If You’re Not Watching the NBA Playoffs, You’re Missing Out
By Joseph Glorioso Washington, DC, USA (NBA) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0), via Flickr
Look I get it… March Madness is amazing. I tuned into every single game just like you have. I jumped off my couch when RJ Hunter of Georgia State hit that 3 point shot to eliminate Baylor. I silently said a prayer for Cincinatti when Willie Cauley-Stein dunked on the whole team. I gleefully filled out a bracket and then tearfully ripped it up when Villanova lost to NC State. I get why people feel that the NCAA Tournament is awesome. I hated Duke just as much as anyone else when they won another championship. But let’s be honest… The quality of play is terrible. Do you really want to watch a plethora of 61-57 basketball games that feature 12423594609 offensive foul calls and the last 2 minutes of every game seems to last an hour?
Look I get it…. We are obsessed with football in America. From the Friday Nights of high school to the primetime lights of the Super Bowl, football is AWESOME. Large men built like Greek gods (well except for the offensive linemen and Peyton and Eli Manning) running around in armor and hitting each other? SIGN ME UP!! Who is going to go first in the draft, Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota? What the hell is Chip Kelly doing? I get why people feel that the NFL is awesome. But let’s be honest…. Now that the dust of free agency has settled, there won’t be any ACTUAL football games until August.
Look I get it….. Baseball is America’s past time. Chicks dig the homeruns. I’m into Spring Training and hot dogs, peanuts and cracker jacks just as much as the next guy. Why would you not be into a sport where even the MANAGERS HAVE TO WEAR UNIFORMS? I get why people feel that MLB is awesome. But, let’s be honest…. How excited is the casual sports fan getting about DEFENSIVE SHIFTS or if Alex Rodriguez can play more 1st base this year?
I completely understand why you would think that any of the sports I just mentioned are great, awesome….AMAZING. But I am also here to tell you that unfortunately you are completely wrong. If you’re spending time paying attention to any of these other sports you’re missing one of the greatest NBA regular seasons in recently memory. Now I am completely aware that that statement makes me look like a crazy person but hear me out. Out of the major professional sports here in America, the NBA without a doubt has the most recognizable and marketable superstar players, and every single one of them is in the midst of an incredible year. Think about it. LeBron James, Steph Curry, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, and Anthony Davis all are having MVP caliber years. Then you have guy like Demarcus Cousins doing THIS, Kyrie Irving doing THIS, and Klay Thompson doing THIS. But if you need some more concrete reason to tune in I have thought of a couple.
Reason #1: The Golden State Warriors
The 1996 Chicago Bulls won 72 games in a regular season and ran through a league that featured an Orlando Magic team with Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway (Chicago swept them in the Eastern Conference Finals) and Seattle Supersonics team that had Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp (The Bulls beat them in the NBA Finals in 6 games). 72 wins is the most recorded in NBA regular season history. The last team to get close was the 2007 Dallas Mavericks with 67 wins. The Warriors also finished the season with 67 wins and tie for the sixth best win percentage (.824%) in the NBA history. They score the most points in the league and also have the league’s best defensive rating. They have a team that legitimately goes 11 deep and can play any style of basketball. Oh, you want to play big and try and go in the paint? They have a healthy Andrew Bogut who can match up with the other team’s center. Oh you want to play small ball against them? Draymond Green can also match up with anyone on the court. Historically they have one of the best backcourts OF ALL TIME. Klay Thompson was an All-Star for the first time this year and has never shot under 40% from the 3PT line his entire career. Steph Curry is a top-5 player in the NBA, THE LEAGUE’S MOST UNGUARDABLE PLAYER (but more on Chef Curry later). When you look at the Warriors don’t just chalk it up and say “Oh yea they’re having a pretty good year. No, this is one of the 6 or 7 best regular seasons in NBA history, treat it as such!
