Which of these teams would you rather be?
In the Eastern Conference, the Atlanta Hawks hold the eighth and final playoff spot with a not so wonderful 34-40 record. In the West, the Denver Nuggets with their 45-29 record would currently miss the playoffs if the season ended today.
If the season ended today, it is hard to say which of these teams would be looked upon worse. Sure, the easy answer is that you would rather be the Hawks because you still make the playoffs. The Nuggets will be watching at home, whereas at least the Hawks could make a miracle run.
That sounds all fine and good, except the Hawks have to take on the Boston Celtics, who will most likely sweep them right out of the playoffs. Not only that, but for those four or five days they are taking a beating upside the head, NBA analysts will be making fun of the Hawks and pointing out how they do not deserve to even be in the playoffs. They will be compared to teams like the Nuggets and will be proof that the NBA should take the best 16 teams and not the top eight from each conference.
Is the bashing worth a playoff appearance?
The Nuggets may think that, though it is hard to be disappointed with a season where the team finishes with a record 15 games over .500. That is of course until they realize that if they had just made more shot here, or made a defense stop there in just one game, they might still be playing.
Missing the playoffs in a league where half the teams make it is disappointing. The Nuggets will be looked at in somewhat the same way the Miami Heat or Minnesota Timberwolves are viewed and the pairing of Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson will still looked upon as a failure.
Basically, neither team has a lot to look forward to come playoff time. Things may change and other teams may take over these roles, but somebody is going to be looked at as embarrassment.
Then again, maybe the real embarrassment is letting 16 teams into NBA playoffs.