwight Howard. A Magic/Cavs Eastern Conference Finals is almost certain which will be terrific.The Magic won last year, so there is already some rivalry. Also, the whole ‘if Orlando wins, they could be sending Lebron to another city’, will have the feel of a WWE storyline, but in a good way.

4) The Basketball Jones These guys are terrific. If you want a daily podcast to recap all of the previous night’s happenings in an intelligent and humorous way, these guys are the place to go to. Also, they’ve made some legendary comedy videos in the past.
5) The Truehoop and SBN Networks Truehoop is the undisputed Blogfather of the NBA and will be sure to have great material throughout the playoffs. The Truehoop Network, which is a collection of team blogs and the SBN team blogs are great if you want to follow a specific team and get immersed in that experience. Check it out.