October 14, 2019

Who to Root for in the NBA Playoffs

Root for who?

The NBA playoffs have already started, and on Monday night, the Golden State Warriors blew a 31-point lead making NBA fans across the land’s hearts whole. DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins probably tore his quad making it even more of a nightmare for the Warriors. They still have five former All-Stars on their roster (yes, Andre Iguadola was an All-Star in 2012), so let’s not pour one out for their title chances yet.

The Warriors have won three of the last four NBA titles, and it’s widely assumed that this will be their last playoff run with Kevin Durant in tow.

Even though it seems inevitable that the Warriors will win another title, that doesn’t mean you can’t find a team to root for. If you’re rooting for the Warriors, there needs to be some serious soul searching done on your part.

There are 12 other playoff teams that cling to a glimmer of hope that they may be able to outlast Golden State. No offense to the Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic, or Los Angeles Clippers. Despite the comeback win, the Clippers are not going to beat the Warriors in a seven-game series.

Let’s run down the viable 12 teams remaining and see if we can’t find a team for you to cheer on for the next 6 months. It’ll only feel that way because the latest possible date for the NBA Finals is June 16th.

Brooklyn Nets

The Nets are the equivalent of a trip to Whole Foods. They have a bunch of things that you haven’t really heard of, but people keep telling you that you should try them.

That’s pretty on-brand for a team representing Brooklyn, but it’s true. Caris Levert and D’Angelo Russell are actually good NBA players and not just former stand-outs in the Big Ten. Brooklyn probably won’t beat the Philadelphia Sixers if Joel Embiid is healthy, so I wouldn’t pour my heart and soul into this group of scrappy underdogs.

San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs are steady, and they have one of the more entertaining coaches in all of sports. He’s like a cross between Bill Belichick and Bill Nye because he will either not give you anything or give you the simplest answer to what are supposed to be complex issues.

The Spurs have won titles before, and they’ll have to upset an upstart Denver Nuggets team just to get out of the first round. They have All-Star caliber players and a legendary coach. It’s worth opening up your heart if you have room for this Spurs team.

Utah Jazz

Donovan Mitchell is one of the most exciting young players in the NBA, and Rudy Gobert is so passionate that he cried when he didn’t make the All-Star team.

The Jazz have some openly racist fans though, so I wouldn’t want to hitch my wagon with that group.

Denver Nuggets

As Fran Fraschilla would say, this team is a year away from being a year away. This is this group’s first time making the playoffs after being ousted on the final game of the regular season in 2018.

They came back against the Spurs on Tuesday night to even that series at one game apiece, but they don’t seem like they have the chops to make a deep playoff run. Nikola Jokic is a true NBA unicorn though and is must watch NBA basketball. His basketball IQ is unbelievably high, but he runs up and down the floor like an overweight lineman in a college intramural game.

Indiana Pacers

The Pacers may beat the Boston Celtics in the first round, but without Victor Oladipo, they have no chance of making the NBA Finals. Let alone beating a Golden State Warrior team if they even got there.

My heart wants to go all in, but I would stay as far away as most people do from Indiana.

Boston Celtics

Kyrie Irving is a magician on the basketball court, and he is must-watch TV every time he’s dribbling a basketball. What he is able to do on the court for himself and his teammates is nothing short of spectacular, but he’s not very good at motivating his teammates off of it unless it involves a cross country flight.

Because of the lack of chemistry, the Celtics are like any hot food from a convenience store. It seems like a good idea to get that hot dog when you’re at the register, and it’s going to taste unreal on your drive home, but it’s also going to bring you to your knees in pain. Don’t let the Boston Celtics fool you into thinking that you should root for them.

Philadelphia 76ers

The Sixers are almost as frustrating as the Celtics, especially given that they almost always have the best player on the floor in Joel Embiid. It’s also maddening to watch Ben Simmons play on the perimeter as his defender sits out in the parking lot daring him to shoot a three.

If the Sixers can put their egos aside and Simmons unveils a perimeter shot, this team could definitely beat the Warriors in a potential NBA Finals matchup. First, they have to get Embiid healthy and get through some combination of Toronto, Boston, and Milwaukee. That won’t be easy, but it would be smart to put your heart on the line for these guys.

Toronto Raptors

LeBron James left the Eastern Conference, so the team’s biggest roadblock is out of the way. Kawhi Leonard also has won an NBA Title before, and the team basically needs to make the NBA Finals to at least have a prayer of resigning him.

Rooting for the Raptors to win the NBA Finals is synonymous with rooting for Leonard to remain in Toronto, and that’s something I can give my seal of approval.

Portland Trail Blazers

Portland is basically the Western Conference version of the Toronto Raptors, but they get in their own way. They are already up 2-0 on Oklahoma City in the first round of the playoffs, and Charles Barkley believes that they are going to make the NBA Finals.

They lost one of their key contributors to a devastating leg injury, but Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum are oodles of fun to watch. Lillard is especially fun when he’s burying 30-foot three-pointers as a part of the half-court offense. Root for Portland because they need as many believers as they can get.

Oklahoma City Thunder

If Paul George were healthy and Russell Westbrook didn’t play basketball in spurts like a chicken with his head cut off, the Thunder would be the easiest team to root for in the NBA. They also match up well against the Warriors and probably make Kevin Durant uncomfortable with his emotions.

They’re down 2-0 to the aforementioned Blazers, and it’s more fun to watch Damian Lillard fire up Portland crowds and shoot threes from Eugene. If Russell Westbrook had a few different gears, this would be a different conversation.

Houston Rockets

An intact Chris Paul hamstring and maybe only 16 missed three-pointers instead of 27 straight and the Warriors would have lost last year in the Western Conference Finals. Instead, CP3 got hurt, and the Rockets couldn’t throw a penny in the ocean in Game 7, and the Warriors won another title.

This year’s Rockets team has a few different faces, but CP3 and James Harden remain at the core. Harden had this 30-point game streak that you may have heard about, yet he is going to finish second in the MVP voting for the fourth time. If things bounce the Rockets’ way this time, they could be the ones upsetting the Warriors in the second round, and if you believe in miracles like the Warriors losing a seven-game series, believe in the Rockets.

Milwaukee Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo is an athletic marvel. He does things that I never imagined possible and should be cherished everyday.

If anyone deserves to beat the Warriors in an NBA Finals, it’s Giannis. I shouldn’t have wasted your time. Root for the Milwaukee Bucks because there’s no one else who deserves your attention more than Giannis.

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David Graf 17 Articles
Staff Writer

David is an Arkansas native and made stops in California and Texas. He recently graduated from the University of Wyoming and is actively searching for that first post-graduation job. He believes that the Justin Verlander, Deshaun Watson, and James Harden trades are the heists of the 21st Century. You may state your case if you disagree with him on Twitter @mrdavidgraf.

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