Wow. It happened. For the vast majority of the past year, it seemed a certainty that Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving would be joining the New York Knicks, but the Brooklyn Nets have swooped in from nowhere in what could become the most significant moment for the franchise since the NBA-ABA merger of 1976.
The playoffs are only just underway, but after a wild opening weekend, a few interesting statistics have emerged. With each team having played their first game of the postseason, what can be learned, or ignored, by the numbers from the eight exciting game ones?
We keep waiting for the post-Kevin Durant Oklahoma City Thunder to become true contenders, but their hopes of a title are, if anything, dwindling by the year. And after a season which once promised so much, they find themselves on the brink of a third consecutive first round playoff exit. So, is this who OKC are?
There is more skepticism around the Denver Nuggets than your typical two-seed. Despite challenging the Golden State Warriors for the top spot in the West for much of the year and finishing with a 54-28 record, the Nuggets’ inexperience led to many questioning whether their playoff acumen, especially when they matched-up against the wily, veteran-laden San Antonio Spurs in the first round. And although the Texas outfit forced a game seven last night with a 120-103 victory at home, the performance of Nikola Jokic should give Denver heart that they have a superstar who can shine in the postseason for years to come.
It is no secret that the Houston Rockets are a statistical juggernaut when they have the ball. Their last three seasons are each among the top 15 in all-time offensive rating, while James Harden’s scoring numbers this campaign can only be bettered by Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain, not exactly bad company. And despite being matched up against the Western Conference’s best defense in the first round of the playoffs, the Rockets are yet to show any signs of slowing down, as they have the second-best offense in the playoffs after the opening two games.
Now that all of our NBA previews are completed, we have a grasp on what the season will hold. Here are our predictions for this year and links to all of our NBA previews by our team of writers.
From the moment Kevin Durant stunned the basketball world by signing for the Golden State Warriors in July 2016, he and the team from the Bay have been the NBA’s most notorious villains. Durant had finished the previous season, his last with the Oklahoma City Thunder, by blowing a 3-1 lead to the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. Three weeks later, his new team-mates also managed to clutch defeat from the jaws of victory, as they squandered their own 3-1 advantage, handing the Cleveland Cavaliers their inaugural title in the most humiliating fashion.
The Milwaukee Bucks needed a bucket badly.
After a fast start to game five of the Eastern Conference Finals, Milwaukee suddenly found themselves on the wrong end of a 16-2 Toronto Raptors run, giving the Canadian outfit their first lead of the night midway through the second quarter.
The Toronto Raptors and the Philadelphia 76ers both prioritized the present over the future this season. By sacrificing continuity and steady progression for star power, both have transformed their rosters over the last 12 months to become true contenders. And after a chaotic six games between the two Eastern Conference heavyweights, they are each four quarters away from triumph or disaster.
Eleven months ago, in an article detailing why the Boston Celtics were the favorites for the 2019 NBA title, I labeled the Golden State Warriors; dynasty as ‘fragile’. While my praise of the Celtics proved to be excessive (I wasn’t the only one), this description of the Warriors’ dominance proved to be correct, although I did not envisage it being a literal one.
The Brooklyn Nets’ 2018-19 season was a demonstration of what can be achieved when team-mates simply like one another. Considered a long shot to make the playoffs last October, New York’s unfashionable franchise defied all expectations to make the playoffs, courtesy of strong chemistry, a never-say-die attitude and an egoless group of much-maligned misfits. Although they bowed out in the first round, they gave the heavily-favored Philadelphia 76ers a fright and with a band of young, united and hungry players, the Nets appear perfectly placed to develop further in the near future.
The Women’s World Cup is reaching its business end. The Netherlands’ victory over Japan yesterday confirmed the line-up for the quarter-finals, which begin tomorrow. For the eight teams remaining, only three matches stand between them and immortality.
