We’re only a few hours away from the start of the 2017-18 NBA season — which means it was time for me to create a thread of my thoughts, predictions, and some things to look forward to watching this season.
This will be my fourth season writing about the NBA, and I’m more excited than ever before. As always, I’d like to say thank you in advance to those who are committed readers and supporters of this blog. Please continue to share with friends and family, as well as following via email if you don’t already.
From this point forward, each of my basketball articles will be posted on this site instead of NBA Retweet where they’ve been previously found.
Without further ado, in no particular order, here we go:
1. The Los Angeles Clippers Will be Fun Again
Not only will the Clippers be more fun to watch this season than they’ve been for the past few, but they’ll also win more games than expected. I’m officially driving the Clippers bandwagon, as long as they can remain healthy. But that’s unlikely since injuries have been their achilles heel since drafting Blake Griffin — along with refs, the Warriors, finding a functional fifth starter, Draymond Green, drama, and Doc’s general management tenure. Well, and Doc’s coaching tenure depending on where you stand with that. Why do I like this team again????
There are many positives from the Clippers offseason that have forced me to believe they won’t fall off of a cliff after losing Chris Paul. If anything, it’ll be nice just to watch a different show for now on when I tune in to a Clippers games.
A. Patrick Beverley is an ideal, realistic replacement for Paul. Anybody with the brain capacity of a raisin can point out the fact that Beverley is incapable of substituting what Paul did for the Clippers on the offensive end. However, it’s not like the Clips are getting some unknown, unproven scrub to fill his shoes. Mr. 94 feet will do what he does better than just about anybody — bring his lunch pail to work each day, and give HELL to the opposing team’s best guard. Beverley is rightfully one of the most feared defenders across the league, and will keep the floor stretched for Doc — unlike others who are in the same conversation as Beverley.
B. Without Chris Paul to burden the offensive load, the legend of Point-Blake will only grow closer to fruition. Blake is one of the top playmakers at his position and will finally get his opportunity to show what he looks like as a true number one option and playmaker. It feels like we’ve been waiting for this level from Griffin for five seasons now, but at least we finally get it to see it. I’m very excited to see Griffin raise his game, but we need him to stay healthy! Griffin has missed 83 games over the last three seasons — one for each commercial he has appeared in!
C. The number one reason I’m excited to watch the Clippers this year is because of the Italian Stallion, Danilo Gallinari! He’s arguably the best wing that Doc Rivers has coached since Paul Pierce. With some of the most diverse scoring tricks in the league, Gallo should be quite a bit of fun to watch on a night-to-night basis playing off of Point Griffin and the Human Dunk Machine.
D. And of course, Milos Teodosic’s loopy passing ability. At any moment he could throw a meaningless behind-the-back bounce pass, or a 75-foot underhand softball pitch on a frozen rope. But make no mistake about it, he has the accuracy of a world-class marksman.
2. This Season will Showcase an All-Time Rookie of the Year Race
The talk for years has been about how deep this year’s rookie class is. After watching these future stars go through college, land on their respective teams, and play through the summer, I wouldn’t be surprised if any of the following won Rookie of the Year — Lonzo Ball, Jayson Tatum, Josh Jackson, De’Aaron Fox, Dennis Smith Jr., and Ben Simmons.
Note — I do not see Fultz winning this award while playing next to Simmons all season. Simmons is better, will handle the ball more, be the decision maker in their offense. And whether you believe it matters or not, he’s been around the NBA and has matured quite a bit. I’m about 31% concerned with Markelle Fultz’s shoulder and reconstructed shooting mechanics. The entire situation is just extremely odd.
I’m unsure how many games Fultz will play this season, but I am excited to eventually watch him hit those hesi pull-up jimbos! I’m sure he’s going to be a nice player.
