Photo Credit: World Sports News – Live Scores
For the past two seasons now, the NBA Finals matchup has been the same, featuring the Cleveland Cavaliers out of the Eastern Conference, and the Golden State Warriors out of the Western Conference. With between about 32 and 37 games to go in the 2016-2017 NBA season for each team, the current #1 seeds in the Eastern and Western Conferences are the Cavaliers and Warriors, respectively. Does this mean that there is no parity in the NBA, and if not, is the NBA even worth watching until deep in the playoffs?
Rarely do the standings ever change much after about the halfway point in an NBA season. At least, there are no huge changes for the most part, like changes in the #1 seed late in the season. So in all likelihood, the Cavaliers and Warriors will enter postseason play as the #1 seeds once again in their respective conferences like they did a season ago. Even in the 2014-2015 season when the Cavaliers ended up as the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference, it was not because of a huge change at the end of the season. Even though the Cavaliers made it to the NBA Finals in 2015, the Atlanta Hawks had the #1 seed in their control for much of that season.
Are we destined for a 3rd straight Cavaliers-Warriors NBA Finals series? We very well could be. Looking down the standings, it is hard to find a team in the Eastern Conference that would have a good chance to defeat the Cavaliers in a best-of-7 game series in the playoffs, and it is hard to find a team in the Western Conference that would have a good chance to defeat the Warriors in a best-of-seven game series in the playoffs.
The Boston Celtics or the Toronto Raptors likely pose the best threat of knocking off the Cavaliers, but the Cavaliers have a 5-0 record against those two teams combined so far this season, so the likelihood that either one of those teams would be able to defeat the Cavaliers four times in no more than seven playoff games is unlikely. The San Antonio Spurs or the Houston Rockets likely pose the best threat of knocking off the Warriors, and the Warriors only have a 1-2 record against those two teams combined so far this season. However, those two losses were two of the Warriors’ worst games all season, so the likelihood of either of those teams winning four games against the Warriors out of no more than seven seems pretty far-fetched.
As far as the most realistic scenario, that is a 3rd straight Cavaliers-Warriors NBA Finals series. Let’s face it. The last time a team from the Eastern Conference that LeBron James was not on made the NBA Finals was in 2010. Since then, James’ teams have been in six straight NBA Finals Series, and with the way things look right now, that six could become a seven in the coming months. Let’s also face this. A team with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Kevin Durant has no business NOT being in the NBA Finals. If that “super team” does NOT get there, that will quite possibly be an even bigger disappointment than the team blowing a 3-1 NBA Finals lead was a season ago. Add to that the fact that this is a Warriors team that wants serious revenge for that NBA Finals loss a season ago, so at least getting to the NBA Finals against the Cavaliers is practically inevitable, isn’t it?
Obviously, fans of contenders like the Cavaliers or the Warriors or even teams like the Celtics, the Raptors, the Spurs, or the Rockets, will continue to follow the NBA regardless knowing that their teams have at least a sliver of hope to go all the way and win the NBA Finals, and fans who enjoy watching their favorite teams play will continue following the NBA regardless as well. But for fans that watch the NBA just for enjoyment and really don’t have a favorite team, they might want to make better use of their time right now and not watch a ton of NBA games until May and June roll around and the late rounds of the playoffs are in full swing when things really start to get exciting and competitive. But for now, there will likely be no push for an NBA wins record by the Warriors like there was a season ago, and there are no Kobe Bryants or Tim Duncans for fans to watch wrap up their spectacular careers like last season either, so the overall entertainment value of the NBA right now is not where it needs to be to keep the casual fan watching games on a regular basis.