This season, the NBA is unveiling a new concept where advancing to the playoffs does not require a winning record, as four playoff-eligible teams are either at or below the .500 mark on the season. In the association, there is a fine line between a successful and an unsuccessful season.
This season, the NBA is unveiling a new concept where advancing to the playoffs does not require a winning record, as four playoff-eligible teams are either at or below the .500 mark on the season.
In the association, there is a fine line between a successful and an unsuccessful season. If a team performs well enough to compete in the NBA’s second season, by all accounts, it is a success. But, if a team fails to realize its postseason dreams, the season is considered an absolute catastrophe. The only consolation for missing the playoffs this season is getting the chance to snag a highly touted rookie like Kevin Durant or Greg Oden in the lottery.
The Blazers are the best illustration of this point. For 21 consecutive seasons, Portland’s beloved squad earned a spot in the Western Conference playoffs, and despite off-court troubles towards the end, the team was always considered a success. This all changed once the team unloaded its talented, but mischievous players, upgrading the character and sending the team into a playoff draught which has driven fans away and given the team the title of “failures.”
In this bizarre year, Portland’s record stands at 26-38, 12 games under the Mendoza line and only three games out of the eighth spot in the West. The Blazers are keeping company with seven teams, resting only four games out of this hotly contested final playoff spot. In the Eastern Conference, the situation is very similar with four teams under .500 battling for the last two playoff spots.
The reality is any team with the exception of Memphis and Boston, who have a combined 35 wins and 95 losses, can still realistically advance to the playoffs. It does not matter if a team is over 10 or 15 games below .500 because there are many teams in the same position.
This begs the question, is this parity or just a league full of underachieving squads? Both are true in this case, because there is essentially parity amongst poor teams. For many years fans have pleaded for more competitiveness in the NBA after the Lakers’ dynasty and the Bulls’ six titles in the ’90s, and this is the first time the league has true parity. Currently, only 12 teams own a winning record, meaning the vast majority has lost more games than they have won.
In this changing NBA landscape, there are only about five teams with the right mixture of offensive potential, defensive toughness and basketball smarts to hoist the championship trophy at season’s end. Four of these teams reside out West in the Mavericks, Suns, Jazz and Spurs, with only the Pistons standing a chance in the East.
What sets this upper echelon apart from the pack is having multiple scoring options. Each team in this elite group is not forced to depend on just one player to carry the team to victory, instead there are two or three bona fide stars capable of this feat. Look at the Suns with Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion, or the Mavericks who possess offensive producers like Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard and Jason Terry. Each of these five teams enjoys the luxury of players who can put the team on his shoulders and deliver a victory.
Almost every fan would agree this is a wacky NBA season. There is parity, but it is only amongst the worst teams in the league. And, there is an elite group of five teams, which appear to be the only teams worthy of being called professional squads. It’s almost like the NBA should divide into two separate levels of competition.
Look for lots of jockeying for position for the final few playoffs spots between those seeking a berth, down the stretch. But, once the playoffs begin, the contenders will exert their dominance and one will walk away champions.