Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The NBA’s First Trimester From A to Z

I published this earlier for The Pick and Roll.

There’s much to discuss about this fantastic NBA season thus far, and it’s hard to know what’s really going on by just checking box scores. So allow me to make it easy for you by giving you a tour of the NBA’s first trimester, from A to Z.

 Accolades – These are often given out or discussed prematurely by every single fan or anybody involved the sport’s media. It is what drives the popularity. Who’s the best this? Who are the top five that? Et cetera, et cetera.

Behavior – An often overlooked aspect of a player’s game that can influence the way the game is being called by officials. Being on their good side can go a long way. (i.e. DeMarcus Cousins)

Conference disparity – It is clear that one conference is much better than the other. Based on records, the third place team in the East would not qualify for the playoffs in the West. This has become so much of an issue that the new commissioner is considering getting rid of divisions.

Disappointments – Every new season come with expectations, and with that you always have disappointments.  You have teams that were knocking on the door to finish last season that you expect to make the next step but don’t. (i.e. Memphis Grizzlies)

Elevation – This is what you want to see from budding young stars as their careers progress. Some are given accolades but their games don’t elevate, like the point guard in Cleveland. Others earn their keep, and win over new fans. (i.e. Paul George)

First pick – The 2013 draft was a weak one, and it is accentuated by Anthony Bennett looking like a complete bust so far. It isn’t fair that he’s being called that so far because it’s early in the season, but we live in an era where there are a lot of expectations from the first pick, thus many are disappointed in him. Hopefully, we see some elevation in his game.

Golden State Warriors – This is a team that had me feeling like they should be able to challenge for a title, but the Conference disparity is so great that they’re not in playoff position in the West but would have home court advantage in the first round if they played in the East.

Houston Rockets – The organization is at the forefront of the analytics movement and is very proactive in player movement. In the summer of 2013, they signed the top free agent, and are currently heavily involved in discussions to trade the player who lost playing time because of it.

Individualism – Basketball is a team game but there is no other professional league like the NBA where you see fans cheer for teams based on a single player. (i.e. LeBron James) 
June – The 2014 draft class is loaded. It’s strange that so many fan bases are actually rooting for their teams to perform poorly so they can have the opportunity to have the first pick in June.
photo credit: Aaron Frutman via photopin cc
Kobe – Need I say anything here?

Losing – I know that the 2014 draft is loaded, but quite frankly, I can’t get on board with my team losing because there is a proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. There aren’t any guarantees. (i.e. Anthony Bennett)

Miami Heat – Hate them or love them, they are the defending champs and still the best team in the league. Every team is built around the premise of contending with them. They have many minutes on their legs but will turn on the switch and dominate when needed. They deserve to be respected.

New York – This goes for the Knicks and the Nets, let’s pick a word: Accolades? Behavior? Disappointments? First pick? Individualism? Losing? These two teams embody all of those that come behind “accolades”, and I don’t know of any person that didn’t predict either of them to challenge for the top spot in the East.

Oladipo – Indeed, this rookie class doesn’t seem to have much talent. However, Victor Oladipo is one of the few exceptions to that statement. In most cases, he wouldn’t even be considered for Rookie of the Year but he’s among the best of a bad bunch to choose from.

Portland – The Trailblazers are one of the pleasant surprises of this season. We’ve seen elevation from LaMarcus Aldridge and it appears that they’re successful because of the main thing that the analytics movement suggests that you shouldn’t do; stroking mid range jumpers.

Quickness – There’s no room in this league for those that aren’t fleet of foot unless you have a wicked jump shot. Even then you still need to have a quick release. Post players must decide quickly to make a pass or use their go to move for a bucket.

Reliable – San Antonio Spurs winning and nobody talks about them. You can rely on this happening so long as Pop is in charge.

Stern, David – I haven’t approved of a lot of decisions that the commissioner has made, but I love watching the NBA and his decisions are a big reason why. He’ll no longer run this league as of February 1, 2014. I doubt you’ll ever read this Commissioner Stern, but I want to thank you for making me a fan.

Tanking – Nobody really knows how this thing is supposed to work. Teams we thought were going to try it blatantly came out the gates winning. Maybe teams like Memphis are losing on purpose and are just pretending to not know how to execute an offensive set.

Utah Jazz – Historically speaking, they’ve always played hard. They have talent on their team but it doesn’t look like they want to compete in most games. Maybe they’ve mastered this tanking thing.

Valuable – This is the perfect word to describe 2014 draft picks. No borderline contender will take on a veteran in a trade for a draft pick these days.

Wild – From opening night when the Lakers pull off an upset with a group of cast offs, to superstars not playing because of injuries, to the Clippers and Warriors being the most exciting game on the Christmas slate, the NBA’s first trimester has been wild.

Xavier Henry – Pronounced (Za-vee-yay), he represents everything that is going well for the most popular NBA franchise these days.

Youth – The league is getting younger. The days of signing players on the wrong side of 30 to fill roster spots are over. The league is about playing up tempo and young legs are needed to fit that style.

Zenith – At the end of the day, the goal for every team is trying to reach the top. This is the point in the season where they decide if moves need to be made to reach it now, or try to position themselves for a run in the future.

I hope you enjoyed this collection of storylines. As always you're invited to leave comments below and interact with me on twitter.