Did you enjoy the NBA regular season? It was about six months long. We’ve got the NBA playoffs coming up. They take about two months. So if the thing you liked about the NBA regular season was that it took awhile, you’re gonna love the dog days of the first and second rounds, when teams like the Hawks and Rockets force a Game 5 and extend this extra season even further and make you wonder why you stayed up late to watch.
Only the NBA’s best and the Bucks are still standing. Now what? What can we expect from each of the 16 teams engaging in this second season? Will they boom? Will they bust? As we all know, even in the NBA, either is a possibility.
Let’s go through the best and worst case scenarios for each team. We’ll start in the Eastern Conference, which is otherwise known as “the Miami Heat and seven other teams that are legally bound to compete with each other until they lose enough games.” (Check out the Western Conference here.)
8. Milwaukee Bucks
Best case: Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis team up for an offensive explosion, Larry Sanders continues to overachieve by shutting down Chris Bosh and the driving lanes of Dwayne Wade. The Bucks win a game.
Worst case: The Heat sweep the Bucks, as expected, but do so in such humiliating fashion that by Game 4 there have been no plans made for a possible return trip to Miami. If the team somehow wins one by freak accident, the Bucks must scramble to get everyone aboard commercial flights. No one gets a window seat.
7. Boston Celtics
Best case: Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett put on their warrior helmets and play out of their minds, pushing their team over the top in seven games against a Carmelo Anthony-led squad unfamiliar with the concept of being favored in a playoff series. The Celtics make it to the second round before being ousted by the Pacers, a worthy accomplishment considering they lack Rajon Rondo and various other bodies that would have made returning to the East Finals a lot easier.
Worst case: Melo continues his hot streak and single-handedly blows out Boston in every game, leading the Knicks to a sweep. After Game 4, Melo stands outside the Celtics team bus, eating Honey Nut Cheerios.
6. Atlanta Hawks
Best case: Josh Smith makes a last-ditch effort to prove he’s worth max money, teaming up with Al Horford to dominate the physical Pacers front line. The Hawks beat the Pacers in seven games before doing what they love to do: Lose in the 2nd round.
Worst case: Josh Smith decides the best way to prove he’s worth max money is to hit long-range two-pointers. Kyle Korver oversleeps and misses the team’s home games, robbing them of their three-point bailout. Pacers sweep.
5. Chicago Bulls
Best case: The Bulls’ stout defense proves too much for the Nets, propelling them into a second round matchup with Miami. Derrick Rose is inspired by his team’s performance to return to the court and, knocking off all the rust by the 2nd quarter of Game 1, elevates the Bulls back into the conversation as one of the league’s best teams. This momentum carries them past both the Heat and the Knicks into the Finals. They are then eaten alive by the Thunder.
Worst case: Rose attempts to return for the Bulls first round series, and, in favoring one leg, manages to tear the ACL in the other. Adidas rushes to the scene to get more footage of Rose crying for a new campaign. Disheartened, Chicago loses to Brooklyn in five games.
4. Brooklyn Nets
Best case: Deron Williams plays hero ball, overpowering the current Bulls’ guards (with insider information from ex-Bull C.J. Watson) and playing like the max-money guard Brooklyn thought they signed. Reggie Evans and Gerald Wallace beat the Bulls at their own game by crashing the boards and playing tough. Kris Humphries pays his bills on time. The Nets win the first round in six before getting gently steamrolled by the Heat in five.
Worst case: Humphries goes to prison. Joe Johnson forgets he is no longer playing in Atlanta, underachieves in the playoffs. Williams and Lopez basically go 2-on-5 all series, lose in five games. Jay-Z turns out the lights in Barclays for the season before cashing out.
3. Indiana Pacers
Best case: Lucky to get a first round bye this year by drawing the Hawks, Indiana cruises into the second round. They use this momentum to muscle past Knicks and into the conference finals. Indiana, still perhaps the worst matchup for the Heat thanks to their size and physicality, shut down Wade and Bosh and force LeBron to go it alone. Claiming a series lead, this time they capitalize by beating the Heat in six games on their home floor. They are then eaten alive by the Thunder.
Worst case: Because they didn’t have to play in the first round, Indy’s worst case is still probably getting to the second round, where the confident Knicks show no mercy by pummeling them in four straight games. Larry Bird gets emotional.
2. New York Knicks
Best case: The Knicks go chalk and meet Miami in the East finals. The Knicks’ defense wakes up, keeping the Heat in check throughout the series, while the team’s bombastic three-point shooting propels them to victory in Games 3 and 4. Carmelo Anthony undergoes the kind of transformation LeBron did last year, posting a 50-point performance in Game 6 at the Garden to keep the Knicks in the series, and then carrying that confidence into Miami, where New York continues the 1990s trend of ousting a favorited Miami team. In the Finals, the Knicks beat the Thunder in six games by 0.6 points to hoist their first banner in 40 years.
Worst case: Amar’e Stoudemire comes back in the second round and wrecks the Knicks’ chemistry and defense. Carmelo pouts the whole time and blames everyone but himself for not getting the team over the hump as the Pacers win in six. The majority of New York’s roster joins the AARP and are content to retire to South Florida rather than continue playing next year. All is lost.
1. Miami Heat
Best case: NBA Championship. LeBron as Finals MVP, again. The Big 3 release a statement saying they are still gunning for not five, not six, not seven… and all re-up their contracts. LeBron’s legend grows.
Worst case: Any other scenario.
Heat over Knicks in six.
Images via Getty