NBA playoffs: Who to root for if you don't follow basketball
Hey! It’s the NBA playoffs! And just like what we did with the NHL, we are previewing every single team in the postseason and why you should root for them. Read on, find the team that fits your niche, and let the bandwagoning begin!
Ifyou’re a fan of getting in early, root for the New Orleans Pelicans
Let’s be clear, the Pelicans are not going to beat the Warriors in a seven game series. They’re tremendously overmatched, and staring down one of the best home court advantages we’ve ever seen in the sport of basketball. This Warriors team is so deep that they can straight-up benchDavid Lee, a guy who would be the third big on the Clippers.
But still, they might win a game or two when this series shifts back to New Orleans, because the Pelicans have Anthony Davis, aka the undisputed future of the NBA, who is more fun to watch than anyone who’s been drafted since 2010. This is Davis’ first playoffs, and first step in a long journey to Duncan-esque glory.
Get in now, because it’s going to be fun to root for this team through the next 15 years. Just don’t expect to win a title this year.
If you’re a fan of false reassurance, root for the Atlanta Hawks
Next to the aforementioned Golden State Warriors, the Hawks had probably the best regular season in the NBA. Anchored by the dynamic frontcourt pairing of Paul Millsap and Al Horford and career years from Kyle Korver and Jeff Teague, they are a top team in every conceivable NBA statistic.
Here’s the thing though. Nobody on their team is named LeBron James, so everyone is picking them to lose in the conference finals against the Cavaliers.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, the Hawks still need to get by the Nets (HA!) to sniff that endgame, but it certainly seems to be where we are headed. Hawks fans can delude themselves with Horford’s potency and their varied, exotic offensive schemes, but there is nobody in Atlanta truly confident about those inevitable final four minutes with the best player in the world on the other side of the floor.
Maybe they can pull it out on some 2004 Pistons/2011 Mavericks business, but winning big without big star power is always a dicey proposition. Just ask the 2012 Nuggets.
Ifyou’re a fan of gigantic limbs, root for the Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks don’t have much of a shot against Chicago, but that’s O.K. because they’re still very interesting. Between Giannis Antetokoumpo, Khris Middleton, Michael Carter-Williams and the presently injured Jabari Parker, the Bucks sport a roster full of young guys with huge wingspans.
Guess what? The path to a great, organically built basketball team usually starts with young guys with huge wingspans. They’re super likable, profoundly overmatched and very, very fun to root for.
If you’re a fan of infrastructure, root for the San Antonio Spurs
After the Spurs dropped the first game in the series amid abysmal three-point shooting and terrible trips to the free-throw line, people are already wavering on San Antonio. I’m a Clippers fan, I should be gloating right now, but I’m still terrified.
I’ve seen it too many times before. I know they don’t look like they should be good at basketball. Tony Parker is tiny, Tim Duncan is ancient and Manu Ginobili has died at least three times since the beginning of the decade, but they always, always come up big because they simply know what they’re doing.
They are the only team that’s beaten both peak-Kevin Durant and peak-LeBron James in the same post-season. Sure I’m secretly hoping that this is the year that time catches up and I get to watch the empire fall, but I know better than that.
If you’re a fan of mind-boggling turnaround success, root for the Boston Celtics
Two years ago Boston traded away its two best players, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, officially moving on from a great, if overrated, run with the big three.
The team that received those two players is the Brooklyn Nets. This year the Celtics are somehow seeded higher than the Nets in the playoffs, despite also trading away Rondo in the middle of the season.
This is insane. The Celtics are not good, but they are way better than they have any right to be. Their best player is Isaiah Thomas. I’m taller than Isaiah Thomas by about five inches. Sure they’re going to get destroyed by Cleveland, but if you like heart and middling players somehow piecing together a decent season, you’ll love the 2015 Boston Celtics.
If you’re a fan of old guys coming through, root for the Washington Wizards
If you’re a fan of sanctimonious garbage, root for the Cleveland Cavaliers
HE’S DOING IT FOR CLEVELAND GUYS! HE’S COMING BACK HOME TO BRING BACK A CHAMPIONSHIP! ISN’T LEBRON THE MOST SELFLESS PLAYER EVER? WHY CAN’T ALL SUPERSTARS BE LIKE THIS.
Sod it. You’re telling me that LeBron leaving an over-the-hill Dwyane Wade, a terrible bench and a second-and-a-half banana Chris Bosh to go to Cleveland, a team loaded with a young star in Kyrie Irving and a trade in the chamber for Kevin Love (then a top-5 player in the league,) is supposed to be selfless? Sure that’s what he made it out to be, but we’re still talking about a guy who left a subpar situation to put himself in a place to win.
That’s exactly what he did when he went to Miami in the first place. The 2015 Cavaliers are the most fraudulent feel-good story of all time and you should only root for them if you’re a chump.
