Apr 16 2016

2016 NBA Playoffs: The 6th Annual Bandwagon Report

The playoffs are here! The Bandwagon Report is back! Let’s get it in!

This happens to be the 6th annual NBA Bandwagon Report … it could be the worst! Not that anyone would notice – I’m pretty sure there have been more NBA Bandwagon Reports on TheNU than actual comments on the NBA Bandwagon Report!

Plus, management had an off year. The NBA Lightweight Report came out in November this year, and there are many squads I had making the playoffs that are chilling right now waiting on the Lottery. In the West, I missed on the Pelicans (head coach Alvin Gentry didn’t bring any of Golden State’s defense to the Bayou) and the Suns (six straight seasons out of the playoffs, I’m done getting burned by them); the Mavericks and Trail Blazers made it in. In the East, I missed on the Bulls (They really missed Joakim Noah, not that their head coach knew what to do with him before he was hurt), the Wizards (a team that foolishly decided to sacrifice defense for pace), and the Bucks (the Greg Monroe signing torpedoed their defense) in the playoffs; the Pacers, Hornets, and Pistons made it in.



Now, this is a service, and a well reputed one. TheNU is here to lay out the options for ye casual fanne. I won’t say IDK tho, but you can’t say I ruined the playoffs. This is the NBA Bandwagon Report – no insurance:

Sign on up!

Sign on up!


#1 – Cleveland Cavaliers (4th offense, 10th defense) [12-4, 11-5, 12-4, 11-5, 10-6, +1]

Any team with SF LeBron James is going to collect their recognizable share of bandwagon fans, and this year, James went through a mid-season coaching change for the first time in his career. Head coach Tyronn Lue hasn’t proven to be an upgrade over David Blatt, but he at least has the blessing of the King. PG Kyrie Irving and PF Kevin Love have had awkward moments all season, but they enter the postseason healthy. If they stay that way, then this is a much better team than the one that took a 2-1 Finals lead last year. 

#8 – Detroit Pistons (T-14th offense, 13th defense) [8-8, 9-7, 8-8, 8-8, 10-6, +1]

Detroit vs. Everybody! It’s about damn time the Pistons made it back to the playoffs, as their six-year drought tied the longest in franchise history and was the longest current drought in the Eastern Conference. The Pistons also won 44 games, the most by an Eastern Conference 8th seed since the 1996-1997 Washington Bullets. Detroit also went 3-1 this regular season against the Cavaliers, holding LeBron James to 42% FGs in three games. The trade for SF Tobias Harris helped Detroit roll, All-Star C Andre Drummond led the team in rebounding, while PG Reggie Jackson led the team in scoring. If there’s a major concern, it’s the lack of bench scoring. Only rookie SF Stanley Johnson averaged more than 8.0 points per game this season, and StanMan made only 38% from the field.

#4 – Atlanta Hawks (18th offense, 2nd defense) [10-6, 8-8, 7-9, 7-9, 12-4, +0]

The Hawks offense fell off in a big way this season, but they made up for it with the Eastern Conference’s best defense. I can’t go away from them as my pick to come out of the East, even with how they broke all the way down in the East Finals against LeBron’s Cavs last year. PF Paul Millsap was one of four players with 100+ steals and blocks each this season, and he had more steals and blocks than Golden State PF Draymond Green, Philadelphia center Nerlens Noel, and Detroit center Andre Drummond. Atlanta played its best ball at the end of the season, but I can understand waiting to see if they get back to the East Finals before jumping on this bandwagon.

#5 – Boston Celtics (13th offense, T-4th defense) [9-7, 9-7, 9-7, 11-5, 9-7, +1]

Ringers constantly underrate this team to give head coach Brad Stevens more credit than necessary. The lottery picks in the rotation (Evan Turner, Kelly Olynyk, Marcus Smart) come off the bench while the most critical players were either barely drafted (All-Star PG Isaiah Thomas, PF Amir Johnson), 2nd round picks (SF Jae Crowder) or late 1st round picks (SG Avery Bradley, C Jared Sullinger). I do like Boston’s defense, which is heavily reliant on forcing turnovers. That will be an X-Factor in Round 1. But the health of Crowder (ankle) is an issue just like last year, when the Celtics showed up in the playoffs just long enough to injure Kevin Love before being swept.

#2 – Toronto Raptors (5th offense, 11th defense) [10-6, 9-7, 13-3, 12-4, 10-6, +2]

The Raptors make me happy, I must admit. The #WeTheNorth movement got going two years ago, and now they’re coming off the best regular season in franchise history, winning more than 50 games for the first time ever. But they let down each of the last two years to Paul Pierce’s teams. No excuse this year. Toronto has two All-Star guards in PG Kyle Lowry and SG DeMar DeRozan who should average 20 points per game apiece with their ability to get to the line. SF DeMarre Carroll is also back after missing most of the season with injury. This franchise has only won one playoff series, and that was way back in 2001. They’re overdue to come through.

