Lack of superstars and depth may ultimately lead to struggles for some teams in NBA playoffs
The NBA playoffs have begun, and fans all over the world are glued to their TVs to watch an extremely interesting first round of action. The Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers have, as expected, torn apart their opponents as they both have faced little opposition in vanquishing their competitors. However, there are a few series that have taken unexpected turns, such as that between the first seed Boston Celtics and the eighth seed Chicago Bulls, in which Chicago currently holds a two-to-one lead.
The sixth seed Milwaukee Bucks are currently tied with the third seed Toronto Raptors at two games apiece. Point guards Russell Westbrook and James Harden, and their respective Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets teams, are battling as the Rockets hold a three-to-one series lead. The fourth seed Los Angeles Clippers, who recently lost star forward Blake Griffin to a long term injury, are off to an early two-to-one lead against the Utah Jazz. The Washington Wizards have gotten off to an early two-to-one lead versus the Atlanta Hawks. Lastly, the second seed San Antonio Spurs and seventh seed Memphis Grizzlies are tied at two games apiece.
There are many important things to learn so far from this year’s playoffs, like that a team’s seed doesn’t matter. Boston has shown this, earning the top spot in the Eastern Conference during the regular season, but losing their first two games of this round at home to a mediocre Chicago Bulls group. The Celtics have many skilled players, but only one superstar in guard Isaiah Thomas, who excels in scoring. However, the Bulls, who did struggle quite a bit in the regular season, now have a star-studded group with guard Rajon Rondo, forward Jimmy Butler and guard Dwyane Wade to go along with a very talented frontcourt.
In this series, the Celtics’ only consistent scorer has been Thomas. In a one-game matchup, this would not be a problem, as Boston could use a variety of players as options before the Bulls can adjust. In a seven-game series though, a consistent set of scorers is needed for success. The distribution of talent can be the difference between post- and regular season success.
Rondo was injured just before Game 3, which provided an opportunity for the Celtics to take back momentum. Boston was lucky and the team cannot be complacent about their roster. They already clearly demonstrated that they are not a playoff-prepared group, but merely a talented regular season team. The Celtics may be able to win the series because of this injury, but it will not be a truly satisfying victory.
What was learned from this? A good set of players is really not enough without at least two stars. That is not to say that a team with a few talented leaders is then immediately capable of winning the finals. In fact, a team that hopes to succeed in the playoffs needs a solid supporting cast, complete cohesiveness and a good coach, like the Warriors, Spurs, Cavaliers and even the Bucks all have. Though the Indiana Pacers have superstar forward Paul George, they were still swept by Cleveland due to many lacking features of their team. Even though teams like the Rockets and Thunder have Harden and Westbrook, who are currently scoring 38.7 and 35.0 points per game respectively, it is unlikely that they will make it far against those teams with superstars and depth alike.
There is still a lot of time remaining in the postseason, but much has already been concluded about the playoff potential of many of the competing teams.