With the NBA season in full bloom, Quibbl basketball writers take on key questions about the season.
A couple weeks ago, Quibbl’s basketball writers wrote about which teams they expected to exceed and miss expectations, which rookies they were most excited about, and which stars they liked to win the MVP award. That was part one of the roundtable debate.
In this column (that was not late at all, why do you ask?), Quibbl writers address three more of the questions on our minds about this still-young NBA season.
Question 1: Which non-playoff team will be the most fun/interesting to watch?
Cameron Van Hare:
I am really intrigued by the Sacramento Kings this year. It is admittedly an odd choice, but they have a lot of potential in my opinion. They will not be close to a playoff contender, but I think the Kings are poised to make a big leap from the past few seasons. De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, and Yogi Ferrell are all dynamic scorers in the backcourt. Ferrell has been a solid player for every team he has went to, but now that he will be able to play a bigger role on the team I expect a lot from him.
The Kings frontcourt is also stacked with young talent. Cauley-Stein is a good rotation center who brings a lot of athleticism to the table. Giles and Bagley are both very interesting to me as well. Giles has yet to play an NBA game, but he is finally healthy. I can see Giles putting up big numbers in his first year. Let’s not forget Giles was the number one high school player in the country, and then only fell in the draft due to injury concerns. Bagley is a classic big man, which is probably the reason he is not getting the hype other rookies are, but he is offensively gifted. I like his footwork in the paint and he can step out and hit jump shots as well. The Kings love their big men, and right now they have a lot of quality ones. It’s interesting because the rest of the league is trending towards small lineups, but the Kings are doing the opposite. They played a lineup with 5 guys taller than 6’8 this preseason. That might sound crazy, but their big men are pretty mobile. I think that lineup can actually be deadly against smaller teams.
The Memphis Grizzlies are a big team to watch. The duo of Mike Conley and Marc Gasol has been together for what feels like centuries, and has led Memphis to more gritty wins than they had any right to earn. They’re talented, smart, and tough. They also missed significant time last year, and you wonder if age is starting to take its toll. You also have to wonder if this Gasol and Conley are enough to power Memphis to wins, even if they’re as good as they were four years ago. More and more teams are playing fast, high-octane offense, and the Grizzlies are still coming at you with a blunt, pick-and-roll-shaped hammer. Jaren Jackson Jr. is as exciting a prospect as there is, and Kyle Anderson is a high-IQ guy who might help smooth things out on both sides of the ball. And maybe they’ll finally get something out of Chandler Parsons.
This team is one year removed from being a perennial playoff presence. Do they have enough to get back to that? If not, will Memphis be forced to trade Conley or Gasol, or both?
Question 2: Is it going to be another easy title for Golden State? Or will there finally be a serious threat to the throne?
Cameron Van Hare:
I hate to say it, but I can not see the Warriors losing this year. They already have an all time great squad, and then they added Cousins, who is arguably the best center in the league. The big concern is Cousins health. He is coming off a torn achilles, which is notoriously destructive for big men. But, the Warriors are so good, they do not even need Cousins to win, and even if he is at 50% of what he used to be, it can only benefit Golden State. The only possible way the Warriors get worse this year is if Cousins tears apart the locker room, which he has been known to do in the past. But he seems to already be friends with much of the Warriors, so I do not see that happening.
Honestly, who knows.
My soul is being tugged in two directions on every single facet of this question. On one hand, DeMarcus Cousins is coming off a major injury, and it’s unclear whether his playstyle contributes to winning in a major way even when he’s healthy. On the other hand, even if he comes back at 40 percent, that’s a gigantic talent upgrade over every center Golden State has had since Andrew Bogut, and guarding Golden State with a behemoth scorer in the middle seems virtually impossible. On one hand, Golden State seemed more vulnerable last season. That Western Conference Finals series really looked like it could go either way, and their offense relying on Durant in isolation for stretches was weird. On the other hand, they still have an absurd assemblage of talent, one of the best coaches in the league, and an offense that looks completely transcendent for large stretches. On one hand, the Toronto Raptors could be the best defensive team the NBA has seen in a long time; the Boston Celtics are adding two all-stars to a team that almost made the Finals a few months ago; the Houston Rockets, despite their facelift, still retain most of the core that almost beat Golden State a few months ago.
But they’re still the Warriors. While teams might give them a bigger push than they’ve seen in a while, it’s tough to imagine anyone defeating a healthy Warriors squad.
Question 3: Who will get traded midseason?
The Suns signed Trevor Ariza to a one year, $15 million deal this past offseason. Ariza isn’t some vet sitting in his rocking chair; just a couple months ago, he was a very crucial part of a championship-contending team. His shooting ability is legit; his defense is star-caliber. He made a world of difference for the Rockets as they marched their way to the best record in the league.
Ariza is a gritty, high-effort player. How is he going to feel playing meaningless games alongside terrible teammates? Sometimes a fit like this works for some weird reason, but for a guy to leave a championship-contending team for one of the most miserable organizations in sports and be happy requires a lot to go right. Expect Ariza to get shipped somewhere by the deadline.
Cameron wrote that he expected Jimmy Butler to be traded. That is a clue for you if you’re trying to figure out when we all initially wrote this content.
We’ll try harder.