Another season is in the books, and the playoffs are a tip off away. Like any season, 2013-14 was defined by good and bad play and terrible refereeing. Though the high points were high, the low points were myriad, which means its probably as good a time as any to try and answer that famous question brought up by Laker legend and NBA logo model Jerry West during an appearance on ESPN's Scott Van Pelt show: Does the NBA suck?
With the exceptions of Miami, Indiana, and Chicago, the Eastern Conference is a boneyard of talent, populated by once-great geriatrics like Paul Pierce and (at just 31) Amar'e Stoudemire, solid role players in starring roles (think: Al Horford), and low-ceiling lottery picks (John Wall). And have you seen the Knicks? As part-time Detroit Piston and full-time zombie Kyle Singler would say: "Grp."
But what about the Western Conference? It has pummeled the East at a historic pace and, over the past ten years, its in-conference competitiveness has remained relatively stable, with a difference of about seven games between a five-seed and the bubble team that doesn't get in. The problem isn't a lack of competition, the problem is that the competition isn't as good as it used to be.
So maybe West is right. Maybe the NBA has a serious deficit in overall ability. And maybe the problem is that these 20-year-olds just aren't ready and the defense is shoddy and the league doesn't let anyone play physical anymore. Here's the thing: Who cares? This year's NBA has more dynamic teams than any season in recent history. The brick-and-mortar dullness of the Malone-Stockton-era Jazz is nowhere to be found and young guns like Steph Curry, Paul George, Kevin Durant, and Blake Griffin have all somehow – almost impossibly – gotten a lot better. With a few knotty exceptions, their teams have improved with them and adopted a bit of show-time boldness. There's always a chance that fans will see something that inspires awe and that is the best reason to watch sports in the first place.
Here are six more reasons to watch the playoffs. It's about to get wild.
Stephen Curry Is Magic
Golden State is the most exciting team in the league – the Clippers finish a close second – and Stephen Curry is the most exciting Warrior. With Klay Thompson, he makes up what's probably the best shooting backcourt in history. But Curry is a unique specimen. Here's why:
- His range is pretty much unlimited.
- His release might be quicker than Ray Allen's.
- He's as accurate off the dribble as spotting up.
- He can shoot from virtually any angle and in any situation: floaters, sky-high finger rolls, reverses. It makes no difference.
With the possible exception of Chris Paul, Curry is also the best ball handler and passer (bonus points for his Pete Maravich-like creativity) in the league. One knock on the Warriors is their turnover rate, but the upside of the freewheeling brand of ball Mark Jackson has them playing that it's fun as hell to watch.
Unfortunately, the Warriors are playing the Clippers in the first round, one of the toughest draws in the post season. Size was already a problem for Golden State in the matchup and things got a lot harder when center Andrew Bogut (he of the wonderfully unnecessary behind-the-back passes) went down with a broken rib. David Lee, who's just back from rehabbing his nerve-damaged leg, and old guy Jermaine O'Neal will have to fill the middle, and try to minimize the damage from Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. It's the sharpshooters versus the high flyers, and it's going to be one of the best series in the playoffs.
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