If you go on social media on Sundays, you’ll see people complaining about how unwatchable football is. Everyone is talking about the lower NFL ratings and asking questions on how this could happen to the most powerful sports league in America. Those people, with all due respect, should be quiet because THE NBA SEASON IS HERE! The league with the most fun players, least amount of head trauma, and J.R. Smith doing J.R. Smith stuff things kicked off October 25th and the entire country should be looking forward to this. Forget the election, forget football, and forget the World Series. Basketball is back.
For people unsure on if they should be excited about the 2016-17 NBA season, let’s try to do a quick recap on the NBA offseason. One of the league's five best players joined a team that won an NBA record 72 games to create a Death Star of three point shooting. Miami Heat legend Dwyane Wade left the team he played with for 13 years to join up with Rajon Rondo, who is on his fourth team in three years, in Chicago. James Harden and Russell Westbrook signed extensions and are now flushed with cash. Nicolas Batum, Mike Conley, and DeMar DeRozan signed contracts that combine for $418 million. The number one pick overall broke his foot after starting to make Philadelphia fans believe that basketball deserved to be watched again. This is just scratching the surface of what happened this offseason.
To say the NBA has some interesting storylines and questions to answer this season is a bit of an understatement. Basketball, for whatever reason, is unique in its way that it captures narratives that suck people in. While the NBA season is long, it also takes a lot of twist and turns. This column examines some of the best twists and turns that may or may not happen.
15 15. How does Boogie Cousins handle his new coach?
Athletes always try to act like they don’t keep up with social media or know what people are saying about them. You know one person that totally knows everything people are saying about him? DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins. Heading into his seventh NBA season, Boogie is preparing to play for his sixth head coach. That new coach is David Joerger, who comes to Sacramento after leading an unfathomably injured Memphis Grizzlies team to the playoffs.
14 14. How do the new NBA coaches adapt?
Every year, a new crop of NBA coaches make their professional debut. It’s always a mixed bag, as some (Fred Hoiberg) take their lumps and others (Billy Donovan) turn out to be pretty good basketball minds. This season has three rookie coaches: Kenny Atkinson with the Brooklyn Nets, David Fizdale with the Memphis Grizzlies, and Earl Watson with the Phoenix Suns.
13 13. Do total three-point shots rise again?
The last three years have shown a steady rise in the prevalence of the three-point shot. Three seasons ago, the average NBA team attempted 21.5 three point shots a game, which was an NBA record. The following season, the average team took 22.4 threes a game, obviously another record. That record climbed again last season, to 24.1 threes a game. We all remember that the Warriors shot the rest of the league out of the water from deep, but it wasn’t just the Warriors. Everyone took threes!
12 12. Who makes their first All-Star game?
Every year, NBA fans vote on which players should play in the All-Star game. For some players, making the All-Star team is a tradition at this point. They know that short of injury, they’ll be playing in New Orleans. For others, though, it’s still a goal that they are fighting for. There are many worthy candidates to take the spot of an aging or injured All-Stars.
11 11. Is Anthony Davis going to punish us all for forgetting how good he is?
It seems like every year we forget about a player because he had a down year. I would like to present the most likely candidate for it this year: Anthony Davis. After an MVP-caliber season and a surprise playoff appearance during the 2014-15 season, Davis came into the season with a lot of buzz. A mix of injuries to himself and teammates sunk the New Orleans Pelicans and people seemed to forget about who Anthony Davis was.
10 10. Will Pat Riley and the Heat finally pay the piper?
Quietly one of the best ran NBA franchises, the Miami Heat are in a tough spot. After losing Chris Bosh to a health concern and Dwyane Wade bolting back home to Chicago, the Big Three era is 100 percent dead. Even more shocking is the state of the franchise. Losing three hall of famers is never easy to recover from, but looking at the Heat’s roster and it’s draft position, you can see a real reason to panic.
9 9. What are the Bulls doing?
