Quit Telling Me the NBA Season Doesn’t Matter

A few weeks ago, Chris posted an article claiming that NBA season should not be watched. The main rationale for the article was based off the fact that the NBA faces the inescapable reality that the Warriors will be the 2018-2019 champions. However, I think this season, like any other, has many different reasons to watch. This article appears early in the season, but my reasons still stand. Through these first few weeks, we’ve seen the NBA with higher ratings than ever, but that only scratches the surface as to why the NBA is more interesting than ever. I won’t focus on it heavily, but just keep that in mind.

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Golden State is just the latest in a long line of NBA dynasties. (Wikimedia Commons)

First, contrary to what Chris would have you believe, the dominance of Golden State is one of the main reasons why the NBA is must-watch entertainment this season. The NBA and all of the other major sports in the US are at their height in watchability when there is a dominant dynasty.

People remember eras based off those dynasties. For example, the Showtime Lakers or Jordan’s Bulls are what fans remember from the late 80’s through the 90’s. The Warriors are probably the first true dynasty since the Shaq and Kobe Lakers. The “Heatles” and the Spurs were both amazing teams, but they were never truly head and shoulder above the competition for more than a year.  

Continuing on this, dynasties become must watch because fans hate watch them and to see if they will chase the ghost of previous dynasties. People love to watch dynasties lose, there is no denying it. You could go to any average sports fan and they want to see teams like the Patriots and Yankees, both dominant teams in this century, fail to get a championship. The sheer possibility that these top teams come up short is a compelling enough reason to watch in its own right.

The Warriors are no different. Go to any forum that discusses the NBA and it will be full of users who want an end to the Warriors. On the other side of this, however, fans tune in to see if records will be broken. One of the most watched games of this past decade in NBA was when the Warriors got to win number 73, becoming the new kings of the regular season. The new ghost for Golden State to chase this year is becoming the first team since Bill Russell’s Celtics to go to five straight NBA finals. Ultimately, the Warriors, the reason many people claim the NBA is pointless, is one of the most enticing parts of this season.

The other article also does not give credit to the growth of up and coming teams. Fans of bad teams only want to watch the night-to-night growth of their young players. While going through a rebuild they set aside the fact that for the next few years a run to the NBA Finals is only a pipe dream.

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The Bucks are one of the best storylines of the young NBA season as the last undefeated team in the league. (Wikimedia Commons)

Kings fans watch to see if De’Aaron Fox will go super saiyan. I am a proud Knicks fan and my reasons for watching this season is to see how Ntilikina improves in his second season and how the trio of Knicks rookies fair in their inaugural seasons to name a few. Young players attract fans, but young coaches do too. How will their new system affect the team? During the offseason, almost a third of the NBA hired new head coaches. Coach Mike Budenholzer is one coach I am most the intrigued about because I think he will make the Bucks a top four team in the East.

In the end, many fans worry that the Warriors will make the NBA unwatchable this season. However, I think Golden State should be the least of peoples worries when it comes to the watchability of the NBA. Nevertheless if dynasties are not your thing, there are too many up and coming players and new head coaches this season to not watch.

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The NBA Season is Not Worth Watching

With the NBA season just getting underway, it seemed like a good time to address the major issue developing for basketball’s professional league. Over the past several years, there has been a growing sentiment regarding the NBA regular season. In truth, it has barely mattered. At the end of the year, it always ends up being the same few teams vying for a title and it is predictable.

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LeBron James’ streak of eight straight finals appearances will come to an end in 2019. (Wikimedia Commons)

Take last year for example. The Cavaliers struggled to the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference after a rough regular season. Sure, Cleveland was challenged throughout the playoffs, but LeBron James led the Cavs to another finals appearance, the eighth straight year his team has represented the East in the NBA Finals.