I watched Ben Simmons make his preseason debut and it honestly looked like the screen was in fast forward anytime he had the ball and was pushing the offense. The hype surrounding Simmons is real. His brilliance as a passer and ability to create for others is going to be so much fun to watch this year when he’s running and gunning passes up the court to shooters. The small sample I have seen from the Sixers so far is very appetizing. The offense looks like a high-tempo race filled with a cast of potential stars. Simmons is my favorite to win the award. The signing of J.J. Redick has done all, but guarantee this.
Anyone who follows basketball understands Lonzo Ball’s talent and ability to distribute the rock. What sticks out the most to me when I watch him play is how contagious his style of unselfish play is — which is the key moving forward in Laker Land. Young talent is littered up and down the Lakers’ roster, so what’s better than bringing in an unselfish potential superstar with a winning attitude?
You laugh at LaVar Ball for saying crazy things, but he’s got one thing right for sure — Lonzo Ball is a culture changer. We saw it the moment Lonzo was drafted, and we’ve see more of it since the first alley-oop of Summer League. While all these “distractions” keep popping up surrounding Lonzo, it’s still been the same old Zo on the court. Ball benefits by having the opportunity to unlock the league darling from the dark misery. I’m not saying the Lakers are playoff bound, but pulling them out from deep within the scariest era of the franchise will win over many votes from the media. If the Lakers find a way to be competitive this year, Lonzo likely has a good chance to bring home this trophy.
Many basketball followers believe that Jayson Tatum has the smallest chance of winning out of the players I listed. He’s much more likely to be put into a conversation for best player in the class five years from now. I was initially saying the same thing, but after watching him in Summer League and hearing some of the mature, positive comments towards his training camp, I’ve bought all of his stock. All of it. There isn’t anymore left, sorry.
“He’s as ready as any rookie I’ve ever seen” — Al Horford.
What separates Tatum from the rest of his class is that he’s going to be asked to play a huge role immediately. Not only is he the only player from my list on a contending playoff team, but he will likely be starting for the Celtics opening night when they face the Cavaliers.
While his game is a modern day reproduction of Paul Pierce, I think I’m speaking for everybody when I say that’s the absolute best case scenario and almost definitely isn’t going to happen. However, his throwback isolation scoring is a big need for Boston. If he’s able to fill a consistent, big time role in the rotation, it would really influence the voting quite a bit with how many more wins Tatum’s squad will pile up than the rest.
Josh Jackson — gulp — was my number one prospect in this draft. Many had him third or fourth overall, some lower, some higher. I’m not ashamed to admit he was my number one. I debated back and forth with myself between Fultz, Jackson, and Lonzo for who I would take with the number one pick. Moments before the draft, I ultimately decided my top five was Jackson, Lonzo, Fultz, Tatum, Isaac.
I watched Andrew Wiggins at Kansas religiously. He was widely considered the number one basketball prospect in years. He had a terrific season at Kansas (outside of March) and was selected first overall. I watched Jackson almost as religiously, in the same system with worse teammates, and I was BLOWN AWAY by Jackson.
I saw what I saw. That athleticism and defense travels to any league, any gym. Jackson’s ability just oozes off of him whenever I watch him play. He’s extremely raw and will need to develop, but he is just such an exciting player. My confidence in Jackson has wavered a little bit since the draft — as I question how he’ll develop in Phoenix, how much burn he will get, etc. — but he still has the ability to become a monster in this league.
His unorthodox style of slashing drives that end with running banks, mixed with his athleticism, improved shooting, and weaving paths to his sweet spots will be trouble for a nice sized group of defenders in this league. But that suffocating defense will be trouble for all except the league’s elite.
De’Aaron Fox is going to be all kinds of fun this season when he runs the show in Sacramento. Fox will have p-l-e-n-t-y of opportunities to showcase his talent, and will have many nights alone on a late-start west coast platform uninterrupted by a slate of NBA League Pass games.
It won’t take long for fans to fall in love with his numerous crafty finishing moves around the basket, and electric speed in transition. I think Fox is a dark horse candidate that will win many voters over early as they watch him compete at a high level. Fox’s quickness with the basketball will put him at an advantage early on as these rookies are learning how to play in the NBA.
