Biggest overreactions in the NBA so far

The NBA has now been in full swing for just over a week now, and there are already plenty of storylines. Gordon Hayward suffered a gruesome injury in Boston’s first game against Cleveland. Ben Simmons is looking like a No. 1 overall pick. The Suns are already a mess. Then there is the Lonzo Ball talk, mostly from his dad.

A lot of the main headlines and early performances have caused major overreactions in the league after most teams have played just four games. Let’s break down some of the major overreactions that have occured after the NBA’s first full week.

Giannis Antetokounmpo is MVP

Fans and analysts were predicting LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and James Harden to be in the MVP race this season. However, Giannis Antetokounmpo is suddenly the frontrunner for MVP.

NBA overreactions

Giannis Antetokounmpo has received a lot of love so far this season. (Photo by Tom Lynn, AP)

Kevin Durant said in a YouTube video that Antetokounmpo could be the best player ever if he really wanted to. That is quite a prediction from the NBA Finals MVP.

The Greek Freak through four games is averaging 36.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 2.3 steals per game. He is definitely a top 10 player in this league, but let’s slow down on those MVP talks.

Anthony Davis also had a hot start like this last season. After the first four games, Davis was averaging 37 points, 13 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.5 steals and three blocks per game.

The MVP talks came then too. But remember, the NBA is a long season. Players go through hot and cold stretches. By the end of the season, Davis’ season averages were 28 points, 11.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 2.2 blocks and 1.3 steals per game. Those are impressive numbers, but they aren’t like the ones he started off with. When it was all said and done, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Kawhi Leonard were the MVP finalists.

This is not made to be a knock on Davis or Antetokounmpo, but a lot can change through a season. DeMar DeRozan scored at least 30 points in his first 12 games last year with an average of 33 points per game during that stretch. He ended the season averaging 27.3. Lets see how the other 95 percent of the season goes for the Greek Freak, or just half of it.

Any Lonzo Ball reaction

Lonzo Ball went from being a Rookie of the Year favorite before the season started, to a bust after his first game, to owning the Phoenix Suns, to whatever his dad recently said about him.

It is crazy how much of a roller coaster the comments have been towards the Lakers’ point guard. He is currently averaging 11.5 points, nine rebounds and nine assists per game.

I’m going to stick with my prediction of Ball for now. We all know he isn’t going to lead the Lakers to 50 wins, a playoff appearance and make a run at MVP like his dad predicted for this season, but it is reasonable to believe the No. 2 overall pick can average 13 points and six assists and help the Lake Show to maybe 30 wins.

That was my prediction at the beginning of the season and I’m not changing my mind after three games. You shouldn’t be jumping to conclusions about Ball’s career either.

Kyrie Irving is overrated

Irving made headlines with his trade to the Celtics this offseason and all the drama that followed it. Irving also will be taking on a bigger burden than he may have realized now that Gordon Hayward is out.

NBA overreactions

Kyrie Irving’s Celtics career is not starting off like he hoped. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

It definitely hasn’t been a pretty first couple games for the new Celtic. His 20 points, six assists and 2.3 steals per game may seem nice, but he is shooting an atrocious 37.5 percent from the floor. In other words, he is shooting a lot for a little, but don’t give up on him yet.

Remember that Irving is learning to play with a new team in a new system. The fact that he is the point guard makes it that much more difficult. As mentioned before, he does not have Hayward to help him out either.

He is working with Al Horford and young guys like Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. He is also still learning to be a main guy after working alongside LeBron James for the last several years.

We all know Irving can play. We have seen his performances in the NBA Finals the past two seasons. Irving is dealing with nothing more than a rocky start.

The Memphis Grizzlies are for real

After a 3-1 start with wins over the Warriors, Rockets and Pelicans, it appears that the Grizzlies were overlooked in the preseason.

A roster that features only two stars with Marc Gasol and Mike Conley has beaten some of the NBA’s best teams so far. The Warriors of course are favored to win the title again, the Rockets made noise with the Chris Paul trade and the Pelicans are expected to do damage with the duo of Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins.

Forward James Ennis III and second-round pick Dillon Brooks have both had nice starts to the season as well. The Grizzlies expect their hot start to continue with games against below-average opponents like the Mavericks, Hornets and Magic in their upcoming schedule.

Should we expect the Grizzlies to stay at the top of the might Western Conference? Probably not.

