There’s no real rhyme or reason to how or why I first thought of comparing NBA playoff teams to breakfast foods. Maybe it was because I live near an IHOP. Maybe it’s just because I was hungry in the morning. Either way, the counterparts for the San Antonio Spurs and the Golden State Warriors came easily (but that’s for another time). That was a week ago, and now I’ve got a page-long list that I agonized over for far too long. Basically, what follows is the result of a pointless mental exercise that has already gone about 500% too far. And this is part two. So why not go farther? Since writing a decent sized blurb about every team would take quite a few words, I decided that it’d be best to break this up by Conference for the sake of readability. Without further ado, here’s part 2, devoted to the Western teams. Welcome back to the National Breakfast Association.
Disclaimer: An honest attempt was made to ignore divisional and geographic biases here. No promises on how successful that attempt was, however. I tried.
- Houston Rockets
If you’ve read my last article from last week, you know I’m no great fan of James Harden. I do, however, respect his scoring ability and the threat he represents. That being said, I’ve never seen a playoff team look less like they want to win than this year’s Rockets. Honestly, the Jazz deserved this spot more, which makes the Rockets a bit of an unwelcome addition. They have real value between Howard (when he cares) and Harden (ditto). Patrick Beverley, while far from my favorite player, is a solid point guard. I’m also pretty pro-Trevor Ariza. Despite all the good stuff they have going for them, though, I just can’t bring myself to “want” them in the playoffs. They’re an interloper, and not all that likable. They leave a sour taste. The Rockets are a kale smoothie, or any other overly healthy BS that keeps popping up at breakfast that no one wants.
- Memphis Grizzlies
Look, this Grizzlies team wasn’t all that good this year. They were kinda easy to root for, though. They’ve got real talent, likable guys, and multiple Big 10 hoops alums (which I like). Even if they seemed a bit vanilla, they visibly tried. They’re always willing to do the dirty work, and ended up stuck in a matchup with a historic Spurs team. This is a group of dudes that were pushed into the arena for a gunfight and handed a knife, and their reaction was to still try to slice ‘n dice the whole damn round. They ground and ground, and went down with pride. This one was easy, and you should’ve gotten it from the start. Just think about their motto and how perfect it is: grit and grind. The Grizzlies are grits. I’ll fight you if you try to argue otherwise.
- Dallas Mavericks
After getting publicly ghosted by DeAndre Jordan, it wasn’t hard to guess that Dallas was going to have a middling year. Dirk Nowitzki and Chandler Parsons are fun, but at the end of the day this team was kind of boring. They bounced their way to a middle seed, played about as well or maybe a little better than anyone expected, and got bounced in the first round in a pretty predictable way. We knew what we were getting with Dallas this year, and it turned out that alot of their real flair came from the guy cooking up the roster. The Mavericks are scrambled eggs.
- Portland Trailblazers
Sporting a newly-minted Most Improved Player winner in CJ McCollum and one of the most exciting guards in the league with Damian Lillard, this Portland team is already better than anyone expected. Losing major pieces to other teams such as Dallas and San Antonio, the ceiling was projected at fairly low for this squad this season. Then, Lillard decided to immolate opposing guards on live television and McCollum seamlessly entered a high-usage role and ran with it. They’ve gotten good contributions from the rest of the roster, but it’s really about them. They’re a hipster pick as a tough out in the west, with two great components wrapped up in an unassuming package. The Trailblazers are crepes.
- Los Angeles Clippers
I’m no fan of the Clippers, let’s get that out of the way. Despite that, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are top-flight players at their positions when healthy, and they can be exceedingly fun to watch when they’re not doing all that stuff people bitch about when they watch them (asking for calls, flailing about for trips to the charity stripe, etc.) can leave a bit of a sour taste despite their redeeming qualities. I don’t buy them as a real contender, and I’d pick Portland as the bigger threat out of this matchup, injuries notwithstanding, to the Warriors at least. There’s good stuff here, but it’s kind of bittersweet. The Clippers are grapefruit.
- Oklahoma City Thunder
This team terrifies me as a Warriors fan, and it should scare everyone. For some reason, a lot of more casual fans refuse to buy on a 3-seed team that starts two, two, bonafide top-10 players (at least). Weird media chippiness aside, Kevin Durant is one of the three best players in the league depending on the day, with absolutely unnatural everything with relation to his size. The stuff that Kevin Durant can do with a basketball is kinda stupid. This guy, who’s worth a playoff berth value of wins on any team, plays alongside Russell Westbrook. Way I see it, there are basically three things that will ever stop Russ. They are, in order of likelihood:
- He decides we’re just not worthy of him and becomes a hermit in Appalachia, only to be roped back into service someday like Commando to battle one of the league’s secret LeBron-body with Jordan-brain clones that’s gone off the rails. He returns to the mountains quietly, disillusioned, afterwards to live out his days.
- One too many old role players walks through his pregame routine with Cameron Payne or some other benchwarmer, and he goes on a Zack Snyder’s 300 crossed with every Saw movie-level bloodbath of a murder spree and escapes to hide out from the now-necessary world coalition peacekeeping force in Antartica. Or Mars. Who knows. The only certainty is that we’ll never find him…unless he wants to be found.
- He literally explodes into transcendent nothingness through pure energy after a dunk, a la Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen, and decides Earthly basketball is beneath him. Dr. Dangeruss then leaves to traverse the universe in search of worthy opponents, and ends up trying to dunk a planet. This throws off interstellar gravity and ends life as we know it forever.
This is a team that’s structured around two very good components. Great components. You know they’d be awesome if they split up, but why would you ever want that? The Thunder are biscuits and gravy.
- San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs are a staple of the playoff smorgasboard. I literally can’t remember the last time they weren’t a legit playoff team. They’ve always been good-to-great, always been there, and as a result they can be left by the wayside mentally. But when the time comes, they’re gonna damn well show up. Maybe you knew, maybe you didn’t. But there they are. Good, substantive, and every bit a piece of the picture as anyone else. More so, in fact. The Spurs are pancakes. We can call Kawhi chocolate chips or your preferred fruit or cinnamon or whatever, because he changed the game. Kawhi is awesome.
- Golden State Warriors
This was the first one I thought of, but only the third easiest. This year’s Warriors were undeniably fantastic. They were an excellent and deserving marquee team. You wanted to watch them if you could. However, they also saw a lot of scrutiny. For all their positive qualities and likability, they seemed like candy at times. Just a bit too sweet. All of a sudden, the narrative took a shift a few different times. Are they actually good? Are we missing something? Are they good for the NBA? Should they really be held in such high regard? Are they healthy for the game of basketball? The Warriors are bacon.