If Dennis Smith Jr. hasn’t catapulted his way towards the top of your list yet, than you simply haven’t been watching. Smith Jr. has the body, athleticism, an dynamic ability to follow the closest path to Russell Westbrook that we might ever get.
He’s equally smooth and poised as he is explosive and powerful. He’s just really impressive and captivating to watch play basketball when he fills up the stat sheet. If he’s given the proper opportunity in Dallas and isn’t completely handcuffed by Carlisle — who has a reputation to not cut loose young guys — Smith Jr. is right there with Simmons battling for this piece of hardware.
3. San Antonio Spurs Reaching 50+ Wins for the 19th Straight Season
Can we just take a moment to appreciate the greatness of the San Antonio Spurs? NINETEEN straight seasons with 50+ wins. Nineteen!
Las Vegas has set the Spurs over/under win total at 53.5 wins this season and I couldn’t take the over fast enough. While it seems as if the Spurs will never dip below that magic number of 50 ever again, if there is a season to do it, it is now.
However, in a jam packed Western Conference, with more super teams emerging, and another season of the roster aging, I believe we will still get the same old Spurs.
In my best Jalen Rose voice — GOO SPURS GOOOOO!
What’s interesting about this season is how open the door is for Kawhi Leonard to come snatch up the MVP. He’s clearly one of the best players in the league, and is on the only team that can reach a Conference Finals without more than one superstar. The blueprint for MVP Kawhi is to mirror his last season and win somewhere between 55-60 games. If he can do that, I think the stars align for him.
What will be fun is with Kawhi and the Spurs are returning most of the league’s top defense last season (100.9 defensive rating), and Leonard has a real shot at becoming one of three players all-time to win the MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season (Olajuwon, Jordan). It would also be his third time winning the DPOY — leaving only Ben Wallace and Dikembe Mutombo with more.
One of the more surprising offseason from San Antonio when they decided against retaining Simmons or Dedmon, and signed LaMarcus Aldridge to a contract extension after deciding to kick the tires on Rudy Gay.
We’re accustomed to seeing the Spurs sign Spursish type players without letting them spread throughout the NBA. These were two productive players for San Antonio last season, yet they didn’t keep either of them.
Early reports are that Rudy Gay will come off the bench for the Spurs, which makes him an obvious candidate for Sixth Man of the Year. However, once he’s surrounded with more productive players in San Antonio, I’m curious how long it’ll take before we see a Spurs lineup featuring Gay at the four. Before getting injured last season in Sacramento, three of the Kings five most productive lineups featured Gay at the four.
Last season, Pau Gasol led the league in three point percentage for all players who took at least 100 shots. His ability to shoot at his position, and decision making skills make it almost impossible to gauge what Pop is going to do with this roster. If anything, Gay provides positional flexibility for San Antonio and a fresh, blank canvas for the basketball artist that is Gregg Popovich.
Death, taxes, Spurs winning 50+ games. You guys, this game isn’t hard.
4. Justise Winslow and the Miami Heat Taking the Next Step
After going 30-11 the second half of last season, the Miami Heat barely missed the playoffs. Their cast of characters during that 30-11 stretch shot the ball over two made threes per game better, defended tougher, and to be honest, just played much improved basketball. Brilliant job by Spo as he turned that team around.
The most important thing for the Miami Heat in order to take the next step is to get Justise Winslow going. He showed flashes last season, but mostly drowned in a throwaway sophomore slump season that eventually required shoulder surgery. If he raises his defense to the level most expected and becomes, at worst, a league average shooter, he’s going to be trouble.
What I liked about Winslow coming out of school was his basketball IQ on the offensive end of the floor. He has shown promise to the James Harden comparisons he received because of his ability to create plays for others. Winslow is strong, and has a quicker first step than most defenders in the NBA. He loves using this to draw double teams or freeze defenders before rifling assists to his teammates, or flinging a wrap-around pass when hanging over the baseline after an explosive drive.
