- Atlantic Division
Vince Carter. Chris Bosh. And now DeMar DeRozan. Another Toronto Raptors legend left before his time. And this one sadly may be the greatest yet. Sure getting Kawhi Leonard in return on paper sounds like the perfect match. That being if you had read all about it in the Toronto Star last year mind. This former San Antonio Spurs fallout in Texas was well documented for all the things that weren’t said, but actioned a thousand times more than words. And now the former mild mannered seeming Leonard no longer seems like a sure thing. Oh and he’s a free agent next Summer too. So like the Lakers no one is holding their breath. We wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up back in San An of all places. Still for the year Kawhi and Kyle could form a great one, two. Along with the team of Serge Ibaka, Danny Green and new big signing from the Bucks, Greg Monroe. But it just won’t hit like one of the best backcourts of the last half decade in Lowry and D. The 6 has really been turned upside down now.
With all the talk of LeBron in Lakerland right now, nobody speaks on the original post-Kobe star of the purple and gold future, ‘D’Angelo Russell anymore. But he was a part of their young core like Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr. and Julius Randle after him before Ball that deserved more. Now with another former Laker, Lin gone again in a New York minute, D’Angelo has a vanguard of talent around him. DeMarre Carroll, Kenneth Faried, Ed Davis (wasted Lakers stand up!) Shabazz Napier and Spencer Dinwiddie. But if he wants to be king of the B.K. he better serve us a whopper of a year. Otherwise D’Angelo’s star status will remain untitled. How does it feel? He could be the one like his jersey number. But until then it’s just another Beastie Boy reference.
New York Knicks
Ewing. Starks. Carmelo. The ghosts of Garden’s past still haunt Madison Square like biting into a rotten apple. But at least the big-man unicorn magic of Kristaps Porzingis can light up the darkness. It’s beyond belief how far the best international big since Dirk could take the Knickerbockers to glory. And the supporting cast of Enes Kanter, Courtney Lee, Joakim Noah and Tim Hardaway Jr. are the perfect compliment like peanuts at the end of the bar. But now New York have added one of the best young players in the game in Emmanuel Mudiay to the mix who knows how it will all turn out under the glare of Times Square. New Year neon or end of the season blackout? This team could make the playoffs if they play more like how they look on scouting report paper and less like…well, the Knicks.
“Passionate. Intense. Proud”. That’s what an old post-Answer, Sixers rally towel from a trip to Philly a decade ago hung up in my room says. Now their motto is simply, ‘The Process’. Big talent Joel Embiid started it and now Aussie ruler Ben Simmons is the reigning Rookie of the Year in what in reality is his second salary calender with the Sixers franchise. Process that! And who knows what Markelle Fultz could be? Surrounded with talent like Dario Saric, Anthony Brown, Amir Johnson, Wilson Chandler, Emeka Okafor and J.J. Reddick. And now with former All-Star Elton Brand their new General Manager, could this be the year the new Sixers Iverson themselves over the league like stepping over Ty Lue? Trust it’s a must.
Once again the strength of Boston can’t be beat. Last season the Celtic pride of Isaiah Thomas was traded for the King’s man, Kyrie Irving and aligning with Utah Jazz free agent Gordon Hayward they formed a dynamic duo of the future. But who would have thought it would all snap (or should we say twist?) on the first day of the season when Hayward turned his whole foot the other way round? And who would have thought after carrying the team for a whole MVP worthy season Uncle Drew would end up hobbled before the playoffs too? But then in turn again who would have thought the young guns and new dynamic duo of star to be Jaylen Brown and one of the rookies of the year Jayson Tatum, dunking and chest shoving on LeBron would run the future of Boston like the spirits of Len Bias and Reggie Lewis and almost go all the way? Now with All-Star Al Horford in the middle this team has the perfect starting five. Not to mention the bench mob of Terry Rozier, Marcus Morris and Smart. Kyrie giving birth to the next chapter of the storied Celtics/Lakers rivalry versus his former Cavalier King ally thinks his team could take the Golden State Warriors in a seven game series. We think not. We think they can do it in less.
LeBron is gone. Lets get that out of the way. The King has left the castle of his land. But Love stuck around. Imagine that! From the hard hat heart of his construction worker contract sign, we need to talk about how this is Kevin’s team and time now. No King. No Kyrie. Just J.R. and the shot clock. But have faith Love will do for Believeland what he is for mental health awareness right now. Remember this zero jersey number is the type of player who put up 30/30 numbers on the board by himself in the wilderness of Minnesota. This prince may never be king, but he’ll always be basketball royalty. And for a franchise that’s cleaned house (from Isaiah Thomas to Dwyane Wade) and replaced them all with young guns from the La La Land LeBron now belongs to (Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance), Love is the perfect leader for this solid gold team of heart (Tristan Thompson, Rodney Hood, George Hill, Kyle Korver and just how good Sam Dekker could turn out). Why hate?
Michael. Scottie. Dennis. Those were the days right. Butler. Rondo. Wade. Them too. Rose. Don’t make me cry. Chandler and Curry? Don’t make us laugh. The Windy City has been through the storm. But hold on now Chi-town may finally be on to something again. Hometown hero Jabari Parker leads a new look team of Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine and Denzel Valentine, anchored around veteran big Robin Lopez that could really get everyone out their seats once they varnish the splinters out their bench. Markkanen is big, Zach can bang, Denzel Valentine will make his name more than just cool and as for Jabari. Well you know him by his first name. Doesn’t that make him a star?
