PHOENIX - With the Phoenix Suns narrowly missing the postseason, many Valley fans are understandably less interested in the outcome of the 2014 NBA Playoffs than they otherwise would be.
But this season’s playoffs still carry a great amount of intrigue on multiple levels. Here are five reasons why Arizona sports fans should follow this season’s playoffs, which began last weekend: Make sure to follow the action of the NBA Finals on ABC15.
1. Another Sun Devil or Wildcat might win a ring.
Each of Arizona’s two largest universities has had alumni go on to win NBA championships. Former Arizona Wildcats have won a total of 13 NBA titles (most recent: Jason Terry with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011), while former Arizona State Sun Devils have won seven (most recent: Eddie House with the Boston Celtics in 2008).
Will either school add to that total this season? Altogether, three Wildcats and two Devils are playing for teams that made this season’s playoffs, and none of them have ever won an NBA championship:
Andre Iguodala (Golden State Warriors)
Solomon Hill (Indiana Pacers)
Grant Jerrett (Oklahoma City Thunder)
James Harden (Houston Rockets)
Jeff Ayres (formerly Jeff Pendergraph; San Antonio Spurs)
2. A former Sun might win a ring.
Before the regular season began, the Suns traded center Marcin Gortat to the Washington Wizards, which advanced to the playoffs as the Eastern Conference’s No. 5 seed despite finishing four games worse than the Suns did in 2013-14. Gortat averaged 13.2 points and 9.5 rebounds in his first season in D.C., and the Wizards currently have a 1-0 series lead on the Chicago Bulls.
In fact, four members of last year’s Suns team are currently in the playoffs: Gortat, Jared Dudley (Los Angeles Clippers), Luis Scola (Pacers) and Michael Beasley (Miami Heat).
Here’s a list of other former Suns in the playoffs (in alphabetical order):
-Matt Barnes (Clippers)
-Vince Carter (Mavericks)
-Boris Diaw (Spurs)
-Joe Johnson (Brooklyn Nets)
-Robin Lopez (Portland Trailblazers)
-Shawn Marion (Mavericks)
-Hedo Turkoglu (Clippers)
3. The field is wide open.
This year’s playoffs are one of the most difficult to forecast in recent memory. It seems that most first-round matchups in each conference can realistically go either way, as evidenced by the road teams’ 6-4 playoff record heading into Tuesday night’s games.
This season, 13 NBA teams finished with at least 48 wins – including the Suns, which were left out of the Western Conference playoffs even though only two Eastern Conference teams finished with a better record than them.
Ultimately, this season’s NBA playoffs appear to be wide-open race – and there just aren’t that many seasons in which that’s true.
4. There might be a new (or first-time) winner.
Since 1999, only six different teams have won NBA championships, and three teams have won at least three titles:
-Los Angeles Lakers (five)
-Detroit Pistons (one)
Several Western Conference teams seem to have enough talent to become that elusive seventh team. The most likely candidate is probably the Thunder, which lost to the Heat in the NBA Finals two years ago and were without star guard Russell Westbrook in last season’s second-round exit. A pair of West teams that have never won an NBA championship – the Clippers and the Memphis Grizzlies – also seem to have the tools to put together a championship run.
In the East, the Pacers, which have also never won an NBA title, finished the season with the best record in the East, besting the Heat by two games. The Pacers split four games with the Heat during the regular season. A Miami-Indiana Eastern Conference Finals matchup could be intriguing.
Bottom line: The status quo is boring, and a new champion would breathe some new life into the often-predictable NBA.
5. The old-timers may make another run.
Kevin Garnett (37 years old) and Paul Pierce (36), which won an NBA championship together with the Celtics in ‘08, are trying to create some nostalgia as members of the Nets, the East’s No. 6 seed. They have an early 1-0 series lead on the Toronto Raptors and are trying to set up a second-round showdown with the Miami Heat, which overcame Garnett and Pierce in an epic seven-game Eastern Conference Finals series two seasons ago.
Meanwhile, the Spurs’ Tim Duncan (38 years old on Friday), Manu Ginobili (36) and Tony Parker (31) continue to defy age. They barely missed out what would’ve been the Spurs’ fifth NBA title since ‘99 by losing a seven-game NBA Finals series to the Heat last season.
Does either set of veterans have another deep playoff run left in them? It’ll be fun to find out.
Make sure to follow the action of the NBA Finals on ABC15.