Houston Rockets: Guardians of the Galaxy
Golden State Warriors: Hawkeye
Portland Trailblazers: Black Widow
Oklahoma City Thunder: Captain America
Utah Jazz: Spiderman
New Orleans Pelicans: Dr. Strange
San Antonio Spurs: Nick Fury
Minnesota Timberwolves: Scarlet Witch
Toronto Raptors: Winter Soldier
Boston Celtics: Iron Man
Philadelphia 76ers: Vision
Cleveland Cavaliers: Hulk
Indiana Pacers: Black Panther
Miami Heat: Ant Man
Milwaukee Bucks: Thor
Washington Wizards: Falcon
Post Infinity War Comparisons:
This one shouldn’t need an explanation, but I’ll give one anyway. Even with only one Infinity Stone, Thanos beat up Thor and the Hulk. Lebron, while not as dominate as Thanos, was still able to win the East with only one other All-Star (Kevin Love) on his team.
Captain Marvel: Golden State Warriors
At the end of Infinity War, Nick Fury calls on Captain Marvel to assist the remaining Avengers in defeating Thanos. Kevin Fegie and other Marvel Studio executives have confirmed that Captain Marvel will be by far the most powerful hero in the MCU.
As we have seen over the past four seasons, the only team that consistently beat Lebron is the Warriors and with four all-stars and two of the five best players in the NBA today, Golden State in the most powerful team in the association.
Spider-Man: Houston Rockets
After Civil War everyone fell in love with Tom Holland’s portrayal of the web slinger. Much like how people fell in love with the Rockets as the team that could finally break up Golden State’s monopoly on the West. Much like how Rockets were so close to beating the Warriors, Spider-Man was so close to pulling that gauntlet off of Thanos’ hand but was just a moment too late.
While it may not have been as tear jerking as Holland’s improve performance before fading into ash, it is always sad to see a basketball player such as Chris Paul sit helplessly on the sideline while the Warriors destroy his team and the 3-2 lead he built.
Star Lord: JR Smith
Snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory.
Something that JR Smith and Star Lord both have in common. Smith, who collected a rebound after a missed George Hill free throw left game one of the NBA finals knotted at 107 with four seconds remaining on the clock. Elected to dribble out the clock forcing the game into overtime instead of passing to a teammate or shooting the ball himself with a chance to win the game.
This lack of situational awareness gave the Warriors a second chance, allowing them to win game one on the way to the 2-0 series lead they have now. This is very similar to when Star Lord hit Thanos in the face, waking him up before Spiderman could get the infinity gauntlet off his hand. That punch eventually cost the Avengers the time stone, giving the mad Titan a 5-1 infinity stone lead at the time.
Banner failing to turn into Hulk: Rest of Cavs (Expect Kevin Love)
Perhaps the best recurring joke in Infinity War was Bruce Banner’s inability to get the Hulk out to fight after the green giant got curb stomped by Thanos in the opening minutes of the movie.
In that opening scene the Hulk appeared to be a match for his purple counterpart delivering consecutive punches and backing him into a corner. At that point Thanos had just about enough, as he proceeded to defeat the Hulk in hand to hand combat.
At the trade deadline it appeared the Cavs acquired ‘the Hulk’ when adding the talents of Rodney Hood, George Hill, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr together. While the foursome had their moments during the regular season, landing a few punches, when the rest of the league turned it up to 100% they (and their other teammates outside of Kevin Love) have looked bad and overmatched.
Hulk getting beat up by Thanos: Toronto Raptors
Going off the last comp, one of the first things we see in Infinity War to demonstrate Thanos’ power is a fight where he takes the Hulk to school. The fight is so traumatic that it turns the Hulk refuses to show up for the rest of the film.
Going off the assumption that in most cases Lebron is Thanos, this opening fight against the Hulk is exactly like his relationship with the Raptors. As mentioned above the Hulk comes out swinging and lands a few blows, just like the Raptors hitting 53 wins this past season and looking unstoppable. But when Thanos decides to get serious, or as we know him ‘playoff Lebron’ the Raptors and the Hulk don’t stand a chance.
Ant Man: San Antonio Spurs
Ant Man did not make an appearance in Infinity War and his only reference was one liner dropped by Black Widow when she mentioned that he and Hawkeye to a deal to be under house arrest so they could stay with their families. This feels a lot like the Spurs presence in this postseason. Technically they made the cut, but they didn’t really contribute anything.
Hawkeye: Minnesota Timberwolves
Minnesota had just about the same impact on this postseason as Hawkeye and Antman did on the events of Infinity War. See the description above for more details.
Wong: Washington Wizards
At the start of Infinity War it seemed like Wong was going to be a big player, helping defend New York along side Iron Man, Spider-Man and Dr. Strange. Yet the second Strange was hauled off by Ebony Maw (Squidward) Wong bowed out and went back to defend the New York sanctum because Strange was gone.
This felt a lot like how the Wizards entered the playoffs. As the eight seed many wrote them off as a sweep or five game series for the Raptors. Like how many wrote off Wong to be a very minor character in Infinity War. In the first round the Wizards pushed the Raptors to six games but in the end exited the same way Wong did during the first act of Infinity War. Quickly and quietly.
Iron Man: Kyrie Irving
Both Iron Man and Kyrie were expected to make big waves throughout Infinity War and the postseason. That was until Iron Man went punch for punch with Thanos and almost lost his life had it not been for whenDr. Strange traded Time Stone to Thanos in exchange Stark’s.
While Lebron was not involved in Kyrie’s season ending injury, the significance of what it meant in the battle for the East was equivalent to giving Thanos another infinity stone. Certain victory for Lebron.