On the other hand, the Warriors finally appeared to have a true equal in the West with Houston stocking up on star players. The Rockets had the best regular season record, but Golden State advanced to the finals for the fourth straight season. The route to get there was a bit interesting, but the result was as expected.

I understand in many ways the process makes the result worthwhile, but knowing the ending cheapens the journey.

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The four-time All-Star took a reduced contract to join the Warriors during the offseason. (Wikimedia Commons)

Let’s be honest, the Golden State Warriors are winning another NBA Championship this year. We don’t need to kid ourselves into thinking this is up for debate. Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Dramond Green will be joined by DeMarcus Cousins when he returns from injury. All five of those players are in the top five at their position, with Curry and Durant arguably being the best at theirs.

You cannot convince me the Rockets adding Carmelo Anthony will give them the edge. If anything, it probably hurts Houston defensively more than it helps offensively. The Lakers aren’t challenging this year, even if they added LeBron. With his sidekicks of Rajon Rondo, Lonzo Ball and Lance Stephenson, this team will be lucky to be a top-four seed in the West.

In the East, there might be some minor intrigue in which up-and-coming team is going to win the conference. Boston finally gets its stars back and retained all of its key free agents. Philadelphia brought in a few more young draft picks to a team with a bunch of rising stars. Neither of these teams added a major asset in the offseason. However, The Celtics almost swept the 76ers without Gordon Hayward last year. For as much as people want to bill this as an exciting matchup, this almost feels predictable as well. Don’t bother try to sell me on whatever it is the Raptors are doing either.

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Gordon Hayward’s return from injury makes the Celtics the front-runner to win the Eastern Conference. (Wikimedia Commons)

No one is going to admit to it, but the best method for just about every NBA team right now is to wait out the Warriors. No one can even come close to matching all of the talent it has no accumulated on the roster. I mentioned the stating lineup before and didn’t even get to the bench that contains veterans Andre Iguodala and Sean Livingston, plus prospects like Quinn Cook and Jordan Bell.

Now the current core the Warriors have could only take until next year to break up as Cousins signed just a one-year deal with the team. Thompson’s contract expires after this year as well. The exceptions to this wait-it-out approach could come in Boston and Philly, who might want to get their young players experience playing in the NBA Finals before taking a real shot at it when the Golden State dynasty comes to an end.

The NBA has been built around this idea players will continue to jump at the money, but we are seeing that is no longer the case. Players eager to win rings, play with friends or simply stay with a team are undermining the market. It has led to a massive consolidation of talent. It makes the final two rounds of the Western Conference playoffs fairly entertaining, but renders the Eastern Conference version to a formality of who will lose in the finals.

I’m bored of watching super teams. The league has become far too predictable. There are teams you know will be bad every year, like the Magic, Knicks, Nets, Suns and Kings. A few in the middle might surprise, but only enough so to be a flash in the pan. The entertainment value of the NBA season has completely been lost.

This probably isn’t a popular opinion, but it is one that could spell trouble for the NBA. The NFL regular season has never been at a more unpredictable point. The MLB is producing drama throughout the regular season, well into the postseason. College basketball might have just had its craziest edition of March Madness in five years, with another great season in store. Even the English Premier League is shaping up to have one of the better title races it has had in recent years.

Maybe I will end up watching the Western Conference finals, but that will be about it. Anything before that and after that seems like foregone conclusion.

Breaking Down the Dwane Casey Firing

Dwane CaseyAll good things must come to an end. This end seems a bit premature considering how successful the Raptors have been in the NBA regular season, but as many pundits have noted, the regular season does not matter in professional basketball.

The Raptors fired Dwane Casey on May 11, following yet another early exit in the playoffs. Toronto continued to run into a wall in the postseason. That wall is named LeBron James. James has dispatched the Raptors each of the last three years, including two straight sweeps in the Conference Semifinals. It is pretty clear something needs to change in Toronto and Casey might just be the catalyst for larger moves.

