NBA season can’t get here fast enough. Let’s get you ready for training camp
The NBA season went as predicted in 2017–2018, the Golden State Warriors prevailing in not so interesting fashion; a four-game sweep of the Cleveland Cavaliers. At times it seemed as though the Cavs weren’t going to make their 4th straight appearance to the NBA Finals, Lebron’s 8th consecutive appearance.
The Victor Oladipo had his coming out party while he and the Indiana Pacers pushed the Cavs to seven games. Unfortunately experience took precedence in this matchup as the Cavs did just enough to outlast the Pacers.
The #1 seed Toronto Raptors looked to ride that season-long surge into the NBA finals finally. They had all the ingredients they needed to beat the Cavs; the experience of losing to them before, better play from the roster overall, and home court advantage. Shoot, they even had Drake on the sidelines heckling players….Kendrick Perkins…..but nonetheless he served his purpose to be the Spike Lee of the Raptors. All that, but no luck. The Raptors not only lost but they were completely embarrassed as they were swept clean off the floor. Yeah sure, two games of those games were a combined loss by three points, and one was in overtime, but that won’t make up for the fact the Raptors just didn’t seem to have it. In recent years there have been teams to lose to the same team, i.e. Cavs and Warriors, but nothing to this extent. Thus why they have deemed the LeBronto Raptors shortly after their game four loss.
They probably won the offseason, LeBron went west!
The Cavs then ran into probably the next dominant team in the Eastern Conference for years to come, along with Philadelphia, the Boston Celtics. The Celtics looked as though they were about to dethrone Lebron and the Cavs and move into the Finals, a place no Lebron-team has been in the last eight years. Let that sink in. Soon as you thought the Celtics were ready for the big stage, players faded faster than they appeared in the final couple games. In a series where Marcus Morris and Terry Rozier were making their presence felt, they failed to help close out the reigning Eastern Conference champions as the Lebron turned it up another notch. LeBron led both teams in points, assists, and rebounds in the final three games, two of those coming in wins for the Cavs.
The Warriors would find themselves in the NBA finals after escaping, again, the Kawhi-less San Antonio Spurs. Muscling by the Anthony Davis led New Orleans Pelicans, as they showed Davis might be unstoppable but no one else would beat us. The series may have been short the Pelicans provided some scare into Warriors fans as their guard play came to play early on, but you will only keep up with two of the best shooters to ever touch the rock for so long before they begin setting the nets on fire and forcing everyone else not named Davis to beat them.
No one provided a more entertaining storyline than the Houston Rockets in the 2018 playoffs! Picked as the team to possibly take down the mighty Warriors, they looked as though they would do just that, having the champs down 3–2 with at least one home game in the final two games. Just when you thought the Warriors met their match, the Rockets were punched in the mouth. No not by the Warriors but injury. Chris Paul went down with a lower leg injury and never returned to the series. Taking the one other playmaker the Rockets could have had off the floor and now forcing James Harden to show why he deserved to be MVP. Just when his impossible shots from deep begin to miss, the Warriors seem to come alive and prove to be too much for one man to handle. For those who asked just how important could Chris Paul be after years of failing in the playoffs, though not entirely his fault, this series proved just how crucial his presence on the floor was. The Warriors closed them out in seven.
As I mentioned before, the inevitable happened when they met the Cavs. four games up, four games down.
While most sat back and asked who can beat them? What team has to be constructed? You saw teams put together different styles to try and beat them. From trying to bully Steph and make Klay Thompson uncomfortable early in series (Pelicans), matching their shooting with….more shooting? The Rockets hosted a record 42.3 three-point attempts in 2017–2018, beating their own record! Then you saw the best player in the world do everything, only to come up short again. The general consensus was maybe they will just win the next few years until contracts break them up, I mean at some point someone will want to get paid their worth right?
Then the NBA begin to shake up. Before we knew it, San Antonio, of all places, had a feud with their disgruntled superstar leading to him being shipped to Toronto for Demar DeRozan, who oddly enough was told he wouldn’t be traded only days before he was….traded…. Dwight Howard continued to take his US tour as he was shipped out of Charlotte for a bag of chips and Timofey Mozgov….yes you read that right. Carmelo Anthony decided his role with the Thunder should not be on the bench and the Thunder agreed and shipped him to Atlanta for Dennis Schroder. Obviously, Melo wasn’t trying to play for the Hawks and the Hawks weren’t too offended by the idea as they bought out his contract paying him 28 million to make him a free agent.
How about free agency? Well, the Rockets lost some defensive punch and 3-point shooting when Trevor Ariza decided the money was greener on the other side in Phoenix…or is it the grass is greener? This may not be much on the surface but when it comes to the Houston offense, its about spreading the floor as shooters spot up while Harden or CP3 break down their defender or constant pick and rolls with Capela. You remove that shooter for a slightly less accurate shooter from deep in Carmelo, who doesn’t come close to Ariza’s defense, and while you have a better overall offensive player, his lacking presence will be felt in the playoffs.
