In the last few years we’ve seen a few NBA teams that have captured our hearts for a few short weeks during the playoffs. You know the teams I’m talking about. No matter who you root for, this other team will grab your attention and your allegiance.
They’re the big underdogs who play way beyond what everyone thinks they’re capable of — the Golden State Warriors in 2007, the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2010 and the Memphis Grizzlies in 2011. Sorry San Antonio Spurs fans.
These teams are young and energetic. They’re pumped-up and they have amazing home crowds. Those three teams were all 8-seeds in the Western Conference Playoffs. The Grizzlies and Warriors both won their series and the Thunder gave the Lakers a hell of a run. Even though they were only first round series, they had a bunch of extra spectators, and unless you were a Mavericks, Lakers or Spurs fan, you couldn’t help but want them to win.
But they don’t. They pull out one series and then fall flat in the next. In the Warriors’ case, they didn’t even see the playoffs next year. So while this type of team brings a lot of drama and passion to the NBA, it’s a formula that doesn’t work.
New, young talent comes into the league every year, so it’s impossible to predict where that next surprise team will come from, but unless they take that young core and build on it, it’s just a flash in the pan scenario.
The Thunder are trying. They continue to get better, but unless they get a solid coach and Russell Westbrook learns what his role is supposed to be, they’re not going anywhere, no matter how many “Blue-outs” they have. What will we see from the Grizzlies next year? I’m guessing not much, maybe another 7 or 8-seed, but they remind me too much of the Warriors.
And if there is a next season, who’s next?
I think a lot of people want to say the Cleveland Cavaliers, since they got two top five draft picks. I don’t see that happening, unless those picks turn out far better than anyone expects, and they surround them with a lot of other talent. The Pacers gave the Bulls a handful of trouble this year, could they rise to the occasion? Now that the Nuggets have gotten rid of Carmelo, they seem to be a team with a lot of potential.
I guess we’ll see. You can probably make an argument lots of teams could take some momentum and shoot down a super power, but it’s all for nothing if you can’t finish. One day, I think we’ll see a team that makes a surprise run and shocks the world by winning the title, but I’m guessing they’ll have something that these other teams were missing.
What’s the secret ingredient? Well it remains to be seen.