The 2015-16 NBA regular season is in full swing. It’s the second most important season in the world’s foremost basketball league. Less important than the post-season, but taken more seriously than the pre-season & Summer League (though players may try harder on offense playing in the Drew League than they do during the NBA regular season). Now let’s examine what we’ve seen so far and what we can expect to see as the season progresses.
First note, this year’s rookie class looks beastly. It was projected that the 2014 NBA draft class, headlined by Andrew Wiggins & The Weeknd’s muse, Elfrid Payton, would go down as legendary for its talent. At this point, last year’s class is more well known for being maligned by injury. The 2015 NBA draft class had some hype, but seems to feature future stars capable of surpassing the 2014 draft class’s lofty hype, just two weeks into their NBA tenures. Karl Anthony Towns is stacking up more double-doubles in Minnesota than a dab smoking “social media consultant” at In ‘N Out Burger. Kristaps Porzingis put back dunks are making Knicks fans who booed him on draft night look even stupider. You can tell D’angelo Russell will be great because Byron Scott won’t play him in the forth and when has he ever been right as a coach? Justise Winslow, Stanley Johnson, Jerian Grant, Emmanuel Mudiay, Jahlil Okafor, Mario Hezonja, Myles Turner and Kelly Oubre Jr. have all made notable contributions to the highlight reel and/or box score while showing that they’re going to be the stars of the future. We’re on the third week of the season so more rooks are bound to emerge from beyond the pine just like Ryan Gosling did in 2012.
Second note, 2015’s inaugural coach firing is already underway. Rockets just fired coach Kevin McHale and replaced him with James Harden’s beard. NBA owners have the same level of panic with their coaches as NBC executives have for their new fall line-up. This is to say they all have patience akin to six year old children with their parents’ iPhone throwing breadsticks on the ground at the table next to you as you try to enjoy your meal at Olive Garden. It seems like owners fire coaches just to give Stephen A. Smith more fodder to be annoying with Skip Bayless. Besides, it’s rare that a mid-season coaching change nets postseason results. One instance comes to mind: Byron Scott got fired from coaching the New Jersey Nets in 2004 and his successor Lawrence Frank went on a 13 game winning streak as soon as he took over. While Frank’s tenure in Jersey was technically successful, the Nets had previously gone to the Finals, but never managed to match that success. That’s best case scenario for an in-season coaching shake-up. Given the history, why are owners so trigger happy? Right now it’s a two man race to see who is fired next: George Karl in Sacramento or Dave Joegger in Memphis. Sacramento fired their coach about this time last season then hired… George Karl… Are the coaches really the issue here? Sacramento’s being run like the love life of a reality show star on VH1. In fact, NBA TV should just produce a The Bachelor-esque reality show for Sacramento to find a new coach every year.
Side note, my team – The Detroit Pistons finally look competent and competitive for the first time since the “BALL DON’T LIE” era. The stank of Darko Millicic has finally wafted away and while so many speculated that very smell would stink up Madison Square Garden, Porzingis proves history doesn’t always repeat itself. SVG for President!
Crazy trade speculation time! It’s insane that owners will more readily uproot a coach before they consent to trading players who show signs of age/wear, bad fit, become distracting/ disinterested or for being Nick Young. Here are some players I expect to (or fantasize) see traded:
1. Derrick Rose
Signs of age/wear? Check! Bad fit? Check! Disinterested? Check! Nick Young? Well, no… But Derrick Rose is a point guard who looks for his shot more than to get his teammates involved. His presence seems to hinder the rise to power of Jimmy Butler, both on the court and in the locker room. On top of it all, his offseason contract comment – given his history with the Bulls franchise, on top of his sexual assault allegations are more disgusting than a frat house communal bathroom. While the Bulls most likely won’t trade him, only time will tell. Who would they or could they even get for him though? What organization would even want him? I think the Knicks & Kings would pull the trigger faster than a racist white cop. Both would be fun situations to see if Derrick Rose can make a Neil Patrick Harris-type comeback.
2. Joakim Noah
Since we’re talking Bulls, new coach Fred Hoiberg came in and sent Noah to the bench sparking the blunt of speculation that he may not fit in Hoiberg’s vision of the Bulls’ deep front court. Noah has been great when healthy, but mired by injuries. Beyond what he does on the court, he’s the kind of spirited dude who any team would benefit from, plus I bet he has a really great weed hook up. The Mavericks seem a perfect fit for Noah after being stood up by DeAndre Jordan. Portland has a gaping hole in their front court since LaMarcus Aldridge left to go grab a pack of smokes, never to be seen again.
3. Zach Randolph
If you’re an NBA purist, it’s nearly impossible to not love this former Michigan State Spartan’s game and maturity since his early days as a Portland Jailblazer. However, his grit and grind style is becoming obsolete in today’s NBA. Houston could make a flashy deal for Z-Bo if they decide they don’t want to have to pay Terrence Jones or Donatas Montiejūnas. The Pacers perhaps? Maybe If they decide PG-13 at the 4 and running the floor is no longer their thing. Brooklyn might do it just to salary dump any number of their players.
4. The Entire Nets Roster
This is the least crazy speculation and most imminent change coming. The Nets are so bad that their new logo should be a rusted basketball rim dangling from the backboard with no hoop for a ball to swish through. Expect Joe Johnson to be shipped out faster than something you bought after signing up for Amazon Prime. Brook Lopez is one stubbed toe away from a home in a new city, whether it be his own or a nursing home. This team need draft picks like Draft Kings and Fan Duel need to pay off the government so they don’t become an off-shore betting enterprise on the deep web.
5. Markieff Morris
This seems inevitable because the Suns are in low-key disarray, but Vanessa Bryant took Kobe back after his rape trial, so you never know. Kobe never shipped Vanessa’s brother to Detroit though. Can the Suns trade this dude and get his high value in talent back? Probably not. Kieff’s ceiling could be the second or third best player on a contender, there aren’t very many teams willing to give that up. I could see a scenario where the Suns get fed up with him and ship him off to Philadelphia. I fantasize Phoenix will trade him to join his brother Marcus in Detroit for Ersan Ilyasova and the potential of Reggie Bullock. There’s a better chance of Clyde Drexler coming out of retirement than the Pistons making a mid-season trade for a franchise changing Power Forward, again.
The 2016 NBA season looks super fun in its infancy. There are 45 contenders in the West and the East has some sneaky good teams. Whether there’s tons of off-court and trade drama or the season goes along as competitively as it has begun, all NBA fans across the world project to be winners here (as long as I can get a friend’s League Pass user name and password).