Reason #2 Fun Times in Cleveland
On the surface anything should be going very well in Cleveland. Since LeBron James returned from that random sabbatical in Miami back in January the Cavaliers have gone 34-10 and comfortably hold the 2 seed in the Eastern conference. LeBron has gone looking like a shell of himself back in December, to putting up MVP caliber numbers. Kyrie Irving has scored 50+ points in a game not ONCE…but TWICE, and other than Dwyane Wade in 2011 is probably the best player LeBron has EVER played with. The midseason acquisitions of Timofey Mosgov, JR Smith and Iman Shumpert (and losing the awfulness of Dion Waiters) have without a doubt taken this team from potential disaster to championship contender. This team should have good vibes around it. Instead it’s probably the biggest soap opera in the NBA. Kevin Love and LeBron keep subtweeting each other, the head coach David Blatt may only be a CO-head coach? Is Kevin Love even going to be on the Cavs next year?? If you actually have some time to spare I would implore you to listen to the BS REPORT podcast featuring noted NBA tea-spiller Brian Windhorst who mentions:
- In the Cavs huddles it seems that LeBron and assistant coach Tyron Lue do most of the talking and not HEAD COACH DAVID BLATT
- Before a game against Atlanta in December, LeBron apparently told the Cavs he didn’t want to play that night and didn’t even come out to sit on the bench during the game. Naturally the Cavs management was freaked out and the next day he took his two week break.
- The Princeton-based offense that David Blatt installed was thrown out by LeBron in November!! Also, LeBron decided to play more of the point guard position without consulting his Head Coach
All this is going to be magnified X10 once the Playoffs roll around and god forbid they go down 3-2 in the eastern conference finals to a team like Atlanta or Chicago.
Reason #3 Incredible MVP Race
By this time last year Kevin Durant had pretty much locked up the MVP trophy, and the only thing most of us wanted to know was how many 1st place votes he would get. This year? It’s pretty much a toss-up. Here are the list of guys who are SERIOUS CONTENDERS.
Candidate #1 Steph Curry- PPG 23.8, APG 7.7, RPG 4.3, PER 28.06
Reasons he should win: Best player on a historically good basketball team, in a loaded Western conference. You can say that a lot of players in the league are ‘unguardable’ but Steph Curry really is UNGUARDABLE. Like no one can stay in front of him UNGUARDABLE……Like how did he even get that shot off UNGUARDABLE……The guy was shooting 50% in March…..FROM THE 3 POINT LINE!! At least twice a game he does something that just makes you shake your head and feel better that you stopped playing basketball competitively in middle school.
Candidate #2 James Harden- PPG 27.4, APG 7.0, RPG 5.7, PER 26.76
Reasons he should win: Truly the player who is the most valuable to his team. The Rockets came into this season clearly a worst team than the one that lost in the 1st round to Portland last year. They had lost Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin, and Omer Asik in order to get either Chris Bosh or Carmelo Anthony and then they didn’t get either of those guys. The Rockets other superstar Dwight Howard has been sidelined since January and now plays on a minute’s restriction. Basically, James Harden has been carrying this team and the main reason that Houston is the #2 seed
Candidate #3 Russell Westbrook- PPG 28.1, APG 8.6, RPG 7.3, PER 29.12
Reasons he should win: The guy putting up the craziest numbers and probably the guy you WANT to win. Russell Westbrook is an enigma. On the one hand his athletic ability is unmatched by anyone in the league. He can get any shot he wants at any time. He is a top 10 player in the NBA and WOULD probably be the #1 guy on any team that doesn’t have LeBron James or Kevin Durant. Unfortunately, his entire career Russell Westbrook has actually been on the same team as Kevin Durant and has therefore been one of the most criticized players in the league because people feel like he doesn’t defer enough to Kevin Durant. Well this season we have gotten to see what happens when Russell Westbrook is truly turned loose. Since the All-Star break he has had 9 triple doubles (11 for the season), averaged 31 point, 9 rebounds and 8 assists and single-handedly almost dragged a Thunder team without Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka into the playoffs.
Candidate #4 LeBron James- PPG 25.3, APG 7.4, RPG 6.0, PER 26.01
Reasons he should win: He’s still the best player on the planet. It was obviously a rough start for the Cavs. Integrating the new pieces and finally finding a core group of players kept the Cavs in a state of constant flux and LeBron didn’t look like the same guy who had won 4 of the last 6 MVP trophies. But since he returned from his two week ‘break’ the Cleveland Cavaliers have gone 34-10 and have looked downright dominant at times.
