The Starting 5: A look at some of the best hoops content from around the internet
Part of the fun of the NBA Playoffs, especially with all 16 teams remaining in the first round, are the storylines behind the matchups. Not all the best beefs are aligned perfectly just yet, like the Spurs and the Thunder, but they could be in the second round or the conference finals. Dan Favale of Bleacher Report runs down the best of the best and why they’re great rivalries.
In 2014-15, the Rockets made it to the Western Conference Finals on the back of a 56-win season. They lost the series 4-1 to the Golden State Warriors, but it was a successful season nonetheless. This year? They’ve puttered around .500 most of the year, fired their head coach, had a trade rescinded and edged out the Utah Jazz for the final playoff spot in the West for a chance to take on the 73-9 Warriors again in the first round of the playoffs. Ethan Rothstein of The Dream Shake calls it a dumb season that gets a dumb ending, with Houston likely getting swept (or maybe taking one game?) in the first round.
The Chicago Bulls were a massive mess this season, and there’s been chatter among fans and media that the team needs to be completely blown up. With Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah hitting free agency and Derrick Rose a season behind, that leaves Jimmy Butler all alone on the rebuilding team. If the Bulls were to trade Butler, which is a polarizing topic with the fans as it is, who could they bring back in a deal? Blog a Bull runs down some players for which the Bulls shouldn’t mind dealing Butler, and the likelihood of such a deal happening.
The Mavericks won just enough games to edge out of a matchup with either the Golden State Warriors or San Antonio Spurs in the first round. While that’s a good thing, it’s not as if drawing the 55-win Oklahoma City Thunder and their nightmare duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook is a sigh of relief. The question remains whether the Mavs find role players to pair with Dirk Nowitzki to out-duel the Thunder tandem. Do they have enough advantages on the court to win the series? Does it matter that the Thunder swept the Mavs in four regular-season games this season? We’ll find out soon.
The Minnesota Timberwolves, stacked with young talent in Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine and Karl-Anthony Towns, are in position to make a coaching hire that’ll dramatically impact their future. Sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of the The Vertical, one of the most heavily tuned-in people in NBA media, that the Wolves are looking at former Chicago Bulls leader Tom Thibodeau and his former mentor Jeff Van Gundy as possible coaching hires (with a possible dual role in the front office as well). Considering the kind of success both have had, especially with young squads, it seems that either would make sense to help take this team of young and impressive kids to the next level.