The NBA season is coming to a close, which means the Sports World will soon get heavy eyelids, start nodding off, and slip into its summer hibernation. The pleasant lull of baseball sounds will give everyone background noise in their front porches and man caves, but in the next few weeks our eyes will begin darting towards the football season. While picking through the pieces of this basketball campaign and directing an eye towards September, here’s the NBA-NFL parallels for this fall.
The Patriots are the San Antonio Spurs. The comparison has been evident for years. The Pats are Vegas’ favorites to win their fifth Super Bowl, and just like the Spursies have nearly two decades of greatness, a stocked trophy case, the best coach in the league, and an aging star. New England’s success is far more dependent on Tom Brady than San Antonio’s was with Tim Duncan. But if Kawhi Leonard is the stud that can keep the window cracked open, then the same can be said for Gronk. We knew the Spurs would be good this past year, just like we do the Pats. But just like San Antonio’s tremendous regular season and second round exit, I think the same will happen to the Pats this season.
The Seahawks are the Warriors. Both were longtime doormats, and now have championships, are star-laden, brash, with excellent coaches. They are also two of the Millenials favorite squads. Go check out how many Russell Wilson and Steph Curry jerseys you see on the playground these days. Both historically loyal fan bases were tortured for a long time, suddenly (almost out of nowhere) to become the new powerhouse. The question will be the ferocity of competition. The Dubs were pushed to the brink by the Thunder, and the Seahawks have to make it out of a brutal NFC West. But Seattle will once again be the best team in that division, and very likely will be in the NFC Championship.
The Panthers are the Cavs. Carolina has the 3rd-best odds to win it all after falling short last year, much like Cleveland did coming into this season (behind Golden State and San Antonio). Just like the Cavs, the Panthers are led by a superstar at the height of his powers (or close to it for LeBron), but the supporting cast is the question. Cam Newton was impeccable last year until the Super Bowl, so let’s give King James his proper credit. LeBron has already won rings, and been to the Finals seven times. Cam has only been to the grand stage once. But the Panthers should be one of the best squads yet again, although I think they fall short (again).
The Steelers are the Thunder. Pittsburgh is tied for the 5th-best odds to win it all, and owns six Lombardi’s, so it’s not fair to compare their hardware. But while the Black and Gold are perennial contenders, we tend to forget they haven’t won a title in nearly a decade (since ’08). The Steelers have the star power just like the Thunder (Big Ben, Antonio Bryant, Le’Veon Bell), but has dealt with severe injuries almost every year recently (like OKC). Pittsburgh is always in the hunt, just like Oklahoma City. But unlike the Thunder, the Steelers will not collapse in the postseason again. I think Pittsburgh ends up in the Super Bowl.
The Packers are the Heat. Green Bay has the 4th-best odds at bringing the trophy back to Title Town, but like Miami seems to be one or two bodies away from greatness. Green Bay has a champion and future Hall of Famer in Aaron Rodgers (like Dwyane Wade), but is the supporting cast good enough to win again? When Jordy Nelson went down everything was thrown into flux and they were never able to recover. Just like when Miami lost Chris Bosh and hoped they could still piece together a run at the Finals. The Packers feel really close to finally breaking through and winning another championship, and I think they’ll get farther than the Heat’s second-round exit. Although that’s assuming there’s not another Bosh-like injury.
The Bengals are the Clippers. Cincinnati owns the 7th-best odds to kiss the Lombardi trophy, but can we trust them? Both franchises were disasters throughout the ’90s, installed smarter leadership, began building through the draft, and assembled some of the most talented rosters in the leagues. And just like the Clippers, the Bengals always seem to self-destruct. Neither fan base has ever seen a title. Both cities are conditioned to expect high expectations to flame out in the postseason. Just like Chris Paul, there’s becoming fewer excuses by the year to explain why Andy Dalton can’t go further. And just like L.A., Cincy will be an all-too-early exit this year.
The Redskins are the Wizards. Keeping the two D.C. franchises tied together is just too perfect. After a surprising surge to win the NFC East last year, the ‘Skins are a trendy pick to take the next step in ’16. Just like John Wall’s ascendance to a star two years ago, many fans in the DMV think Kirk Cousins can do the same. But just like the Wizards inexplicable stumble into no man’s land of the East, the same will happen to their in-city brethren this year. You can’t trust Jay Gruden to keep things on track, and the overall roster still seems thin. Cousins (like Wall) can’t do it all by himself, and will regress this year. Washington will be watching the NFL playoffs from the couch.
The Jaguars are the Kings. Both squads are the only pro game in town, and both franchises have made some bold moves recently to finally be competitive. But it’s been a long time since you could take either one very seriously, and some high risk/high reward moves have blown up in their faces. Every year around this time the media tells us the Jags are going to take that next step, and every year they finish with a top 10 draft pick. Last year was supposed to be the time Sacramento finally put it together with Boogie Cousins, Rajon Rondo, and George Karl. Sorry, another implosion. I wasn’t buying on the Kings, and I’m not buying on the Jags. I think it ends with another sub-.500 campaign.
The lesson as always? It’s never too early to begin predicting the unpredictable, especially while dreaming during those summer naps.
D.A. hosts 6-10pm ET on the CBS Sports Radio Network. He has hosted The D.A. Show (aka “The Mothership”) in Boston, Miami, Kansas City and Ft. Myers, FL. You can often catch him on the NFL Network’s series “Top 10.” D.A. graduated from Syracuse University in ’01, and began looking for ways to make a sports radio show into a quirky 1970’s sci-fi television series. Follow D.A. on Twitter and check out the show’s Facebook page. D.A. lives in NYC, and is a native of Warwick, NY.