NBA Doomsday Scenarios: The Worst Outcomes for Every Playoff Team
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15).
- The 2019 NBA Playoffs could have lasting effects on each franchise. A surprising first-round loss could lead to change.
- On that note, Matt Moore and Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) run through the "doomsday scenario" for each playoff team this year.
When the NBA playoffs officially tip on Saturday, each team will be thinking about its best case scenario: hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy in mid-June.
In reality, 15 of the 16 playoff teams will lose at some point; that’s inevitable. Some playoff exits are harder to stomach than others, though. That’s what every team hopes to avoid. Losing in Game 7 of the conference finals hurts, but it sure beats getting swept in Round 1.
With that in mind, our own Matt Moore (East) and Rob Perez (West) lay out the doomsday scenarios for all 16 playoff teams.
Golden State Warriors
Title odds: -200
The only way the Warriors are getting eliminated from the playoffs is if they crumble from within.
Here’s the problem for the “misery loves company” audience: They’ve been through it all. It seems like an eternity ago that the police were called to the Warriors’ locker room because an alleged altercation between Steve Kerr and Draymond Green had escalated to that type of energy.
We know Kevin Durant and Green had it out earlier this year in the huddle. Kerr was caught on camera talking behind Green’s back.
Every time we expose the Warriors, it just seems to make them stronger and they come out and hang 140 points on someone just to flex. But this is the playoffs. There is no time to heal their wounds.
If (and it’s a big if) the locker room executes a mutiny of itself, it could not only end their three-peat quest — but the dynasty altogether as Klay Thompson and Durant head towards free agency.
Title odds: +3000
Nikola Jokic folds in the spotlight. We know how good he is — you could even make an MVP case for him after the campaign he’s had — but the postseason is a different beast. He is untested, and if the Nuggets are facing adversity in the form of elimination and he disappears — this is not something that will go away soon. He is the savior.
Despite Paul Millsap being the highest-paid player on the team and Jamal Murray fortifying himself as one of the highest ceiling young guards in the league, it’s all on Jokic.
For us to take him and the Denver Nuggets seriously, he has to be the guy to get those fourth quarter buckets when the arena is defcon one, when pace-and-space 2019 NBA has slowed to a 1990s half court crawl and when nobody is running any plays besides ‘give it to your best guy and have him go get you a bucket.’ It happens every damn playoffs, and it’s going to happen again. Your move, Joker.
Title odds: +800
Chris Paul gets hurt again. He’s still “got it” in terms of talent and being one of the league’s best point guards, but he will be turning 34 on May 6.
Whether it was his broken hand against the Trail Blazers or his chronic hamstring injury, which always seems to flare up at the most inconvenient times, the Rockets simply cannot afford to lose him at any point.
He is the highest-paid player on the team. James Harden may be the MVP, but Paul is the floor general. If he goes down again, him being unreliable won’t really be a debate anymore.
Portland Trail Blazers
Title odds: +10,000
You are paying Evan Turner and Moe Harkless $30 million combined through next season. They are the reason why you can’t go out and add a third star in free agency to supplement the Damian Lillard/CJ McCollum backcourt.
You made your bed giving these guys this type of money for multiple years, so you’re going to have to sleep in it. If they add nothing, again, to the team’s playoff campaign — it will not only be the reason why the franchise seemingly underachieves every April, but why they can’t do anything about it.
If they continue to be generic swingmen with default sliders and no upgrades or pink diamond codes, the Blazers will drown in fourth place and first/second playoff exits through Lillard and McCollum’s primes, while they’re both locked in long term.
That $30 million cap hold going into the blockbuster free agency summer of 2019 has to be justified or they are truly doomed.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Title odds: +3000
Russell Westbrook goes 2016 in his 2018 body. The Thunder do not need this man to have a usage rate of 50%. That is why they have Paul George, the likely bronze medal MVP award winner and Defensive Player of the Year.
If Westbrook isn’t going to allow George to drive this season, despite what happened in the series last year vs. Utah, he never will.
Also, to say getting eliminated in Salt Lake City would be an embarrassment, after everything’s that happened between Westbrook and the Jazz crowd, is an egregious understatement.
San Antonio Spurs
Title odds: +8000
Toronto DeMar DeRozan re-surfaces. I’m not talking about the DeRozan who is beloved by an entire country and holds several Raptors franchise records. That guy was always fine.
The DeMar I’m talking about is the one who was so bad in the postseason he got benched multiple times across multiple playoff campaigns. When he’s not getting to the free throw line or hitting that already low-efficiency mid-range fadeaway he’s essentially patented at this point, he can’t be out there on the floor because he doesn’t even attempt 3s unless they’re wide open in the corner.
The Spurs completed that blockbuster trade for Kawhi Leonard because they believe in DeRozan. They wouldn’t have done the deal if they didn’t. He may not be the same caliber of player as Leonard, but he was a multiple-time All Star for a reason.
If they get the All Star version when the lights are brightest, they can finally justify the whole Leonard debacle. But if we see the same DeRozan from the past couple of playoffs, well then I just don’t know what to say anymore –because if a change of scenery doesn’t help solve his playoff jitters, then I don’t know what ever will.