The Warriors, Rockets, Pelicans, Thunder and Nuggets are all off to cold starts this season. Those are all teams we expect to be in the playoffs this season. Those cold starts are definitely a fluke, just like the Grizzlies’ hot start is most likely one. Their lack of star power is going to make it difficult for them to compete with these kinds of teams down the stretch.

 

Featured image by by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

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NBA max contracts

NBA max contracts should be expelled from the association

LeBron James hit one of the NBA’s biggest problems head on with his tweet over the weekend about Steph Curry. Curry recently signed a five-year, $201 million deal, which is the highest average annual value in the United States’ major sports. However, James thinks Curry should be making even more.

The NBA, for whatever reason, has a max contract in place. Out of the three big sports leagues in North America (NFL, MLB and NBA), they are the only league that puts a cap on how much a player can make.

The NFL is a free market. The teams decide how much a player is worth and pay them accordingly.

The MLB does the same thing. In fact, they don’t even have a salary cap. This allows the richest teams to buy even more great players, but those still aren’t always the best teams.

Because the NFL and MLB have a free market, the league’s talent pool is more evenly spread out.

The NFL and MLB get this concept. That is why players like Giancarlo Stanton from the Miami Marlins are making over $300 million and Derek Carr just signed the NFL’s richest contract ever. If the Marlins and Raiders think those guys are worth that money, they should be able to pay it. If another team wants to try and persuade those guys to come play for them by offering more money, they also should be able to do that.

NBA max contracts

Why should Mike Conley be able to make just as much money as Kevin Durant? (Photo by Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports)

The NBA doesn’t do this and therefore super teams form. Putting a max on a team salary and player salary allows teams to easily put together a big three. There is no way the Golden State Warriors should be able to afford both Steph Curry and Kevin Durant, but since the max contract is in place, it is possible.

Also, why should a player like Mike Conley be able to make just as much money as a player like Kevin Durant? Yes, Conley is a great player. He is a proven veteran. He is smart with the ball, and leads his Memphis Grizzlies well.

No disrespect to Conley, but he is miles and miles away from Durant. Durant is an eight-time All-Star and five-time All-NBA first team selection. He also has one MVP and two Finals appearances. Conley has played in zero All-Star games, has never made All-NBA first, second or third team, never won an MVP, and never made it past the conference finals in the postseason.

There is no way Conley and Durant should be paid equally. The accolades and numbers prove that they play on different levels.

As it stands now, any proven veteran can make the same amount of money on any team, except their own, which can pay a little bit more. It was recently changed that the player’s current team could pay them the most money to try and encourage them to stay with their current team, but that has not worked. Kevin Durant left OKC and more money to make a super team in Golden State.

Now LeBron said Curry should be making $400 million on his new contract because that is what he is worth. That just seems like an astronomical amount to be honest. But honestly, it is not.

NBA max contracts

Kevin Durant and Steph Curry should be able to make as much as the free market determines. (Photo by AP)

The NBA makes a lot of money and needs to spend it somehow. The most obvious way is on the players. Just like every other item you buy like gas or milk, the market decides the price. Gas goes up when oil goes up and also during holidays when people are traveling around. It is all about supply and demand.

As the NBA continues to go in this era of super teams, one thing for Adam Silver to consider is the way players are paid. The way the league stands now has allowed the Cavs and Warriors to make the NBA Finals the last three years and also for the next several.

We don’t know who is going to make the World Series in the MLB each season. We also don’t know which teams in the NFL will be playing in the Super Bowl. But we all know who will be playing in the Finals in the NBA.

If Silver wants to create a better NBA, he needs to get rid of max contracts. This will let the free market decide how much players are paid. It will spread the talent around the league. It will eliminate super teams and make the NBA more competitive again. It is basic business.

 

Featured Image by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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Who Should Play in the NBA All-Star Game?

The NBA All-Star starters have been released, but not without its share of controversy. Russell Westbrook will be coming off the bench this year despite his historic start.

In anticipation of the final all-star lineups, here’s who should be playing in the exhibition this year. Keep in mind, that the starting lineup allows for two guards and three frontcourt players.

Starters

Isaiah Thomas: Kyrie Irving has the starting spot this year, but Isaiah Thomas is more deserving. Thomas has been on a roll this year for Boston. He is currently third in the NBA in scoring (outscoring James Harden) while shooting at a .461/.384/.907 clip. Thomas is the star and best player of the third best team in the East. Without a doubt, he deserves this spot.