Let’s not forget about Paul George deciding to stay in Oklahoma City, after many thought he would bolt for the Los Angeles Lakers, he decided his best chance of winning would be better if he stuck around with his dynamic teammate in former MVP Russell Westbrook. In a time when Westbrook was thought to be a player many couldn’t play with, PG decided to put those rumors to rest and stick around for a few more years. Huge for OKC because they took a chance trading for him in the first place not knowing if he would return. He did, let’s just hope they come prepared for Donovan Mitchell and the Utah Jazz this year as they provided the shock of the NBA playoffs in the Western Conference eliminating the Thunder.
Tyreke Evans, not flashy or known to be a franchise changing type player, but please believe him going to the Indiana Pacers could be huge for a team that already showed flashes of being a contender for the East crown. While I don’t think this puts them over the likes of Boston or Philadelphia, they will make it tough for those teams to advance.
Speaking of franchise changing, DeMarcus Cousins went down with a season-ending injury and though the Pelicans still had Davis, watching them play together had people feeling like maybe, just maybe they would cause serious problems in the playoffs. So, of course, he would sign back! He would rehab, get stronger and come back better than ever and motivated. That would seem storybook, but not in the NBA. A league where Achilles injuries have snatched careers, whether it be all together or players don’t come back the same. Being a big man, teams feared he would not return the same or close to. So no one called him. Not one team. It was reported the Pelicans made him an offer, that was, to say the least not to his satisfaction. So instead they decided to pry Julius Randle away from the Lakers and have him play alongside Davis.
So when no team in the league wants to take on the best center in the league — Davis is a power forward — guess who comes calling? The Golden State Warriors. Yes, the back to back champions in the Bay. They figure, hey we don’t need him, but if you guys (the league) don’t want him we will gladly take him. Let’s examine how genius the Warriors are. You don’t need this guy, you can win another title without him. He is slated to sit out until at least after the all-star break, probably playoffs. He will sit and still be part of a top three seeded team. They didn’t need to trade away any of their core players. They didn’t have to pay him much, in fact, I can imagine the phone call went something like, “we can only offer you chump change this season but you can win a title and play well and be worth much more next season, and don’t forget you can win a title”.
I’ll take that offer for $100,000 and KIA.
Finally, the best thing about this deal from their perspective, the Warriors, in their title-winning years, have never had someone they can throw it to in the post and just brutalize teams in the paint. Never. I’m not talking, turn and fade or shoot over someone. I’m saying bully ball in the paint. Just like his new teammates, Cousins is also a willing passer. Oh, with a shooting touch. Yeah, good luck double-teaming that post play.
Last but not least to help you prepare for training camp and the coming NBA season, I can’t forget to mention the biggest free agent move this offseason.
DeAndre Jordan heading the Mavericks….one of the biggest moves in….
LeBron James to the Los Angeles Lakers. Yes, LeBron has made his way to the Western Conference. Not joining the Warriors, not the Spurs (a popular pick), and not to join his best friends in Houston. He joined the Lakers to add to their already storied franchise. The Lakers went from barely competing for the eighth seed, to at least top five in the West by adding James. How competitive they will remain to be seen as you have chemistry to work out, change in playing style most likely and new leader. LeBron didn’t come alone, no. He pulled Rajon Rondo from NOLA, got his annoying yet hyper-competitive rival from Indiana in Lance Stephenson to come along for the ride, and want to hurt the team that’s eliminated you back to back years? Steal their long-armed big man in JaVale McGee. Not splashy and not exactly Tyson Chandler but he will be missed in Golden State and will provide the Lakers will the rim protection they need. It also helps you have the best passer in the league in James to find you for lobs in any given possession.
I will touch more on this move in later blogs, but needless to say, this move will make the West even more intriguing to watch. It will also make for an interesting Eastern conference. Now that Cleveland is pretty much irrelevant with no James, it will be open season for everyone else. It’s assumed with the return of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward to the young and fast-growing Celtics, featuring the next superstar in the league, Jayson Tatum, they will find themselves in the Finals. However, Philadelphia and it’s dynamic duo of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid will be right there to challenge them every step of the way. Toronto may have lost DeRozan but they gained Kawhi Leonard in the process, not a bad swap when it’s a Finals MVP and former 2-time DPOY. As mentioned before the Pacers will look to build on their success from last season.
As for the West, after Golden State, where do you begin? Houston lost some of his firepower and defense but added another great isolation player. OKC will be around causing problems as well, assuming both Russ and PG stay healthy. The team that eliminated them? The Utah Jazz, yeah they will only get better with experience. Mitchell is ridiculous and will only get better. They will have their middleman in Rudy Gobert for a full season and look to keep pace with the rest of the West. The Lakers will try to make their presence felt with their newly acquired star and young talent to help the Lakers get back to familiarity and compete for a title.
So many storylines, so many questions to be answered. Be sure to keep up.