The NBA’s regular season came to a close last night, and featured a wildly entertaining match-up between the Denver Nuggets and Minnesota Timberwolves that amounted to essentially a play-in game. That is, the winner moved on to the playoffs, and the other team went home.
In overtime, Minnesota prevailed, 112-106.
And so, Saturday begins the league’s nine-month long post-season.
But, as Billy Shakes once inquired while pitting the Capulets against the Montagues,“For whom to root?”
After all, not every city (or state) has a professional basketball team in its backyard. For some–like me–it’s either pick a team now to follow through the playoffs or turn your attention to either the Lord Stanley’s Cup playoffs or go all-in on the young baseball season.
And when your NHL team failed spectacularly this season and missed the playoffs (thanks, Blues) and your MLB team can’t win a game when the other team scores (thanks, Royals), it’s best to pick an NBA team.
Here’s the rub: how do you do that?
Well, have no fear. After some time pondering that ultimate question, I’ve come up with seven other questions to help the fan in my shoes–with no basketball team and no other professional league to fall back on just yet–pick his or her 2018 NBA Playoff Team.
The rules are simple: If we can answer “yes” to any of these questions, that team is out. In the end, only one team remains. And that is the team I’ll be cheering on until November.*
*The NBA Finals actually start on May 31st, which, while not November, is still insane.
The Teams: Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, Cleveland Cavaliers, Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat, Washington Wizards, Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors, Utah Jazz, Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Minnesota Timberwolves*
*Please note that this is more than half of the damn league.
Question 1: Has the Team Won a Championship in the Past Three Seasons?
Come on–while we’re definitely hopping on a bandwagon at this point in the season, let’s not be total dweebs and start rooting for one of the two best teams in the league. We’re better than that.
Having lived in Kansas City for most of my life, I know what it’s like to root for teams as they struggle.* And I know what it feels like when the team you’ve been following through all the bad times finally comes through in the end. Or, at least, gets that shot. I imagine that great feeling is much better than suddenly rooting for a juggernaut. Let’s keep it in focus here, people.
*Okay, so not really. I mainly rooted for the St. Louis Cardinals over the Royals until I realized I’m (probably) never moving to St. Louis. And as for college teams, I root for Mizzou. So, yeah, it’s been tough.
Teams Eliminated: Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers
Teams Remaining: Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat, Washington Wizards, Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz, Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Minnesota Timberwolves
Question 2: Will the Team Be Playing Without Its Best Player?
We’ve got to have some hope! Besides, I would feel dirty rooting for the Celtics, anyway. As for the Spurs, it hurts losing them, but with the way Kawhi Leonard‘s been acting all year long, it’s not unwarranted to cross them off.
Teams Eliminated: Boston Celtics, San Antonio Spurs
Teams Remaining: Toronto Raptors, Philadelphia 76ers, Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat, Washington Wizards, Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz, Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Oklahoma City Thunder, Minnesota Timberwolves
Question 3: Does the Team Have a Big 3?
This question is kind of a middle ground of the first two: we’re cutting out some superior squads (or squads that should be superior) to make way for other squads that have stars, but not too many stars. There is such a thing as having too many stars. Can you imagine rooting for the Big 3-Era Miami Heat? Gross.
So, we’re cutting the Oklahoma City Thunder (Westbrook, George and Carmelo) and the Houston Rockets (Harden, Paul and Capela or D’Antoni’s Moustache, take your pick).
Teams Eliminated: Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder
Teams Remaining: Toronto Raptors, Philadelphia 76ers, Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat, Washington Wizards, Utah Jazz, Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Minnesota Timberwolves
Question 4: Does the Team Employ Lance Stephenson?
Teams Eliminated: Indiana Pacers
Teams Remaining: Toronto Raptors, Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat, Washington Wizards, Utah Jazz, Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Minnesota Timberwolves
Question 5: Is The Team Canadian?
Teams Eliminated: Toronto Raptors
Teams Remaining: Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat, Washington Wizards, Utah Jazz, Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Minnesota Timberwolves
Question 6: Does the Team’s Most Well-Known Player, for Whatever Reason, Have a Stupid Nickname?
This question’s a killer. We eliminate four teams here.
First, the Miami Heat. He may not be the team’s best player, but Dwayne Wade is definitely their most well-known player. And his nickname is “D-Wade,” which, if you’ll look really hard, you can tell that this is the first letter of his first name combined with his entire last name. Someone with an MFA came up with this, methinks.
Second, the Milwaukee Bucks. Giannis Antetokounmpo is from Greece and is an incredibly gifted athlete. Naturally, he’s called “The Greek Freak.” This is akin to when my football coach called me “Doctor.” Hell, even Shaq has a better Greece-influenced nickname.
Third, the Portland Trail Blazers. Damian Lillard, who is so much fun to watch, goes by “Dame,” which is short for “Damian.” Any nickname that is just an abbreviation of your first name is a lazy effort. Portland can do better.
Fourth, the New Orleans Pelicans, for a most disgusting reason: Anthony Davis, a true baller, has a unibrow. It’s really gross to see. Naturally, he is called “The Brow.” Naturally, I almost throw up in my mouth thinking about his two eyebrows crossing over his nose and connecting to create something abnormal.
Teams Eliminated: Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans
Teams Remaining: Philadelphia 76ers, Washington Wizards, Utah Jazz, Minnesota Timberwolves
Question 7: Did One of the Team’s Regular Starters Play College Basketball for a Program That is Involved in a Federal Indictment Filed Earlier This Week Against a Shoe Company’s Executive?
Enjoy your wins and post-season accolades before they’re vacated, Jayhawkers!
Teams Eliminated: Philadelphia 76ers, Washington Wizards, Minnesota Timberwolves
Teams Remaining: Utah Jazz
Winner: Utah Jazz
We are rooting for the Utah Jazz this NBA playoff season! Go Jazz! While I can name multiple Jazz players off the top of my head if I absolutely needed to, I am so happy this is the outcome mainly for one reason, and that reason is this man:
Salt City Hoops