Heating the Parquet: Opening a Season in the NBA
The Old Men and the Sea: Will LeBron, Kerry and Chris Paul compete for the championship again?
James has been given the opening terms to return to a monstrous mode but is surrounded by question marks in the Lakers, Steph is constantly hungry but dependent on the success of Thompson's comeback at Golden State and CP3 wants to take the Suns to the next level but must further upgrade the youngsters.
The season-opening project comes to an end with a review of the Pacific House
Los Angeles Lakers
Golden State Warriors
Los Angeles Clippers
Tuesday, October 19, 2021, 2:30 p.m.
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Los Angeles Lakers: Unconventional Contender
The Lakers came last season as clear favorites for the replay, but injuries to LeBron James and Anthony Davis, in the regular season and in the first-round series against Phoenix, did not give Frank Vogel's side a real chance to defend their title. In the summer Rob Plinka decided that this gang would no longer get another chance and scattered it everywhere. Except for LeBron and AD, only Horton-Tucker remains on the team and all other staff have been replaced. The significant move was the trade on Russell Westbrook, almost all the rest of the squad is based on signings in minimum contracts. The power of the Lakers, LeBron and the possibility of fighting for a championship allowed Plinka to land some big names in minimum contracts, the most spicy of them all being Carmelo Anthony who will be collaborating with King James for the first time.
But relative to a group that is considered a favorite in the West, the amount of question marks around is huge. I'll try to put them all in one paragraph. The assisting team is laden with relatively big names, but almost all of them are 32 and older and are in the decline phase of their careers, some were ejected from the rotation of their teams in the playoffs last year and others seemed irrelevant; Vogel will have a much harder time building a great defensive team with these players, and the top five who can work defensively will suffer greatly from a space issue; LeBron will be 37 this year, he is no longer the monster from the past and only once in the last three years has he had a healthy season; In recent years Russ is one of the least effective players in the league, his shooting from the outside is fading; Anthony Davis also went through a year of unclear decline, which included a sharp drop in the penalty percentage that lasts during the preparation period, and he, too, finds it difficult to stay on the floor for long periods of time; It's hard to imagine a fruitful collaboration between LeBron and Russ,It's much easier to imagine a situation where Westbrook makes far more shots and decisions than LeBron's team deserves; And if all that wasn’t enough, the Lakers were hit by an early injury plague, with prolonged absences from Trevor Packing and Horton-Tucker and minor injuries to Kendrick Nan, Wayne Ellington and Malik Monk.
So how come this is still one of the strongest candidates in the league for the championship?
Because this is a three-star team one of which is LeBron James and the other is Anthony Davis, who was unstoppable in the bubble and even on a bad offensive day is one of the best defensive players in the world.
Vogel is trying to build an offensive style in which no-ball movement and cuts will cover the space issues and allow Westbrook and LeBron to come together together.
The idea is interesting: with all its problems, it is a staff of experienced and smart players who will know how to function and make decisions in unexpected situations, a method that creates chaos can be a successful solution for this staff.
If Russ surrenders to the system and lives alongside the king, it can certainly be a group that is almost impossible to maintain.
It is also worth remembering that LeBron arrives after a long summer of rest, the last time he had one like this it ended in a ring.
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A huge amount of question marks in relation to the Contender.
LeBron, Davis, Westbrook and Carmelo (Photo: GettyImages, Kevork Djansezian)
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Phoenix Suns: Where to go?
The young will decide
Last summer Chris Paul came to Phoenix. Few understood James Jones' decision to bring a 35-year-old basketball wizard to a development-based team based on 22-24-year-olds that had not been in the playoffs for ten years. What can already come out of this experiment? It turns out that a final could come out, in which the Suns came within touching distance of a championship. Phoenix was very lucky in the final campaign, it can not be ignored. She came out on a lag against the Lakers just after Anthony Davis was injured and then met Denver without Jamal Marie and the Clippers without Kwai Leonard. Every playoff has dramatic injuries, but such a streak is already rare. That shouldn’t diminish the size of the achievement, other teams like Utah and Portland lost in the same situations, but it could explain why Phoenix is not considered the top team in the West the following year. In the final itself, it is important to remember, Phoenix looked excellent, winning the first two games and forcing Milwaukee to find more strength on its own to make the series.
