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It’s Here! The Longer, More Tedious NBA Season

October 16th, 2017 · No Comments · Basketball, NBA

Most observers would say the NBA is better than ever.

I would say it is worse. Than ever. Certainly, in terms of competitive balance and number of clubs with a shot at winning a championship.

Because stars are clustering in a half-dozen teams.

Because several NBA teams have little hope of reaching the playoffs and zero hope of winning a title.

Because at most four teams realistically hope to win a championship, and more likely that number is really two — the two that have played in the past three NBA Finals.

Because the mostly meaningless regular season has been extended by two more weeks.

The season begins tomorrow. Yes, on October 17. About when the exhibition season began, a year ago.

What this means is regular-season tedium extended to 25 weeks. An extra 14 or so days to mull how the NBA is a lot of same ol’ same ol’ — regular seasons of stars producing at some reduced level of effort, and a half-dozen hopeless teams tanking.


–Twenty-three of the league’s top 28 scorers from 2016-17 now are concentrated on 10 of the NBA’s 30 teams. Apparently, teams with “only” one elite scorer can hardly live without another — or two anothers.

–The three teams with three of last season’s top-28 scorers: Golden State’s Stephen Curry (25.3), Kevin Durant (25.1) and Klay Thompson (22.3); Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook (31.6), Paul George (23.7) and Carmelo Anthony (22.4); and one new one (!), Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns (25.1), Jimmy Butler (23.9) and Andrew Wiggins (23.6).

–And then you’ve got your two-gunner shows: Cleveland’s LeBron James (26.4) and Isaiah Thomas (28.9); Boston’s Kyrie Irving (25.2) and Gordon Hayward (21.9); New Orleans’s Anthony Davis (27.3) and DeMarcus Cousins (27.0); Washington’s John Wall (23.1) and Bradley Beal (21.1); Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan (27.3) and Kyle Lowry (22.4); Portland’s Damian Lillard (27.0) and CJ McCollom (23.0); and Phoenix’s Devin Booker (22.1) and Eric Bledsoe (21.1).

–The five scoring stars without a top-28 wingman? Three of them are Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo (22.9), Carolina’s Kemba Walker (23.2) and the L.A. Clippers’ Blake Grffin (21.6). Good luck, gentlemen.

–The fourth lone shooting star is Houston’s James Harden (29.1), but his Rockets have been reinforced by a man many believe is the league’s top point guard, Chris Paul — who averaged 18.1 per game last season.

–And the fifth is Kawhi Leonard (25.5) of San Antonio, the last team in the NBA that apparently believes success can be found with quality depth and teamwork. Thanks, Pop.

–The nine teams without even one top-28 scorer last season: Atlanta, Brooklyn, Dallas, Denver, L.A. Lakers, Memphis, Miami, New Jersey, Orlando.

–The four teams that lost their one top-28 scorer from last season (without replacing him with another): Chicago (Butler), Indiana (George), New York (Anthony), Utah (Hayward).

–We see no more than four teams with realistic aspirations to the NBA Finals — Golden State and Oklahoma City in the Western Conference, Cleveland and Boston in the East, and Boston makes the list only because LeBron and his collection of aging teammates (Kevin Love, and old/newcomers Dwayne Wade, Derrick Rose) may not care enough to finish with the top seed in the East, just like last year.

–Meantime, we have at least 22 NBA teams with pretty much no shot to reach a conference final. The four who can dream about it (but probably will not make it) would seem to be Houston, Minnesota, Portland, and Toronto. Maybe Washington. The rest? Not this season.

Also, even with rules tweaked to discourage tanking, a blight on the NBA for a decade, the consensus is that maybe a half-dozen teams will be tempted to not-try-too-hard to win — so as to increase their chances of getting a high pick in the 2018 draft. Because the idea has taken root that if you are not contending for one of the top six or seven records in the regular season, you may as well be one of the six or seven worst and roll the dice in the draft. Only idiot general managers allow their teams to languish in the in-between dead zone of “too good to get a high pick, too weak to contend for the second round of the playoffs”.

And, back to the upper teams … about the only interesting thing about them, statistically, is how they will divide up shots. Which guys who have thought of themselves as superstars will suddenly be third options? (Looking at you, Melo.)

Well, that, and how coaches will manage their minutes, to win 55 games or so without tiring their best players ahead of the playoffs.

The rest will be going-nowhere teams playing games that really mean little or nothing, aside from maybe — maybe — some of their younger players taking steps toward becoming elite players. Say, the Lakers’ Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram.

For every game of interest, in which players as well as fans feel invested (opening night’s Boston at Cleveland game qualifies), the NBA will have three or four or five that do not matter in the wider sense.

And, now, they will have an extra two weeks to do a lot of nothing important, with 14 teams disappearing before the playoffs and eight joining them after the first round of the postseason … surprise! … the Warriors and Cavaliers meeting in the championship series. Again.

Not looking forward to the process. Not at all.


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