Reason #4 Anthony Davis in the Playoffs
Just in case you’ve been living under a rock for the past two years you might have missed Anthony Davis being tabbed as the next superstar. This season he absolutely earned that title and he JUST turned 22 back in March. At 21 years old he averaged more points (24.3) per game than Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan when they were 21, and a higher PER (a ridiculous 31.0) than Michael Jordan, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal, and Kobe Bryant when they were 21. Basically what I’m saying is this. If a time machine randomly crash landed in front of me, and a man hopped out and told me he was from 20 years in the future and that Anthony Davis had won 10 straight NBA championships and Kim Kardashian won an Oscar I would be shocked………That Mrs. Kanye West won an Oscar. The best part about it is…HE MADE THE PLAYOFFS. Going up against a Spurs team that was fighting for the #2 seed and had won 10 straight games he put up 31 points and 13 rebounds and got the Hornets Pelicans into the Playoffs. Now while as the #8 seed they have no shot in beating the Warriors, but is there a chance that he’ll have a game or two where he scores 35 points, 14 rebounds and has a couple ridiculous dunks?? Yea, and I think any real NBA fan will definitely want to tune in to see.
Reason #5 Did Somebody Say PLAYOFFS!?!?
It’s finally that time of year where NBA games actually matter! Despite the fact that this is the 2nd year in a row that the Lakers won’t be in the playoffs, this NBA postseason is going to be fun to watch. Look at some of the matchups in the Western Conference!
#2 Houston Rockets vs. #7 Dallas Mavericks
This series has the most upset potential and the Rockets should be legitimately worried. No Patrick Beverely, Dwight Howard on a minute’s restriction, no shot creators other than James Harden, and you’re going up a great coach in Rick Carlisle who once again has fielded a competitive Dallas Mavericks team that is going to be extremely prepared. Despite the fact that these two teams have only met twice in the playoffs there is definitely a real dislike and tension between the Texas rivals. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Rockets GM Daryl Morey have competed for the past few years over free agents like Dwight Howard (who the Rockets got) and Chandler Parsons (who the Mavericks got) and continue to take small jabs at each other through the media. Add in the potential for ‘Playoff Rondo’ coming back, James Harden taking 12+ free throws a game and Rick Carlisle using the Hack-A-Dwight strategy on the Rockets, this could be a drama filled series.
#2 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. #7 Boston Celtics
See the Cavs section above if you need to know why every Cavaliers playoff game is must watch TV
#3 Los Angeles Clippers vs. #6 San Antonio Spurs
Both of these teams should rightfully feel like they have a shot to win the NBA championship and one of them is going home after round 1. The Spurs are probably the hottest team in the league and are peaking at exactly the right time. Kawhi Leonard looks like the guy who won the Finals MVP, Tony Parker is finally healthy, and Tim Duncan is still capable of throwing up 29 points-10 rebound games every once in a while. This is probably the best Clippers team of the Chris Paul-Blake Griffin era. DeAndre Jordan has emerged this year as a Defensive Player of the Year candidate and Chris Paul has had another strong MVP candidate worthy season averaging 21 points and dishing out 11 assists post-All Star break when the Clippers were without Blake Griffin for 15 games. Speaking of Blake Griffin, he has returned from a staph infection in his elbow and will hopefully have some fresh legs going into the postseason. Another quick note on the Spurs… Because they lost to the Pelicans on Tuesday the Spurs fell to the 6 seed. So if the Spurs win another championship they’ll probably have to go on the road in every round. Quick note on the Clippers. DeAndre Jordan is a free agent after this year, Chris Paul (who is widely considered the best PG of this generation) has never been to a conference final and his prickly on the court demeanor seems to rub his teammates the WRONG WAY. Who knows if the nucleus of CP3, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan can stay together?
So tomorrow afternoon the playoffs are going to officially kick off. Hopefully you have enough reasons now to lock yourself in a room for a month or so and watch it all unfold.