Tanking has been a pest for the NBA for over a decade, but no team embraced tanking as blatantly as the Philadelphia 76ers. 47 wins over 246 games, winning one out of every five games over three years, was rewarded with four young players with very cheap rookie contracts: Joel Embiid (4 years / $20M), Jahlil Okafor (4 years / $21M), Ben Simmons (4 years / $27M), and Markelle Fultz (4 years / $37M).
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 first 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. We start in the Northwest Division:
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?
On January 23rd, Victor Oladipo suffered a ruptured quad tendon in his right knee.
The 2017-18 Most Improved Player was the star of the team, giving them life on both ends of the court. Without another clear star on the roster, or multiple players the casual fan has even heard of, Indiana was surely in for a rough go of it – especially with other East contenders, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and Toronto, loading up with talent at the trade deadline.
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.
During Sam Hinkie’s introductory press conference as President of Basketball Operations for the Sixers in 2013, owner Josh Harris said that the previous regime had made decisions without “good process. They weren’t good decisions.” Now, in 2019, the two leadership teams’ processes since Hinkie departed, led by Brian Colangelo and Elton Brand, have culminated in today, where the Sixers are stuck with decisions that – weren’t good.
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.
It’s official. After months of drama and speculation, Kawhi Leonard reportedly wants out of San Antonio.
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?