In the event you straight requested the NBA powers how they might really feel a couple of Memphis Grizzlies–Denver Nuggets matchup within the Western Convention Finals, I believe they’d provide a “We’d love that.” Nonetheless, in the event you requested the identical individuals the identical query in an nameless ballot, I’m fairly positive the responses could be one thing vastly extra unfavorable than “We’d love that.”
There are two groups separating themselves from the remainder of the West, and that’s Denver and Memphis. Now, the league faces the distinct risk that two small-market groups might crash their season-end soiree. And, sure, I’m acutely conscious I got here off like I used to be speaking a couple of pending pure catastrophe, however that was intentional. (As a result of, after all, it’s not.)
Denver has received eight in a row, and reigning two-time MVP Nikola Jokić has tallied 5 triple-doubles in his previous six video games. Memphis is using an 11-game win streak, led by Ja Morant’s 27, 8, and 5, and aided by what’s turn out to be the Grizzlies’ typical workforce ball.
Denver and Memphis have been essentially the most constant of any workforce out West proper now, and because the Sacramento Kings are displaying, consistency can get you fairly far this 12 months. I additionally belief the Nuggets and Grizzlies to proceed their respective success (barring damage, after all) as a result of we’ve seen it earlier than and realize it’s actually efficient when it’s going.
So, it’s not insane to say we may see them end 1-2 with win totals within the higher 50s, possibly hitting 60 contemplating the competitors, and cruise by way of the primary two rounds. That leads me to my first query.
Do followers actually desire a Nugs-Grizz Western Convention Finals?
The 2 franchises are inside a half-game of one another, however are not less than six video games away from the remainder of the pack, with Sacramento — sure, you learn that proper — the subsequent closest workforce. We’ve performed this dance earlier than with these two groups, however this 12 months feels totally different.
Denver is lastly — lastly — wholesome, and it’s nice to see Jokić surrounded by a full complement of gamers. When Jamal Murray tore his ACL a pair seasons in the past, the Nuggets had been peaking, and simply wanted just a few extra video games to implement Aaron Gordon, having just lately come over from Orlando, into the beginning lineup.
Quick ahead to 2023, and though Murray is just not fairly the man he was earlier than he acquired damage, Jokić is fucking battle examined. He’s been carrying corpses to respectability for the previous couple years, and appears greater than able to stare down his postseason demons.
Whereas Memphis is younger, the Grizzlies have the expertise from a 12 months in the past to lean on, in addition to the information of who they’re. Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane took turns rehabbing accidents this 12 months, however are again within the beginning lineup alongside Morant, and getting some much-needed reps subsequent to one another.
Hoops heads know the supporting casts behind Morant and Jokić, and could be fully comfy watching the Banes, Murrays, Gordons, Porters, and Jacksons of the world. If that matchup pops up on the League Go dwelling web page, I’m devoting a big chunk of that night time to watching a basketball savant play a comet.
The argument for a Denver-Memphis sequence is that. Expose everybody who hasn’t watched these guys play, and force-feed it to them as a result of it doesn’t occur within the common season. We’re often arguing in regards to the Lakers, the Warriors, the 76ers, or no matter as a result of that’s what attracts clicks.
Which brings me to my subsequent query.
Does the NBA desire a Nugs-Grizz convention finals?
That is straightforward. Fuck no. I believe Morant and Jokić are in all probability family names by now due to Morant’s dunks and Jokić’s accolades. I nonetheless had to consider it although as a result of they’re not in commercials or information cycles like Steph Curry, LeBron James, Chris Paul, and even Luka Dončić, and Zion Williamson. Take into consideration the large names and massive markets within the West. I haven’t even talked about Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. How about Damian Lillard and Anthony Davis?
You’ve gotten the Warriors, Lakers, Suns, and Mavericks, and also you’re going to provide us “Whoop that Trick” versus “Manbuns and IPAs?” The Nuggets are the least widespread of Denver’s 4 main sports activities groups, and it isn’t even actually that shut.
I do know Grit and Grind is the principle attraction in Memphis. Nonetheless, it’s not an iconic small market — not less than not but — as a result of they’ve solely had a workforce for just a little over 20 years, and it’s an enlargement workforce at that. Every time Seattle will get the Supersonics again, they’ll instantly have extra historical past (and doubtless nationally televised video games) than the Grizzlies.
Just about every thing prior to now three paragraphs is triggering to these fanbases. I’m a fan of a small market workforce myself, so I understand how a lot it sucks to have some random nationwide man shit in your workforce solely due to the place it’s positioned.
And that’s why I’m rooting for Denver and Memphis to wrest the gaze of sports activities followers from LeBron’s drama or Draymond Inexperienced’s antics. Pressure Get Up to guide with Jokić and Morant whereas Stephen A. Smith tries to drum up vitality between sulking.
Properly, that I need that — and nice basketball.