I have never, until this year, had a tough time watching the NBA playoffs. I never even thought I’d ever utter those words; but here we are. The least competitive NBA playoffs anybody can remember are finally dwindling down, with two super-teams — the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers — duking it out for the championship.
I usually don’t give much credence to what former NBA player and “analyst” Charles Barkley says, but for what it’s worth, Barkley was recently quoted in USA Today saying, “The NBA is in a bad place … To me it’s the worst it’s ever been, top to bottom. We have one, two, three, four good teams, and the rest of these teams stink.”
For once I agree with Charles Barkley. This year’s NBA Finals will feature three out of five of the best players in the league, as well as six out of the top 20. Once the disparity went down the drain, so did the competition. A postseason record has already been tied with four 4–0 series sweeps — all by the Cavaliers and Warriors, who also happen to be 19–0, a record between two teams.
It’s not only the Cavaliers and Warriors that have been blowing out their competition. NBC News reported that “dramatic playoff finishes have been very rare this year.”
“Through 68 games, the average victory margin is 12.9 points. More than half of the 23 games in May have seen one team lead by 25 points or more. Also, through 68 games, 40 have been decided by 10 points or more — a rate significantly higher than the NBA average over the last 30 years.”
Maybe we were spoiled by last year’s competitive playoffs, when we were lucky enough to witness five Game Sevens, including in the NBA Finals and Conference Finals.
There are a few factors contributing to these blowouts. Obviously there is the talent disparity, where the biggest cities hog most of the talent. Then there are injuries. San Antonio Spurs Forward and MVP-candidate Kawhi Leonard went down for the season after twisting his ankle, thanks to a dirty play by Zaza Pachulia. Teammate Tony Parker also went down for the season after tearing a quadriceps tendon. Rajon Rondo almost spear-headed a major upset but got injured after his eighth-seeded Chicago Bulls were up two games to none over the Boston Celtics. Once Rondo went down, the Bulls lost four straight games. Kyle Lowry also ended his season prematurely, which resulted in his Toronto Raptors being swept by the Cavaliers. Finally, you have the fact that the good teams get even better in the playoffs, since they’re actually trying and feasting on teams which were only slightly worse than them during the regular season.
The Golden State Warriors are so good that, by the time you’ll be reading this, they’ll probably be on the verge of beating the Cavaliers and winning the NBA championship. Adding Kevin Durant to a 73–win team can do that. When questioned on the predictably boring playoffs, Kevin Durant responded (and later apologized for saying), “If you don’t like it, don’t watch.” To quote my prophetic book which was published three years ago, “It has reached the point that the desperate pursuit of a player after a championship ring has turned the NBA upside down.” The sly addition of Kevin Durant to an already historically great Warriors team ruined the competition in the league.
A Warriors–Cavaliers neck-and-neck matchup may salvage the usual playoff excitement, but there’s no guarantee.
By Efraim Andrew Wakschlag
Efraim Andrew Wakschlag is originally from Silver Spring, Maryland, and currently lives in Chicago. He attended the Yeshiva of Greater Washington and graduated from Yeshiva University in 2014. He is a prolific writer on the NBA and authored “10 Squared: An Unconventional Analysis on the NBA” when he was in Yeshiva University.