#7 – Indiana Pacers (23rd offense, 3rd defense) [11-5, 7-9, 7-9, 9-7, 9-7, +2]

No fear future bandwagon fan – the Pacers decided not to choke down the stretch like they did last year! SF Paul George completed his comeback from a gruesome August 2014 leg injury, becoming an All-Star again after scoring a career-high 23 points per game. The Pacers tried to small-ball it for awhile, but then head coach Frank Vogel smartened up and got some bigs in the lineup: C Ian Mahinmi, PF Lavoy Allen, C Jordan Hill, and rookie PF Myles Turner all average more than 20 minutes a game. But the key for the Pacers is the ability of George and SG Monta Ellis to get steals. The Pacers are going to struggle offensively, especially if George doesn’t have the jumper going.

#3 – Miami Heat (12th offense, 7th defense) [10-6, 9-7, 8-8, 10-6, 10-6, +1]

Remember what the Heat were like before LeBron and Shaq? Well, they missed the playoffs last year, which put the team of the decade’s old bandwagon on the extinction list. But the Heat have missed the playoffs back-to-back seasons only once in the last quarter century, and never since SG Dwyane Wade was drafted in 2003. The Heat still have All-Star PF Chris Bosh, but his blood clot concerns are probably going to keep him off the floor. Instead, the Heat have leaned on the interior presence of C Hassan Whiteside, who averages a double-double with 3.7 blocks per game while making more than 60 percent from the field. Miami also added SF Joe Johnson to a lineup that already included PF Luol Deng and PG Goran Dragic. Miami is another team playing their best after the All-Star Break.

#6 –Charlotte Hornets (9th offense, 9th defense) [9-7, 8-8, 6-10, 13-3, 10-6, +2]

Prep your Crying MJ memes! That meme first got legs when the lockout Charlotte Bobcats (better known as the Bobkittens) won seven games all season. But the Bobcats made the playoffs only two years later. Of course, the Bobcats are now the Hornets, and they’re back in the playoffs after a disappointing 2014-2015 season. Charlotte didn’t have anyone show up for the All-Star Weekend festivities, but they have my Coach of the Year in Steve Clifford, who oversaw a top-ten defense (not a surprise) and a top-ten offense (HUGE surprise). The improvement of PG Kemba Walker was paramount to Charlotte’s shooting being arguably the best in franchise history, while the additions of SF Nicolas Batum and SG Courtney Lee from Western Conference playoff teams helped as well. PF Marvin Williams had his best season since leaving Atlanta four years ago, while C Cody Zeller formed an effective platoon with new backup Al Jefferson. The Hornets just need to not get swept, and they have the balance and depth to keep surprising.


#1 – Golden State Warriors (1st offense, T-4th defense) [16-0, 14-2, 14-2, 14-2, 13-3, +2]

It’s not a question of if the Warriors will win the 2016 NBA Championship. The question is if they will lose a game. Golden State now has the most wins in a regular season in NBA history, and though their defense slipped some from last year, their offense became the league’s best. PG Stephen Curry just put together the first 50-40-90 season in NBA history for a player averaging 30 points per game, and his All-Star teammates SG Klay Thompson and PF Draymond Green take pressure off of Curry in a way no other team can duplicate right now. They may drop a game or three, as the pursuit of a 73-win season left them without the luxury to rest like other teams in the West. But the Warriors proved how much better they are than every other team all year.

#8 – Houston Rockets (8th offense, T-20th defense) [6-10, 10-6, 9-7, 7-9, 7-9, +2]

Wow. The Rockets actually came through in the end, as they played just well enough to squeeze to .500 and secure the last spot in the postseason field, setting up a Western Conference Finals rematch. But Houston knows the deal with these bustas. SG James Harden became the only player in the league this season to play more than 3,000 minutes, and at least his labor produced a playoff berth. But the Rockets are going into this postseason with head coach J.B. Bickerstaff instead of the fired Kevin McHale, and C Dwight Howard averaged his fewest points per game since his rookie season. We’ll see if there’s a light to switch on for Houston, who will put a lot on Harden’s plate. Judging by Harden’s NBA-record 374 turnovers and tired defense, it’s probably asking too much.