Winslow and Goran Dragic can be devastating to play against if they find a rhythm on the court together. Dragic can collapse a wall of the defense or scoot to the rim before skipping the basketball to Winslow, who now gets to operate before rotations happen. This can, and will be deadly. With multiple ball handlers of all sorts and sizes — Kelly Olynyk, James Johnson, Dion Waiters, Goran Dragic, Tyler Johnson — Winslow can add an extra dimension to their unique offense because he opposes a niche of finding his way around the rim, even with a lack of shooting.
But of course, the Miami Heat will ride or die with their fearless leader, Dion Waiters. Whether you want to give him credit or not, Waiters is the biggest reason the Heat were relevant after the break last season. I’ll make many late night trips to visit Waiters Island this winter, and hope to be captivated the way I was last season.
5. LeBron’s Red Wedding Season
This is the season of LeBron James. Realistically, it could be his last as the undisputed best player in the NBA. I fully believe he’s gunning for the triple crown — MVP, Boston sweep, and Championship against Golden State. I believe with every bone in my body that he wants all three.
If there is a season for LeBron to overtake Michael Jordan as the greatest the game has ever seen, it’s this one. This season or never.
LeBron has moved past the recognition of a basketball savant. His basketball mind and overall skill is simply untouchable by anybody in the world right now, arguably ever. Watching him is like watching someone who has unlocked unknown features to their brain, like Scarlett Johansson in Lucy when she understands she has full power of all matter.
For those who watch Game of Thrones, and don’t know what the Red Wedding is, scroll past this block.
For the rest of you who don’t know what the Red Wedding is, it is an absolute massacre at a wedding where the TV show kills off a handful of the main characters after a marriage agreement is broken. Robb Stark, the King of the North, was supposed to wed one of Lord Walder Frey’s daughters in a marriage pact to gain House Frey’s army in battle, but instead, Robb sends his uncle. House Stark and the rest of the North are led to believe the swap of Robb and his uncle is authorized, but they are so, so, so wrong.
The scene begins with one of the most heart-warming moments of the show until, by far, the biggest twist I’ve ever seen in the history of a TV show or movie.
When you’re watching the show you don’t expect it in the least, and everything seems to be going so smoothly. Well, until…
The bad blood that exists between Isaiah Thomas and Danny Ainge will run through Isaiah’s veins forever. Motivation is the biggest reason Isaiah is where he’s at today, and this summer Danny injected more into him than there has ever been before. Isaiah is on a personal mission to embarrass the Celtics organization and to let them believe in two years — when Kyrie can opt-out of his contract — “we made a mistake”.
Jae Crowder went on a Twitter rampage last season when the Utah Jazz came to town and home fans were cheering loud for Gordon Hayward — letting Hayward know they wanted him baaaad in Boston. From that moment on, I never really felt like Jae enjoyed Boston as much as before. He loved his teammates, he played his ass off, but something was just… off. I have no way to prove this, of course, but his body language and attitude towards the organization anytime they made a decision just made me think he’d get the hell out of dodge the fist time he got a chance. He went to Instagram to voice frustration about the C’s letting go of their trainer Ed Lacerte, made constant comments about the amount of players on the team at his position, etc.
While Jae and Isaiah have many reasons to be upset at the organization, nothing will replenish their feelings better than destroying the roster up and down in an Eastern Conference Finals rematch. Except this time, they’re on the same side as the King.
Both moves are obviously connected to the biggest storyline from the offseason — without a doubt — the break up of LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. Now, King James will host Kyrie and his Boston Celtics opening night on his old floor. Many are making a big deal about this, the way that we did about Durant and Westbrook, but I don’t see it that way. I think opening night will be hostile, and things between the two will be awkward because of forced storylines and drama that, really, Kyrie has initiated. But after opening night, things will mellow out.
