National Basketball Association’s pressure cooker follows hectic off season
The National Football League season is heating up, but still boring, so let's talk basketball! After an absolutely bananas National Basketball Association offseason which saw nine of the top 20 players and approximately 15 of the top 40 players in the league change teams, there is no more absolute favorite in the league.
The Golden State Warriors lost Kevin Durant to the New York Nets and Klay Thompson to an ACL tear, but they added young stud D’Angelo Russell. The Houston Rockets traded Chris Paul for former MVP Russell Westbrook to give James Harden someone else to relegate ball handling duties to. The Los Angeles Clippers turned their core players of Shai Gilgous-Alexander and every future pick they own for 10 years into Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. The Los Angeles Lakers traded their young core away for Anthony Davis, then added Boogie Cousins who promptly tore his ACL, and the team is drowning in off court drama.
The Milwakee Bucks did absolutely nothing. The Philadelphia 76ers brought back Tobias Harris and signed Al Horford — Joel Embiid’s kryptonite. The Miami Heat somehow signed Jimmy Butler. The Boston Celtics lost everyone and signed Kemba Walker and Enes Kanter. Meanwhile, the Brooklyn Nets retooled and traded D’Angelo Russell, Allen Crabbe and some picks to create the space to sign Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, DeAndre Jordan and Taureen Prince. This is an unprecedented level of parity in the NBA right now. So the biggest question for me isn’t who’s the best, but who has the most pressure not to lose?
The Golden State Warriors:
After five straight years of making the finals, and winning three times, this might be the first time in about four years that the Warriors are not predicted to go to the finals, which makes me think they’re even more likely to go to the finals. But if they aren’t able to, it’s not a big deal. Their core is locked up all together for years and Draymond, Curry and Klay will probably all retire as Warriors D’Angelo Russell can either take the torch from them or be traded for someone on their timeline, and this team will have opportunities to contend for many more years to come. PRESSURE RATING: light pressure.
The Utah Jazz:
The Jazz might have the best core in NBA history of players who have never made an all-star game with Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. They traded a few average assets to get Mike Conley, and are located in Utah so they don’t really have any expectations except maybe to make the second round with the bloodbath that is the West. PRESSURE RATING - Meh.
The Celtics lost their two best players, added a worse player and a center whose defense is suspect at best. But they are located in Boston, so therefore Jason Tatum and Jaylen Brown are “All-stars” and anything less than the finals is a bust. PRESSURE RATING: complicated.
The Portland Trailblazers and Denver Nuggets:
I’m putting these two together because they’re in the same boat. Both have one super star player (Jokic, Dame), a costar whose true value is hard to quantify and fit isn’t perfect (Murray, McCollum) and a third star whose value changes astronomically from season to season (Harris, Nurkic). Both teams are looked at in the lower tier of Western playoff teams despite having great regular seasons last year, and both have a lot of pressure to prove their team is good enough to compete or their team might get blown up. PRESSURE RATING: mounting.
The Los Angeles Clippers:
They traded every real trade asset they have for Paul George and in turn signing Kawhi Leonard. By doing this series of trades and signings they have committed to Paul George and Kawhi Leonard for eight seasons each, meaning they will have both Paul George and Kawhi Leonard on max contracts until they are 37 and 36, respectively. They have no money to add a third star within the next few years and they still have a massive hole at their starting center position. The expectations for the Clippers are sky high with both Kawhi and George abandoning their old title contending team for a new one. PRESSURE RATING: high mountains.
The Los Angeles Lakers:
Much like the Clippers, the Lakers traded their young core and a good slew of picks for a superstar, Anthony Davis. The Lakers have a very interesting roster, but the fit of everyone is very questionable, the bill of health for everyone is questionable and the coaches they have hired are questionable. But it’s LA with two, superstars so you'd better believe the pressure is high, the effects that a disappointing season would have on both LeBron and Davis’ legacy would be huge. PRESSURE RATING: submarine.
The Brooklyn Nets:
Kevin Durant is out for the season, so the Nets have no pressure except to be a high seed and win one playoff series. PRESSURE RATING: atmospheric pressure.
The Philadelphia 76ers:
The process has been incredibly disappointing, With many missed draft picks and wasted or mismanaged assets, the peak that has been reached by the 76ers has been a rule-change because of them and second round exits. If the Ben Simmons Joel Embiid experiment doesn’t start winning playoff series, we could easily see one of them shipped off for someone who fits better and can actually shoot the ball. PRESSURE RATING: that Queen song.
The Houston Rockets:
Four first round picks from 2021 to 2026 were traded for Russell Westbrook. The core outside of Harden, Westbrook and Capela is old as dirt. If the Rockets can’t win it now even the owners says “we won’t win in next 10 years”. PRESSURE RATING: Marianas Trench.
The Milwaukee Bucks:
The Bucks added Robin Lopez, overpaid Middleton and lost Malcolm Brogden this offseason, and that’s pretty much all they did. Ian Giannis, has two years left on his contract going into this year, his “pre-agency” has begun, and if the Bucks can’t get to the finals this year, the Bucks star might seek the greener pastures of Toronto, LA, or anywhere that shows him they’re committed to winning titles. PRESSURE RATING: Florida in 2050.