And another one. Now the return of Lance Stephenson has left yet again to be in the ear of the King of L.A., there is no one left from the Paul George, Roy Hibbert, George Hill, David West (Happy Retirement) and Danny Granger, Indy 5.00 era. And this Domantas Sabonis, Tyreke Evans and Myles Turner sports team remains relatively unchanged too. Although adding guys like Doug McDermott and Canuck, Cory Joseph gives them more playoff pull. But how much this team will improve lies in truth in the souls of the sneakers of Most Improved Player (improved? Really in this case the award the NBA gives for player they most slept on) Victor Oladpio. Who is set to run until he finds the promised land, or at least another All-Star trip. It’s time to keep pace. Hoosiers don’t just run pickets. The Fieldhouse won’t be fenced in for long.
Motor City could assembly line all the automobiles Blake Griffin wants to fly over, but they’d still be a touch of chrome and paint away from really riding. And you thought it was all about the hyperdunks when it came to jumping over convertibles. Down 8 Mile road the frontcourt force of Drummond and Griffin is like the one he flew in L.A. with Jordan. But without all the Sterling drama underneath the Spalding rim dunks, as Blake swaps DeAndre for “just” Andre. And the running cog Reggie Jackson, who is like a spring-loaded, spark-plug to this Pistons machine. With Blake Motown has as lively an identity as when Marvin and Tammi sang. But it’s going to take more than just two…or three for this team to be the beast of the East’s eighth wonder.
Buck it. All this team needs to get buckets, blocks, ‘bounds and bounce passes is Greak Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo. He can play every position and spread the entire floor with that gazelle like first step, or Jordan inspired Maya Moore poster across Minnesota wingspan. But in Milwaukee, losing Jabari and Greg Monroe, with no Mayo for garnishing leaves these deers in the headlights. But fear not. This team has Malcom Brogdon, Thon Maker and Eric Bledsoe now. And as long as they re-up sixth spark veteran Jason ‘Jet’ Terry like they’ve added one of the best centers in the league from downtown, Brook Lopez than this deer will have plenty in reserve. It’s as simple as A, B, C. Still however, if you want to win like 1, 2, 3. Then it’s time to recite the alphabet.
Bradley Beal street and the only Wall in Washington we’ll ever be down with may form the best backcourt in the L if you haven’t yet read the first paragraph of our Western Conference season preview. But Gortat is gone. And Dwight Howard is hardly the bigger and better replacement when you look at how many teams he has journeyed with over the last couple of years. It’s a good job they got Bryant off the Lakers too. Thomas…not Kobe. That would be awkward…or hella entertaining. The Wiz can spell players like Jeff Green, Jodie Meeks, Doc’s son Austin Rivers and more to make points. But how about the prize? Sure these Wizards have tricks, but in losing Gortat and choosing Howard I solemnly swear they are up to no good.
Dwyane Wade is taking his talents to the Chicago natives real home for one last run. And it’s time to appreciate one of the top five Shooting Guards and possibly the greatest Miami Heat franchise player of all-time on his retirement tour whilst we still can, as he no longer lives or plays in the Kings shadow. But don’t think you won’t see flashes of brilliance as D-Wade heads to the rocking chair, switching sneakers for slippers. You remember what he did in that Miami Vice jersey last season and for who? And wouldn’t it be fitting if Udonis Haslem who never left calls it a day with his old friend next seasons end too? Although we are pretty sure we will see this number 40 in a red, black and white jersey forever, in one way or rafter another. With the Heat fire dragon Dragic and hero Kelly Olynek South Beach has the talent to give Wade an outside shot for one last World Championship. But once the buzzer rings and the bell tolls, then the new big-three W of Whiteside, Winslow and Waiters can begin their service in earnest. Until then Florida is still Wade’s world.
Get your talons into this Napoleon Dynamite. Vince Carter will soar once more as he spreads his wingtips with the Hawks. And Air ATL can still fly as this is 40. Besides V.C. could probably still win Slam Dunk contests at 50. Get it? Five tens! But with the era of Schroder over the Hawks have little else outside their starting five. Even if they have added the Linsanity of Jeremy Lin to this crazy mess of Kent Bazemore and not much more. Until you count their top pick in the draft in Trae Young punching his winning lottery ticket. This kid is the future of the league and right now the only thing these Hawks have got that could really take wing. But until they welcome him by letting him take off in the A it’s just birdseed.
Seriously?! How many more losing seasons do you need before owner Michael Jordan steps down and suits up. Sure he’s learned from Washington and let me say I’m 99.999999% and another nine certain he aint coming back. But oh how this North Carolina team needs the greatest of all-time…even if he is well past his prime. The Hornets need help and as good as he is Tony Parker is closer to joining his friend Manu Ginobili than being the future of this franchise. And T.P. in teal just looks stranger for the Spurs legend than the whole Kawhi Leonard situation out in San Antonio. Sure Kemba, Kidd-Gilchrist, Kaminsky, Batum and Lamb are pure talent. But you only have to look at a guy like Marvin Williams to see what happens to the appreciation of said talent when the spotlight shines somewhere else. Last year the most exciting thing in uniform for Buzz City was the inclusion of Nike’s Jumpman logo on the lapel. But just like number 23 in the United rafters we can take it higher than that. Because like their shrugging owner this is a franchise that’s history in this league. One thats throwback jerseys even tell their own golden era story. Charlotte will always mean something.
Erm…I know ‘Space Jam’ was Bugs Bunny and all, but how’s your jump shot Mickey? Hey! Put that mop down! And bring that duck with you too. We have a pair of shorts for him. Air Gordon needs some help in Disneyland’s Magic Kingdom. He can’t do it all by himself like in ‘Uncle Drew. He needs a big legend like Shaq or Hardaway. Otherwise it’s just pennies in a town that runs off Disney dollars.