Season begins Tues Oct 22nd. Here’s a quick rundown of what’s up and what’s new. In no certain order …
Maybe the most surprising thing is how many are picking the Jazz for the Western Conference championship. It reminds me of this current generation of 20 and under somethings who need their own thing, so now that the Warriors are out (for a year;-), and the popular choice appears to be the LakersClippers … hmm, what flavor can be *mine-all-mine*? While there’s a lot to like about the Jazz, they lost Favors to the Pelicans and Mitchell still isn’t the guy to close games for you. So does Conley fill that role? Does Conley want to fill that role a la Chauncey big shot who he certainly resembles in no small part? Bogdonovc is a huge addition sure, and Gobert is a menace, but is it really enough to title them best in the West when the pressure is on? Hmmm …
Anthony Davis isn’t a PF or a C. He’s just the most versatile big man to ever play the game, and even though he often plays around the post we may see him setup anywhere and everywhere in the half court. Think a slightly lesser Durant. Not as great a shooter but the better passer, and even without the same quickness just as capable of putting it on the floor and driving and dishing.
Or is that LeBron’s role on the newly stylized Lakers? If he’s playing PG fresh out of the gate, does that mean he gives it up more than 50% of the time after passing half court? It’s already clear the Lakers will play the game as it is in 2019: pace n space, movement without the ball, shooters on the wings and at least 2 passes before finding the open man or lane or shot. So without the ball and say, 15 secs on the clock is LeBron now a slasher? Is he posting up?
Javale McGee may hold the answers, because with all that size (Kuzma isn’t so small either) the Lakers will have the challenge of trying to move guys through the lane and post while McGee (or Dwight Howard) occupies a good % of that space. If Davis and LeBron are free to penetrate at will, some masterful spacing might be required to get it right. That means McGee is constantly moving doesn’t it? And Kuzma possibly *not* as mobile as we’ve seen? Or mobile but only along the baseline?
The Lakers are huge and mobile, but with some big challenges to sort out. 3P shooting especially – will anyone in their starting lineup be a decent 3P shooter? Or stated differently, will the Lakers need to have both Green and Cook on the floor a lot to be successful, and if so is Kuzma really the odd man out to make way for … McGee?? Hopefully everyone remains healthy enough so that question needs to be answered. It’s really not that bad a problem to have.
And then there’s the Clippers. Are there any questions to be asked? Shooting: check. Leadership: check. Unselfish ball movement, smart shot selection, great shooters, 48 minute play mentality, defensive oriented, deep, tough, relentless. So their top two players are brand spanking new. With these guys does it really matter? There may be one thing to discuss though: how to match the length of the Lakers when the time comes? Will it matter?
Al Horford is in Philly now.Seems the offense was best with Simmons in the post, and now Horford’s there. And he’s better than Simmons at most things, so how does this work unless Simmons … oh never mind. It’ll never happen. Maybe Butler … oh wait, they let him walk. Oh! TJ McConnell of course. Shoot – let him go too. So ummm … Trey Burke?
About that new home for McConnell: Pacers are the new home for a lot of players. In addition to McConnell they added Brogdon and TJ Warren and lost Bogdonovic along the way. Lots of depth with Sabonis about to take on a major role (some say at center). If Oladipo is back to full strength by playoff time, the Pacers are once again one of the most versatile teams at both ends. But can they deal with size: Size of the Sixers. Size of the Lakers. Nuggets. Blazers. Bucks?
Speaking of that last one. Brogdon is gone. Mirotic is gone. Bledsoe is not. The Lopez bros are together which is nice, but there’s a lot of work to be done. That’s especially true wrt Giannis’ ball movement, as it’s really not as good as many want to believe. Sure they can still whip it around the perimeter, create space and have their Freak bail them out a lot. And the defense will be among the best just because, but it seems there are too many questions needing answers before granting them best in the East status. And if they’re not the best, who is?
Sixers? Doubtful without greater cohesion which seems impossible with Simmons not even fitting into an effective position. Celtics? Not sure why they would be, since there’s nothing really jumping out as “winning” there. We’ll see how Hayward starts the year. Raptors? Why not just be objective and say the Bucks, Pacers, Sixers and Raptors all have a chance at the #1 or #2 seeds in the east come April?
Maybe the Nets deserve to be there as well, though Irving is likely to muck things up before figuring out how to work with “his” new guys. New guys that probably resent the loss of D-Lo and that were doing pretty damn well without a weirdo coming in to throw water on their fire. They should make the playoffs fairly easily though, and after Boston who else is there in the East. Magic? Heat? Hawks? Bulls? Interesting teams, but Miami seems like the only lock for the playoffs.
Moving west, what’s up in Denver and Portland? Seems like quite a bit actually. Nuggets have one heck of a roster, and Jr. (as in Porter) to boot. But I’m not buying Murray as primary (and often secondary) ball handler on this team, especially with Jr. and Monte Morris and maybe 3 other guys having the potential to be better than Murray will ever be. Maybe they should have gone after Conley. Keeping him away from Utah might have been a better plan that putting all your chips on Murray. Portland has got something else going on, and not sure I’m buying that either but for different reasons …
Seems that every year there’s clamor about Portland this and Portland that, but this year there *does* seem to be more substance to the cheer-leading. Tough team now with talent and size and athleticism. Pau Gasol is there, and that could mean a lot for a team that plans to start Hassan Whiteside. Will those two even get along, or will Whiteside whine himself out of a starting position before the end of November? If not they’ve got some size and smarts and possibly a very good defensive club. But Nurkic isn’t due back until 2020 sometime, and that’s really the main reason for getting excited.
Houston – we’ll see. No clue what’s about to happen there. Seems a little bit like a running joke now.
Pelicans – well sure, but Zion has a knee injury. They still have tons of talent and are possibly playoff bound. Is Favors really on that team? And did they really steal Nickeil Alexander-Walker in the draft?? Size, shooting. Everyone’s athletic and most are two way players. If Zion gets back in time and stops injuring himself this might be more than just an exciting team to watch. Are they better than Houston even?
Are they better than the Spurs? I doubt it. DeJounte Murray and Lonnie Walker are back and fired up from what I hear. The team seems to have everything on both ends except the size needed against the Lakers. Are the Spurs a top 4 team in the West though? That’s a tough question with Denver almost certainly being as good or better than last year. Spurs at 5 maybe? Better than the Warriors? Maybe. Better than Houston hell yeah.
Dallas, Suns, Kings and Grizzlies should be all kinds of fun to watch with each team having at least 2 excellent players of the future. Could any of these make the playoffs? Sure, but no idea which one. Will Doncic get even better and will Porzingas stay healthy? If yes to those will it be enough?
Hawks, Magic, Bulls. Sure – could be some great stuff here. Not just young guys but another year with young guys getting experience, playing together and showing some grit. One should be able to make the playoffs.
Miami – I have to admit I’m not sure about the plan. Even if they’re a top 5 team in the East isn’t that all they are at best? They’ll be playing Jimmy-Ball now … that gets you at least 5 wins over the course of a year. Can Butler be an MVP candidate and if so how many games will they need to win to get people excited by the prospect?
Detroit – This roster was built to win big now. There’s no other reason to put these guys together. Isn’t that weird?
Wolves, Hornets, Thunder, Wizards, Cavs, Knicks. Really doesn’t seem like there’s anything to talk about. Stephen Adams really needs to demand a trade.