The NBA season begins tomorrow.
Take a deep breath. Read that sentence again. It’s not a misprint: the NBA season begins tomorrow.
And, as is customary when the season is on the doorstep, people have started to make their predictions about how the season will unfold. Not surprisingly, the Golden State Warriors are on top of every projection
The projections I always find most interesting are the ones from FiveThirtyEight. They peg the Dubs for a relatively modest 63 wins, with a point differential of +9.3, a 50% chance of winning the West, and a 38% chance of repeating as champions.
These numbers may seem a little low, but projections are often lower for top teams.
FiveThirtyEight is pretty confident that a fourth consecutive Finals showdown will take place between the Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers. They projected Cleveland to win 56 games, and have a 53% chance of playing in late June, and a 21% chance of throwing a parade.
The publication also expanded on why Golden State and Cleveland are the overwhelming favorites. Fascinatingly, part of it is because teams with lots of playoff experience are historically better when the postseason rolls around. This year, FiveThirtyEight weighed that in their projections.
Based on past research on the topic, we were expecting to see teams reap some benefit from playoff experience, but we were surprised that the effect was this strong. What we’re less sure of is why this effect exists. Playoff basketball is a different beast than regular-season basketball, with much tighter defensive play, among other stylistic changes. It may simply be that nothing predicts playoff success quite like past playoff success. Or it may be that some players really are “clutch” — or can learn to be clutch with experience — and have the psychological skills to thrive under postseason pressure. It’s also possible that teams like LeBron James’s Cavs aren’t overachieving in the playoffs so much as they’re underachieving — or pacing themselves — in the regular season. The NBA season is exhausting, so it’s probably a good idea to pace yourself if your goal is to maximize your chance of a deep playoff run rather than to accumulate gaudy regular-season statistics.
Over at The Athletic, Danny Leroux also feels confident predicting the tetralogy to take place, saying, “If you were banking on change, you will likely be disappointed”.
He did, however, note that this is probably the final installment in the rivalry. The future is uncertain for the league as a whole, and definitely for the Cavs, who very well may lose LeBron James after this season.
It’s been a terrific three years though, and no matter how “boring” and “predictable” some may say the league is, a fourth June meet-up would be excellent theater.
Dubs not at full strength
The season kicks off tomorrow, but that doesn’t mean that all of the players will be getting things started. According to SFGate, three key rotation players are in limbo for the opener.
Omri Casspi, who twisted his ankle in the preseason finale, was held out of contact drills over the weekend. Andre Iguodala, who missed Friday’s game because of a strained back, has yet to return to practice. And Shaun Livingston took the weekend off due to illness.
Hopefully all three return to strength soon, but the Warriors are in good enough shape to be extra careful with injuries.
One ridiculously long All-Star compliments another ridiculously long All-Star
Kevin Durant did a live Q and A on his YouTube channel, and someone asked him who his favorite player to watch was. KD’s response was Giannis Antetokounmpo, but he didn’t stop there. As transcribed by ESPN, KD sees huge things ahead for the Bucks’ young star:
I like long, athletic guys. That’s just who I am. The Greek Freak I think is a force, and I’ve never seen anything like him. And his ceiling is probably . . . he could end up being the best player to ever play if he really wanted to. That’s pretty scary to think about. But he’s by far my favorite player to watch.
Antetokounmpo has a long way to go before he’s there, but such praise from someone who is already cemented as an all-time great is pretty special.
Curry and Under Armour bring basketball to the community
NBA players aren’t the only ones shooting the basketball this week. Thanks to Steph Curry and Under Armour, a lot of kids will be shooting hoops this week, too. Over the weekend Curry and UA unveiled a court that they refurbished in the community, and it looks pretty slick.
Steph Curry and Under Armour open refurbished court in Oakland community, Steph gets the first shot pic.twitter.com/CPnd8eLgXk— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) October 15, 2017
Are the Warriors really playing small ball?
Golden State is often credited with evolving the game, and pushing the league towards small ball. But it seems that may not be quite accurate.
For The Athletic, Todd Whitehead investigated just how small the Warriors play, relative to the rest of the league, and had this fascinating tidbit:
Rather, the defining feature of the Death Lineup — and the Warriors' other favorite units — was not a lack of height, but a lack of variance in height; that is, all the players in any given Warriors lineup were basically the same size as each other. Based on their listed heights, the Death Lineup had the fifth-least variance in player heights among the 135 most-popular NBA units. Another Warriors lineup — with Livingston at 6-7, Thompson at 6-7, Iguodala at 6-6, Green at 6-7 and David West at 6-9 — was the No. 1 most-evenly sized.
It’s a great read, and a reminder that size (or lack thereof) represents a lot more than just an opportunity for a mismatch.
Please let this happen
While the Dubs were in China, they had the opportunity to meet Roger Federer, who was doing promotional work with Nike. While everyone seemed to enjoy the experience, a rivalry began when Steve Kerr inquired about Federer’s ping pong skills.
Now Klay Thompson, the Dubs’ resident ping pong champion, wants to put the tennis great’s skills to the test
Name the time and place. Game on!— klay thompson (@KlayThompson) October 13, 2017
Whatever happens, please let this be filmed.
In case you needed any more reasons to be excited . . .
Did I mention the season starts tomorrow?
In case you need to get a little more hyped, Marcus Thompson II at The Athletic wrote about the 20 greatest moments during this team’s three-year run.
It’s a fun reminder of just how special the last three years have been, and how special this fourth year is likely to be.