The Load Management Blog
A championship is the one goal that the majority of the NBA players attempt to achieve. A team that went to an 82 game season and a 16+ game playoffs to carry the Larry O'Brien trophy. A select few players are able to have that luxury, which therefore means by the end of careers, some won't have it. Even on a lower level, there is the playoffs. 8 teams in both conferences get the chance to duel in a potential 7 game series to move to further rounds. However, there is a blatant issue which we have known for years, but was made obvious in the bubble. And that is the team talent difference between the Eastern and Western conference. We all know the West is better, but the fact that next year every team in the West has a chance to make the playoffs while in the East probably only 10 is a problem. And this problem has made is significantly harder for some players to win and makes it easier for others to win. Today I will be talking about the significance of winning and making the playoffs on a players resume.
Current Day(Regular Season)
This year we of course had the horrible Covid-19 pandemic which forced the NBA to go to a bubble which was amazing and props the NBA for giving us amazing basketball. 22 teams were given the chance to make the playoffs in 8 games. 13 teams in the west were invited and only 9 in the east. That is the first strike. A majority of the teams in the west had winning records in the bubble and they were not able to make the playoffs while teams like the Magic stunk it up and were still able to have a playoff spot because of the easy east. That is the second strike. And then the biggest and most obvious(due to the picture I used) is the fact that the Phoenix Suns went an outstanding record of 8-0 which was the best in the bubble and did not get the chance to make the playoffs. Third strike. That is the way life is of course, but there is a problem behind that. With a player like Devin Booker their has been criticism of him not making the playoffs while other young players his age have. That argument which we talk about in our newest podcast episode(LMB NBA Podcast), that making the playoffs and winning has to be treated differently with different players. In my opinion you have to treat it differently being in the west or in the east. For example in Minnesota Kevin Love was literally putting up ALL TIME NUMBERS, but the narrative around his career was that he was a loser and got carried to a ring by LeBron and Kyrie in Cleveland. It is all situational and we can't be holding these players to these high expectations to win while their competition are way better than the other conference.
Current Day(Playoffs +Championships)
For the last decade the NBA has been dominated by the Warriors, LeBron and Kawhi. Due to that a lot of superstars have been stripped the chance to win a title or make it far in the playoffs and have been deemed playoff "chokers". The four prominent players who have fallen victim to this are James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Demar Derozan. I am specifically going to discuss Harden and Westbrook due to their careers being so intertwined and them being both top 50 players all time. First lets talk about Westbrook. Russell Westbrook has made the playoffs every year of his career except his rookie year. He has had the privilege of playing with Kevin Durant, Paul George, and James Harden however he's had great playoff games and some times where he was the best player on the team like in Game 4 of 2012 Finals. However due to matchups with the pre/post KD Warriors, the tail end of a San Antonio dynasty and the new All time duo of LeBron and AD. The conversation about Westbrook's legacy has become a stat padded MVP season and a playoff choker. Westbrook has had to battle through many great teams, and yes I can agree Russ has had some choke jobs, but people value the fact that he doesn't have a ring.
Now let's talk about Harden. If Harden does not win a championship I believe he will go down as the greatest player with no ring. At the moment though he is probably the player most criticized for his playoff woes. By no means has Harden not choked in big time situations, but for people to call him a playoff choker is ridiculous. After OKC where Harden did not play well in the playoffs especially in the 2012 Finals, Harden has carried some good and really really bad Houston teams to the playoffs every year. Let's not forget that until the CP3 trade Harden was leading teams with an old Dwight Howard, Patrick Beverley and a random assortment of characters to multiple second round+ appearances. People love to bring up Game 7 of the 2018 where Harden has 34 but his team and him missed a whopping 27 straight threes in potentially one of the biggest collapses in sports history. However what people tend to not bring up is the fact that CP3 did get injured that series and the Rockets did have a 3-2 lead and if CP3 does not get injured they most likely beat the best Warriors team we have ever seen. I know it is hard not to bring up Harden's failures but context needs to be brought up with him because he has had a lot of unfortunate events derail him.
All Time(Playoffs +Championships)
Having an All Time discussion is very hard without bringing up champions or the lack of that a player has. I get that, but the same thing with current players, context is necessary. The only huge player I can say off the top of my head who not having a championship hurts their legacy a lot is Elgin Baylor who should be brought up as an all-time great but isn't because he went 0-8 in the finals. I am not going to harp on this point that championships and making the playoffs don't affect all time discussion because it kind of does.
Let me know what you guys think and is winning the most important thing on a players resume. I really don't have a say because it is vastly different with every player, but I lean towards the side of it does not hurt their resume, but it does boost the player who does have a ring. Next year will be huge for a lot of people's resume and legacy and could change the label of some players career.