What’s Exciting About This Year’s NBA Playoffs?

Superteams are not healthy for any sports league, and the NBA seemed to take care of the issue, making this year’s playoffs very exciting.

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Nobody likes a professional sports league with a superteam, unless you are a fan of the team that dominates nearly every team they play and wins the championship every year. These superteams are stacked with multiple superstar players, exceptional coaching staff, and a passionate fanbase, making winning seem near effortless. Fans of the other teams, however, have to reevaluate their decisions to buy merchandise, find other ways to spend their free time, or, worst of all, give up on their franchise to start rooting for the winning team. Frankly, the entire professional aspect of the sport can become boring whenever a superteam exists. These phenomena ensuingly hurt the pockets of the billionaire team owners and the respective league, making it a problem for everyone except the superteam.

The NBA is notorious for having long-time dominant franchises called “dynasties.” These teams, which included the ’79-’89 Lakers, ’91-’98 Bulls, and 2015-2018 Warriors, have been frustrating fans for years. Many petitioned for the league to shorten the series to one game rather than best-of-seven to make the playoffs more interesting. Even NBA commissioner Adam Silver spoke out on the issue. “I think whether it’s players coming together themselves or smart GMs bringing them together, you don’t want to see too much talent aggregated in one place,” he said. This year seems to bear the fruits of all of the dynasty-busting that the organization has hoped for. Who would have thought that the Phoenix Suns, led by unsung hero Devin Booker, would have the best record in the league? That idea would have been an absurd statement if it was made only two years ago, when they were considered one of the worst teams in the league.

With the first round already done, this year’s playoffs are revealing themselves to become the most interesting and unpredictable ones in a long, long time. The biggest surprise has been the Brooklyn Nets, preseason favorites to win the finals and perhaps the closest thing to a superteam this year, getting swept (losing four games in a row) by the young Boston Celtics. Another shock was the Dallas Mavericks defeating the Utah Jazz while missing Luka Dončić, their superstar player, due to injuries for the majority of the series. Additionally, some teams that were predicted to breeze past their opponents in the first round faced more of a challenge than expected, including the top-seeded Phoenix Suns and the Philadelphia 76ers. Coming in hot to the playoffs, fans were surprised to see that the young, inexperienced New Orleans Pelicans won two of the six games against the Suns. The 76ers, with the newly acquired superstar James Harden, were expected to blow away the Raptors but also ended up winning only 4-2 in a series of close games.

Going into the second round, fans are looking at a group of evenly matched teams, each with its own superstar players. All of these matchups can go either way, with hustle and composure being the deciding factors for the winner of the series. And, as we have seen throughout the first round, teams with a young group of players can be a lot better than expected. For instance, the Mavericks and the Memphis Grizzlies are faced with the most challenging opponents in these playoffs, yet their grit and desire to win could see them past the talented Golden State Warriors and Suns. Nobody in the league can shoot like Stephen Curry or lead a team as Chris Paul does. But as long as every player on the Mavericks or Grizzlies plays his part and follows fundamentals like frequent passing and physical defense, the chances of winning are suddenly a lot higher. Without superteams, the playoffs are exponentially more exciting for fans, players, and owners alike. Series will be more likely to last until a seventh game; players will be more willing to give their blood, sweat, and tears on every possession; and fans will be more likely to support their teams through their ups and downs.