As I am writing this there are still three days left in the NBA regular season; by the time you read this the playoff seeding will be set. As it is right now, the Western Conference is a jumbled mess.
There is no telling who will be the number two through eight seeds in the West. The Lakers are the number one seed; that has been set in stone for some time. As of April 12, Portland, San Antonio and Oklahoma City will be battling it out for the sixth, seventh and eighth seeds, while Dallas, Denver, Utah and Phoenix are fighting for the two through five slots. There is no telling how these last three days will play out and what matchups will come in the playoffs.
What makes this so great is it really doesn’t matter who gets seeded where. Well, not to your average basketball fan; we win no matter what. There are so many different intriguing matchups that it would be impossible to see a potential matchup that wouldn’t be interesting.
The West is loaded with a bunch of great teams besides the Lakers; still, most people seem to think the Lakers will steamroll right through the conference and find themselves back in the championship. I have my doubts about the Lakers, but I also have a hard time seeing anyone beat them in the West.
Full disclosure here: I’m a Nets fan and I have a natural hatred in my heart for the Celtics and Lakers. So, yes, I do have some biases against said teams, but believe it or not the biases will not come into play here.
What happens to me during the course of any sports season is that I root for my team, and those teams have never changed, then if my team is out of it I start rooting for the teams or players I enjoy watching the most. Which means I will be rooting for the LeBrons and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Unless you’re an NBA junkie like me, with the NBA League Pass and two televisions set up next to each other, you probably haven’t had a chance to fall in love with the way the Thunder play basketball. Kevin Durant is quietly becoming the third best player in the league, behind Kobe and LeBron, of course, and your average fan isn’t even aware of this transformation.
The average fan will hear bits and pieces of this type of talk, but will brush it off as pure hype. For those that do I feel sorry for you; you don’t know what you’re missing. The hype is real; in fact, he needs more hype. This kid is only 21 years old and is already going to win a scoring title on a playoff team. He is averaging 30.1 points per game with 7.6 rebounds a game. He is 6-9, but handles the basketball like a point guard, has probably the nicest pure shot since Reggie Miller and has all the confidence in the world. I have watched numerous Thunder games this year and I ‘m shocked at how many times I saw Durant step up and take over a game with ease.
Durant is not the only reason to like the Thunder. They have one of the best young point guards in the league in Russell Westbrook. They are surrounded by a core of young, talented role players, who know their role and do not get in the way of the stars, unlike some other teams built around a superstar and role players who think they can be superstars too.
I will be rooting for the Thunder, but the reality of the NBA is that they are too young to win more than a round or possibly two depending on who they get matched up against, but they could very easily get bounced in the first round. Teams don’t just make the playoffs for the first time and win championships in the NBA; you need to go through a couple of tough playoff defeats before you can move on.
In the East, it’s LeBron I’m rooting for and it is pretty self explanatory. The man is a freak of nature, the things he does, the speed he moves at and the intensity he shows are all enough to leave you in awe, especially when you see him play live. You can’t even begin to imagine the difference in seeing him play live, just the energy he brings into the building is enough to get anyone excited. LeBron is clearly the most dominant player in the league; the problem is his team is terrible, I mean really terrible. He is surrounded by shooters, who continually fail to make big shots when they count and for some reason these people insist on taking the shots instead of just giving LeBron the ball and getting out of his way. Their best offense is when LeBron grabs a defensive rebound, runs up the court himself and 3.2 seconds later is dunking the ball.
The NBA is a star-powered league; there is no real reason why the championship shouldn’t be the Cavs vs. the Lakers, except for the ego of their teammates getting in the way. Artest, you are not Kobe Bryant, even when you were still good you were never Kobe level good, stop pretending you are and get out of Kobe’s way. The same goes for Mo Williams and anyone not named Antwuan Jamison on the Cavs. Watching random Lakers and Cavs games I constantly find myself wondering how these teams can possibly win playing like this; there are so many better teams than them, but there just aren’t many teams that can beat either of them in a seven-game series. Boston is too old and fragile, Atlanta will make it harder than most people think, but they are not getting four wins against LeBron. The Magic could actually beat the Cavs again, but that’s it, nobody else is posing the slightest threat.
In the West, Utah can’t win a road game, Dallas and Phoenix are too soft, San Antonio is too old, Oklahoma City and Portland are too young. In the next couple of years you will see some of these teams - Thunder, Bulls, Bucks, Trailblazers etc. - emerge as powerhouses, but that will have to wait. The moment has passed for teams like the Spurs and Celtics; the time is for Kobe and LeBron, unless Dwight Howard decides he has something to prove. Still, in the end, it will most likely come down to the fact that Kobe will be Kobe and LeBron will be LeBron when it matters and I, of course, will be rooting for the LeBrons.