The NBA Finals were a lot like a layered cake. Except that layer cake, with its vanilla frosting and piles of fluffy pastry, turned out to be a layered, bologna cake. The Cleveland Cavaliers kept up best appearances in Game 1 but the series’ finish left a bad aftertaste – back-to-back championships for the Golden State Warriors shifted the NBA narrative immediately to free agency, the league looking away from the 75 percent Finals win rate Steve Kerr and company built.

For the first time in 11 years the Finals ended in a sweep. The Cavs were wholly ill-equipped to handle the combined power of Kevin Durant, Steph Curry and the new no-shirt-God, Nick “Swag Champ” Young. In fact, arguably any team in the Eastern Conference would have posed a more significant opponent to the Warriors dynasty. Granted, Golden State dropped just six of 30 games against the East this season, but none of those losses came from the Cavs. So, here are 14 entirely factual, plausible and probable reasons the rest of the East would have made a better Finals competitor.

Atlanta Hawks

The Atlanta Hawks suffered all season. The city, a cultural hotbed revels in its sports as any metropolitan area should, but the Hawks have made even a passing interest a landmine of shame. From a hoops standpoint the Hawks are entirely incapable of handling even a quarter of Warriors’ basketball, but a Finals match would be a different beast.

Hawks fans, who haven’t cheered in earnest in nearly three seasons would finally have reason to flood the Phillips Arena. No longer would a haircut and a shave be the sole reason to attend Hawks games and the fanbase would finally be validated after falling to LeBron James in 2015. And 2016. And cheer they would, an arena stuffed to the gills with white, blue and yellow no. 30 jerseys.

Final Series: 4-0 Warriors.

Boston Celtics

Two words. Al Horford.

I was never high on supporting the league’s smaller of the “Big Als”, but his Beantown renaissance changed my tune. Horford is Kevin Durant masquerading in a 6-foot-9 Dominican frame with pearlescent gems in his eye sockets. His versatility is terrifying, more so than his terrifyingly nicknamed teammate, “Scary” Terry Rozier. Horford and the Celtics played basketball in the way most deserving of reaching the Finals this season and as such are the Horford is the only basketball related reason on this list.

And, as an added bonus, the smirk-offs between Brad Stevens and Steve Kerr would be legendary meme-fodder.

Final Series: 4-3 Celtics

Brooklyn Nets

The NBA is a premier entertainment package that for whatever reason insists on cheerleaders/dance teams. I wholly support female engagement in the game but given the pace at which the game is played, dancers are often situated as a sideshow. At the Cavs at Philadelphia 76ers game this past March the Sixers dance troupe was largely relegated to flexing their pom poms from the tunnel while their Dunk Squad earned much of the showtime, performing routines of their own all while managing the game worn tradition of waving giant, promotional Wendy’s heads in the crowd to distract visiting free-throw shooters.

The Brooklyn Nets dancers however, cleverly named the Brooklynettes, can dance. In mid-December 2017 Brooklyn’s revelers stomped out a routine to Ciara’s “Like a Boy”. Fitted with hoodies and those oddly popular saggy sweatpant, tapered leg bottoms, the routine captivating and a choreographical feat that outshined the usual, twerk-twerk-twerk routines that have taken hold. Thus a 2018 Warriors-Nets Finals would have at least two games (the Brooklyn ones) that showcase athletic discipline and a performance art to supplement the thrashing that the Nets would receive.

Final Series: 4-3 Brooklynettes

Charlotte Hornets

There are a genre of sports books and films dedicated to describing just how competitive Michael Jordan was with none more significant than the 1996 cult classic thriller Space Jam.

Jordan fought off the Monstars, a team best described as the Warriors-lite. If the Hornets were the Eastern conference champions expect Adam Silver to implement a temporary rule lapse that lets Jordan sign with the Hornets. Yep, Space Jam 2 is a documentary this time around.

Final Series: 4-0 Jordan

Chicago Bulls

Oh, this one’s easy. The Bulls jerseys’ have insignificantly changed since Michael Jordan’s reign. A Warriors-Bulls Finals would be the greatest exercise in Photoshop history. A little contrast here, and some shading there, and we just turned Lauri Markennen’s body into His Airness.

Final Series: 4-0 reddit.com/r/nba

Detroit Pistons

The worst part about the Blake Griffin trade was the gaping hole it left in one of the league’s greatest storylines. If Griffin stays, how long does he build his Los Angeles empire with his first, true love Kendall Jenner? Oakland is miles closer to Los Angeles than Detroit, and with the Kardashian-Jenners on retainer to swallow the spotlight whole an NBA Finals with the Pistons would birth some of the highest quality journalism TMZ could imagine. Did we just see Blendall (or Klake, take your pick) on a midnight tour of the Facebook offices?

Mmm. Juicy.

Final Series: 4-1 Kardashian-Jenner Clan. They always win.

Indiana Pacers

This season Nike took over as the NBA’s official jersey provider. Unlike years past, the corporation went as far as to designate which uniforms were to be worn when, providing a schedule to team equipment managers and rarely wavering from their ironclad decisions.

In the same vain that some angered ESPN worker likely sabotaged the broadcast of the potentially game-winning Josh Hart layup in the Spurs-Lakers, I’d like to hope another disgruntled employee would sabotage the jersey setups. Have fun officiating a Pacers yellow vs Warriors yellow matchup in the Bankerslife Fieldhouse.

Final Series: 4-0 team in yellow.

Miami Heat

To circle back to Space Jam a bit, remember the ball that stored the NBA players powers? After Dion Waiters nailed that game-winner on the Warriors in 2017, incredible basketball power flowed through his frigid veins. That power became Miami’s secret weapon. Instead of rubbing an orangish-brown ridged sphere, the Miami Heat are palming Waiters’ head pregame, essentially forming a team of Monstars to face the Warriors.

So, basically Space Jam 2: Electric Boogaloo.

Final Series: 4-2 Heat

Milwaukee Bucks

Bucks in 6.

Final Series: Bucks, in 6.

New York Knicks

Kevin Durant has a huge summer ahead of him. Unless of course he takes out another lease with his championship factory. But for two games against the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden, Durant would get the star-treatment he could only dream of. As the scent of SuperPretzal wafts through the locker room and Spike Lee dons a custom KD 35 Knicks jersey, Durant would know what love really is. It’s only fitting that America’s largest city takes the most brash approach to welcoming its next free agent. And at the very least, a Knicks finals appearance means New York can finally stop lingering on those 1970s titles. Everybody wins.

Final Series: 4-1 Madison Square Garden, the Mecca of Basketball, Home to the two-time NBA National World Champions of the World.

Orlando Magic

Orlando Magic, who dat? Well at least the post-game celebrations are at Disney World.

Final Series: 4-0 Disney World/ Wide World of Sports/ESPN

Philadelphia 76ers

If the Brad Stevens-Steve Kerr smirk-off wasn’t enough, imagine a matchup with Brett Brown. That’s basically the Spiderman meme.

Final Series: 4-0 The Starters’ Meme Team

Toronto Raptors

A Raptors-Warriors Finals might be able to spur world peace. No, not because it’d be the first NBA Finals held in two different countries. Rather, because Toronto would have finally overcome the plague that is LeBron James, who deflates the city on an annual basis. Plus, when the Warriors inevitably win on Toronto’s home court, the losing fans will actually cheer during the trophy ceremony.

Final Series: 4-2 Oh Canada

Washington Wizards

This would be a landmark matchup in 2018. Not only is this the only way Durant brings a ring to the United States capital is if the Warriors win the Finals in Games 4 or 6, but it could also mark the first time in NBA history that the US President issues an order for a team not to visit because they’re meanies. Can he do that? Probably not. Do I want him to try? History books have to be filled with something.

 

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