So far, this year’s NBA playoffs have been incredibly entertaining. We had an awesome first round, which showed us the promise of a playoffs that would play by “Game of Thrones” rules: no teams are safe. Yet, here we are, staring a rematch of last year’s finals in the face. I’m not upset about the matchup–I think these games will provide some wildly entertaining basketball. The NBA’s playoff system, by design, is not nearly as favorable to underdogs and upsets as other sports, though, and that’s something I’d like to shake up. I have an idea to throw an entertainment wrench into the whole machine that’s so crazy, it might not only work, but it would even change the course of sports history.
The worst thing about some teams not making the playoffs is that several hugely talented and entertaining players end up spending the postseason on the couch. As a basketball fan, this is horseshit. The Knicks put on a commendable clinic of professional incompetence this season, but I still feel robbed as a viewer since we don’t get to see Carmelo Anthony have an absurd 42-13-8 stat line for a game or two. There are dozens of players who are miles better than most of the guys playing for the various teams in the playoffs who we won’t see anything from for another eight months. How do we remedy this? We’re going to have a Playoff Draft.
The concept is simple. Each playoff team will select a player from a non-playoff team to join their squad exclusively for the postseason. These players will be paid on a sliding scale, based on their contributions in games, which encourages effort. The pay will not count against the salary caps of their new teams (because it’s too complicated for a stupid, hypothetical scenario). The teams seeded eighth in each conference will have the first picks, starting with the conference with the highest level of difficulty (so basically the West, now and forever). Then we will alternate between conferences so that the weaker conference isn’t rewarded for having more teams with worse records.
Every team, even the top seeds, has holes in its roster that it’s been unable to remedy, either because of a lack of salary cap issues, or free agent or draft talent. No one is going to be opposed to the idea. Sure, the shittier teams will get the best players, but I don’t think Miami will complain about being able to upgrade at center just because the Bobcats picked up a star player. It’s even more interesting, because you’ll get to see how teams value certain players. Think about the journalistic fodder from Kevin Love dropping to a five-seed, because everyone is overvaluing defense. Even better, can you imagine the explosion of debate when Kobe magically comes back from injury to play for a top seeded team in a blatant attempt to chase a sixth ring? It’s magical!
Let’s have fun with this. I’m going to put on my Chad Ford hat and do a mock draft with the current teams in the 2014 Playoffs. I’ll predict who they take, based on the players’ positions and needs.
1. Dallas Mavericks – Rajon Rondo
The Mavs, in spite of their historic propensity to overrate big men, need perimeter defense more than anything since Calderon and Monta basically play matador with opposing guards. If you move Calderon over to the second unit with Harris (who actually can guard) you can let Rondo dish, and you can lock him down as a starter.
2. Atlanta Hawks – Anthony Davis
Pero Antic, as a mobile center, is a great offensive matchup for Hibbert, but if you move him to the four and put Anthony Davis on the block, you force an even smaller guy to guard Antic’s jump shots. Also, this way, everyone gets to drool over Teague running the pick and roll with Davis.
3. Memphis Grizzlies – Carmelo Anthony
The Grizz have everything but a competent perimeter scorer. They defend better than any team in basketball right now. If Melo comes in and saps all of the bad shots Prince and Tony Allen take, they immediately score 10 more points per game without losing any significant piece of the defensive puzzle.
4. Charlotte Bobcats – Kevin Love
At the time of the draft, the Bobby Cs wouldn’t have known that Big Al would go down with plantar fasciitis in the first round. It stands to reason that they’d pick Love to spread the floor with shooting to augment Jefferson’s dominant post up game.
5. Golden State Warriors – Tyson Chandler
Bogut is out and the Dubs need dominant interior rebounding and rim defense. This young team also would benefit from a veteran who’s won the NBA Finals before and is widely appreciated as a vocal locker room leader.
6. Brooklyn Nets – Demarcus Cousins
The Nets’ postseason chances this year would be so much different if Lopez hadn’t gotten hurt so early in the season. Cousins, if anything, is an offensive upgrade over Brook, and an even better defender. I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t just try to find a way to keep him after the playoffs. Also, there’s no way in hell Cousins pulls any attitude with Garnett around to keep him in line.
7. Portland Trail Blazers – Goran Dragic
Dragic has shown all year how perfectly his game works when he plays in tandem with another dynamic guard. If you thought the Dragon and Bledshow duo was fun, wait until you see him with Lillard.
8. Washington Wizards – Kyrie Irving
The Wizards have a phenomenal starting five, but no depth whatsoever. If you bring Kyrie in just to run the second unit and treat it almost as a separate team, their bench becomes miles better.
9. Houston Rockets – Kenneth Faried
The Rockets need a big man who can hustle. Faried, even though slightly undersized, would match up well on Aldriedge, allowing Dwight to stay where they need him, under the basket. Don’t count out the pure aesthetics of Faried’s hair on the same team as Harden’s beard.
10. Chicago Bulls – Rudy Gay
Good god, this team can’t score. I mean really, when the guy you’re relying on for an offensive spark is Jimmy Butler, you know you’re in trouble. Gay’s biggest problem has always been that he takes too many shots and is a black hole on offense, but if you put him on a team this offensively incompetent, he becomes a godsend.
11. Los Angeles Clippers – Ersan Ilyasova
The Clips needed a third big for late game situations, particularly in close games where Jordan can’t be trusted to make his free throws. He’s active on defense, and more importantly, was 82 percent from the charity stripe this season.
12. Toronto Raptors – Ricky Rubio
The Toronto Ujiris have been going to an interesting lineup, putting in Vasquez at point and moving Lowry to shooting guard. So, move Greivis back to the bench and start Ricky. With two dynamic scorers in DeRozan and Lowry, you don’t have to even let Rubio take a shot (and you won’t want to). His passing vision would set everyone else up for even better looks.
13. Oklahoma City Thunder – Brandon Jennings
Jeremy Lamb has been an abject failure and Reggie Jackson is essentially just a position-filler at this point. If you throw Jennings in to play the offensive spark with Durant and Westbrook, he could effectively be Harden 2.0 for them. Plus, you could pair him with either of the two stars and let both of them get more rest in the second and third quarters.
14. Miami Heat – Andre Drummond
Heat too small. Andre Drummond big. Heat want Drummond.
15. San Antonio Spurs – Kent Bazemore or Tracy McGrady
The Spurs aren’t going to take anyone who can provide anything on the court for them. Their entire style is formulated on chemistry and knowledge of the system, which is diligently experimented with throughout the season. There’s no way in hell Popovich is going to bring in someone new to play any significant minutes. They either take Bazemore for his bench celebrations, now that Patty Mills is getting significant minutes, or they go with McGrady, because they feel bad for not getting him a ring last year.
16. Indiana Pacers – Kobe Bryant
I don’t know what the fuck is going on with the Pacers in the last few months, but you can bet your ass Kobe is gonna put an end to it. No one else will jeopardize their championship chances by taking a rusty, unproven (this season) veteran who will want to run the show. The Pacers, however, are in a spiral, and could not only benefit from whatever offensive ability Kobe can muster at the moment, but they also desperately need a vocal veteran in the locker room to talk some sense into these ding dongs.
I’m sure I’m missing a glaringly obvious choice for one of these teams that I’ll likely think of as soon as this is published. That’s now your job, though, dear reader. Take to the comments and tell me who I missed, or argue vehemently that Portland would be stupid to take Dragic over Kyrie (wrong), that Josh Smith is too good to go undrafted (wrong), or that Dallas would never pick Rondo over The Brow (probably true).