After Indiana and Roy Hibbert dispatched the Knicks Saturday night, NBA fans and pundits spent much of Sunday talking about how these are the “small market” Conference Finals, because none of the teams left – Miami, Indiana, San Antonio and Memphis – are among the Top 10 TV markets (list here). How did this happen?
1. New York – Eliminated by Indiana.
2. LA – Injuries to Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant///Blake Griffin hurt mid-way through the Memphis series.
3. Chicago – Derrick Rose didn’t play a minute this year.
4. Philadelphia – Andrew Bynum didn’t play a minute this year.
5. Dallas – Dirk Nowitzki missed 29 games, but they sucked, anyway.
6. SF/Oakland/San Jose – Eliminated by San Antonio.
7. Boston – Rajon Rondo ACL injury.
Injuries crippled many of the big market stars (and Westbrook, too). So can we please squash any sort of notion that the NBA is turning into a small-market league? The NBA has, and always will be, a star-driven league. Wherever the stars are, big market or small, that’s who will be great. San Antonio was great for over a decade after drafting Tim Duncan. Cleveland was great (Finals appearance!) after drafting LeBron. Orlando was great (Finals appearance!) after drafting Dwight Howard. Charlotte will be great after drafting Andrew Wiggins.
You probably don’t need further proof of this, but here’s a jaw-dropping stat:
Indiana become first team to make the Conference Finals without a player who was drafted in the Top 5 since Utah in ’94.
— NBA Guru (@NBAGuru) May 19, 2013
Anyway, the Pacers will get their shot at LeBron again this year, but without Danny Granger. So … Paul George on LeBron and Roy Hibbert dominating inside? Yeah, I’ll still take Miami in 5.
As for San Antonio-Memphis, the Grizzlies lost the opener of the last two series and still advanced, so I won’t read much into Sunday’s Annihilation at the Alamo. But for the NBA’s sake (well, ESPN, too), I sure hope Game 2 is much more competitive.