How Disappointing Is Each First Round Exit In The 2024 Playoffs?

The first round of the 2024 NBA playoffs have come to an end. We know which eight teams are still alive in the race to win a championship, while eight other squads were unable to navigate the first round. It’s always a tough pill to swallow, but of course, not being able to make it through the first round is a bigger problem for some teams than others.

Today, we’re going to look at all eight teams that couldn’t win four times in seven games at the start of the postseason and try to answer a question: How disappointing is it that they couldn’t make it out of the first round? For some teams, like the Magic or the Pelicans, it wasn’t that big of a gut punch, and they have reason to believe brighter days are on the horizon. But for other squads, like the Bucks or the Suns, being unable to get out of the opening round is a flat-out disaster.

Milwaukee Bucks

It’s very easy to spin this Bucks exit as “Giannis Antetokounmpo was hurt and didn’t play, Damian Lillard was hurt and played, Khris Middleton was playing on a bad ankle,” and I’d get it. However, even when their guys were healthy, we saw that this Milwaukee team was not championship caliber in the slightest. They drew a team in the playoffs that owned them during the regular season, they fired a coach who was 30-13, then went 19-20 from that point on. Still, they had title-or-bust expectations, and boy, did they not meet them. Now, they will go into an offseason where they have to find a way to get better without too many avenues to do that.

How disappointing?: It’s a total disaster, but at least Giannis is still here.

Orlando Magic

Yes, the Magic will be bummed they blew a double-digit lead in Game 7 against the Cavaliers. Having said that, Orlando is in a really nice position in the big picture, as their building blocks (namely Paolo Banchero, Franz Wagner, Jalen Suggs) are still on their rookie deals and they have stuff to go make a big swing via a trade, along with a bit of cap room in case they want to fix some problems in free agency. They have to find a way to boost their offense — your friends at Dime would love to see them get a veteran point guard who can make things run smoothly on that end of the floor, a la Mike Conley — but generally, they were playing with house money this year. Expectations will be raised going forward, but for now, this was a learning experience for an ascendant team in the Eastern Conference.

How disappointing?: Not in the slightest, because brighter days are on the horizon.

Philadelphia 76ers

Like the Bucks, injuries (i.e.: two injuries to Joel Embiid) kept them from reaching their ceiling. They were excellent before Embiid hurt his knee, but he was clearly not right and tried to work his way back into playing shape during the series against the Knicks, and that’s before you get to him dealing with Bell’s palsy. There’s a major silver lining in seeing that Tyrese Maxey is a stud — he is about to make a ton of money in an extension this summer — but they could have beaten New York and now go into an offseason where they have to basically rebuild their entire roster. There certainly was a chance for them to finally make it to the Eastern Conference Finals, which makes this a tough pill to swallow. Having said that, if they can manage Embiid’s knee going forward and Maxey continues on this trajectory, they got to see during the playoffs that they finally have the 1-2 punch that perfectly compliments one another they’ve coveted for Embiid’s entire tenure.

How disappointing?: Any missed opportunity with Embiid really hurts, but by Sixers standards, this wasn’t that bad.

Miami Heat

It’s hard to be too upset at how things turned out if you’re the Heat. Yes, they want to compete every single year, but going into a series against Boston without Jimmy Butler, Josh Richardson, or Terry Rozier, and then having Jaime Jaquez Jr. get hurt before it ended, is just brutal. This was not an especially good team that went into a series shorthanded against the best team in the league and took a game off of them. They have aspirations of doing great things, but managed to win a game despite bringing a knife to a bazooka fight. This offseason has the potential to get strange depending on what happens with Butler, but as for how this playoff run went, well, that’s about right.

How disappointing?: With that many injuries, it can’t be too disappointing.

Los Angeles Clippers

We’re at the point where Kawhi Leonard’s inability to stay healthy is a feature, not a bug. It’s hard to shake the feeling that something big has to happen in Los Angeles this offseason — Paul George is a free agent, as is James Harden, and who knows what Steve Ballmer might have up his sleeve ahead of the team’s move to the Toilet Palace. If they stay healthy, maybe they beat the Mavericks, and then get to battle against an inexperienced Thunder team. Instead, we got the latest high-profile playoff flop by perhaps the team most desperate in the entire NBA to get over the hump. Only this time, they couldn’t even make it out of the first round.

How disappointing?: Pretty bad, and how they navigate the existential crisis that is coming to define this era of Clipper basketball will be fascinating to watch.

Phoenix Suns

If you ask Mat Ishbia, everything is great. If you ask literally anyone else, this was a travesty. Phoenix gave up anything and everything it had to put together a basketball team that got the 6-seed in the Western Conference and got swept in a series against an ascendant squad in which they lost three games by double-digits. Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal are getting older, and they’re locked into a team built around those two, Devin Booker, Jusuf Nurkic, and Grayson Allen without all that many avenues to get better. Just about everything about this year went wrong, with a first round playoff sweep being the icing on the cake.

How disappointing?: The worst of the bunch. Just an all-time flop by a franchise that eyed competing for a championship this year.

Los Angeles Lakers

Well, the coach got fired, so, that’s not great. Ultimately, getting bounced in the first round looks bad because it’s the Lakers and LeBron James is getting closer and closer to retirement, but look closer and it’s not that big of a travesty. Denver is just a better team — it took two buzzer-beaters in Denver by Jamal Murray to put them away! — while Los Angeles had a solid (albeit not great) roster that won 47 games, the second-most of any LeBron team in L.A. This situation is similar to Miami’s, where the expectations were set more by the front of the team’s jerseys than anything else. Unless LeBron decides he wants to retire because he was so disappointed that they only won the In-Season Tournament and took a measly one game off of the defending champs that swept them last year, it’s probably not a huge deal. Still, the Lakers had expectations of doing more and they did not, and now, they’ll enter an offseason where they need a new coach and will almost certainly look for some short of roster shakeup.

How disappointing?: Title-or-bust expectations met a team that was not nearly good enough to have those expectations, but it still stings.

New Orleans Pelicans

Can losing a playoff series without Zion Williamson against the 1-seed be a big deal? It happened in such a way that there are questions that need to be answered, particularly when it comes to Brandon Ingram’s long-term future with the team when they have Trey Murphy and Herbert Jones, but unless you want to argue that they should have taken a game or two off of a young and inexperienced Thunder team, it’s just hard to be too riled up about this one.

How disappointing?: Probably a solid 1/10.