But why fire a coach to bring back the same team the following year? That is the question right now when analyzing this situation. Casey was far from the root of the problem in Toronto. He is a finalist for Coach of the Year. He also put the Raptors in a position to succeed in the postseason, as the team earned home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Most of the blame for this year’s playoff collapse can be attributed to DeMar DeRozan and Serge Ibaka. DeRozan averaged 16.8 points, 4 rebounds and 2.8 assists during the series against the Cavaliers. Solid numbers for most, but disappointing for a player who is supposed to be leading his team offensively. He scored 67 points in the series on 66 shots. His inability to get to the line or shoot from behind the arc seriously limits his value. Ibaka was even worse, averaging 8.5, 6.3 and 1 in those same categories. He is not meant to do a whole lot offensively, but he was not very effective, shooting just 44 percent for the series. DeRozan and Ibaka combine for almost $50 million in cap space for Toronto next year, 38.7 percent of the team’s total.

Firing Casey only really makes sense if the Raptors’ front office goes for a massive makeover this offseason. Otherwise, this move makes very little sense. Kyle Lowry, Jonas Valanciunas and Ibaka are all under contract until 2020. DeRozen hangs around another year after that. In fact, 12 of the Raptors’ 15 players from this season have contracts that extend into next year.

In short, this is going to be basically the same team as it was a year ago. Toronto has close to zero potential to add free agents, as it has no cap space and already used a mid-level exception on C.J. Miles. Additionally, the Raptors do not have a single pick in this year’s draft. GM Bobby Webster can hope he can strike gold with another player on a minimum deal who greatly outperforms the deal like he did when he brought in Fred VanVleet. The likelihood of that occurring is seemingly low.

DeMar DeRozanThe best solution for Toronto moving forward is to cut bait with DeRozan and/or Ibaka this offseason via trade. The unfortunate truth is that this Raptors core is not capable of winning a championship. It needs to be revamped or rebuilt. This is more than LeBron simply being the team’s kryptonite.

It would be easy to say, just wait out the Warriors and Rockets, build for the future. However, the Celtics seem to be on the verge of creating a dynasty. The 76ers might be a title-contender by next year.

Becoming a true title-contender can be done in a short time frame too. In 2016, the Rockets were the eighth seed in the West, losing in five games. Two years later, they had the best record in the NBA and pose a legitimate threat to the Warriors. The catalyst was reworking a roster that already had a franchise player. If nothing else, Houston should provide a blueprint for Toronto on how to go from good to great.

Not entirely sure where the Raptors go from here as an organization, but this offseason is going to be crucial for the team’s future plans.

This One Hurts

I’m not mad. Just disappointed.

It’s that cliche line your parents used on you when you were a teenager to make you feel guilty about what you did. It also sums up how I feel about Kevin Durant heading to Golden State.

Kevin Durant
Durant was a 7-time All-star in his time with Oklahoma City. (Wikimedia Commons)

I get it. The chance to win a title is tantalizing. Playing with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green definitely seems appealing. The money was good too. That doesn’t mean I can’t be disappointed in the decision.

Durant came so close to knocking off the Warriors with his running mate Russell Westbrook. Blowing a 3-1 lead in the conference finals is about as close as you can get without sealing the deal. Durant gave up the chance to do something special in OKC for a perceived easy ring with the Warriors.

Signing with Golden State is similar to when LeBron James left the Cavaliers for Miami. But in reality it is even more of a cop out. James at least went to a building team. The Heat were good before he got there, but he arrived with Chris Bosh to make them a true contender. On top of that, Miami didn’t win the title until James’ second year in South Beach.

The Warriors are already well established, having gone to the last two NBA Finals and winning a championship. They already have an incredible core of guys who have fueled this mini dynasty. Durant joining this team is much worse than what LeBron did and it truly is disappointing. Had he signed pretty much anywhere else, even San Antonio, this wouldn’t feel like so much of a betrayal.

