With eight teams left in the NBA Playoffs, what’s a bandwagon fan to do? If your team’s been eliminated – and with 73% of the league knocked out, odds are that you’re team’s been knocked out, here’s a handy guide for all of us bandwagon fans. Let’s be real, the NBA playoffs doesn’t really get interesting until the second round as the weaker teams who just squeaked into playoffs get knocked out (Lakers, Rockets, Milwaukee), and the contenders get separated from the pretenders (Clippers, Nuggets, Nets, Celtics, Hawks). All this means we have a lot more exciting ball like this Bulls-Heat stunner from tonight:
Miami Heat: Jumping on the Heat bandwagon is probably the easiest and most socially awkward thing you can do. LeBron James didn’t get a near unanimous MVP vote for nothing, love or hate the man can ball. And the Heat have played championship ball all season with stifling defense and spectacular 3-point shooting. With the Rockets knocked out too, the Heat have an “Asian Pride” claim with Filipino head coach Erik Spoelstra. Expect a sharp drop in popularity amongst your friends and coworkers should you join the Heat bandwagon. Recommendation: JUMP! Jerk.
Chicago Bulls: The Bulls jumped on the Heat early, taking a 1-0 on the series with inspired play by Joakim Noah and Nate Robinson despite being wracked by injuries and illness. It may be worth rooting for the Bulls just for the chance to see Derrick Rose return from injury if the Bulls can last deep into the playoffs. You’re probably already on this bandwagon since you’re a Heat hater anyway. Consistently entertaining for (seemingly annual) improbable playoff runs with crazy double- and triple-overtime games, Chicago’s worth watching for their scrappy defense and Nate Robinson’s small-guy playground ball and swagger. Recommendation: JUMP!
New York Knicks: A gunner’s dream, pick the Knicks if you’re a fan of jacking up low-percentage jump shots or of the early 2000 New Jersey Nets (Jason Kidd! Kenyon Martin!). When they’re hot, Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith can really light it up so that’s pretty fun. However, hard to say if this bandwagon is worth it since Amar’e Stoudemire won’t return ’till game 3 and it’s unlikely they’ll go on a deep playoff run without the whole team healthy. Recommendation: HOLD until Conference Finals if they make it.
Indiana Pacers: Somehow, the Pacers and Hawks are the two teams who find themselves on NBA TV purgatory every year in the first round (that is, the series no one cares about). This year the Pacers survived. You probably didn’t even know the Pacers were in the playoffs until the second round. It’s all good, no judgement here. Watch the Pacers to see Roy Hibbert be an absolute beast on defense, and Paul George show his all around game (Granger who?). David West ain’t shabby too, his elbow jumper is pretty much automatic and is a joy to watch if you’re into solid, fundamental basketball. Watch out for bench gunner Lance Stephenson too, he’s sneaky good. Recommendation: JUMP! But you’ll probably root for this team the next round vs. the Heat anyway, so you might as well start early. It’s the hipster-y thing to do.
Check back tomorrow for the Western Conference!