This NBA off-season has been one of the best off-seasons in recent memory, in all sports. Between a highly touted draft class and a handful of top 25 players on the move to different teams and divisions, nothing has been off the table this year. As a sportswriter and as a sports fan, it has been incredible to watch. Beginning with the draft, the hype around Lonzo Ball, fueled mostly by his dad, was palpable. Additionally, high-ceiling stars like Markelle Fultz, Josh Jackson, De’Aaron Fox, Jayson Tatum, Lauri Markkanen and many others were scattered throughout the first round.
Then the hysteria started, kicked off by Jimmy Butler (one of my personal favorite NBA players) being traded to the youthful Minnesota Timberwolves for what seems like pocket change. Shortly thereafter, PG-13 joins the reigning MVP in Oklahoma, Mike D’Antoni has to sneak an extra ball on the court to satisfy both CP3 and James Harden, and lastly the recently announced departure of Gordon Hayward from the Jazz to the Celtics. Sprinkle in some interesting Kings signings, Paul Millsap joining Nikola Jokic in Denver, and we’ve got ourselves an all-out shuffle of the NBA as we once knew it. And I firmly believe that it was essential for the NBA to have this happen.
While I have no TV viewership data to support my opinion, I was astoundingly apathetic about this year’s NBA playoffs. How could I not be? The Warriors and the Cavaliers torched the competition on their way to a third straight bout in the Finals, which the Warriors easily won. This all but confirmed what most NBA pundits prophesied on July 4th a year ago, when KD signed with an already record-breaking team.
On top of that, this Finals was LeBron James’ seventh straight Finals appearance. I respect LeBron a lot, on and off the court, but I’m a little tired of seeing him in the Finals. Thus, I might even go so far as to say the past few years have been unenthusiastic playoffs for me. Golden State’s first title run, and Game 7 last year, were the only times I was watching, or even paying attention to what was going on. Once again, there is no evidence to suggest that this opinion has a strong following, but I do believe that the NBA has been under-performing.
That’s why I’m excited about this off-season. With the league shaken up like it is, the potential for teams to challenge each other has gone up, and the off-season isn’t done yet. Carmelo Anthony may be on the move, as well as other common Association names. Nevertheless, Adrian Wojnarowski’s twitter feed has become must-watch for sports fans, as we never know what’s going to come next (just make sure its the right Woj account, @TonyReali).
The only problem thus far is this: there is no indication that any team in the West is ready to seriously challenge the Warriors next year, and I am curious to see if Gordon Hayward is enough to solve the Celtics’ LeBron James problem. But at least now there’s hope for a Finals that has no relation to the one before it, seeing as one of or both of the Warriors, Cavaliers, Heat, Lakers, and Spurs have been in every NBA Finals since 1999.