1. Minnesota Timberwolves. They haven’t been in the playoffs since George Bush was the Prez and if we’re counting at home that would be 14 seasons without a post-season even with Kevin Garnett and Kevin Love in tow. You know who you are, those who penciled the Wolves in for 50 wins and a four seed. Now it’s probably going to come down to the last game of the season and a winner take all and loser go cry game in Minnesota against Denver. Traditional betting money would be on the Wolves but this is the same team that lost a home game to a Grizzlies team who were trying to tank so bad they held out their best offensive player and the Wolves still got beat. If they choke like dogs all the blame is on Andrew Wiggins who I forgot was even on the team, that’s how much he has disappeared. Jimmy Butler was supposed to make Wiggins irrelevant but it is Jeff Teague who is doing what Wiggins should. Aggressive with the ball, attacking the rim, playing like he actually wants to be in the playoffs. Wiggins has been a disaster this year. The Wolves are on the precipice of ridicule.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder. How can a team with Russell Westbook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony have a worse record than a team with Russell Westbrook and Victor Oladipo? The 2016-17 Thunder won 47 games. This year with a Big Three and two All-Stars, the Thunder have won 46 games. In April, they don’t look much different than they did in November. Their games just don’t compliment. But that is not why they are desperate. They are desperate because they have done zero to convince Paul George that L.A. is not better than OKC. The Lakers are a top-10 assist team, are second in rebounding, third in pace and lead the NBA in points in the paint. They have gone as far as they can without a star. Give them a star and you’ll add 10-12 wins to their 34 wins and oops you have the Thunder record but you are toiling in L.A. The Thunder have to do something in the playoffs to make the Paul George case but by the looks of it they’ll be playing the Warriors in a 4 or 5 game series.
3. Anthony Davis. Every year his team misses the playoffs is every year Anthony Davis takes a hit. He’s a big that can do everything. He can score on the block and the perimeter. He blocks shots. He can dribble like a guard and start the break. He can drop 40 on you without a sweat. He is a sweet offensive player and his defense will get him Defensive Player of the Year at least once in his career. But the one thing he has not been able to do is carry his team to the playoffs. All great players do that. He doesn’t have much to work with, unlike other All-Stars, since DeMarcus went down, but Davis has to finish the deal and get the Pelicans to the post season and then he has to win at least one game. Right now he is 0-4 in the playoffs.
4. The Raptors. It’s hard to get excited about the Raptors because they remind you too much of past post-season disasters like the Buffalo Bills, Atlanta Braves and Tony Romo Cowboys. They pass they eye test when it is February but once the playoffs start they remember who they are. And unfortunately, so do we. Because they cannot beat LeBron James in the regular season or the postseason, they are the hamster on the wheel going around and around in circles. No one believes this year is different. DeMar DeRozan still can’t hit the three. He passes the ball more, yes he does, but are you asking me to trust six foot tall Fred VanVleet? Kyle Lowry is a playoffs choke machine. The only way for Raptors legitimacy is to get to the Eastern Conference Finals but that means beating LeBron in the second round. Good luck with that.
5. The Houston Triangle: Chris Paul, James Harden and Mike D’Antoni all have something to prove. Paul has to get to a Conference Final. It doesn’t matter what kind of leader he is. If the Rockets don’t get to the conference final they are the Raptors in disguise. James Harden has to come through when it matters the most, when all eyes are on him beause he is the MVP. He can’t do his shrinking thing when the pressure is on. Mike D’Antoni has to prove that his system is functional in the post season, that it can actually lead to championships and is just not a regular season phenomenon. He has to answer the question, what happens if the sharpshooters are not making threes?