Coach Monty Williams did not have too much to do in the summer. Last year his players have already perfected the concept called ‘Chris Paul’s Team’. Phoenix is a pick n 'roll superpower, a team that masters all the subtle nuances of the winning move, its players looked like CP3 created them in the lab. All senior staff will be retained, and the changes will be in the periphery. Jones added diversity to the bench: Alfred Peyton is a defensive guard who can be significant, Landry Shamet is a three-pointer who moves between big teams and for some reason has yet to find his place in any of them, Jabeil Maggie is the classic replacement chin who was not last year. They are expected in Phoenix to be joined by Jaylen Smith, a second-year player who rarely plays as a rookie. Smith is a tall variety who can play in both face positions, Suns does not have a player of his kind and if he joins the rotation it will be great for them.
If one is looking for the next developmental stage of Phoenix, it is in the upgrade of the senior youngsters. Four playoff series create an irreplaceable experience, and Monty’s kids grew up in that playoff. First of all Devin Booker, who has proven he can star even at the highest levels. Boker touched on perfection during the playoffs and had four games of 40 points or more, including 47 points in the champion’s relegation game, including two consecutive 40-plus games in the final. Diandra Eyton has become a disgraced player for a very senior chin, one who knows how to deal with any opponent and is also reflected in the attack, he handled the low lineup of the Clippers much better than Rudy Gober. Cam Johnson showed sparks from the offensive talent that is just beginning to show. Mikel Bridges looks like the perfect roll player, but in his case the feeling is that he has already made the growth leap during the season. If this bunch continues to grow, Phoenix will be able to continue to surprise everyone.It is a pity that at the moment the main occupation of the team is the refusal to offer Eyton a maximum contract, but next summer owner Robert Sarber will not have much choice but to pay the young chin what he will easily get elsewhere.
And what if they have no more than that?
Paul with the Young Suns (Photo: GettyImages, Christian Petersen)
Golden State Warriors: Upgrade while waiting
After the injury-plagued season, Golden State returned to matters at half-strength last season.
Clay Thompson, who missed one season due to a tear in the cruciate ligament of his left leg, missed a second season following a torn Achilles tendon rupture of his right foot.
Steph Kerry, on the other hand, returned at the height of his power and provided a personal season by the standards of his MVP seasons.
Drymond Green did what Drymond Greens did, but the offense collapsed when the stars rested.
It ended in a bad spot in the middle of the West and a miss of the playoffs in the playoffs.
This year, if there are no glitches, Clay is set to return at the end of December and create the long-awaited reunion of the Splash Brothers.
How long will it take him to get back to business?
How close can he reach the peak of his ability?
These are two of the most important questions of the season in the league.
But even before Clay's return, Golden State should be better this time. Last year was marked by an attempt to combine the present and the future. James Weissman, the chin who was selected second in the draft (before Lamello Ball, is it too early to judge?), Started in the top five in an attempt to develop him quickly, but he mostly hurt the team that tried to succeed, and when Kivan Lonnie replaced him in the top five this season changed. This year Steve Kerr was added to the squad for two lottery picks - Jonathan Cuminga and Moses Moody, two diverse forwards, but there is no intention to let them rub, they will only get minutes if they can contribute here and now. It will be very difficult for them to get minutes, even for Weissman, because Kerr can create a rotation of ten worthy players even without them even before taking Clay into account. This point brings back to the table the issue of using young people for a trade on a star or other significant player who can contribute to the aspirations of contemporary tops. No one will be surprised if such a move happens during the season.
The improvement I expect is also related to the feeling that in the last two years Bob Myers has learned to understand who the players are who fit Kerr's demanding style and who are not.
Kelly Ubera, for example, did not fit.
This summer the Warriors brought back Andre Iguodala, perhaps the only place he still has value, and brought in Otto Porter and Nemanja Belicza who seem to fit in great.
But the star of the prep period is young Jordan Paul, a guard with excellent shooting who seems due to be another scorer.
Paul will open in the top five, but it is likely that when Thompson returns he will become Kerr's sixth player, and in any case one of his key roles will be to create points in Steph's rest minutes.
The Warriors' chances of returning to fight for the championship depend first and foremost on the success of Clay's comeback, but even without him it could be a team that wins a lot of games in the regular season.