Giannis Antetokounmpo: The Greek Freak made the All-Star game as a frontcourt player this year, but the stats say otherwise. According to Basketball Reference, he has played over 60% of his minutes at shooting guard. So, I’m putting him in as a guard. Either way, the Milwaukee Bucks star has undoubtedly earned his spot in the starting lineup this year.

In fact, he has solidified his spot as one of the premier players in the game right now. For one, he is the only player to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals. Let that sink in. He is leading his team in every major statistical category. On top of that, he is top-25 in the league in every one of those categories, and top-10 in points, steals, and blocks.

Giannis has been doing a little bit of everything for one of the most exciting teams in the Eastern Conference this year, and he is well deserving of an All-Star starting spot.

Jimmy Butler: The decision to put Jimmy Butler in my lineup was not an easy one. You can easily justify putting Demar Derozan in as a guard, and shifting Giannis to a frontcourt spot. Butler and Derozan have both been having monster seasons for their respective teams. On top of that, they have been having remarkably similar years.

Derozan has a slight edge in points, Butler has a small edge in rebounds, and they are almost exactly even in assists. Butler gets on my starting lineup, however, because of an edge in three point shooting and defense.

Butler has been a much better three point shooter than Derozan this year, which allows his team to spread the floor more when he is on the court. He also has a sizable edge in blocks and steals over Derozan. I wouldn’t say the voters made a horribly wrong choice in nominating Derozan, but Jimmy Butler gets the nod in my starting lineup.

LeBron James: LeBron is the best player in the league. He is top ten in the league in scoring and assists. What is a rather pedestrian year for one of the greatest players of all time still easily allows him a spot in the All-Star starting lineup. Oh, and he’s got a three point shot again.

Joel Embiid: The real All-Star game starting lineup has no true center. In fact, the lineup doesn’t even have a real big man. Yes, the game is changing and centers have become less and less important. But, Joel Embiid has been the best big man in the league this year, and possibly the most important player to his team’s success.

(courtesy of CSN Philly)

The Sixers have been on an absolute tear lately, and they can largely attribute that success to Embiid. They are a completely different team when he is on the floor. He leads the team in points, rebounds, and blocks; and on top of that he is playing with a minutes restriction. It has been a weak year for Eastern Conference big men, and Embiid has been the most impressive. Call me crazy, but he deserves this spot.

Bench

Demar Derozan: The Raptors have been great this year, and Demar Derozan has absolutely been on fire. Critics might say he is a relatively one-dimensional player, but man can this guy score. He’s sixth in the league in scoring, trailing only James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Isaiah Thomas, Anthony Davis, and Demarcus Cousins. He has been one of the best guards in the league and absolutely deserves a spot on this team.

Kyrie Irving: The East is stacked when it comes to point guards, but Kyrie is a no-brainer for this year’s All-Star game. Isaiah Thomas makes my starting lineup over Irving simply because he has more of a load to carry, but both guards are having great years for their teams.

John Wall: The Wizards have been scorching hot lately, after a dismal start to the season, and John Wall has sparked their success. Wall has cracked the top-15 in scoring, is third in the league in assists, and first in steals. He is one of the best pure point guards in the league, and he’s having a career year. He’s earned this.

Kevin Love: After Embiid, Kevin Love has been the best big man in the East this season. He’s rebounding at a ferocious rate again, and he’s hitting threes at his highest rate in years. After a healthy offseason where he’s been able to rehabilitate, Kevin Love has returned to being one of the premier power forwards in the league.

Hassan Whiteside: Whiteside has been the classic “good stats on a bad team” player this year. His eye-popping stats are less meaningful because of how abysmal the Heat have been. Regardless, it’s hard to keep a player with 17 points per game and 14 rebounds per game out of the All-Star game. The weak big men in the East this year only further his case.

Kristaps Porzingis: Putting aside his injuries, the Latvian stud has seen no signs of a sophomore slump. He’s been the best player on the Knicks when he’s healthy, and has continued his dominance on both ends of the floor. Another beneficiary of the weak frontcourts in the east this year, Porzingis is deserving of one of the East’s spots.

Kyle Lowry: Behind Derozan’s great season, Kyle Lowry has become somewhat under appreciated for the Raptors. He has a slash line of .470/.429/.824 while averaging 22 points and 7 rebounds per game. He may not have the same recognition has Demar Derozan, but he is deserving of a spot in the lineup nonetheless.

