Welcome to my BRAND NEW WEEKLY COLUMN about all things basketball. Let’s talking random thoughts about the NBA!
I’m excited to talk basketball because in my opinion, when it is played at its highest level, basketball is simply the most beautiful game in all of professional sports. There is no greater blend of skill, athleticism and strategy. I hope you’re as excited for a brand new NBA season as I am.
THE INDISPENSABLE 10
Power rankings for players! What?
The NBA is such a player driven league, that in lieu of power rankings of the teams, I thought I’d do a weekly “power rankings” of which NBA players were most crucial to their team’s success. You can think of this list as a blend of “best player,” “most likely to win MVP,” and “most likely to lead his team to a championship.”
If you’re wondering why there are no, for example, Atlanta Hawks or San Antonio Spurs on this list right now, keep in mind that these teams are particularly wed to an overall team-oriented style of play so no one player, even their best players, become too important overall.
- Steph Curry, G (GS) – Off to the best start since Michael Jordan in 1991.
- Blake Griffin, F (LAC) – Emerging as the biggest of their Big 3.
- LeBron James, F (CLE) – No one really believes Kevin Love is the key to their success.
- Kevin Durant, F (OKC) – He and Westbrook are both top-five scorers, but I believe in Durant.
- Andre Drummond, C (DET) – The new-and-improved Pistons are running on Drummond’s near 20/20 per night.
- Damian Lillard, G (POR) – The answer to that question… is Lillard gonna do it all by himself? (So far, yes.)
- Jimmy Butler, G (CHI) – It’s been Butler for two seasons, most fans just don’t know it.
- Russell Westbrook, G (OKC) – It’s a make or break year for the team and him.
- DeMar DeRozan, G (TOR) – Personally I don’t think the Raptors are built to last, but so far so good this season.
- Rudy Gobert, C (UTA) – How does Utah not suck? Gobert right now is giving them nothing short of DeAndre Jordan level defense.
Two playoff teams, the Brooklyn Nets in the East and the New Orleans Pelicans in the West, are both winless thus far this year. The difference, of course, is that the Nets were supposed to suck this year as there’s been a mass exodus of their aging core and the rebuilding effort hasn’t even started.
But New Orleans? They were supposed to be the team on the rise, with the game’s best young player in Anthony Davis. So what’s wrong with them?
The same as usual… injuries. Injuries have Jrue Holliday seeing limited duty. Injuries have robbed the Pelicans of the services of versatile Tyreke Evans. Most of all, injuires to Kendrick Perkins and Omer Asik now have Anthony Davis playing out of position. Add in that he’s seeing double or even triple teams every night and that’s a big part of the problem.
I also believe, however, that hiring Alvin Gentry was a mistake. Mike D’Antoni’s up-and-down style may be fun to watch, but it requires a very specific type of roster for the system to work, and (big secret not really) it’s not that great a system anyway, short on defense and easy to circumvent in a seven-game playoff series when you see the same team every night. It’s especially ill-suited for the Pelicans, who have a roster loaded with guys whose strength is their ability to defend. Gentry needs to un-D’Antoni his system to fit his roster, or the Pelicans may be doomed to second-tier status even after they get the bulk of their roster healthy and playing again.
What’s the hot rumor this week?
Derrick Rose and the Bulls may be on the verge of declaring “irreconcilable differences”. The player who was once the franchise centerpiece has not only been supplanted by Jimmy Butler as the team’s star, but, unthinkably, he’s not even second on the list as Pau Gasol is far more crucial to the Bulls’ success than Rose.
Worse yet, he’s chafing against the offense new coach Fred Hoiberg is running, either because won’t learn it, or can’t because injuries have robbed him of more than just a step. Either way, don’t be shocked if Rose changes uniforms before the trade deadline.
The Milwaukee Bucks finally have the services of Jabari Parker available to them. Remember him? He was the No. 2 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, one of the coveted prizes available at the top of that group. But he, along with the Philadelphia Sixers’ Joel Embiid and the Los Angeles Lakers’ Julius Randle, missed all or most of last season due to injury, making these players “new additions” to their team even though they got drafted two years ago.
Embiid of course will miss this year with injuries too, and the Lakers are so bad that Randle won’t be enough to make a difference, but Parker rejoins a Bucks’ squad that made the playoffs last year on the strength of their length, athleticism and defensive intensity. Parker, whose game loosely translates as a latter-day Carmelo Anthony, could and should become the go-to scorer that Milwaukee’s roster currently lacks.
Two games into his return, Parker looks both rusty from a year without basketball and exactly how you’d expect a rookie adjusting to the NBA to look, but make no mistake, Parker was impressive in limited action last season, and once he’s at 100 percent, he is the missing piece that will help the Bucks rise to the top half of a thin Eastern Conference that basically has only a couple of real contenders in it.
Observations and opinions on this week’s action!
“It’s been a while for me to have this kind of experience.”
– Carmelo Anthony, who missed most of last season with an injury, after scoring 37 against the Wizards.
“He knows he don’t suck.”
– LeBron James, on Kobe Bryant’s self-critical analysis of his performance.
“No matter what system he’s in, there’s going to be a learning curve. It’s the third game of the season.”
– San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, on how new player LaMarcus Aldridge was picking up the system.
“It is more difficult for me to remain positive in Year 3.”
– Philadelphia Sixers coach Brett Brown, whose team is once again off to a winless (0-6) start.
“It’s not like I’m a different player coming out of the locker room at halftime.”
– Steph Curry, after his team beat Memphis by 50 points. Curry scored 21 in the third quarter.
“It’s just me coming into my own, I guess.”
– Bradley Beal, on hitting the game winning three-pointer against the Spurs with 0:00 left on the clock.
“It was a good moment. I just watched it on Instagram.”
– Dwayne Wade, on a 60-foot shot he made to end the first half against Minnesota.