After a turbulent campaign, the Boston Celtics will be desperate to change the narrative surrounding them in the postseason. They begin the playoffs against the Indiana Pacers, who will be attempting to grind out an unlikely series win without their most important player.
Although early impressions of the 2019 rookie class suggest that it is one of the strongest and deepest in recent memory, the latest crop to enter the NBA will be defined by two players who will be compared meticulously throughout their careers. Ever since the night of the 2018 draft, Trae Young and Luka Doncic were destined to be intrinsically linked.
The Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics both swept the first round to set up a rematch of last year’s series between the pair in the Eastern Conference semi-finals. How each team defends the other’s superstar, coaching strategy and injuries will all play a significant part in this highly-anticipated clash.
If it is possible for an NBA conference to be drunk (and hey, this season has not exactly been short of bizarre moments), then the West, in all its drama and unpredictability, is absolutely plastered at the moment. With a mere 6.5 games separating the top fourteen teams, everyone besides the pitiful Phoenix Suns look set to contend for the eight postseason spots. There have been shocks galore and, with the standings so close, almost every game out west is highly-entertaining.
We thought this season was already over. Prior to last night, the Golden State Warriors had looked unstoppable, going 13-1 in their last 14 games, and had been even more dominant (if that’s possible) than usual over the last month. Stephen Curry is a making a charge for MVP. Kevin Durant has been so unerringly consistent that the NBA world seems to have forgotten that he is having another sensational year. Klay Thompson can score 50 points while barely dribbling the basketball. They perhaps lacked a little depth and were vulnerable at center, but the small matter DeMarcus Cousins’ has solved that issue emphatically. In short, Golden State seemed a lock for the title.
With temperatures getting warmer, days getting longer, and All-Star weekend behind us, attention can start to shift towards the Holy Grail of the NBA campaign, the playoffs. This year’s regular season has been wildly entertaining, and the upcoming free agency is set to be the most dramatic in recent memory, but the time between mid-April and mid-June will always be the most exciting period in the basketball calendar. To steal the NBA’s favorite slogan, the postseason is why we watch.
The Lonzo Ball story is already unlike any other in NBA history. From the moment he was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers a little over a year ago, the point guard was destined to endure the most scrutinized rookie season in recent memory. The pressure he was under is typically reserved for the league’s superstars, not teenagers who have yet to play a single professional game.
Although few would dispute that the Eastern Conference is weaker than its Western equivalent in the NBA, there will undoubtedly be an entertaining battle for those final spots in the playoffs out East. Consequently, the schedule is of major importance for these teams hovering around the eighth seed, as the degree of difficulty in their games could make or break their entire season.
Every year since 2011, just before the NBA season gets underway, ESPN ranks the top 100 basketball players in the league. Simply Making this exclusive list is a major achievement, cracking the top 50 is an indicator of exceptional talent, and making the top 10 is an honor most can only dream of.
IIn August of last year, I spoke to Joe Harris of the Brooklyn Nets about his aspirations for both himself and his team ahead of the upcoming NBA season. The then 26-year-old was reluctant to reveal exactly how far he believed the team could go, but he assured me that they had “a lot of reasons to be optimistic”. Three weeks into 2019, with over half of the regular season complete, that could be a serious understatement.
We made it. After a dramatic regular season that has included saliva-induced fights, stand-offs at team practices and half of the league included in possible trade packages for Anthony Davis, the real fun can begin. The playoffs are finally here, and the stakes are as high as ever.
Despite being less than a month old, the 2018-19 NBA season has not been short of drama. We’ve had breakout stars, surprise teams, sensational, even tear-jerking individual performances, and a punch-up between two of league’s highest-profile teams. Now, just when it appeared that the dust had settled after frantic opening few weeks, the basketball world has been turned upside down once again, with All-Star Jimmy Butler being traded by the Minnesota Timberwolves to the Philadelphia 76ers. It was never going to be a dull season, was it?
The Portland Trail Blazers possess one of the best backcourts in the NBA but after a catastrophic ending last year, will it be enough to prevent a season of regression?
