First Round Dark Horse (furst round dark hors) noun. A team that, despite having a low playoff seeding, is generally considered capable of, if not contending for the championship, then at least possibly defeating a higher-seeded first round opponent.

Usage example: The Lakers are this year's premier First Round Dark Horse.

Word History: This is a Basketbawful original based on a recommendation from reader Adam D. Jacobs, who suggested we coin a term "for 'would hate to see in the first round,' that old chestnut that announcers use to try to drum up interest in a hopelessly one-sided series."

Adam was right on the money with this one. Every year there are a handful of teams that have little or no chance of winning the big one, but nonetheless generate a significant amount of buzz as potential first-round spoilers. Experts, analysts, and broadcasters will repeatedly assure us that nobody wants to face [Insert Team Name Here] in the first round, or something to that effect. This usually happens under one of the following four circumstances:

1. The team is talented enough that it should have been much stronger during the regular season, but injuries and/or suspensions weakened them and provided a (somewhat) reasonable excuse for their poor record.

2. The team started off poorly but grew increasingly stronger as the season progressed, gaining momentum and finishing strong down the stretch.

3. The team is a former heavyweight contender who has underachieved, coasting throughout the season possibly (even probably) due to a lack of focus, intensity, and desire.

4. The team has a superduperstar that is theoretically good enough to win all on his own.

Based on these criteria, the potential First Round Dark Horses for the 2007 NBA playoffs are:

Los Angeles Lakers: The premier FRDH this year, due mostly to Kobe's otherworldly scoring explosions from a few weeks back. They started out 15-6 before injuries, suspensions, and Smush Parker doomed them to a series of nearly catastrophic losing streaks. But most of the team is healthy now, and conventional wisdom says that Kobe can score 50 points a game and beat the Suns singlehandedly. Won't happen, though.

Denver Nuggets: Like the Lakers, the Nuggets suffered through injuries and suspensions that marred their record. Also like the Lakers, they have superstar talent in Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony. Furthermore, they're finishing strong (they've won six in a row, including two wins over the Lakers and a win over the Spurs). Talentwise, they're probably a better FRDH than the Lakers, but Kobe, and the Lakers "rivalry" with the Suns, will dominate the headlines.

New Jersey Nets: They honestly do suck and probably shouldn't even be in the playoffs, but thanks to a mediocre Eastern Conference, we're going to have to hear all about how "a team with Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, and Richard Jefferson could beat anybody." Too bad Kidd's almost washed up, Carter wilts under pressure, and Jefferson still isn't 100 percent after returning from injury.

The East has been cheated out of a couple potential FRDH's in the Miami Heat and Washington Wizards. The Wizards are the 6th seed, owing mostly to the extended absence of Antawn Jamison and the recent injuries to Caron Butler and Gilbert Arenas. If Butler and Arenas hadn't gone down, this team would be a legit FRDH. Of course, if those guys hadn't gone down, they very well might have won their division and the Heat would be the sixth seed.

Instead, the Heat are seeded fourth and will have a very good chance of moving on to the second round, especially now that Dwyane Wade is back. If they had remained in the sixth spot, or if Wade hadn't been able to overcome his shoulder injury, the Heat would stand very little chance of making noise in the playoffs, thus ensuring their FRDH status. As it is, they may be the second-best team in their conference.


Anonymous Anonymous said...
Where the fuck is Golden State:
The most notorious dark horse of all-time?!