By the time All-Star weekend rolls around and it’s time to pick teams, if LeBron and Kyrie end up on the same squad, I think the dust settles between the two and they act mostly mature about the situation. After all, LeBron has an image to protect, right? I could see LeBron acting like Kyrie is an old friend, saying something over the weekend about how much success they had together or what a special talent he is, leading Kyrie on to believe they’re cool with each other again. This of course would be leading Kyrie and the Celtics on the same way Walder Frey played Robb Stark.
Cleveland is still on a completely different tier than Boston and will be until LeBron shows he has truly aged, or Isaiah’s hip is worse than he’s insissting. But that won’t stop Boston from thinking they’re equal to Cleveland, or even better, when they’re tied up or winning 3-1 after the regular season.
However, the moment these two teams step onto the court together come playoff time, it’ll be a different story. LeBron James and his Cavaliers will be out for blood. They want nothing short of a massacre, especially since the Celtics really feel like they’ve closed the gap between the two. So if Game 1 is in Cleveland and you hear Quicken Loans Arena playing The Rains of Castamere before the game, you know what’s coming next.
Along with steam-rolling Kyrie and the Celtics, LeBron obviously wants to poach another ring from Golden State. Outside of his annoying Instagram stories and strange dancing while working out, LeBron has been almost silent on all subjects related to the Warriors. Stephen Curry mocking him dancing at Harrison Barnes wedding, nothing. Kevin Durant calling himself the best player in the world, nothing. Draymond Green continuing to run his mouth and saying that Cleveland didn’t have a “fucking chance” last season, nothing.
LeBron James won’t show any anger or extra motivation towards beating the Warriors. Not until he sees them in the Finals, at least. And you know damn well once he gets there, he wants to lock them in his arena and massacre the great, untouchable Golden State Warriors.
Don’t. Poke. The Bear.
6. Oklahoma City Finding their Fifth Starter
After one of the greatest statistical seasons of all-time and an MVP haul for Russell Westbrook, the OKC Thunder finished the regular season 47-35. It goes without saying that the additions of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony will help Russell, but I’m not going to break that down like every other basketball writer in the country.
At some point, the Thunder will need to face the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs to achieve their team goals. I actually think they matchup with them pretty well besides the fact that they’ll have to play four on five on the offensive end.
One of my unpopular basketball opinions is that Andre Roberson needs to be moved if the Thunder want to have a deep postseason run, otherwise they’re going to get exposed at some point because of him. While he’s one of the best defenders in the league, there are simply too many talented teams in the Western Conference to be at such a great offensive disadvantage as they are with him on the court, especially if you’re even flirting with Golden State’s reign of the West.
You aren’t going to make the Conference Finals when one of your starters is given the hand while he’s wiiiiide open. A career 26% from down town.
Roberson is a nice player, don’t get me wrong, but he doesn’t move the needle for a team trying to compete for a championship. Packaging Roberson, and other picks or pieces for someone who might become available at the deadline is the way that Sam Presti should be thinking. My guess is he continues to be aggressive.
Roberson can’t be traded until three months after his contract is signed, but here are a couple players I’d target if I were OKC.
Avery Bradley, G, Detroit — Bradley is arguably the best on-ball defender in the NBA. He’s absolutely irritating to Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Jimmy Butler, and other Western Conference guards that OKC will have to defend. He’s all that Roberson is on that end, and some. However, Bradley is also a terrific cutter, rebounder, and knock down shooter (39% last season from three). Acquiring him might be difficult, but if Detroit is a lottery team at the break and unlikely to resign Bradley in free agency, I’d throw an offer out for him.
Eric Bledsoe, G, Phoenix — The Suns are only moments away from pushing Bledsoe onto another team so that their plethora of young guards can get experience. While Bledsoe isn’t the deadeye shooter that OKC would be looking for in return, it’d be fun have a backcourt of Westbrook and Bledsoe, easily the most explosive in the league. Phoenix might do this because they’d take on a plus defender on a smaller contract, as well taking back other assets.
7. Andrew Wiggins proving himself, Timberwolves returning to playoffs
The Minnesota Timberwolves — who haven’t been to the playoffs since 2003-04 — will be returning this spring, rekindling Minneapolis as a basketball city, once again.