Jimmy Butler, Rajon Rondo, and Dwyane Wade are exciting players in a vacuum. But if you’re planning to start all three then you might be in for a tough time. The Chicago Bulls current projected lineup of Rondo-Wade-Butler-Taj Gibson-Robin Lopez is a ghastly shooting lineup. Guess who the best three point shooter in that lineup is by last year’s numbers? It’s Rondo! He shot 37 percent from three last year, which is nearly 10 points higher than his career average. I’m sure it wasn’t an outlier year.
8 8. Is Dwight Howard done?
One of the most amazing total 180s in public opinion has to belong to the player many fans once referred to as Superman. After looking like one of the most dominant big men in the NBA with the Orlando Magic, the embattled center finds himself on his third team in five years as he opens the season with his hometown Atlanta Hawks. He is also 31 and the aging curve for big men with an injury history isn’t a promising one.
7 7. Which second-year players take a leap forward?
Last year’s draft class turned out to be pretty exciting and it seems like a few of the players could have really high ceilings. From potential All-Star Karl Anthony-Towns, super shooter Devin Booker, and potential franchise cornerstone Kristaps Porzingis, there is a lot to like about the class going forward. The player listed above are great players to keep an eye on, but also keep an eye for D'Angelo Russell, Myles Turner, Emmanuel Mudiay, and Bobby Portis.
6 6. Did Thibs become even better after a year off?
Fresh from a year-long sabbatical, Tom Thibodeau is back into the NBA and ready to make sure no team ever shoots another corner three again. Coach Thibs was unceremoniously ousted by the Chicago Bulls and people seemed to forget about how great of a coach he was. The 2011 Coach of the Year bided his time and waited for the right opportunity to open and boy did he ever find the right one.
5 5. Will the Clippers finally not get screwed?
Death, taxes, and a poorly timed Los Angeles Clippers injury. This is how the basketball gods have worked lately and it’s kind of hard to imagine this not happening again. It’s genuinely amazing how this team seems to have everything go wrong for it at the worst possible moment. Last year, after learning that the leader of the Clippers arch-rival had hurt his knee and may miss their upcoming battle, Chris Paul broke his hand. Not even 24 hours later, Blake Griffin reinjured his quad and just like that the best players on a 53-win team were J.J. Reddick and DeAndre Jordan.
4 4. Who is the second best team in the east?
Short of a major injury or historic upset, the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James will be playing in the NBA Finals. Still, just because it’s hard to imagine a team truly challenging the defending champs, it’s still fun to try and figure who might grow into a legit threat. According to Vegas, the only other teams in the eastern conference projected to win more than 50 games are the Boston Celtics (52.5) and Toronto Raptors (50.5).
3 3. Will the Houston Rockets be able to outscore their way to a better season?
The Houston Rockets will not be good on defense. This isn’t a hot take or a knock on a James Harden (maybe it’s a little bit of knock on Harden). The players they will be using are not good defenders and the coach that they hired, Mike D’Antoni, doesn’t care that much about defense. Patrick Beverley, the team’s best defender, is going to miss at least a month. Still, all of these problems might not matter if the Rockets can score 130 points a game.
2 2. Everything regarding the Warriors
1 1. Can LeBron James catch Michael Jordan’s ghost?
Last year, LeBron James led his Cleveland Cavaliers back from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA finals (first time ever) to bring his hometown team a title and end Cleveland’s 52-year major sports championship curse. It cemented James as one of the greatest NBA players of all time and it seemed like a summer of fawning of King James was ready to start. Then Kevin Durant signed with the Warriors and all the spotlight shifted.
James and the defending champions have now joined the field. They are just one of 29 other teams trying to stun the new super team. We are saying that a guy that has a legitimate chance at finishing with the most points ever scored AND the most triple doubles ever is just another underdog to the Warriors. I don’t know if James can get past the Warriors, but if he can we all need to really consider that James isn’t just the best player of his generation but stands alone as the greatest player of all time.
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