Starters

Russell Westbrook: Russell Westbrook is averaging a triple-double. I’ll Repeat: Averaging a TRIPLE-DOUBLE. As in, Russell Westbrook is doing something that hasn’t been done in 40 years. He is first in the league in scoring. He is second in the league in assists. He is eleventh in rebounds. It is absurd that Westbrook won’t be starting in this year’s All-Star game.

(courtesy of Clutch Points)

James Harden: 28.7 points per game. 11.6 rebounds per game. 8.2 rebounds per game. Harden is having an equally (if not more) impressive season than Westbrook. Harden and Westbrook are having the two best seasons in the NBA this year and should be starting in the All-Star Game for the Western Conference.

Kevin Durant: KD is having an incredibly efficient season (.544/.400/.862) and has already become the go-to guy on the Golden State Warriors. He has shown no real signs of a big adjustment period with is new team and has continued to be one of the best scorers in the NBA.

Kawhi Leonard: Kawhi has somehow quietly had a ridiculously good season. So is life playing for the San Antonio Spurs. Obviously, he is one of the best defenders in the league. The difference this year has been in his continued improvement on the offensive end. He’s scoring more than he ever has and is absurdly close to a 50/40/90 season.

Anthony Davis: If not for the struggles of his team, Anthony Davis would most likely be right up there with Harden and Westbrook in the MVP conversation. Seriously. The Brow is continuing his ascension to the top of the league, and is single-handedly keeping this team relevant. He’s fourth in the league in scoring, and seventh in rebounding. At this point, it’s hard to say he’s not the best big man in the league. Despite the deterioration of his team around him, Anthony Davis has done as much as anyone to earn his spot as a starter this year.

Bench

Steph Curry: Last year, Steph Curry had the best season of anyone in the league. This year, he’s not even having the best season on his own team. His shooting percentage and three point percentage may be way down, but he’s still averaging 24.6 points per game. He’s nowhere near the level of the unanimous MVP we saw last year, but it’s impossible to leave him off this team.

Demarcus Cousins: Behind Anthony Davis, Boogie has been the best big man in the league this year. Not to mention, he’s hitting threes at a 37.5% clip. Like Davis, he’s on an abysmal team and single-handedly keeping them relevant. No doubt, he makes the team.

Damian Lillard: Despite the Trailblazers’ fall from grace, Lillard has still had an All-Star-worthy year. His defense has been atrocious this year, but it’s simply too hard to keep a guy with 26 points and six rebounds per game out of the All-Star game.

Gordon Hayward: Gordon Hayward has been the most important and best player on the fifth-best team in the Western Conference. He has seen an uptick in scoring and in efficiency. Sure, he may not be a bona fide star in the league yet, but his season this year has been no joke.

Mike Conley: Conley has earned his max contract this year for the Grizzlies. The Grizzlies aren’t a true contender in the top-heavy West, but Conley has made them competitive and fun to watch with his great season. 18 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists per game to go along with solid efficiency numbers warrant a first All-Star game for the Memphis star.

Karl-Anthony Towns: Towns and the Timberwolves haven’t quite lived up to his incredibly lofty expectations for this season. Despite that, he has undoubtedly had a great season so far. 22 points and 12 rebounds per game warrants an All-Star game spot despite his teams immense struggles.

Draymond Green: This last spot was the hardest to fill on the roster, but I decided to reward Draymond and the Golden State Warriors. They have clearly been the best team in the league this year so far, and Green has been a key part of that. He is the frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year, and he has continued to do a little bit of everything for the Warriors. He scores when he needs to, he rebounds, he distributes, and he plays defense as well as anyone in the league. Draymond makes the roster based off of his contributions to his team over his stats.

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NBA New Year’s Resolutions: Western Conference

The NBA season is to the end of another calendar year. The All-Star break is closing in as well.

Teams now have to look at their respective seasons and determine if the direction they’re headed in is the one they planned for prior to the start of the season. There have been surprises and disappointments throughout this early part of the season. However, the NBA season is a long one. For prospering teams, success is fleeting. It’s not a wise choice to rest on early accomplishments; always continue to grow. Conversely, a bad season can turn with one hot streak putting a team directly in the thick of the playoff race.

With the new year rolling around, some teams may want to make a new year’s resolution as the competition begins to heat up. There’s no time like the present to shore up some deficiencies that can be exploited in the playoffs when the game slows down. Coaches and their staffs have time to gameplan and the will to win escalates.