After a disappointing 2016-17 season, the Timberwolves traded for three time All-Star guard, Jimmy Butler, who is now the leader of the pack. He is the third player on the current roster who averaged over 20 points per game last season — which has made many headlines in basketball news. How will the ball be spread around? Who is the first option? Who will make the biggest sacrifice? All valid questions, which will take 82 games to figure out.
That being said, the Timberwolves absolutely have to make the playoffs this season, which is easier said than done. Andrew Wiggins is entering his fourth season, and Karl-Anthony Towns is entering his third. While they’re still young, they aren’t necessarily kids anymore. It’s time to grow up and take care of their weaknesses.
While there were weaknesses last season of all shapes and sizes, none were more frustrating than the hitch in Andrew Wiggins’ development. After entering the league as one of the most prized prospects since LeBron James, Wiggins has been nothing more than an athletic, volume scorer. He doesn’t rebound, is abysmal on defense, and almost inept at making plays for his teammates. Wiggins is at the top of a long list for me of players who have something to prove this season, especially after recently getting maxed out by an extension.
Naturally, he’s going to become a third or sometimes fourth option in this offense, which gives him plenty of opportunities to eat defenders while scoring efficiently. But Wiggins needs to learn how to contribute in ways other than putting the ball through the basket.
There have been 65 players in the history of the game to average 20.0 or more points per game. Of those 65 players, Wiggins ranks 59th in assists per game (2.1), 54th in rebounds per game (4.1), and 64th in win shares (10.3).
While he’s a diverse scorer, that isn’t always what the Wolves need him to be. Thibs desperately needs Wiggins’ offense to mature, as well as stop being a charity basket on the other end of the floor where he posted an underwhelming 115 defensive rating last season.
A good start for Wiggins would be taking advantage of weaker match-ups to create for others. The scoring responsibilities have shrunk since acquiring Butler and Teague.
The common belief is that someone like Butler can help Wiggins expand his playmaking as well as his defense. He has always had the tools to be a great defender, but just hasn’t put them to use.
If Wiggins can defend half as good as that pretty, signature spin while driving to the basket, the Timberwolves are going to be a problem for years to come.
8. The Urban Legend of Skinny Marcus Smart
My absolute favorite story from the offseason has been what is becoming the urban legend of Skinny Marcus Smart.
While entering a contract year, Ainge requested that Smart drop some weight in order to be a more productive player this upcoming season.
After hiring a private chef, cutting fried foods from his diet, and working out like he had been sentenced for life, Smart is literally in the best shape of his life (not a cliche).
Oh yeah, and he locked himself in a gym basically all summer and not only changed his shot, but convinced himself he’s a great three point shooter. A small preseason sample size of evidence has shown that he’s either much improved, or hypnotized himself into believing he’s an elite shooter.
After looking chubby — to put it nicely — during last season’s playoffs, Smart still gave the nation a quick look into what “Marcus Smart winning plays” were, along with how the NBA’s hustle award would be a bronzed statue of himself, if there was such thing. Without losing any strength, Smart is going to be even more exciting to watch after this body transformation.
Since emerging from the darkness of the offseason, freshly motivated, Smart has been showing off his random, re-found athleticism that was once so appealing while he was at Oklahoma State. Windmills, 360’s, and other ridiculous, unexpected dunks have been a consistent theme from Smart since training camp kicked off.
Jaylen Brown said it’s been “weird” watching how athletic Smart is compared to last season as he’s flying around the court dunking, and deflecting passes away.
Even after coming off of the bench the last two seasons, Smart has received votes for All-Defensive teams. Now with Avery Bradley being removed from this team, Smart is a favorite of mine to land on one of the two defensive teams — even if he doesn’t start, again.
Smart is a superior playmaker, actually guards all five positions, and is a physical rebounder with behemoth strength. Fun fact: Marcus Smart owns the NBA Combine bench press record for guards with 19 reps of 185 pounds.
