A Farewell to Those Eliminated
Though there remains two more first round series in the NBA Playoffs, we have already seen six teams pack their bags and head for home. This article is a look back at those teams’ regular seasons, as well as their prospects for the future. Why don’t we go in order of elimination?
Portland Trail Blazers
Just when you thought they were joining the top clubs...Honestly I think they just happened to run into Anthony Davis, a guy who happens to be the most valuable player in the league since he was drafted. Damian Lillard continues to dominate, CJ McCollum continues to play spectacularly off the ball, and...well, that’s kinda it. Jusuf Nurkic is a nice versatile big, but does he really play defense? This roster is seriously lacking in the talent department, and unless they find a way to fix that they’ll always just be the Dame show.
The Heat put up a decent battle against the young Philadelphia 76ers, but in the end they were made quick work of (though they may be happy to be back in South Florida instead of Philly). Erik Spoelstra and his squad did a nice job building off a solid comeback year last season and secured a respectable 44-38 record, all while managing a lot of young(er) guys in different roles. Josh Richardson started opposite Goran Dragic, Justise Winslow turned himself into a three and D player, and Bam Adebayo provided steady minutes at a position that may have been a little more tumultuous than the Heat would have hoped, what with Hassan Whiteside having a troubling season and all. With such a talented coach and plenty of youngins on the rise, the Heat have put themselves in a position to be hovering around the four/five seed range for the next few years in the East.
San Antonio Spurs
Oof. This team is in a really bad spot, and it’s all because of Kawhi Leonard. Clearly one of the two camps doesn’t want to be together, and it’s possible Leonard might be traded at some point next season before he can bolt in free agency. Without him (and without the eventual retirees Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker), we might even see the Spurs’ 21 season playoff streak come to a close.
Want another team that’s not in a favorable light? Look no further than Minnesota. Sure, they warmed the hearts of their fans by making the playoffs for the first time in the last 13 seasons, but their salary cap is stretched so thin they may not even be able to pay 12 guys next year. Their big three will stay together, but without a bench they won’t go very far.
Before Game 6, Scott Brooks said the Wizards could not just be the John Wall and Bradley Beal show. Ironically, that’s exactly what they were as they went on to lose and walked into another disappointing season. The Wizards have been notorious over the past couple of seasons for playing below their potential, especially against bad teams. This year, they had an 8-8 division record despite playing in the NBA’s worst division, the Southeast. They’ve always needed a playmaking wing, and they thought they could solve that by developing Otto Porter, but...they need a few more pieces and a change in intensity to be taken seriously.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Oh Russell. If only you would just drive the lane and stop shooting jump shots...There was obviously a huge question mark hanging over this team at the start of the season, and it’s safe to say they underperformed. Their respective big three did a terrible job meshing together, and you can bet your bottom Paul George is going to catch the first flight outta there. Melo will (maybe) get a chance to slot back into his normal role next season, but unless this team develops some chemistry and discipline I don’t see them rising.