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Kerry, Green and Thompson (Photo: GettyImages)
Los Angeles Clippers: The Curse Has Many Faces
In the bubble playoffs the Clippers mentally crashed and lost three times a 15-point lead in the terrible loss to Denver. That summer the coach left, Doc Rivers was replaced by Tyrone Lou, but most of the staff was retained. Last year, in the first round, the Clippers lost their first two home games to Dallas and were 19 points behind in the first minutes of the third game, they looked shattered. But Lou's players found themselves forces that no one believed existed anymore, and Lou himself shone with a five-man lineup with Marcus Morris as Small-Ball Center. The Clippers came back into the game and won the series, fell behind again in the second round against Utah and came back once more. Then Kwai Leonard was injured. The Clippers still managed to beat Utah to advance to the regional finals for the first time in their history, but there they ran out of tools against Phoenix. With the end of the playoffs it has become clear that Kwai's injury is very serious and will disable him at least for most of the current season, there is not much chance he will be able to be effective this year. so,The team that with supreme effort overcame its demons and seemed ready to go all the way, finds itself in a waiting position and will probably have to wait at least another year to express its new spirit. If this is not a curse, I do not know what is.
What in the meantime? This year will be a good team that will try to continue the positive momentum from the playoffs in several areas. First of all, the players who rose there will be the focus this time: Paul George looks like a main star, Reggie Jackson also surprised himself when he entered the role of effective secondary scorer (17.8 points per game in the playoffs at 48.4 percent from the field) and Terence Mann popped up because A place to score 39 points in the decisive game against the Jazz. The extent to which those three will be able to recover their ability from the playoffs will determine whether the Clippers ’offense can remain one of the best in the league.
It will be particularly interesting to see how much he will continue to make room for Small Bull.
Center Ivica Zubac will open with a five-man squad, but as long as Serge Ivka is unfit there is no senior replacement in the squad and it is likely that many of the teams will be low.
Except for Morris, Lou also signed Justice Winslow, perhaps on his last chance to become a significant player in the league, as a potential center for Small-Ball.
The Clippers' roster is loaded with excellent three-pointers, last year they scored 31.1 percent, a very unusual figure, and that could help players who are based on penetration ability.
Apart from Mann, it may turn out that Eric Baldesso, who returns to the team where he was discovered, also has something more to offer in this situation.
But Kwai's downside will make it difficult for Lou's players to get good shots consistently, and in the crowded West they are in danger of not getting into the top six.
My longing for Kwai.
Paul George (Photo: GettyImages, Katelyn Mulcahy)
Sacramento Kings: Another step on the road to nowhere
Sacramento is once again opening an optimistic season, once again believing in its chances of qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since 2006 and once again it is hard to believe it will happen. Last season Luke Walton's team was one of the most exciting offensives in the league. Diaron Fox provided Allstar numbers: 25.2 points and 7.2 assists per game, Tyrese Haliberton, the 12th pick in the draft, was one of the top Rockies in the league, Rishon Holmes established his status as the most deserving opening center, Harrison Barnes was more efficient than ever. It is a good foundation to build a good team around.
So why did Sacramento not come close to being a good team? In one word: protection. It was the weakest defensive team in the league, by a margin. It also allowed opponents to have the highest field percentages in the league and also allowed them to take an offensive rebound at the second highest pace in the league, this is a sure recipe for collapse. The problem starts at the top of the pyramid - Fox had the weakest defensive rating of all the NBA rotation players last year (241 players with at least 20 minutes in 30 games). With all due respect to his exceptional penetration ability, he cannot be treated as an All-Star and a true Flair franchiseer without a significant improvement in defense. The Kings' great interest in Ben Simmons stems, first of all, from the team's defensive weakness.
But even without Simmons, there is reason to hope that this year will be some improvement.
In the ninth pick Sacramento selected Devion Mitchell - the college defensive player who also won the MVP of the Summer League thanks to his stifling defense.
This is a walking nuisance, a player who sticks to the ball carrier and does not let it move, he may already be one of the best personal guards in the league on guards.
Tristan Thompson came on to provide experience, defense and a rebound off the bench, along with Holmes will give Walton a reasonable 48 minutes of defensive play in the chin position.
The problem is what is in between.
The Kings' list of forwards is pretty sad, including Marvin Bagley who refuses to develop, and the vehicles with three guards will collapse on the rebound.
It may still be the most logical option - to start with Fox, Mitchell and Alibton, while Buddy the Boy and Terence Davis will be senior replacements, these are probably five of the top eight players on the roster.
It’s hard to imagine it enough for the playoffs, but in the play-off era one can stay close enough and hope that enough teams will disappoint.
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