If this shooting thing is for real — Gus Johnson voice — WAAAATCH OUT!!!!
9. The Houston Backcourt will be Everything we Hope it Will Be
Chris Paul and James Harden trying to coexist in an offensive system together is maybe the most backwards thought in the history of basketball, yet I think it might just work.
A 55-win basketball team, with who I believed was last season’s MVP, is adding one of the greatest point guards the game has ever seen in Chris Paul.
At this point in his career, I feel like Chris Paul understands where he’s at individually and felt his best shot at that coveted Conference Finals/Finals appearance was joining James Harden and forming the league’s best backcourt — on paper, at least.
Paul isn’t a dumb guy, he knows what Harden has accomplished in this system. He knows what he is walking into, and that’s why I believe he won’t be the same yelling, screaming, bothering teammate that Chris has gotten a bad reputation for. He’s going to be okay with being the second option at times because he has never had a player like James that can set him up in his spots.
The Rockets are going to play a beautiful brand of basketball, which D’Antoni has said will feature a “Hall of Fame point guard for 48 minutes per game.” Harden and Paul are two of the best creators of this generation and can feast off of each other in a way that few duos ever could.
It’ll be like watching the best running back duo in the NFL — Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. One will run through your face with sheer power, yet make you fall over in the open field when he cuts. The other uses straight speed to torch your defense, running routes all over the field and catching passes, gliding his way through open holes. Once you’re used to one, the other changes the pace, and then when you’re catching on, Atlanta is back to their bruiser.
The same goes with the Houston Rockets. Harden will engineer the offense in transition as he bullies his way to the rim with euro-steps, creative finishing, and trips to the free-throw line. Then, in the half court, Paul will work his brilliant basketball mind in the pick-and-roll, kicking out to chuckers, or Harden on a weak-side skip. Paul and Harden are an adult version of what I believe Dragic and Winslow will try to look like this season. One will breakdown an opposing defense, and the other will put them through the washing machine. And when a defense makes adjustments, the other will take over that high usage rate that everybody is so worried about. Stop it, you have James Harden and Chris Paul in the same backcourt, who else do you want making decisions?
There is simply too much talent in this backcourt for it to not work. The Rockets are deep, almost everybody on the roster can shoot, and now they’ve added The Point God.
10. Lance Will Make ‘Em Dance
It’s clear the Indiana Pacers are trying to find a new identity after trading Paul George. The PG13 era was fun. Almost as fun as the PG24 era, but sadly it has came to an end.
At one point it looked as if Paul George was the next great player in this league as he squared off with LeBron James in two straight Conference Finals with the help of Roy Hibbert, George Hill, David West, Lance Stephenson, and uprising head coach Frank Vogel.
Sadly, all Indiana has to show for that era of basketball is this photograph, which could also be the reason they never amounted to anything. This photograph caused the number one seed in the Eastern Conference to finish with their 2014 season on a 14-13 skid. Many Indiana fans will say this photograph ejected their franchise from any shot at beating the Miami Heat, and the eventual demise of Indiana George.
Outside of this photo, all that remains is the joy of watching Lance Stephenson. Born Ready, who now has an iTunes rap career, an And-1 sponsor, and is the closest thing to street basketball talent in the league. Stephenson is easily the most interesting personality across the NBA, and one of the most entertaining talents to watch any given night.
With a weakened Eastern Conference, and a star needing to shine next to Myles Turner, look for Lance to make ’em dance. Maybe the single most exciting part of this NBA season is the fact that Lance Stephenson now FULLY believes he’s the best player on his team.
Lance will be hopping up and down the court with his Brooklyn crossovers trying to make defenders fall, as he is encouraged by the ooo’s and ahh’s of the crowd, regardless of the basketball score. No-look passing and Jordan-esque ball fakes are why Stephenson plays the game. Arguably useless on any of the other 29 teams in the NBA, but for whatever reason Lance is Indiana’s superman, as the Bankers Life Fieldhouse is his cape.