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.
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. Whilst this year’s regular season has been wildly entertaining, and the upcoming free agency is set to be the most dramatic in recent memory, it is the time between mid-April and mid-June that will always be the most exciting period in the basketball calendar. To paraphrase the NBA’s favorite slogan, the postseason is ‘why we watch’.
The season was already over. Prior to last night, the Golden State Warriors had been even more dominant (if that’s possible) than usual over the last month, going 13-1 in their last 14 games. 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 of DeMarcus Cousins‘ return has solved that issue emphatically. In short, Golden State seemed a lock for the title.
In 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.
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.
Every year since 2011, just before the NBA season gets underway, ESPN ranks the top 100 players in the league. Simply being included 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.
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?