By Justin T. Boylan
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Philadelphia 76ers season has been over for months. Technically, it was over on Wednesday night, but it was over the moment the organization rolled the dice on the Center That Shall Not Be Named, sending Andre Iguodola to Denver in the process.
As the Sixers contemplate whether to head towards the light of the draft or the darkness of free agency, Iguodola is preparing for the playoffs and all the excitement that comes with a game one on your home court. During his career in a Sixers jersey, the team always began the postseason with a travel day, never finishing higher than a six-seed.
So as the playoffs get underway on Saturday, Sixers fans have two options. Hide under your bed with the lights off, drowning in the sorrows of a season wasted on false hope and poor basketball, or find a new team, a temporary team, to ride through the playoffs into June (by then, maybe Roy Halladay will have figured out how to become Jamie Moyer).
The second option is much more appealing, because abandoning the next two months of top-notch competition and crying over split knee cartilage was never a choice. Let’s go through each conference and figure this thing out.
Teams will earn a rating on a scale from 1 to 10, each commemorating a different member of our 2012-13 Sixers, based on how much consideration they deserve. It’s up to you to decide where to invest your faith. I am simply putting the cards on the table. Choose wisely.
On the Eastern side of things the choices are limited. Sixers fans can immediately throw out the Knicks and Nets because there’s no way we are getting behind a New York team. Even Jay-Z is bailing on his former investment. So let’s avoid jumping on that sinking ship. 1 Andrew Bynum Knee.
The same would usually go for the hated Celtics, but after the events that took place on Monday we can throw silly rivalries out the window. To see Boston enjoy playoff success would mean seeing our country come together behind its basketball team. I don’t know if it gets any better than that. 9 Doug Collins Text Messages.
The Chicago Bulls are an interesting option. They are one of the top-three defensive teams in the league, and managed 44 wins even without their superstar all season (the Bizarro-Sixers). However, I’d hold out until next year when Derrick Rose is back running the show. 4 Evan Turner Misses.
The Atlanta Hawks are the team that always takes an early exit, losing before the Eastern finals each of the last five years. No thank you. The lowly 8th-seeded Bucks can be thrown out as well. They shouldn’t even show up for the four games they’ll get against Miami because, from a strategy standpoint, you cannot lose if you do not play. 3 Holiday Brothers.
Speaking of Miami, of course the Heat will be a popular choice since the villain status has evaporated from both the team and its best player, who also happens to be league’s most dominant all-around player since the days of tape-delayed Finals. But the Heat are already penciled in as 2013 champions, so where’s the fun in that? 7.5 Adam Aaron Tweets.
I’ll take the team that is flying under the radar and has the best shot (slim, but still the best) of knocking off the defending champs: the Indiana Pacers.
The Pacers have an All-Star on the rise in Paul George and a reliable point guard with a playoff backbone built from three seasons in San Antonio in George Hill. They also have two big guys in the frontcourt, David West and Roy Hibbert, who aren’t afraid of the Big Three and can take advantage of Miami’s lack of size. The Pacers have learned to live without Danny Granger, and even though it’s probably irrelevant because again, the Miami Heat, I’ll be pulling for the upset and the Pacers. 8 Nick Young Haircuts.
In the West, your choices are like an all-you-can-eat buffet of fun basketball teams. At the top, there’s the Spurs and Thunder. Both teams ran through the regular season, surpassing 55 wins and feature at least one name that will appear somewhere on the MVP ballot.
You can go with the Spurs and Tim Duncan, who is playing in his 17th season and setting an unreachable bar for durable big men in the NBA. The Spurs are always around come playoff time, but haven’t come out of the West since they won the title in 2007. This could be Duncan’s last chance to get ring no. 5 and leapfrog the hobbled Kobe Bryant on the all-time list. However, I would worry about the acquisition of Tracy McGrady and his curse of the first-round exit. 7 Rod Thorn Sick Days.
The Thunder, specifically Kevin Durant, got a taste of the Finals last year and now his stomach is rumbling. Durant had one of the best seasons ever for a player that definitely won’t win the MVP, but the power struggle between him and Russell Westbrook could reach a record high in a seven-game series without having James Harden to step in and take some of the pressure of their shoot-first point guard. They earned the right to be called the favorites, but you’ve been warned. 8.5 Kwame Brown Minutes.
The Nuggets fly up and down the court while the Clippers play above the rim, and the two will have the most “OH MY GOD” playoff moments between Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Iguodola, Kenneth Faried and JaVale McGee. There’s no shame in wanting to see Iguodola enjoy a deep playoff run, and the NBA is just plain better when Paul is still in the conversation. Either would be fine choices, but I am envisioning first-round exits for both. 6 Wasted Thad Young Performances.
The Memphis Grizzles are laying low in the jungle waiting devour the Clips. They are the top defensive team in the league, anchored by Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, and point guard Mike Conley has proven he can hold is own against the best of them. Still, the Thunder are lurking in the second round and there’s no hope there, which is why I am looking elsewhere for my Western conference team. 7 Lavoy Allen Motors.
The Golden State Warriors. You might not know it because they play all the way out in Oakland, but this is as fun as team can be. The Warriors have the inside presence and outside shooting to hang with any team in the conference. Yes they are going to have to win a game in Denver, where the Nuggets are virtually unbeatable, to advance to the second round, but this feels like a series that will come down to the final shot. Golden State is just a hair better on defense, and I trust their shooters at the buzzer more than I do Ty Lawson.
The Warriors rely heavy on David Lee, but Carl Landry has played well as the do-anything role player down low. They have one thing Sixers fans aren’t familiar with, and that’s guards who can shoot. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and sixth man Jarrett Jack can drop it in from any spot on the court, and it’s this lethal threesome that makes the Warriors the best three-point shooting team in the NBA.
Remember how fun it was rooting for Curry when he played for Davidson? Now he plays for an NBA version of a mid-major, and still thrives under the bright lights. I can’t get enough of the Warriors, or their jerseys, and I’m convinced they can make some early playoff noise. 10 Spencer Hawes 3-Pointers.
No matter how the playoffs shake out, one thing we are promised is a champion to remember. Either LeBron James will swat away the competition like flies and silence the remaining pack of haters with his second ring and second Finals MVP to go along with his FOURTH league MVP, or that 27-game win streak will become as meaningless as the Patriots 16-0 season and the eventual champs will be the ones who stole the King’s throne.
Justin Boylan is a producer at 94WIP and graduate of Temple University. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @justintboylan.