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With Durant joining the Warriors, the MVP from the last three years plays for Golden State. (Wikimedia Commons)

Durant’s signing in Golden State is also polarizing for fans. It will be nothing short of annoying to have another super team dominating the league. However, it will also cause fans to tune in to see what the group can accomplish. Nothing is guaranteed either. As I just said, the Heat didn’t win the first season they had their big three. The Warriors could slip up and choke again, like they did this year. That alone makes them worth watching.

If I’m honest, I don’t think this team is as much of a lock to be better than last year’s team. I don’t see them winning 74 games. I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t win 70. Yes they will be good, but like all teams that have a mix of new pieces, there will be some growing pains. This is more turnover than the Warriors have seen in some time. Andrew Bogut, Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezili are all gone. Durant and Zaza Puchillia just arrived.

In some ways, this creates new intrigue in the NBA season. The Heat used to be the villains of the league, which is the role the Warriors will now play. Millions of fans tuned into the NBA playoffs during those years in hopes of watching Miami thwarted in their attempts to create a dynasty. I have a feeling that the playoffs will do the same thing this year in the NBA, as all watch to see if Golden State falters. The regular season may not be great, but these playoffs will draw a lot of eyeballs.

While I am not a fan of the move, you can hardly blame Durant. Nothing is guaranteed, but this gives him the best chance to win a title, which we know is crucial in terms of leaving a lasting legacy in the NBA. Getting one puts you into the conversation of being great.

So yes, I understand why Durant did it. I respect his decision, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

This Rose is Perfect for the Garden

They don’t have a pick in tonight’s draft, currently on ESPN, but the Knicks made a major move to land Derrick Rose in a trade with Chicago.

I’ve heard a lot of different reactions to the deal so far and I wanted to weigh in on the deal. It makes way too much sense for New York. And here’s why.

Derrick Rose
Rose averages 19.7 points per game in his career. (Wikipedia Commons)

First of all, they really didn’t give up very much to bring Rose over. The Knicks sent an aging backup point guard, a future sixth man and a solid center to the Bulls in exchange for a former MVP with the potential to change the whole team. Jose Calderon is dead weight, Jerian Grant is a tossup with less potential and Robin Lopez is not exactly a superstar.

Rose has a ton potential. He has a well-documented injury history, but when healthy, the point guard has been sensational. He won the MVP award in 2010. He has a history of being great. Grant, Calderon and Lopez all do not. That right there makes this trade worthwhile.

Considering how bad the Knicks have been the past few years, it would be hard for this deal to make them much worse. There is essentially no risk in making this deal and there is a whole lot of potential reward.

That reward goes beyond just Rose’s contributions for 2016. His very presence in New York could attract some bigger free agents. The possibilities are endless. Obviously, the biggest grab would be Kevin Durant, but even some other options like Al Horford, Roy Hibbert, J.R. Smith and more now will find the Knicks a much more desirable team to join. Not to mention, if Rose has a big year and decides to stay on with the Knicks, they look very attractive to future free agents as well.

Phil Jackson also brings in someone who knows how to win and has a history of winning. That could be part of the culture change many figured he would bring the Big Apple when he was hired as general manager and team president.

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Westbrook will be an unrestricted free agent in 2017. (Wikipedia Commons)

The biggest thing that this deal gives New York though is cap flexibility. In 2017, the salary cap is going to rise to about $110 million. Rose’s nearly $21 million also comes off the books at the end of the 2016-17 season. That should give Jackson nearly $50 million in cap space to work with next offseason.

New York would love to land Russell Westbrook next year in free agency and rumor has it that the interest is mutual. That’s really what this move is all about. It gives the Knicks a wealth of options going forward, because if Rose does not work out, he leaves after the season is over, and New York gets to take their pick at who they throw money at.

To recap, the Knicks can really only get better and have primed themselves for the future. If you don’t like that deal, you don’t understand how the NBA works.