Three Things I Think I Know About The NBA Season

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After an NBA Postseason that saw the San Antonio Spurs put together the single most brilliant offensive postseason in my living memory, culminating in a live disemboweling of a 4-time MVP and his superstar-laden team in one of the most shocking finals in recent history, and then an NBA offseason that saw LeBron James return home with Kevin Love in tow, Derrick Rose seemingly back at full strength, and Paul George lose his entire season due to a basket stanchion, there’s a lot to keep track of. But that’s what I’m here for in the micro, and TSF Sports is here for in the Macro. Our job is to help you understand what’s going on. Here are a few things I think I know for the NBA season.

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The New Three Kings?

1: While everyone fawns over the Lebron-Love-Kyrie trifecta, I wonder what it says about us all that we’re again so easily forgetting the lessons the Spurs taught us in last year’s finals.

Look, I love the idea of LeBron back in front of a crowd that gives a damn about basketball instead of being seen at the local nightclubs in town. I am enjoying watching Kyrie Irving suddenly discover that he has all-star talent for 82 games a year, instead of over a weekend. Also, with Kevin Love’s outlets, the very real possibility of a season-long LeBron Dunk Contest reel is in play. However, and I blame myself for all of this, we’re automatically assuming greatness based on the individual talent with no idea of how we are going to answer some of the basic basketball questions.

How will Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving react to real playoff-level pressure when neither one of them has not played a single meaningful NBA game for the entirety of their careers?  Do the old lions they signed (Mike Miller, Shawn Marion) have enough left to be viable contributors? And perhaps the most important question, and the one that bedeviled the Heat in last year’s finals: Past LeBron, who plays defense?

In the most recent NBA Finals, the Heat were disassembled by the Spurs because the Heat, minus LeBron, didn’t have anyone who could play defense anymore. And while Andrew Wiggins would have been an excellent perimeter defender to take some of the pressure off of LeBron, you traded him to get the best power forward in the sport. So again, who on this team plays defense? I know who scores. I know who rebounds. I know who passes, and makes plays. I don’t know who gets a big defensive stop unless it’s LeBron. And did he sign up to come home for this? To basically be the best defender on his team AGAIN?

So while I’m looking forward to this season, I think it’s only fair to not immediately crown the Cavs as the best team in the East until those questions I just asked.

2: The Lakers are broken right now, and will remain that way for as long as Kobe Bryant and the way he wants the team to operate continues to be the standard.

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When will this matter again?

It’s difficult to overstate what the Lakers are in the history of the league. Every decade of the NBA has been dominated, at one point or another, by the Lakers. But that hegemony was never just about talent. It was always that Los Angeles seemed to be smarter, and luckier, than just about everyone else. They developed an infrastructure that was the envy of basketball. They drafted brilliantly, and seemed to master better than anyone else the idea of keeping that legacy going. And then, it all changed. No one’s sure when really. But it has. And now, perhaps for the first time since those Eddie Jones and Nick Van Exel Lakers, the league has passed them by. The Lakers, the smart adaptable Lakers, were the only team in the NBA who didn’t send a representative to the Sloan Conference. Hell the Sacramento Kings, who employ noted nutbar DeMarcus Cousins, happily sent someone to learn about analytics. Their head coach doesn’t just not understand the new way of the NBA, he happily flouts it and has even said that “3’s don’t work in the playoffs”. While everyone else is looking for players who are less ball-dominant and trying to learn from the lessons of the internationally-influenced Spurs, the Lakers assembled a team full of guys who can charitably be called ball stoppers.

And, in perhaps the most damning example yet, while the top franchises pride themselves on being excellent drafters and\or cultivators of talent, the Lakers have almost ignored the idea of the draft as a way to patch holes. Don’t believe me? The last all-star that the Lakers drafted and developed was…. Eddie Jones. Remember, the Lakers didn’t draft Kobe. The Charlotte Hornets did, and then traded him for the rights to Vlade Divac. Andrew Bynum was the last impact player they drafted. It’s been, other than Bynum, a long collection of bench guys and preseason cuts. Meanwhile, the teams they competed with back in their last successful era have restocked the cupboard and have young talent throughout their roster. The Spurs? Kawhi Leonard, Patty Mills, and the best coach\front office combination in the sport. The Suns? Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic, and a top-notch training staff. Hell, the Clippers are set up better than they are. THE CLIPPERS.

This is a franchise, from on the court to off, that seems to be playing in a different era than anyone.  Look at their team. Find me anyone on that team who can play defense. A soul. I’ll wait for you to tell me. This is a team that needs to run and gun and rely on their offensive talent, and yet their head coach has fooled himself into thinking that 3-pointers and corner 3’s are for the birds.