Let’s take a look at five Western Conference new year’s resolutions

Houston Rockets- Stop The Leak

The Rockets are currently sitting right in the thick of the Western Conference seeding and do so with an efficient offense. James Harden, a major favorite for this year’s MVP award, is leading this ship behind Mike D’antoni’s principles of the game. Houston attempts a league leading 39 three-point attempts a game and hits them at a prodigious 38 percent. This team also generates open shots behind the arc better than any team in the league at 16 per game. However, if there is an achilles heel for the highly lethal Houston attack, it’s turnovers.

The problem isn’t the amount of turnovers. Turnovers in general aren’t beneficial to any offense. The problem is the opponent’s points off turnovers. Opponents create a whopping 18 points off of Houston’s giveaways, which is fifth most in the league. I’m undoubtedly sure the team is aware of this and will be looking to patch the leak.

A turnover is costly when your team is within six points with under four minutes left in the game. After great half-court defense, the Rockets go to the pick and roll game with the shot clock running down. The defense surrounds and collapses on Harden, who then throws a wayward left-handed pass across his body. It’s then stolen by the opponent. The defense was slow getting back, giving up three points on the other end after the and-one. Those kinds of mistakes can derail a playoff run when the margin for errors is minuscule.

 

Memphis Grizzlies- Limit Fouls

The Grit-n-Grind connoisseurs are tops in the league in defensive efficiency and are one of the most successful teams in the clutch. Even with injuries to Mike Conley and Chandler Parsons and a roster many thought would lead them to the path of irrelevancy, the Grizzlies continue to impress day in and day out. The team allows the least amount of shots in the paint and are top five in steals and blocks in the league per game.

The defensive wizards, however, have a foul problem. This team allows the third most free throw attempts. Teams playing against them shoot almost 28 per game, which is five attempts over the league average. Teams at the moment aren’t making the Grizzlies pay for their fouling. Opponents are shooting 72 percent at the line. If they keep treading this dangerous line, things could get out of hand.

Oklahoma City Thunder- Become Better Free Throw Artists

The Thunder are one of the most intriguing teams in the league. With Russell Westbrook averaging a triple-double, Steven Adams becoming a top flight center in the NBA, and second-year head coach Billy Donovan guiding this team to over-achievement, there’s a lot to extract from the franchise that’s still early in existence. The main worry for the Thunder, outside of being relatively devoid of shooting, is its free-throw shooting. The Thunder attempt the fourth most foul shots in the league, thanks mostly to Westbrook’s NBA-leading ten attempts per game.

The flip-side to that is the Thunder only make a near-bottom 72 percent of their attempts. Three of the Thunder’s five starters attempt less than 3 attempts per game. No player not wearing number 0 attempts more than five. The Thunder have to get to the line more frequently, and make the attempts. Free points are paramount for a team that struggles to score in the half-court.

Golden state Warriors- Limit opponent fast-break points

It would behoove NBA fans to err on the side of caution when looking for flaws in the Western Conference champion Warriors. You won’t find many. However, the Dubs do have a tendency to leave awareness to the wind and give the opponent chances to score easy points. The Warriors are bottom in the league in opponent fast break points. Part of it could be a byproduct of the offense. Playing at a high pace and getting up shots relatively quickly tends to allow room for slippage. Even after made baskets, if there is any loss of attention easy buckets on the break can slip through.

Utah Jazz- Force more turnovers

This Jazz team is one that is finally beginning to realize its potential. The identity of the Jazz has always been one of defense. Trite as that may sound, defensive aptitude is a strong suit for this team. They are top three in defensive efficiency, allow the third fewest points in the paint, and are the best team in the league at dissuading teams from firing behind the arc. Utah rarely turns the ball over, and Jazz opponents return the favor. Jazz opponents turn the ball over fewer times than any team in the league.

No turnovers also mean no points off the other team’s carelessness. They are bottom five in the league at 14 points off of turnovers per game. Those added bonuses could really come in handy in the playoffs if this team is still in the lower part of the league in points per game.

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2016 NBA Off-season Summary

An Offseason to Remember

 

The summer of 2016 introduced the new NBA salary cap, which in turn paid loads of money to multiple NBA players. This offseason also created a Hall-of-Fame caliber team with Kevin Durant making the fantasy move to the Golden State Warriors. And as per usual, in the Summer Leagues, unproven NBA rookies showcased their talents and gave the basketball community a progress report on where they’re at in their development.

