Don’t worry guys. We’re only one week away from the start of the NBA season. If your favorite college and pro football teams suck like mine do, then you’re more than ready to get back to basketball. Since it may have been awhile since you’ve thought about the NBA, let me give you 5 things I’m interested in for this upcoming season.
Before we get started I should tell you that I’m purposely not going to talk about Golden State or Cleveland because you can find that coverage, oh, in just about every other NBA article on the internet. This is a slightly deeper dive because If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you’ve already read about the two best teams in the league.
These are listed in no particular order and I’m honestly equally excited/interested about all of them.
- Giannis at point.
It looks like Jason Kidd is really committed to playing Giannis Antetokounmpo at point guard, and I’d like to give coach Kidd a Giannis sized hug for his commitment. If you’re unfamiliar with the Greek Freak’s work let me refer you to this. He’s 6 feet 11 inches tall and homer Milwaukee blogs will tell you he’s a legit 7 footer. Giannis actually played point for much of the season after the all-star break and flirted with putting up a triple double any given night with sizzling averages of 18.8 ppg, 8.6 rpg and 7.2 apg. What’s even more interesting to me is his assist numbers month by month. He began the year averaging 2.6 assists in November, 3.0 in December and January. 4.9 in February (buoyed because the second half of the month he played point) and finally 7.2 and 7.1 assists per game in March and April respectively. That’s a huge jump. The Bucks only went 11-17 post all-star break but the team as a whole was really underwhelming last year. If they can get past the albatross of a contract and human that is Greg Monroe, I’m really excited to see what Giannis can do with a full year at point and a hopefully improved roster. They signed Matthew Dellavedova away from the Cavilers (I promise this is my only Cavs mention) and while I’m not a huge Dellavedova fan, his place is at the 2 and not point. It’s safe to say he should be pretty comfortable slotted next to a tall, ball dominating creator.
- The White Hot Fury of Russell Westbrook
Hot take here: Russell Westbrook plays with a lot of energy/emotion. This is the kind of electrifying basketball analysis you get with my articles. But Westbrook is the guy who finds a way to get angry at anything and everything. He churns that anger in to pure energy he uses to smite other basketball players with his fury. Westbrook probably gets angry when his yogurt doesn’t have enough blueberries in it. How do you think he feels about Kevin Durant telling him he wants to see other people? Remember when the thunder traded James Harden and he responded by angrily scoring 37, 45 and 24 in his first three games with the Rockets? I’m expecting something similar from Russ to start his year. Not to mention that he’s finally the lone alpha dog on this team. It’s finally his team and only his team. When you think about it, Russ hasn’t been the best player on his team since high school. He played 2 years at UCLA in college with Kevin Love and Arron Afflalo.
Russ has a legit shot to average a triple double this year, and he’s going to do so shooting around 40% from the field and I really think he has a shot at putting up 33 shots a game. If he does this and the Thunder make the playoffs, he’s got a great shot at winning MVP. Will the Thunder make the playoffs though? I’m not totally sure. To make it in the West they’re going to have to win at least 44-46 games and Bovada has their over/under for the season at 43.5. A lot will depend on whether Oladipo, Kanter and Adams are up to the task. We know what Westbrook is even though we’ve never seen him with a team of his own. What we don’t know is if Adams can be the second best guy on a playoff team and how Oladipo will play in games that actually matter (he had roughly 0 of those with his former team the Orlando Magic).
- James Harden, meet Mike D’Antoni
So I’ve gone back and forth on this a multitude of times. When the Rockets first hired D’Antoni, I just laughed. Because the thought of Harden and the Rockets playing even LESS defense is just, well, funny. However the more I think about this the more excited I get. D’Antoni’s last two stints as a coach haven’t been great. He failed to implement his 7 seconds or less offense with both the Knicks and the Lakers. But think about the rosters he had on those teams. Sure he had Nash on the Lakers but this was one foot in the grave Nash. The Rockets have a roster actually conducive to running a successful offense that can score 125 points on any given night. It sounds like he’s going to mess around with Harden at point and when you start to think about the spacing they can potentially have with new additions Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon out there, it starts to get interesting. They could legitimately have a top 5 offense if not top 2 (the 1 spot being reserved for Golden State of course, and I promise that’s their only mention as well. Only fair that I included them both once). But to really have a team that can compete they’ll need to have a top 20 defense. D’Antoni’s best Suns teams were top 20, top 15 defenses. If you have a team with one of the best offenses in the league, you can get away with being just okay on D.
