This is an exciting year in basketball coming up for the league that should set the tone for years to come. It will test a lot from the Warriors, to ideologies with basketball in general. This has to be the best pool of talent I’ve seen in the NBA since the 2003 guys were first hitting the trail with Kobe, AI, TMac, Vince, and etc. still running the show. The way the game is played has changed a lot since then though. Here are my 3 things to look out for this season.
1. Is the center position still relevant?
Nowadays we are moving more and more towards position less basketball. This transition started with the Orlando Magic being the first team to really find success having a stretch 4 in 2009 when they got all the way to the NBA finals with a lot of shooters and Dwight Howard. The Warriors have taken it to another level with shooting and now every team seems to need not only stretch 4s, but centers that can shoot as well. I don’t think Centers need to shoot to be effective (DJ from the Clipps) but it is an added luxury for a guy like KAT to be able to knock down the 3 ball if need be. They should still be worried about 3 things most importantly to be a real effective center on a winning team. Rebounding, blocking shots, and finishing. If you can do those 3 things at a high level you can be a great center. Everything else is icing on the cake.
That’s why Dwight was so great in his prime despite a lack of real post moves. We haven’t seen a Center like him since though. In today’s game a lot of the best centers are stuck on bad teams with no perimeter play too. Look at Anthony Davis, Demarcus Cousins, Andre Drummond, Joel Embiid, KAT, Hasaan Whiteside, and Nikola Jokic. NONE of those guys play with an All Star perimeter player but they are all young with plenty of time to show they can win. I’d love to see how much of an impact Jahlil Okafor can have on a team that needs him. With Embiid and KAT being on teams that have legit talent around it we can see just how important this Center position is this season come playoff time if they’re both in. The Warriors and Cavs don’t seem to think it matters. Can anyone prove them wrong? Looking at you OKC, Minny, and Philly.
2. What’s more important offense or defense?
The age old question. Defense used to win championships in basketball but the Warriors are trying to change that. Last year the list of top 10 offensive teams held all of the top 4 seeds in each conference playoffs except 1, the Spurs. While on the defensive side of things they only featured 2 out of the possible 6, the Spurs and Raptors. Last year offenses lit up the NBA and the Spurs just dares to be different apparently.
I’d like to credit that to their being a lot of offensive talent on NBA teams over defensive though. The Warriors, Rockets, Cavs, etc were all built to put up points. Not stop people. This year we see Paul George heading to OKC where he can co-star on defense with Andre Roberson, Jimmy Butler to Minnesota to play with Wiggins, Teague, KAT, and Gibson who can all be great, tough, defensive players. The Cavs picked up Jeff Green and Jae Crowder to give them some defensive stoppers as well. Teams are actually good enough defensively this year with enough talent on offense to get them by. Eyes are on OKC and Minnesota to see how far defense can take a team. If the Warriors or even Rockets win out come playoff time then it shows that offenses are that good in todays NBA that even the best defenses can’t handle it.
3. Can you be a successful past first PG?
The Lonzo Ball experiment will be fun to follow. He’s the first PG in awhile to be a true make the best play period type of guard. Whether it’s making the hockey assist pass, feeding the hot hand, passing the ball up court because it moves fastest that way, or taking it himself if the defense gives him that option. In a season where Russ just came off an MVP because the ball didn’t leave his hands unless it was going on his stat sheet, it’ll interesting to see how Lonzo could make the Lakers look doing the opposite. I think OKC was better than a 6th seeded team or at least just as good with the Rockets but Russ forcing everything to happen through him hurt them at times. People like to touch the ball to get a feel for the game and when it’s constantly in one guy’s hands it’s hard to get in a rhythm that way. The whole game is filled with PGs who fill it up though. It’ll be refreshing to see how one does who is the ideal, make everyone around him better first, PG. He should be measured more so by how his team performs than his individual stats. We’re going to see if he can live up to the hype without filling up the score sheet.