The five most intriguing plotlines to watch out for in the upcoming NBA season.
Steven Adams has made the NBA more popular in New Zealand than it’s been since the days of Michael Jordan. This is because Adams is a really cool guy who buzzes out Americans by being himself. It’s also because it’s against the odds that he even made the league.
The thing is though, Adams is no longer just a media day novelty or fuzzy success story. In three seasons he has improved to the point of being one of the best centres in the game. He’s a rugged defender, but has recently added some nifty offensive moves to his repertoire and has a solid two man game with Westbrook which results in heaps of cool alley oop dunks. The way he bullied the Warriors to literal insanity last playoffs warmed my heart, but it also showed the rest of the league one of their few weaknesses.
Instead of being wildly inaccurate clickbait, this season when local media says stuff like “Adams and his Thunder….”, it’ll be somewhere close to the ballpark of plausibility. It’ll be in the carpark outside the ballpark, at least. The point is, Adams is the second or third best player on a team with Russell Westbrook. He’s a national treasure and I’d trust him with my life.
But as much as I love Adams, he is just one of many intriguing plotlines that will play out this season...
The Warriors are the worst and the best
Two things: 1) I hate the Golden State Warriors and 2) the Warriors are absolutely going to win the championship.
1) I want it to be known I hated the Warriors long before it became acceptable. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are trustie sons of former NBA players, so don’t try to tell me they were ever underdogs or know struggle because they didn’t go to a premier basketball college or got injured a few times. This is the team that classlessly celebrates when they’re up 30 against a lottery team of 22-year-olds yet have the nerve to complain should any team dare enjoy beating them. These guys are petty, smarmy and arrogant in the non-cool way. The Warriors are the Australian cricket team of the NBA and have been for three years. They are pure evil.
2) In the offseason, the Warriors replaced Harrison Barnes - a player that in last seasons playoffs shat the bed in a manner that would make our most embarrassing Blackcaps proud - with Kevin Durant, an unguardable scorer who is consistently one of the top three players in the game. After breaking the single season win record and only just missing out on the championship, the Warriors went from pretty much unbeatable last season to why even bother playing this season out in one move. I struggle to comprehend how they’ll lose more than three games. Even though I hate them more than any sports team in recent memory, they will still objectively be amazing to watch.
Maybe, maybe, MAYBE someone can actually beat the evil Warriors
A simple rule in the NBA is you can never count out a team that has Lebron James. In the playoffs he reminded everyone that he is still the best basketball player on the planet by a long way. He was literally a man amongst boys, leading the finals in every stat category on the way to an improbable victory that proved that sometimes life is beautiful and smug bastards like the Warriors get what’s coming to them eventually.
This season, Lebron will look to rest even more than usual and come into the playoffs even fresher, which he can do because the Eastern Conference is terrible apart from his Cleveland Cavs, and because Kyrie Irving can carry the team while Lebron coasts. Similar to how Steph went to another level on the confidence gained from his first finals win, Kyrie is going to have a big year this year. This plus my completely baseless hope that Kevin Love has learned to play defence during the offseason gives me some hope that the Cavs can challenge the Warriors again.
The Warriors also have a few miniscule weaknesses:
Physicality: After yelling this at my TV for 18 months, someone finally realised that they needed to be physical with the Warriors. The league will have noted how the Thunder and Cavs wore down the Warriors with relentless physicality. Expect/hope to see constant “accidental” shoulders into Steph all season.
Lack of depth: The Warriors gave up a lot to get Durant. They had to let go of vital role players including Andrew Bogut, Festus Ezeli, Marreese Speights, Harrison Barnes (lol) and Leandro Barbosa. Teams have to think if they can just stay close with the Warriors’ starting lineup they can make up ground when the second unit comes on.
Draymond Green is the worst: Green is the glue that holds the Warriors together, but his hot headed nature is also what lost them the finals last season after one too many attacks on opposition junk got him suspended at a crucial time. There is genuine hope that Draymond will somehow be even more of a dick next season and it could hurt the Warriors again. So much so that someone even wrote a think piece on it.
