The impossible has happened, and it’s harder to swallow than the horn of a unicorn – Kristaps Porzingis has been traded by the New York Knicks.
Russell Westbrook will never win an NBA title.
As takes go, this might be more mild than you first think. Westbrook is going to be 30 years old this season and the Golden State Warriors’ juggernaut continues to power on, in another Conference Finals, and with rumors of a Klay Thompson extension, showing they are prepared to plow into the luxury tax. Westbrook, though, will likely be in the top five of MVP voting once again, and is one of two players to ever average a triple double in a season (he’s now done it twice). He is a fascinating, polarizing character who challenges what the goals and expectations for an NBA team are supposed to be, and whether fans and front offices have prioritized their values in the “correct” way. What is the correct way?
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?
After an amazing 2013-2014 season, the unbearably long offseason is finally coming to a close. There’s a lot to look forward to this year in the NBA, with superstars on new teams, contenders adding pieces, and more squads than ever with a chance to make noise. Let’s get started with my projected standings for the Eastern Conference, and analysis for the teams in it: