Out of the 16 teams in the NBA postseason, who has the most to prove? From Cinderella stories to the struggles of Goliaths, there are several teams that have extra to prove going into the playoffs. Each with a different message, these 4 teams share a hunger for postseason success.
In 2016, the Hawks decided to rebuild through the draft. This was a well orchestrated 4-year rebuild that ended up with the team making the playoffs as a 5th seed in the east this year. They rebuilt around star PG Trae Young, added an elite rebounder in Clint Capela, and built a team with tremendous depth. In the regular season, they wore teams down with the depth of their lineup. Riddled with injuries this year, the Hawks have overcome great adversity to make it to the playoffs.
Now that everyone on the roster aside from Cam Reddish is healthy and active, the Hawks look to prove that they belong as they face the New York Knicks in round 1 of the playoffs. Having already taken game 1 in the garden, Trae Young and the Hawks have momentum on their side going into game 2 of the series Wednesday night.
It will take a lot more than last-minute heroics to defeat the Knicks in a 7-game series but this young Atlanta team is certainly up to the challenge. Atlanta is knocking on the door, ready to prove that they belong.
New York Knicks
The New York Knicks have not made the playoffs in 7 years. The long drought in New York has definitely been felt by their huge market/fan base, however, the drought is over! The Knicks are here to compete now thanks to their new head coach, Tom Thibodeau, and All-Star forward Julius Randle. Signing Derrick Rose this season has also added tremendous PG depth and veteran leadership to the Knicks. Rose has been impactful since signing with New York and is surely a great mentor for Immanuel Quickley’s development as a point guard.
The Knicks are here to prove that they still “run” New York City, not the behemoth super-team in Brooklyn. The Knicks are competing for the respect and support of New Yorkers. It’s safe to say that the Knickerbockers play better defense than their Brooklyn rival, but how far can they go in the playoffs? Can they beat the Hawks in 7 games?
New York City is starving for a championship-caliber team. If the Knicks can make a run, the city’s faith in the franchise will be restored after the team floundered for 7 seasons. For the Knicks, this playoff tournament is about redemption.
Giannis and the Milwaukee Bucks took a 2-0 series lead over the Miami Heat on Monday night, defeating the Heat 132-98. The Bucks have all the pieces to win a championship, and that’s exactly what they are here to do. Superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton have been electric all year, including the first two games of the postseason. This is an underrated duo that deserves more credit for what it has accomplished in the past couple regular seasons.
After their early exit from the NBA Bubble last year, the Bucks have a chip on their shoulder and carry a hunger for success in the postseason. The next game in the series will be played in Miami. At the rate they are playing, I would not be surprised if Milwaukee pulled off the sweep this week.
The Milwaukee Bucks want to show fans that they can meet and exceed expectations. The Bucks’ odds to win the NBA finals were +700 after game 1. With a resounding win over Miami Monday night, they are on their way to proving oddsmakers wrong.
Los Angeles Lakers
The 2020 World Champions might have the most to prove out of everyone this year. Expectations always seem to be higher for LeBron James, and the same goes for the Lakers. Many NBA fans thought that his path to a championship in the Orlando bubble was too easy. They played Portland in the first round, Houston in the second, Denver in the Western Conference Finals, and the Miami Heat in the championship. Although the path may have been an easy one, the Lakers still got another banner and rings to show for it.
The Lakers have struggled in a few areas this year. Plagued by injuries all year, team chemistry seems to be a weak point for LeBron & Company. The Lakers are here to prove that they are still the best in the world, even if they had to play in the play-in tournament to reach the playoffs.