Which Group Has The Most Stress To Win In The NBA Playoffs?

Losing in the playoffs isn’t always a death knell. The context is always needed in these situations and the assumption for some teams and fans is that success follows in a linear fashion: a first round playoff loses leads to a summer of additions that leads to a deeper run the next season. That is how it is supposed to work.

Unfortunately it’s a fantasy to expect that level of growth because not every team can win the championship. Some teams will fall short and with it the consequences of failure can loom large over a franchise. These playoffs are no different. An early exit could leave some organizations answering big questions, possibly making radical decisions that could shift the NBA landscape. Not all of those moves have to be to that level, but plenty will feel the pressure to win as the 1st round continues.

Utah Jazz

The pressure meter is off the charts for the Utah Jazz. They haven’t made the Western Conference Finals since 2007 and they have had a collection of losses that have left scars. Here is a list of the results of the past five years in which they’ve made the playoffs:

  • The 2017 team was a success for being able to beat the Los Angeles Clippers before falling to the Golden State Warriors.
  • The 2018 squad took down the Oklahoma City Thunder before being railroaded by one of the best teams of the past decade.
  • The following year they fell in the first round to that same Houston Rockets team.
  • The “NBA Bubble” brought the brutal loss to the Denver Nuggets in the 1st round that went to seven games.
  • Placed 1st in the conference, but lost in the semifinal round to the Los Angeles Clippers who were without Kawhi Leonard.

The spunky Jazz of Quinn Snyder’s first few years is feeling a bit overdone. The dynamic between Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell is constantly scrutinized and the addition of “Trader Danny” to the front office makes this playoff series a big one against the Dallas Mavericks. Winning the first game was a big step, but falling to Dallas in Game 2 without Luka Doncic puts a bit of fear back into the idea that the Jazz will breeze into the 2nd round. This series could determine whether Utah will stay intact or not.

Brooklyn Nets

The Nets might have offloaded a bit of the burden to win this year when they made the move to trade James Harden at the trade deadline for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and a couple of 1st round picks. Even though Simmons hasn’t suited up for the team he is still under contract for the next three seasons. Kyrie Irving can be a free agent this summer so there is still some unrest about how these playoffs could impact the team going forward.

The likelihood of a first round series victory took a hit when Jayson Tatum buried a buzzer beating layup in Game 1. Kyrie Irving had a phenomenal outing that seems a bit wasted now that the Nets are staring at the possibility of going down 2-0 before playing a single game on their home court.

The Brooklyn Nets may be the number seven seed, but Las Vegas still rates them as the 6th likeliest team to win the championship. Durant will be 34 in September and there are only so many playoff opportunities that he’ll have as, arguably, the best player in basketball.

Philadelphia 76ers

The inverse of the Brooklyn Nets, the Philadelphia 76ers knew this was going to accelerate their timeline. James Harden has the opportunity of a lifetime to provide himself in a 76ers uniform and all he has to do is be the 2nd best player on his team. So far the 76ers have been able to rely on the scoring efforts of Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris to get to the next round, but it is more than likely that Harden will have to step up in the semifinal round if the 76ers want to advance.

The 76ers have won at least one series in three of the past four years, but have had some rough losses to the Boston Celtics and the Atlanta Hawks over the past couple of seasons. They look primed to escape out of the 1st round this year, but will they be able to take the next step to making it to the Eastern Conference Finals? At this point, it will be deemed a failure if they are unable to do so.

phoenix suns

A lot of this fear is driven through the latest injury to Devin Booker and what it means to their title chances. It is likely that they will escape out of the 1st round unscathed but a possible matchup with the Dallas Mavericks and Doncic is something that the Suns want no part of without Booker.

Chris Paul turns 37 in a couple of weeks and is the orchestrator of the beautiful, constantly moving offense that ranked 5th in the NBA during the regular season. A failure to maximize this year’s window as the undisputed best team in the NBA could be his last true attempt at a title, especially with the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers primed to bounce back next season.

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