Not every basketball fan is going to root for the Warriors or the Rockets, so what are some other options?
In the latest episode of the Open Floor podcast, Andrew Sharp and Ben Golliver explore the best franchises to root for if you are in need of a new NBA team.
Check out the full episode here and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. (The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity).
Ben Golliver: I think the purest form of everything that is encompassed in being a NBA fan in the modern era right now is the Bucks. This probably doesn’t surprise you because I talk about them all of the time but they have a superstar that has inspired worldwide acclaim, they are all about highlights—you can catch up with them even if you are living 1,000 miles away. They got this heart warming recovering story of Jabari Parker. They had the thrill of firing Jason Kidd, the great bump right afterwards, and you also got the pain doses of reality after Joe Prunty proves not be the next Gregg Popovich.
You also have this hanging over the whole franchise, the foreboding future of Giannis. Can this stranded star get his teammates aligned around him well enough to keep him or are they going to lose him?
The single franchise that kind of distills everything about being a modern fan in the NBA right now is the Bucks. You’re not quite a bandwagon fan if you are hopping on the Bucks at this point compared to like the Warriors or the Rockets, so that would be the number one recommendation that I have. My big question with that is that you are probably too late hopping on the Bucks bandwagon right now because the last couple of years have been a pretty wild ride. And second, Giannis could definitely leave and then you are completely stuck. so it goes back to the philosophy for me, should we be recommending teams or franchises that fans pick based on the fact they are stuck in certain markets, or certain ownership groups, stuck with lame front office guys or should we just be recommending young stars that they should root for?
Andrew Sharp: This is a tricky one because we have a lot of ties to the Bucks community. You and I have been champions of Giannis Inc. for the better part over the last two years—we clearly want the best for that team. But I would not recommend anyone else around the world jumping on the Bucks bandwagon at this moment in time. You talk about them distilling what it means to be a modern basketball fan, I think part of that is the dread of Giannis’s looming free agency and that’s not a good thing. I wouldn’t tell anyone unaffiliated to buy in to that. I feel like the Bucks are a year out from just having that perpetual panic about what Giannis is going to do and how they can build around him.
BG: Isn’t that part of being a fan though? Don’t you kind of love the Wizards because deep down inside you hate the Wizards? Isn’t the pain part of the process? Isn’t that what we are trying to recommend to people.
AS: It’s funny you should say that because I thought about recommending the Wizards. Bradly Beal is pretty young. John Wall is in his prime and theoretically good. I am starting to talk myself back into Wall and we will get there at some point. But I can’t in good conscious recommend that someone else invest their emotional equity in this team. It’s not a good team and not a good idea—and the same is true for the Bucks for a lot of the same reasons. There have been so many of mistakes made over the last few years that there is a ceiling on how good they can be over the next few years. While I wish the best to every Bucks fan I know and certainly to Giannis, I am out on the Bucks the next few years. Maybe a new coach comes in and shakes things up. I don’t know why Giannis is not playing center 75 percent of the time, that is a simple fix that could work with a new coach but for now I will be more cautious as far as Milwaukee is concerned
BG: I still think they have some upside potential. Just because of Giannis’s age and the fact they can play so much faster. They can really stylistically overhaul if they got a new coach—that would make them more exciting and probably better and like you said they could turn to small ball more often which is always fun. But now that you torn apart my idea what are your suggestions for people?
AS: The Heat has always been a team that I admire from afar. They play really hard. They have like eight guys that are fun to root for. They are in South Florida so it’s not unreasonable to dream about them signing a superstar free agent a year or two down the line. It’s a little tricky though right now because that Waiters’ deal makes no sense. There is just not enough upside to where I would recommend in 2018 to buy in to Miami as it stands, but I more jealous of Heat fans than any other team in the league.
BG: I think if you are going to go that route, you might as well should go with the Spurs. The steadiness, the organizational structures, you don’t have the flash of South Beach but you have a longer track record of excellence. They are not a super sexy team right now, they might not even make the playoffs, so now is the time to get into the Spurs culture. They are now looking for members. They are not the Scientology people on the street corners trying to recruit people quite yet but the doors are open for Spurs nation.
AS: The Spurs are headed in the wrong direction. The Heat already had that dip and are sort of coming back to life as we speak. The Spurs are going to have a couple dark years in the near future, I would expect and second of all while I see your point about culture and infrastructure and teams playing hard but rooting for the Heat is so much cooler than rooting for the Spurs.
BG: Let’s do a quick fact check because you said the Spurs are headed in the wrong direction and the Heat are rising. Just so we are clear. San Antonio still has a better record than Miami while playing in a tougher conference so it’s all-relative. The Spurs off year is still better than your favorite teams best year so keep it real.
AS: (laughs) True I admit you have that.