Dr. Strange: Boston Celtics
During the battle on Titan, Dr. Strange gave Thanos a run for his money, helping almost tear the gauntlet from his hand. The good doctor even went one on one with Thanos and landing a few blows. In the end, Strange gave Thanos the time stone because he was playing the long game.
This is exactly what the Celtics seemed to be doing in the playoffs, while Boston fought as hard as they could throughout the first three rounds in the end they came up one win short. While Boston did not concede the Eastern Conference Finals like Strange conceded the time stone, they seem to be taking a page out of Strange’s playbook. The Celtics are in the long game and next year will be very scary and a threat to Lebron’s chances to make/win the finals.
Captain America (Falcon and Black Widow): Russell Westbrook (and the Okalhoma City Thunder)
Captain America’s character has been shown as intensely loyal to his friends and his ideals. Infinity war we not only saw those characteristics reaffirmed, but we saw Cap broken away from Iron Man with his own band of ‘misfits’ (i.e. Falcon and Black Widow). However even though he has lost the star on his chest, he is just as powerful as ever holding back Thanos when he had 5/6 infinity stones in the battle of Wakanda and taking two members of the Black Order (Proxima Midnight and Corvus Glaive) to task in Scotland.
Ever since KD left the Thunder, Westbrook has pulled a Captain America by increasing his strength (with his MVP award last year) and combining forces with a band of misfits in the form of Paul George and Steven Adams (I guess Carmelo Anothony could be included but he wasn’t very helpful down the stretch and into the playoffs).
Vision/Scarlet Witch: Brian Colangelo/the Philadephia 76ers
It was tough to determine who is Vision and who is Scarlet Witch is this comparison, so I will leave that up to the reader. Clearly both Vision and Scarlet Witch are powerful in the film, we saw Scarlet Witch use her powers to lift ‘the giant razer saws of death’ away from the Wakandan soldiers and Vision was able to kill Crovus Glaive when he and Captain America fought him. Yet at the end of the movie, despite Scarlet Witch’s best attempts to destroy the mind stone, Thanos was still able to obtain it. This could be attributed to Scarlet Witch refusing to destroy the stone earlier at the Avengers compound in upstate New York earlier in the movie.
While many around the NBA feel that the Sixers are not only a good team, but have a promising future, they have been hindered by their GM’s burner twitter accounts (to be fair Colangelo has only said he operated one of the accounts named in the Ringer’s original report). Philadelphia is also catching heat from the fact they have not yet fired Colangelo and not putting an end to these rumors. Much like Scarlet Witch and Vision, the Sixers and Colangelo are a powerful team, but might have just stabbed themselves in the back with their actions (or lack thereof).
Black Panther: Utah Jazz
Going into infinity war Black Panther was a hot commodity, coming on the incredible success of his first solo film, the newly minted Wakandan king was sure to play a large role in the battle against Thanos. However while Black Panter had a few cool lines there was nothing incredibly memorable about his presence throughout Infinity War.
This is similar to the Jazz throughout the playoffs. Although they were a surprise to many people when they made the playoffs and defeated the Thunder in the first round, they were not as memorable as other second round exits (such as the Sixers).
Agent Hill: Miami Heat
Hill had one line in the movie and Miami had one win in the playoffs against the Sixers. Both were equally relevant in the grand scheme of things.
Giannis Antetokounmpo: Thor
As one of, if not the, best young player in today’s NBA the Greek Freak has earned a category of his own. After his team (the Bucks) were disrespected for years, Giannis has willed Milwaukee back into relevance. In fact, many thought (myself included i.e. Hulk vs. Thor comp listed above) that Giannis would be and still is the most suited to guard Lebron James in this year’s playoffs.
While we never saw Bucks vs. Cavs in this year’s playoffs, we did see Thor vs. Thanos during the battle of Wakanda in Infinity War. The result of the match up (or more accurately axe throw) is probably what we would’ve seen in the playoffs had the two freaks of the East gone head to head in the playoffs.
Giannis coming very close to a win, but forgetting to aim for the head.
Jason Kidd: Loki
Kidd is truly the Loki of today’s NBA, he is a hall of famer but he doesn’t have a ring, and was always a step or two behind the elite point guards of his era (Nash and Iverson). Then Kidd turned to coaching, where he did some good for his former team (the Nets) but then you have the water spilling incident.
When he was traded to the Bucks all of that seemed to be behind him until he struggled to keep the Bucks over .500 and was fired after the team was 23-22 as the front office felt he was holding back Giannis. The team then went 21-16 in their final 37 games boasting a 0.567 winning percentage, over 50 points over Kidd’s winning percentage of 0.511.
Much like Kidd, Loki has hurt characters around him (in the first Avengers movie and betraying Thor at the end of Ragnarok) but has a few things going for him as well (occasionally fighting with and working with Thor). With all the rumors surrounding Kidd’s dismissal and how the front office felt vs. how Giannis felt, it might be best to just paraphrase Thor here:
“You really are the worst brother(coach) ever.”
Rest of Bucks: The other half of Asgaurd
In the first round of the playoffs, it seemed like a lot of the Bucks were MIA as the seven seed looked to pull an unlikely upset over the injured but still surprisingly good Celtics. Yet one of the main (if not the main) reason why the series went to seven games was the play of Giannis as his teammates did their best to ride his coattails.
When Infinity War opened we saw Thor’s ship (from the end of Ragnarok) in ruins and a scene play out with the God of Thunder, Loki, Heimdall and the somewhat incredible Hulk play out. Yet we were missing Valkyrie and Korg (the guy made of rocks from the last Thor movie). Both of these characters, and half of Asguard, have been confirmed to be alive by the Russo brothers so where were they?
A good guess would be shaking off the attack from Thanos which nearly killed Thor but they will be showing up in future MCU films. On the other hand, Bucks fans can only hope that their entire team shows up in future NBA playoffs.