Russell Westbrook is better than all of us
Russell Westbrook is maybe the greatest human being alive and the most unfairly criticised player in the NBA other than Lebron James. Russ plays every second of every game at a thousand miles an hour, like a complete psycho but in the best way. The criticism has always been that he never passed enough to his former teammate Durant, which was alluded to as the reason Durant ended up leaving. It also wasn’t helped by Durant subtweeting his former team about it all offseason.
Russ has consistently said he doesn’t care about the Durant stuff, but I don’t believe it for a second. Russ is mad. What he could possibly do with a team to himself is mind boggling as it is, but add to that the fact that he is going to be absolutely furious all season and the result will be something close to when sharks jump out of the water. I sincerely wonder if someone will get seriously hurt when the Thunder and Warriors meet on November 4.
Russ is going to be MVP this year.
Make the NBA fun again
This season a handful of young teams that could run the league in a few years are finally going to make some real strides forward and be really entertaining in the process. If you want to get on a bandwagon early, seriously consider these teams.
Minnesota Timberwolves: They’ve provided the last two rookie of the year winners and could potentially have another this year in their new point guard Kriss Dunn. Andrew Wiggins came into the league with similar hype to Lebron while Karl Anthony Towns looked like a seasoned vet in his first year and, as a centre with the skills of a point guard, is considered the future of basketball. This season the T’Wolves also added the Coach equivalent of Russell Westbrook in Tom Thibodeau. It’s sad that the Wolves are considered ahead of the curve in realising that adding a great coach to transcendent young talent early is a good idea, but whatever. These guys are going to improve real fast because Thibs is crazy. They might even make more noise in the playoffs than they’re already hyped to.
LA Lakers: After being super depressing for years, the Lakers are now in a similar position to the Wolves with three young future superstars in D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle. Replacing one of the worst coaches in NBA history who publicly bullied his young stars, the Lakers have brought in Luke Walton who is Poochie by comparison, and also a great coach. The Lakers are like in The Wire when Wee-Bey’s son gets adopted by the well-to-do cops and suddenly starts excelling in life. They won’t be as good as the T’Wolves this season, but they’ll be fun again for sure.
Philadelphia 76ers: The 76ers were so intentionally bad for so long in order to horde high draft picks that the NBA almost changed their draft rules. But having fired their former GM who was famous for saying “trust the process” during all this, it looks like they’re actually going to try win at basketball with their youngins now. Although their latest potential game changer Ben Simmons is likely out injured all season, they’re finally bringing in another high draft pick Joel Embiid after two years off due to injury. Embiid has a similar skill set to Karl Anthony Towns, an amazing social media presence and is demanding people call him “The Process”. You beaut.
The contenders for The Most Cooked
Sometimes the bad teams are as entertaining as the good ones.
New York Knicks: The Knicks spent their offseason determined to give all their money to players who were past their prime three years ago. It’s like they thought they were running a New Zealand music festival instead of a basketball team for a second. Also, I CAN’T BELIEVE THEY SIGNED JOAKIM NOAH FOR FOUR YEARS. I love the guy, but he gets injured just witnessing physical activity. It’s amazing that they think involving their star player Kristaps Porzingis in more pick and roll plays (the cornerstone of basketball offense) is a big idea.
Chicago Bulls: The Bulls are making a serious run at having the most cooked management in the league. After firing Thibs (yep) a couple of years ago, they replaced him with Fred Hoiberg, a shiny new coach known for implementing high pace movement orientated offense. They then filled the team with washed players that don’t move very fast and can’t shoot. I don’t know who is going to get the ball in the hoop in this team.
Sacramento Kings: The Kings are easily the most cooked in the NBA, largely because they have one of the best big men in the league in Demarcus ‘Boogie’ Cousins, but can’t get their shit together enough to give him any help despite ample opportunities. They get high draft picks but fuck it up every time, either by inexplicably passing on great players or repeatedly acquiring players that play the same position as their TRANSCENDENT superstar. Adding Boogie to any other contending team would change the landscape of the NBA, but that’s the only thing the Kings aren’t stupid enough to do. Every night I pray that Boogie gets traded to any other team. #FreeBoogie.
The NBA season begins today.