In our post asking which Western Conference team Spurs fans are rooting for now that the Spurs are gone, I gave each team a “Spursian quotient”. To get a high score, teams should have good ball and man movement, numerous passes, an international cast of players, solid defense, low draft picks and/or reclamation projects, excellent coaching and perhaps most of all, selfless players who are not too full of themselves — good teammates. I gave teams like the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets good scores, while teams like the Clippers and Lakers did not score well. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Jazz and Nuggets were the number one and two favorites of Spurs fans, while the LA teams were not. (The LA teams might have other factors that led to their unfavorable rankings.)
Let’s take a look at the eight Eastern Conference playoff teams. First, we will give each team a Spursian number, and then everyone can let us know which Eastern Conference team they want to make the NBA Finals. Remember that we are not looking for a prediction as to which team will win, we just want to know which team you are rooting for. As with the Western Conference, we will start with the top seed and move down.
PHILADELPHIA 76ERS: The 76ers check many of the boxes required for a good Spursian score. They have several international players, including point power forward Ben Simmons, and play excellent defense, keyed by Simmons. They also have Spurs fan favorite Danny Green, who would become the first player ever to win an NBA crown with three different teams in three consecutive years with three different teams if the 76ers go all the way. It would also be Danny’s fourth crown. (For those readers who just arrived from another planet, Green won with a team from San Antonio in 2014 during the Redemption Finals.) The 76ers also have another popular ex-Spur in George Hill. These facts alone will likely lead many Spurs fans to root for the 76ers. Those fans will hope that 76er star Joel Embiid shoots key free throws down the stretch, and not Simmons. Of course, the fact that those two stars would up in Philly only because the 76ers blatantly tanked makes it hard to give the 76ers a high Spursian score. Even with DannyGreen! and Hill on the team, the 76ers max out at a Spursian quotient of 6.
BROOKLYN NETS: The Nets will get a very high Spursian score, with ex-Spur executive Sean Marks building a powerful defensive team of gritty over-achievers through careful drafting, crafty team building and extreme patience. Oh, this is not my annual April Fool’s Day article? OK, please ignore the first sentence.
The Nets are the NBA’s new Death Star, except without any likable players. With no international players, a top heavy roster, and James Harden as the head of the snake, only the presence of Sean Marks keeps the Nets from getting a zero. Spursian score: 1.
MILWAUKEE BUCKS: The Bucks have a bunch of international players, including the reigning MVP, an ex-Spur in Bryn Forbes, and long-time Spurs assistant Mike Budenholzer at the helm, the Bucks check many boxes. The Bucks also have some very likable players in Jrue Holiday, Khris Middleton and Donte Divencenzo. It would be good for Giannis and Bud to get over the playoff disappointments of years past. I expect the Bucks to do well in the poll below, with a Spursian score of 7, maybe even an 8.
NEW YORK KNICKS: No one, and I mean no one, thought the Knicks would make the playoffs this year. And if there was a number less than zero, that would be the number of people who predicted that the Knicks would wind up in the top four, with home-court advantage in the first round. Knick fans can thank new coach Tom Thibodeau and his defensive acumen, and Most Improved Player Julius Randle, who averaged 25.5 points, 10 boards and 5.9 assists, while shooting over 42% from three. A totally out-of-nowhere season from Randle. (One could put together an excellent team of young players the Lakers have traded away trying to get superstars — among them Randle, Lonzo Ball, and Brandon Ingram.) All that being said, it is hard to give a high Spursian score to a team in the nation’s biggest market which has been known for a dysfunctional front office and bad drafting, even with high picks year after year. Spursian quotient is only a 4.
ATLANTA HAWKS: Like the 76ers, the Hawks have largely built their roster through a whole bunch on high draft picks. Unlike the Knicks, the Hawks have generally drafted well, though they did trade the pick that became Luka Doncic to get Trae Young. All those high draft picks reduces their Spursian score, though they do have several international players. Similarly, though they are well-coached Nate McMillan, the Hawks are not a defensive power. Put it all together, and I generously give the Hawks a Spursian score of 5.
MIAMI HEAT: Last year’s Miami Heat Bubble Playoff Heat team was one of my favorite non-Spurs teams of the recent past. Led by Jimmy Butler (picked 30th in the first round out of Marquette), the Heat play hard and smart, maximizing their talent with a smoothly flowing offense and a hustling defense. This team was and is extremely well coached and is filled with selfless players. As a former coach, I love watching them play. The Heat also had, and still have, should-have-been-a-Spur Duncan Robinson, who started his college basketball career at a Division III school. Ex-Spur Dewayne Dedmon is on the roster somewhere, and they have players named Bam and Precious. Good feelings towards last year’s Heat Finals run linger for this year’s team . Spursian quotient: 8.
BOSTON CELTICS: Like their long-time rivals the Lakers, the Celtics were expected to finish much higher than 7th and not expected to have to win a Play-In game to make the playoffs. While we have been conditioned to think of a Brad Stevens coached team as well-coached, doesn’t this season’s regular season put that assumption into question? Further, while Stevens does a good job creating a offense with a lot of ball and player movement, this year’s Celtics often relied on the wonderfully talented Jason Tatum to bail out that offense. (Amazingly, the 76ers could have had Tatum to team with Embiid and Simmons, but instead traded with the Celtics so Philly could draft... Markelle Fultz.) As with many of these teams from the East, the Celtics’ Spursian score is pushed down by all the high draft picks they have used to build the roster. All in all, this team was just too disappointing this year to warrant a good Spursian score. Let’s give them a 4.
WASHINGTON WIZARDS: No team with Russell Westbrook can possibly get a high Spursian score. While Russ continues to play hard, he doesn’t always play smart. As one example, he takes over 4 threes per game despite making only 31% of them. He also averages almost 5 turnovers per game. On the other hand, the Wizards made a remarkable comeback this season to make the playoffs, and they have international player and ex-Spur Davis Bertans firing up 7.5 threes per game at a 39% clip. I also appreciate the loyalty shown by the Wizards best player, Bradley Beal, who has hung in with the team through nine long seasons when many players would have asked out much sooner. To pick a name at random, James Harden, who forced a trade from the Rockets after about 3 minutes of losing. While the Wizards don’t necessarily check a lot of Spursian boxes, I still give them a 6.
Now that I have done the heavy lifting, all you need to do is push a button on your computer. Who do you want to represent the Eastern Conference in this year’s NBA Finals?
Who are you rooting for to win the East?
This poll is closed
New York Knicks