Simply put, for right now, the Lakers and the Clippers have switched bodies. And until someone can get in there and fix all of the dry rot that has set in throughout the organization, the Lakers will be hopeless for the foreseeable future.

3: This is going to be a terrific regular season.

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Who will sacrifice the most to win this?

Derrick Rose and the Bulls trying to finally get over the hump, with the most talented team of the Thibs era (assuming Derrick Rose is healthy again.) LeBron, Kyrie, and Kevin Love restoring Cleveland as one of the league’s best home-court advantages while trying to play together on the fly. The Wizards having the best chance for a deep playoff run in my living memory. The Russell Westbrook Show for the first 6 weeks of the season. The Spurs trying to do something that they have never done, and carving up teams left, right, and center with some of the finest offensive basketball you’ll ever see put forth.

What do I think is going to happen in the postseason? I’m glad you asked. For my money, the Cavs are going to fall into the same trap that Miami fell into their first year. Namely, 3 guys who were all used to being the MAN now have to figure out how to work together. And while I envision them making the Finals, after some battles with the Wizards and the Bulls, it ends there. Because, if we’ve learned anything about the Spurs over this nearly 15-year run, it’s this: You underestimate them at your own peril.

And since I am not about to be the fool who falls into that trap again, I’m picking the Spurs to repeat for the first time in the Duncan\Popovich era.

See you when the season starts.

6 Responses to “Three Things I Think I Know About The NBA Season”

  1. ThelastPoet says:

    Re: #1: I agree and would add that Irving is injury prone and Love is overrated. It is also not clear who takes Bosh’s former status as 3rd banana on this squad and whether that transition will go smoothly.

    Re point #2: I’m not on board with blaming Bryant for the Lakers woes. Nor do I agree with the evidence you’ve presented concerning how they’ve “ignored” the draft. I do, however, agree that they are a trainwreck lol but a fun one, I think, to rubberneck and watch!

  2. Okori Wadsworth says:

    @TLP: Go and look at the Lakers draft history. Then name me a guy after Andrew Bynum who is a meaningful contributor.

  3. TheLastPoet says:

    I understand what you’re saying. I just don’t believe that drafting poorly, or trading multiple picks for washed up players, both of which the Lakers have done, is the same thing as “ignoring” the draft.

    The Lakers usually have to work with very low draft picks, and history shows that several teams have struggled making the right selections outside the lottery. Indeed the Spurs stand almost alone in their ability to find late round gems. So I don’t think it’s fair to say the Lakers ignored the draft. However, I do think it’s fair to say the Lakers whiffed on the talent they selected, as do many teams.

    Secondly, they traded four draft picks to the Suns for Nash, and he’s given them nothing. But had the Nash trade been successful, then we would likely be having a different conversation today about the Lakers and the draft. Or had they not traded for Nash and simply kept the picks, then it is likely that at least one of the three players they would’ve selected (the fourth pick has yet to transpire) would have produced more than the ancient Stevie Fingertips (s/o to D-Will!)

    So, did they ignore the draft? I don’t think so. They swung for the fences and instead grounded out. Tough luck for a franchise that has had GREAT luck over the years. Perhaps an argument can be made that they misused the draft – wasting picks on washed up players, etc. But even there, they are the victims of circumstance, not willful intent to ignore.

  4. Okori Wadsworth says:

    @TLP: misusing the draft by never trying to trade up, or thinking about keeping your picks for a loaded 2014 draft, is the same as ignoring it. And I could also argue that that being unable to develop a single all-star you didn’t have to trade assets away to get since Andrew Bynum is a real problem.

    (And I could argue that the Lakers treated the draft in their sport the same way the Giants did with Barry Bonds near the end. They didn’t ignore it, they just piecemealed from year-to-year.)

  5. TheLastPoet says:

    Nah I disagree. The Lakers kept their 1st rd pick in this year’s loaded draft, selecting the best player available in Randle. They “ignored” nothing. Regarding previous picks who did not develop, it’s difficult to find all-star talent when you are consistently picking at the bottom of the draft. If the Lakers are to be blamed for that, then so too is most of the league, outside of San Antonio as I said before.
    Misusing is not the same as ignoring. The former can happen by mistake, as on the Lakers case, the latter happens on purpose. To ignore would suggest that year after year, Buss and Kupchak go into every spring saying, “F*ck the draft, we’re the f*cking Lakers!” Lol somehow I doubt that is happening!

  6. Okori Wadsworth says:

    @TLP: They also haven’t ever gone to the Sloan Conference for analytics, which every NBA team has gone to. Their head coach thinks 3-pointers are an overrated metric, ignoring the idea that the last few NBA champions used 3 pointers as a key offensive weapon.

    See, if they had blown it up and say…. traded Pau when Kobe got hurt again, this would be a team in a much better situation.