Four years in a row now I’ve been subjected to finding another team to root for in the playoffs. It’s something I’d rather not do. Indeed, if the Denver Nuggets could make the playoffs (and maybe even get past the first round) I would be much more enthralled by the basketball postseason. With the Nuggets falling just short of that goal once again, I find myself looking out across the post season landscape trying to figure out who can garner my interest and perhaps even a smidgen of my fandom as I live vicariously through another city’s franchise. I’ve taken the time to let the first couple games shake out to get a feel for each team, and now that I have the answer seems immenently clear as to who to root for. Let’s get to it
Group 1: Yeah...nah
This is the group of teams I’m just not rooting for, no way, no how. What does make it interesting though is for the most part they all have different reasons for being rejected by my fandom. The Warriors and Cavs are easy enough to explain...BOOOOOORRRRRRIIIIIINNNNGGG. Look I’m all for greatness, but at some point there’s only so much super team vs super team, year after year, you can take, and I’m at my limit. Plus, maybe someone, ANYONE, can stop LeBron from going to the finals for just this one time. Not that I don’t enjoy watching him play, because I do, but variety is the spice of life and mine feels severely under-seasoned by the odds on favorites for a finals match up. The Spurs likewise are a boring prospect, both because of their consistent greatness but also in their style of play. Again, nothing against them, great team, but I just don’t get excited about it. The Rockets I just can’t root for. I loathe James Harden’s style of play, I loathe the way he manipulates the game of basketball and I get enough of it here locally from Danilo Gallinari that I don’t need to jump on another “watch me flail around from behind the three point line” bandwagon. As for the Blazers....do you really have to ask?
Group 2: I’m just not that into you
We also could have titled this group the snooze fest and also could have slotted the Spurs in here. Three of these teams its a matter of “why bother?” The Pacers, Bulls and Clippers are going nowhere, oh sure they may make it past the first round in some cases but that’s where it ends. They also are lacking in the category of “guys who I want to root for.” There’s plenty of stars in this bunch, but for one reason or another all of them just aren’t that appealing to watch to me. I’ve seen that tired Clippers story that ends up in a 2nd round exit too many times. Dwyane Wade is amazing in the playoffs but he’s still an aging star who left the days of leading a team to the promise land behind him long ago. Paul George is the latest star to basically say Denver isn’t good enough for him. I want to be excited about the Raptors, but if they escape the first round they are going to get pummeled by the Cavs in the second. As for Atlanta and Memphis, is there a more “meh” team in all of the playoffs than these two? There’s just nothing exciting to root for with these teams.
Group 3: I want to root for you...but I just can’t
The Celtics would normally be in the “yeah...nah” category because, outside of Boston, who really wants to see another Celtics banner? However, Isaiah Thomas’ story is heart breaking and I can empathize with his loss so that part of me wants to pull for him, if not the Celtics as a whole. Still, I just can’t bring myself to do it. Part of it is all the success the Celtics have already had over the years, and part of it is Boston fans are hands down the most obnoxious around and I really don’t want to give them another reason to gloat. The Jazz could go into the “I’m just not that into you” category because they too don’t play the most exciting brand of basketball, but I like their collection of talent. I like that they are a small market team that’s been built internally and Rudy Gobert is an absolute monster. Unfortunately, Gobert may not play another minute and I hail from the 90s Nuggets days so therefore the Jazz will not be getting my support. The Thunder are extremely entertaining to watch because of Russell Westbrook and I’m on board with the “our superstar left us but we don’t care because we have a basketball cyborg” mentality. Unfortunately that basketball cyborg ended the Nuggets season in the most heart breaking of fashions and therefore they get no cheers from me.
Group 4: If there was any chance of you going the distance, I’d be all in
My die hard Bulls fan grandmother is probably rolling over in her grave right now. I can’t help it though, outside of the Nuggets Giannis Antetokounmpo is hands down my favorite player in the league. His length and athleticism make him must see TV every time the Bucks are on and my eyeballs are glued to the screen. He’s been very good early in the series, though it’s painfully obvious the Bucks hopes live and die with him and only him. Stealing game one in Toronto also went a long way in catching my interest because it sets up for this first round series to go the distance and end in an epic game 7. The Bucks just have this feeling about them that they are this year’s team to come out and pull off an upset (and yes I realize the Bulls are up 2-0 but beating the Celtics is their absolute ceiling) in the first round which spring boards them into being a perennial conference finals, possibly NBA finals, contender for years to come. There’s a very 2013 Warriors feel to the whole thing. Of course the problem is we all know if the Bucks do pull off the upset then they will get Cleveland in the second round. Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally psyched about a Giannis/LeBron James duel but I’m also a realist. The chances of Milwaukee getting through Cleveland are almost none and if I’m going to donate my time to a surrogate playoff team, I’d like to think they have a sneaky chance of getting into the finals. Which brings us to...
Group 5: Let’s do this!
The Washington Wizards will be the team I’m rooting for in the 2017 playoffs. First, Washington has one of the most exciting players to watch in John Wall, aka king of the zero to sixty in about 0.5 seconds move, and he’s been tremendous in their first two games. The Wizards also have other exciting talents like Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr (who is at the very top of my Nuggets free agency wish list) to keep things entertaining when Wall isn’t on...though that hasn’t been an issue yet. To top it all off the have Jason Smith, a guy I was watching at Moby Arena when he was still donning the green and gold at CSU. Beyond the talent though the Wizards strike me as the team with the most realistic shot at a “Cinderella story” type of run. The Bulls look like they could clear the Celtics out of Washington’s way which leaves them with a fairly easy path to the conference finals. I’ve long stood that Washington has the best group of talent in the east to match up with Cleveland and I think a conference finals between those two teams would be incredibly entertaining. I’ve always been a fan of the underdog as well and the Wizards have a legitimate shot to pull off the upset and make it to the Finals. Hell, depending what happens in the West they could possibly even win the whole thing. Would it be shocking? Of course, but stranger things have happened (think ‘04 Detroit Pistons or ‘11 Dallas Mavericks). So, given the exciting talent on the floor, the chance for a deep playoff run and the CSU connection, the Wizards are the easy choice for my surrogate playoff team, who’s yours?
Who are you rooting for in the playoffs
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