Players Getting Paid

People may not have liked some of the events in this offseason, but it set a precedent for what fans should expect next season when the salary cap increases again. This free agency period paved the way for the NBA’s elite to earn twice as much as they were getting paid with role and bench players, like Timofey Mozgov, Matthew Dellavedova and Mike Conley Jr., all cashing in on their newly increased value. Mike Conley’s signing drew a more significant uproar among free agents not named Kevin Durant. Conley, who averaged 15 points (on 42% shooting), 6 assists, and 3 rebounds in the 2015-16 NBA season (only played 56 of the 82 regular season games), didn’t exactly post All-Star caliber numbers, and yet, by the previous salary cap’s standards, will be making the most money per year since Michael Jordan at around $30.6 million dollars for the next 5 years; that is more than just All-Star money, it’s global icon money. But with the new, larger salary cap in place, and an even larger cap next off-season, fans should expect the ridiculous looking deals to keep on coming, especially when Steph Curry becomes a free agent next year. Also, some food for thought: free agent LeBron James has yet to sign a new deal with the Cavaliers under this new salary cap. One can surmise it will be at least around the $28 million per year mark like Kevin Durant will be making with the Warriors this upcoming season. Speaking of which….

KD to the Bay

No doubt the most noticeable move in the NBA since LeBron famously took his talents to South Beach, Kevin Durant dropped the proverbial bomb on the basketball community (not just in OKC) this off-season by signing with the defending Western Conference Champion, Golden State Warriors. Durant going to the Warriors shook the NBA in a similar, if not more severe, way than when LeBron went to the Heat. The Bay Area will now house the best three shooters on the planet. The Warriors may look invincible on the offensive end, but signing KD meant they had to blow up a good portion of their depth and start over. Their center and rim protector, Andrew Bogut, had to be traded to the Dallas Mavericks along with now fellow-ex Warrior and small forward Harrison Barnes, who signed Dallas’ offer sheet as a restricted free agent since the Warriors couldn’t match the offer to keep Barnes while adding Durant. The Warriors also lost Marreese Speights to the Clippers, Festus Ezeli to the Trailblazers, Brandon Rush to the Timberwolves and Leandro Barbosa to the Suns. The Warriors were able to retain Ian Clark, Anderson Varejao and James Michael McAdoo and also added veterans Zaza Pachulia, David West and rookie draftees Patrick McCaw and Damian Jones. Simply put, their interior defense will come into question against a good team, but as of now in the off-season, no team looks like they can handle the onslaught of perimeter shooting that Golden State possesses for that to be a problem.

The NBA Summer League Showcases

Going into the NBA summer leagues, a few names were on everyone’s mind. Heading out of the summer leagues, a few more names were added to that mental list. Ben Simmons was probably the most common name coming out of the draft and into the summer league. Being the first overall pick of the draft by the 76ers, Simmons didn’t disappoint his expectations, showcasing the as-advertised court vision college scouts were raving about and seeing why fans and fellow rookie Denzel Valentine were comparing him to 4-time MVP LeBron James. I echo that comparison based on his passing ability, hard drives to the basket, and unwillingness to shoot a pull up jumper at that age due to lack of efficiency at it; hopefully we will continue to get better at it. Ben Simmons was definitely the right choice for the 76ers to make with the first pick and I expect he will have a much greater impact on a game than former first round picks Okafor and Noel have in Simmons’ rookie year; the 76ers will be better this year, if only by a handful of games, they will be better.

Other names on everyone lips were those of NBA sophomores like Emanuel Mudiay, Larry Nance Jr. and DeAngelo Russell. The trio showed a maturity and confidence on the court against NBA rookies knowing what pace and intensity they had to play with at times. The biggest stride, I thought, was made by DeAngelo Russell, who was the best player on the Lakers’ summer league team, not the lottery pick, Brandon Ingram, who looked like he needs to gain about 20 pounds or so in order to not be pushed around so easily by the better competition; granted Ingram is able to create his own shot, but putting on some weight will help him. Overall, the summer league always hints at what we can expect in years to come from the crop of rookies and sophomores.