If you’re a fan of watching this beautiful game grow, root for the Toronto Raptors
Yeah they’re not very good, and they might blow this series against the Wizards, but every time I see a bunch of Canadians blow the lid off the Air Cananda Center I can’t help but feel warm inside. Basketball is a beautiful game! These people love it! It’s growing right in front of our eyes!
Sure Kyle Lowry hasn’t looked the same since December, but at least we’ve got Drake!
If you’re a fan of schadenfreude, root for the Dallas Mavericks
Halfway through this season the Dallas Mavericks were a nice team with a crazy efficient offense. Dirk was slowing down, but was still Dirk, and guys like Monta Ellis and Chandler Parsons packed a punch on the wings.
But they needed a point guard, and Mark Cuban got a little bit too greedy. The Mavericks traded for Rajon Rondo and sacrificed their bench.
Rondo hadn’t been good for three years, and preceded to post an 8/5/8 and an unconscionable 39 percent at the free throw line. Rajon Rondo is killing the Mavericks and it’s all their fault. They made a bad trade for a washed-up player and now they’re going to lose in the playoffs. Soak up the schadenfreude while you can.
Ifyou’re a fan of stone-cold depression, root for the Brooklyn Nets
I covered most of this in the Boston Celtics blurb, but just to reiterate, this team is easily the most sad basketball-related thing in the universe. They suck, and they owe MULTIPLE FIRST ROUND PICKS to other franchises until 2018. Sigh. The NBA is once again dead in New York City.
Ifyou’re a fan of closing windows and the agony of competition, root for the Chicago Bulls
A few years ago it seemed like the Bulls would be playing in the Eastern conference finals for years. They had an astounding group of defenders between Luol Deng, Taj Gibson, and Joakim Noah, and were built around a budding young superstar named Derrick Rose who had just won MVP.
A few years later Rose’s career as a whole has been cast into question after repeated knee injuries, and the Bulls haven’t sniffed the Conference Finals since.
This year is probably their best shot since 2012, when Derrick first tore his ACL. The Bulls are the healthiest they’ve been in a postseason, and all the pieces are in place to make Atlanta and Cleveland earn it. Sure Derrick Rose is still going 4-14 on a routine basis, but it might be enough before the wheels officially fall off.
Ifyou’re a fan of solitairy heroics, root for the Houston Rockets
The only good player on the Rockets is James Harden.
O.K., that’s not actually true, but between Dwight Howard’s repeated disappearances and Trevor Ariza’s lack of Chandler Parsons-ness, everything runs through the beard. He’s responded, posting MVP numbers and owning the league, but it is kind of scary to know that if you took Harden off this team the Rockets might have barely cracked .500.
That’s O.K. though. You know what’s fun? Watching a player run into a wall over and over again to lift the rest of his teammates up. Harden has the highest work-rate in all of basketball, and he’s also very, very good. That makes his team entertaining almost in spite of itself.
Ifyou’re a fan of intensely likable basketball situations, root for the Golden State Warriors
Steph Curry is a universally adored superstar and also the de facto MVP. He plays for the Warriors, a franchise that’s long been on the mend despite continued fanaticism from some of the best fans in the world. They haven’t stopped cheering, and the Warriors became the best team in the world by a considerable margin, sporting a crazy deep roster and blindingly proficient two-way basketball.
Combine all of that with a sublime court design, and you’ve got the easiest bandwagon opportunity of your life. They’re far and away more likable than anyone else.
Ifyou’re a fan of profoundly frustrating basketball situations, root for the Portland Trail Blazers
Remember how last year the Arizona Cardinals looked poised for a Super Bowl run, but then Carson Palmer got hurt so they had to start a clown car of terrible QBs in a slow downwards slump towards mediocrity? That’s basically what’s happening with the Trail Blazers.
They were among the most exciting teams in the league and a flashy Finals pick before Wesley Matthews went down, which proceeded to torpedo their entire season. As it turns out you can’t lose your best defender and still play consistent, winning basketball.
Sports are so unfair. Pour one out for Portland guys.
Ifyou’re a fan of the villains, root for the Los Angeles Clippers
I don’t know what happened during this past year, but the Clippers somehow became the bad guys. I’m sure it had nothing to do with Blake’s constant exasperated gazes, Chris Paul’s chirpiness, Doc Rivers refusing to ever agree with a call, the residual stink of a racist owner or the thousands of newly minted bandwagoners who jumped over at the dawn of the Lob City era (guilty,) but the Clippers are now the most hated basketball team on planet earth.
Unfortunately, they’re also still very, very good, and totally have a shot at making the Finals. If you like being hated, now’s the time to make the jump.
Ifyou’re a fan of Brock Lesnar, root for the Memphis Grizzlies
They can’t outscore you. They can’t outrun you. They can’t really outplay you. But they can absolutely out-grind you. The Memphis crew of Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, Mike Conley and Tony Allen essentially try to win basketball games by suplexing you over and over and over again. It’s pretty violent. They play like if Brock Lesnar was on a basketball team.
Let’s hope for another Clippers/Grizzlies series.