#4 – Los Angeles Clippers (6th offense, T-4th defense) [8-8, 11-5, 13-3, 10-6, 10-6, +1]

I’ve been covering the Clippers all year, for what it’s worth. The Clippers are the only team besides the Spurs to win 50+ games each of the last four seasons, and they knocked off the 2014 defending champion Spurs in last year’s playoffs. But folks ignore the Clippers accomplishments, or hold them up just long enough to indict them for events such as their collapse against the Rockets after taking a 3-1 series lead. The Clippers’ biggest X-Factor happens to be the impact of arguably their best player, PF Blake Griffin, who missed more than 3 months with quadriceps/hand injuries (the latter of which Griffin was suspended for four games). The only teams more well-rounded than the Clippers are the Warriors and Spurs, as PG Chris Paul led the offense and C DeAndre Jordan led the defense. But the more popular bandwagon for the Clippers has always been the one waiting for them to fail, even if they have been better than every team in the NBA at least once over Doc Rivers’ three seasons with the team.

#5 – Portland Trail Blazers (7th offense, T-20th defense) [6-10, 6-10, 10-6, 11-5, 10-6, +1]

Yeah, so I didn’t have the Trail Blazers making the playoffs. I did believe the offense would still go, and the emergence of SG C.J. McCollum made PG Damian Lillard even more dangerous. Portland still doesn’t force many turnovers, which puts a lot of pressure on their halfcourt offense to not only be shooting well, but to give them extra possessions. That’s why Cs Mason Plumlee and Ed Davis and their offensive rebounding are as critical as Lillard and McCollum. The Trail Blazers don’t have the depth that many teams have, but head coach Terry Stotts has put his teams in (mostly) good positions since January, and Lillard already has a strong reputation for making teams pay if they’re allowed to hang around late.

#2 – San Antonio Spurs (3rd offense, 1st defense) [13-3, 13-3, 14-2, 14-2, 11-5, +2]

Behold, the quietest 67-win season we’ll ever see. Not only did the Spurs punctuate their 19th straight playoff berth with their best season in franchise history, but they did it by tying the best home record in league history (40-1). Of course, the team that put the “1” in 40-1 was the Warriors, so the Spurs had to settle for the 2-seed in the West. While Golden State made 1K threes, the Spurs showed that you can still be wildly successful without shooting a ridiculous amount of threes. They shot more free throws than threes this season as PF LaMarcus Aldridge allowed Tim Duncan to move to C, while the SF Kawhi Leonard further established himself as the team’s best player on both ends of the floor. San Antonio also had the league’s best defense. It would be great for the NBA to see the Spurs get back to the NBA Finals again, but they have an incredibly difficult road to get it done this time around, and San Antonio may have peaked already.

#7 – Memphis Grizzlies (T-21st offense, 19th defense) [9-7, 7-9, 12-4, 10-6, 4-12, +0]

If you can name all 28 players that played for this team this season, then you are a true Grindhouse resident. Unfortunately, no team is running on more fumes entering the playoffs. C Marc Gasol and PG Mike Conley aren’t coming back, so it’s up to PF Zach Randolph, SG Tony Allen, and a host of castoffs led by SF Matt Barnes to try and avoid getting swept.

#3 – Oklahoma City Thunder (2nd offense, 12th defense) [10-6, 12-4, 13-3, 9-7, 10-6, +1]

The Thunder are back in the playoffs after SF Kevin Durant returned from foot surgery to team back up with triple-double machine PG Russell Westbrook. New head coach Billy Donovan had the most wins by a first-year NBA head coach out of college ever, though he gets criticized for the ridiculous amounts of games the Thunder blew late. That’s what it comes down to for Oklahoma City. With Durant going into unrestricted free agency, Oklahoma City’s chances of retaining him increase with every series win. Donovan will need to balance his effective starting lineup by figuring out how to maintain a good enough defense when guys like C Enes Kanter enter the game.

#6 –Dallas Mavericks (10th offense, 16th defense) [9-7, 10-6, 7-9, 7-9, 8-8, +1]

The Mavericks were the worst team of the 1990s, but now they’ve made the playoffs 15 of the last 16 years. Head coach Rick Carlisle keeps getting a new core around PF Dirk Nowitzki every season, but he keeps getting them to the postseason. Of course, the Mavericks have been mostly crap in the playoffs since winning the 2011 NBA Championship, as they haven’t won a playoff series since. Dallas also is at far less than top health, with SF Chandler Parsons unlikely to appear in the postseason. The Mavericks aren’t going to beat themselves, as they have four players capable of playing PG (Deron Williams, Jose Juan Barea, Raymond Felton, Devin Harris). But their playoff chances come down to whether those PGs, SG Wesley Matthews, and rookie SF Justin Anderson can stay with Westbrook and Durant, while 37-year-old Nowitzki led the team in blocked shots with only 52 (his most in six years).


2 pings

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