Biggest Winners of the NBA Offseason

  • Warriors. They got KD. Even though they had to get rid of key bench players to do it, they got the big free agent to form the super team. Clear winner. They also added David West who will contribute a much needed interior toughness to a depleted bench.
  • Timberwolves. Minnesota hired former Bulls head coach and defensive specialist Tom Thibodeau as head coach to lead this young core of talent into a new era without Garnett (even though he is still with the team) and without Love. The T-wolves also drafted the versatile guard Kris Dunn out of Providence which only adds to the team’s potential.
  • 76ers. I know right? Why on earth would the 76ers be winners here? They got rid of their GM and drafted the clear number one pick of the NBA draft. I believe Simmons makes the 76ers that much better to call them a winner in the offseason. The regular season, however…. Eh maybe not yet.
  • Bucks. Thon Maker and Malcolm Brogdon add similar potential to that of the T-wolves; summer league showed me they are on pace to be at the very least, quality NBA players. Jason Kidd ought to lead the Bucks to the playoffs this year and hopefully make the Eastern Conference more interesting.
  • Knicks. Despite not having any draft pick in this year’s draft, Phil Jackson did make some moves. Trading for Derrick Rose, who’s on the last year of his contract, was a good move since it got rid of an aging Jose Caulderon, an unproven Jerian Grant and Robin Lopez. The Knicks put themselves in a good position next off-season for other free agents and a draft pick or two, all awhile making themselves a team to keep an eye on with the additions of Brandon Jennings and Joakim Noah. I’m not saying they’ll be winners and get to the postseason, but they are not losers in the off-season.

Biggest Losers of the NBA Off-season

  • Kings. They draft and trade for two big men when they already have three, and one of the three is an NBA All-Star named Demarcus Cousins. What is Divac doing?
  • Bulls. They sign Rajon Rondo and Dwayne Wade. Two guards that can’t hit perimeter shots and prefer to have the ball in their hands in order to create offense. Add that to a budding star in Jimmy Butler who practically ran Derrick Rose out of the organization and who also can’t hit consistent perimeter shots and you have a very isolation oriented offense. Did I forget to mention that coach Fred Hoiberg didn’t really command the team well in his first season?
  • Rockets. Hiring Mike D’Antoni was the Rockets first mistake in the offseason; D’Antoni is notorious for not employing any type of high level defense, if any defense at all. The Rockets were already one of the worst defensive teams in the league last year, so this isn’t a good move at all. The Rockets next mistake was letting their best defender and rim protector in Dwight Howard go in free agency. Then they added shooters like Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon. Defense will be the team’s downfall.
  • Heat. Miami failed to keep Dwayne Wade, the franchise’s most valuable player in its history. Seeing him leave South Beach will take some time getting used to. They managed to keep Whiteside, but couldn’t land Durant. The Heat also let Joe Johnson, Amare Stoudemire and Luol Deng go. Miami should now be in full rebuild mode. Pat Riley needs to hope that Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow become players the Heat can market closer to the levels that Minnesota and Milwaukee are presenting themselves at; young, hungry and talented.

With NBA news now going quiet until LeBron announces his new deal with Cleveland, baseball season in full swing and football preseason preparing to kickoff, the NBA won’t be short of any story-lines when the season starts in October. I can’t wait to sit back and watch it all unfold.

The Dichotomy Of The NBA Player

As fans of the NBA, we’re constantly taking in the product via commercials, ads, and video games. The players and their faces are inescapable. Their faces, however are not all we see.

We also want to see ourselves in them. We want them to be like us and eat the same things eat and wear the same shoes we do. We want them to be decent people who walk the straight and narrow. Mothers and fathers allow these athletes to raise their children.

But we so often overlook the human aspect of the NBA star. Before they were omnipresent multi-millionaires, they were people just as inflicted with the human condition as the next man. Greed, anger, happiness, and depression affects them the same way as the consumer. This doesn’t excuse any level of indiscretion, it only masks it and presents it in a more palatable package.

The transgressions of NBA athletes often go unnoticed to fans because of the overwhelming suspension of disbelief. We allow ourselves to build up an unconditional affection for them and in doing so we grant them a pardon and overlook the mistakes.

Take Kobe Bryant, the Black Mamba. NBA champion, MVP. The many adjectives that are used to describe Bryant do not involve charged with sexual assault. We find ourselves in awe of his 81 point performance or his perceived clutch gene. The Black Mamba was a killer on the court who saw everyone as enemy that needed to be vanquished. We applauded this and held it in reverence. We used Mamba in the same way that Bryant did: to separate real life from basketball. We refused to clutter our minds with the actions of Bryant and those of The Mamba.

USA Today

USA Today

In NBA life things may become cluttered with both sides of their respective worlds. And with this cluttering may come a diminished performance on the court. This would not stand well with the fans and God forbid that the fans are unhappy. Players feel that they have to separate the various aspects of their lives often citing the court as a “sanctuary”.  The fans only judge what they feel is appropriate. The on court performance. Anything beyond that feels taboo and invasive.

