Assuming league recovery post-COVID-19, an expansion team (or more) in the NBA feels like more of a “when” than an “if”. Growing team valuations, marketable superstars, and worldwide interest has turned basketball into the sport of the future, and there are plenty of places that could use a squad (looking at you, Seattle).
Welcome to the fifth of the Corner Three 2019-2020 NBA division-by-division season previews. In each of these previews, we use RJ Garcia’s player-by-player ratings (based on on/off metrics and career trajectory) and per-game minutes projections (taking into account potential minutes lost to injury) to project overall team quality for the upcoming season. RJ and Derek Reifer also provide their own analyses and commentary to provide any context and additional insights.
The first round hasn’t been made best-of-5 yet, so it played pretty much according to script. In the East, that is. The Warriors have dilly-dallied, and the Nuggets have had trouble closing out the Spurs.
With some help from my co-host RJ Garcia, we already broke down round 1. Now, things get a lot more interesting. The big 4 in the East finally clash, after months of well-deserved anticipation. How do we see things shaking out?
After a long wait, it’s finally here, and we had to do a quick breakdown of each of the 1st round matchups. Arya vs. Daenerys could be a doozy, and Bran vs. Jaime has all kinds of history…
Oh yeah, the NBA Playoffs are here too. I guess I’ll break those down too, with some help from my co-host RJ Garcia.
Boston and Philadelphia.
Perhaps the two most historic American cities; one with a football team named the Patriots and the other with a basketball team named after the year the Declaration of Independence was signed. One who traded for Jayson Tatum, and one who traded for Markelle Fultz. The NBA’s two Atlantic Division (because I guess that’s technically a thing) rivals have had an interesting pair of seasons: the Celtics had championship aspirations from the start, and despite a disappointing, drama-filled run, they stayed put at the trade deadline; the Sixers have made multiple huge win-now moves and effectively capped off their long, arduous Process.
The Knicks are horrible at basketball.
To the dismay of many, but mostly Magic Johnson and LeBron James, Anthony Davis is still a New Orleans Pelican.
Twitter is the lifeblood of the NBA.
As described by the Washington Post, it’s “a sports bar that doesn’t close, where the stars pull up a seat next to you”. According to Twitter itself, the NBA was the most tweeted-about sports league in 2018, and it’s no surprise, as the online home of the players houses more organic drama than any episode of The Bachelor. From burner accounts of superstars and GMs, to asking for trades and reacting to them, to basketball players doing what they do best – shooting their shot, fans of the NBA know there’s no way to track their favorite league quite like Twitter.
Giannis Antetokounmpo might be the best player in basketball.
Of course, he also might not be, but the fact that he might be tells you enough about his talent. The 23-year-old, 6’11” tall, 7′ wingspan, every-position nightmare from Athens has more than earned his nickname “The Greek Freak”. However, the name originates more through a combination of his raw physical measurables and his hard-to-pronounce surname than his actual skill, which has grown at an incredible rate. Just the 15th pick in the 2013 draft, Giannis has panned out to an extent perhaps unimagined by even the Bucks, and more quickly than the rest of the league would wish. Giannis ranks 3rd overall in CornerThree WAR and 2nd in RPM WAR across the entire NBA, and has an extremely versatile skillset that allows him to play all 5 positions on both offense and defense. Despite this, the Bucks sit just half a game above the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference, sport a -0.3 average point differential per game, and rank 19th out of 30 in TSP, which expects them to perform at a level under that of a 38 win team in the postseason. FiveThirtyEight ranks them as the 2nd-worst team in the postseason.
Now that the NCAA season is over and the first round of the NBA playoffs has begun, most professional basketball fans are focused on the now rather than the future. However, plenty of GMs are spending their playoff time looking over film from this past college season, breaking down statistics and play styles to find their next potential franchise player. This year especially will feature one of the most interesting drafts in recent memory, with the Thunder receiving their first lottery pick since James Harden and the T-Wolves “earning” their 10th lottery pick in as many years.
When deciding who to pick, there are two popular stances to take: selecting a player based off of their performance at the previous level, or choosing someone with tremendous physical attributes that signal a promising “upside.” Admittedly, these aren’t the only factors teams take into consideration when drafting a top pick, but they’re the most observable traits to measure and analyze. Looking at the top rookies from the past three NBA seasons, what carries more weight: athletic traits or collegiate success?