The Golden State Warriors, one of the most dominating teams in all of sports currently, are on the verge of yet more history. After securing their second successive NBA title in June, their success in luring all-star center Demarcus Cousins to the Bay Area has led many to declare that a three-peat is inevitable.
The Brooklyn Nets do not have the reputation as the most patient organization in the NBA. In 2013, they gave up four first-round picks to the Boston Celtics for (among others) a 35-year-old Paul Pierce and a 37-year-old Kevin Garnett, in a desperate attempt to contend now. It was a disaster for Brooklyn. Garnett and Pierce had both left by 2015, leaving the franchise’s present looking bleak, and their future looking horrific.
The cynical, stereotypical view of the NBA Summer League is that it offers no real indication of how teams will perform when the season starts for real in October. That can often be the case as, with the rosters being dominated by players scrapping for merely a place in the G-League, all squads are missing the vast majority of their key personnel.
After missing out on the playoffs by the smallest of margins last year, the Denver Nuggets will be determined to make the playoffs this time around, but just how far can this young team go?
Tip-off may still be three months away, but it is never too early to get excited for the next NBA season. Here are three reasons why this summer’s free agency has made the league even better.
Who is the best player in the NBA under the age of 25? Like all questions based on opinion, the answer will vary depending on who you ask. Nevertheless, there will be a few names which are mentioned frequently. For fans who love watching jaw-dropping dunks from players with superhuman athleticism, they would lean towards Giannis Antetokounmpo. If you prefer a positionless playmaker with a sky-high IQ, Ben Simmons is your pick. Those more into dominant centers would perhaps say Joel Embiid. While each of these players is in the discussion for different reasons, they have one clear characteristic in common; they are all international players.
A little over a year ago, Kawhi Leonard had it all. Entering the 2017 playoffs, the San Antonio Spurs forward was considered the best two-way player in basketball and seemed destined assume the mantle as the leader of the most successful franchise in the NBA since the turn of the century. When he averaged 27.8 points per game on 52% shooting through the opening two rounds of the postseason, everything was going according to plan.
For the majority of NBA teams, their schedule is not of major relevance. Sure, it allows players and fans to circle key matchups against notable opponents but, with each franchise playing a mammoth 82 games, whether the schedule adds a few more wins or losses is irrelevant to their ultimate position.
The Utah Jazz do not possess the star power of their conference rivals, but their defense-first system means they are a force to be reckoned with. The question is, can their strong team unit make up for their lack of big name players?
The All-Star break is finally upon us and the first half (or so) of the season is gone, and there have been several surprise developments that have come this season. To talk about what we saw so far this season, a few of our wordsmiths have come together to talk about it.
So, without further ado, let’s get into it.
The Los Angeles Lakers, the most storied franchise in the NBA, have been in rebuild mode for at least five seasons. Ever since Kobe Bryant’s body gave up on him (he missed 139 games in his last three years), the Purple and Gold have been outside the playoffs and looking to acquire new talent through the draft.
After making their long-awaited return to the playoffs last year, can the Timberwolves overcome off-court chaos to reach the postseason again?
The Oklahoma City Thunder’s big names will be targeting a trip to the Finals this year, but can they overcome years of disappointment to topple the stiff competition out West?
In 1996, the San Antonio Spurs were hopeful of another strong season. After winning 59 games the previous year and spearheaded by 1995 MVP David Robinson, the team from the Alamo City expected to be contenders again.
In the modern NBA, Dynasties always end quicker than expected. The Miami Heat big three only managed a couple of titles. Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant’s dominance with the Los Angeles Lakers ended abruptly. The Garnett-Pierce-Allen trio in Boston yielded just a single ring. Be it due to the physical and mental fatigue of playing into June every year, the difficulty of keeping everyone on a championship team satisfied or the supreme depth of talent across the league today, it seems almost impossible for a team to win several titles in the current NBA climate.