And there lies the irony. We allow them into our homes every night and we want them to know that we appreciate and care for them, yet we almost instinctively turn our eyes and interests away the minute the idol becomes one of us.

Yet, the reverence that we hold these athletes is very selective. We choose who is allowed to do what and whether we accept it or not. We want the clean cut athlete not because we want to protect the sport that we care so much about, but to insure that we don’t have to stop and defend against their actions.

The perfect example of this selective reverence exists in how we view Steph Curry and conversely J.R. Smith. It’s a classic case of winning cures all. We forget and overlook all of the bumps in the road a player may face if he holds the hardware. If Smith had been successful earlier in career maybe we see his antics differently. Curry, while well earned, has curried the favor of all who witness his success. If Curry wasn’t a champion and MVP twice over, would we see him as just a more accurate Smith? An elite walking heat check?

J.R. Smith vs. Steph Curry is a comparison that shows how we subconsciously choose who we allow to be the so called face of the league. Smith was always a supremely talented, athletic player but his choices and lack of discipline kept him from reaching his true potential. This has led us to judge J.R. as a player who you wouldn’t want on your team because he could never help a true contender. He could never contribute anything positive.

USA Today

USA Today

In 2015-16 season, Smith shot 40% from 3 in the regular season for the eventual champion Cleveland Cavaliers. In the NBA Finals, Smith played to his strengths, mostly shooting, and overall in the playoffs averaging 12.4 ppg.

The year earlier Smith played a pivotal role in defeating the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals. After the winning in the finals, Smith, in his post-game press conference, let us inside a little bit. He showed us emotion that moved some of us to tears. In that moment he stopped being the underachieving riff raff and became someone that it’s OK to support.

Two years of Smith playing on his sports biggest stages and we came out with a different felling about him each time. Was it because of his honesty and sincerity or was it because he had just reached the pinnacle of his career with a championship?

On the other side we have Curry, a player who reached his peak potential by becoming arguably the best shooter that we have ever seen. He has built a brand that has him as a christian family man who plays the right way and doesn’t let any outside factors affect him on the court. His brand admittedly has protected him from any mass ridicule, particularly in this past NBA Finals where he didn’t play to his usual superhuman standards.

Curry has become the face of the league because we see him as relatable. We feel that we can relate to the smaller guard who lacks the superhuman athleticism if his peers. His baby-faced persona and choir boy countenance coupled with immense success makes for a perfect marketing tool.

He and Smith now have the same amount of championships, albeit they were achieved in differing ways. And obviously Smith could never be the face of the league, but do we now harp on Curry’s missteps on or off the court now that he has had his mortal NBA player moment? Probably not but that’s OK.

USA Today

USA Today

But what about the money the players make? This is a part of the game we focus on greatly. This past NBA free agency was one that was unprecedented. Not only in the enormity of the salary cap spike and the space it gave teams to pay for the players they wanted but also for the ridicule players received for the amount of money they were being paid.

National writers would rain down countering ridicule to the fans with the hackneyed analogy of a common worker getting a raise for his job. The fallacy of that argument is saying that we wouldn’t care about the fireman getting a 100% pay raise if we knew about it, when in reality we would. We would care because it be out in the open leaving it vulnerable to our judgement.

That again is a part of the plight of the NBA player and fan. We are a part of their world so much so that we know exactly how much each player makes and when they make it. We as fans then debate whether it’s too much or too little. Once again we are basing these opinions on their on-court performance and brand rather than the individual himself.

USA Today. Mike Conley's five-year $153 million dollar contract caused an uproar for the fans.

USA Today. Mike Conley’s five-year $153 million dollar contract caused an uproar in the NBA fanbase.

Most of the players didn’t grow up with very much at all. And when the time comes for the player to finally be able to quantify his worth we tell him that’s he’s overpaid. Who are we to tell someone who went from nothing to something almost overnight that he shouldn’t that much but can have this much?

Turning away from the person who is getting paid and focusing solely on the player is the very essence of Mamba VS. Kobe. There are two sides to every player. We aren’t obligated to center our attention to the “Kobe” side of things but it’s worth taking a look at from time to time.

The way we behave as fans isn’t wrong. We are the ones who pay to watch the games live on television or in the arena. We buy the products they endorse. We also buy their narrative. We accept them into our lives wearing the jersey that we love so dearly. The jersey, however, does come off. The lights do go down and all that is left is a person who we haven’t actually met, or paid any attention to.