The Rockets have an interesting floor/ceiling to me. They could be a top 3 team in the west at their best. They could also miss the playoffs and have a drama filled shit show of a season. Can’t wait to find out which! I’ll watch either way.
- Jojo Embiid.
I have to declare this first, I’m a big Kansas Jayhawks fan. So there is some significant bias in this one. But Joel Embiid could fit right in with Anthony Davis and Karl Anthony Towns as the big men that define the future of the NBA. Jojo is stunningly talented. His footwork in the paint is incredible and even though he’s a monster of a man at a legitimate 7 feet tall, he can shoot from mid-range AND from three. He can dribble, block shots and doesn’t seem to be the foul machine that was Gregg Oden. I know he’s only played a few pre-season games but if he stays healthy, it’s hard to see how he WOULDN’T be an absolute star. That’s a big ‘if’ though. He hasn’t played a meaningful game of basketball in about 2 and a half years, and not just because of one repeating injury but a number of different ones. With Ben Simmons out for a few months (and maybe even the full year), Embiid will undoubtedly be the focus of the 76ers season this year. The Sixers look like they’re going to keep him on a minutes restriction to start the year. He’s not in game shape and it’s pretty smart of the Sixers to bring him along slowly.
Quick side note. The 76ers have now had significant injuries to EACH of their last 5 major additions from each respective offseason. Starting with their trade for Andrew Bynum (R.I.P.) who hurt himself bowling. Then to N’erlens Noel who was injured well before the draft so they knew what they were getting into. Next up was Joel Embiid and we obviously know what happened there. Then Jahlil Okafor actually started the season but did not finish the season, playing only 53 games. And finally, Ben Simmons this year. Wow. Sucks to be the Sixers.
Last note. If you haven’t watched The Ringer’s brief mockumentary of Embiid’s instagram video posts. It’s worth your time.
Last last note: this video has been going around the Twitters lately. It showcases the quickness Embiid has because that’s John freaking Wall he’s guarding there. Although I have to say, despite the high praise this clip is getting, Wall does end up with an open look.
- T-Wolves Under New Management
The Wolves being interesting to me is not a unique opinion. Karl-Anthony Towns is the future of the NBA. Andrew Wiggins is much better suited for the number 2 role. Both are under the age of 22 and wildly athletic. And now they have one of the best defensive coaches in the country, Tom Thibodeau. Wow. Not to mention newcomer Kris Dunn and intrigue prospect and dunk contest winner, Zach Lavine. Some people are projecting this team to make the playoffs this year, and if they did and landed the 8 seed, a certain team I promised I wouldn’t mention again should be slightly terrified. I’m a little more relaxed on my projections for them however. Even though Towns was a revelation during his rookie year, he’s still only a sophomore in this league. The team still lacks a good deal of shooting and they are implementing a brand new system with Thibs. They won 29 games last year. How many wins can Thibs and Dunn realistically add? I think playoffs are a long shot for this bunch but I would love to be wrong.
One last thing I’d like to say directly to the Wolves, who I assume frequent my blog. PLEASE DO NOT TRADE FOR JIMMY BUTLER. Jimmy is an excellent young player but at 27, his timeline just doesn’t match the rest of these baby wolves. Plus adding Butler could stunt the growth of Wiggins and take a little shine off of Towns’s star, and ability wise, Towns needs to be THE guy. Not 2nd guy or even co-guy. He needs to be THE guy.
That’s it for now! Thanks for reading, I’ll try to post on here when I can, hopefully with some regularity…but we’ll see how that goes lol