There are a few notable sweet spots in the year for the National Basketball Association, moments when the drama really steps up to the plate and knocks a pitch out of the park.
Er, wrong sport.
One of those sweet spots is the draft and, frankly, the entire summer. Dumb trades, ridiculous suits — I mean, look at this:
— and other things like the Great Emoji War and Kevin Durant’s weird letter about going to Golden State and such. Another sweet spot is the playoffs, more so for basketball-related reasons. And one of the under-the-radar sweet spots for drama is that time in the early- to mid-regular season, before the trade deadline, when a team is so obviously a ticking time bomb ready to detonate and send landscape-moving assets out to other NBA territory.
Right now, we’ve got, at the very least, the Washington Wizards and the Minnesota Timberwolves. Both of these teams were on the “hopefully we’re OK and make the playoffs and maybe even advance if things go well” train before the season.
For The District, things have just gone south — hard and fast. But more on them in a little bit. The Wolves started the season with what appeared to be a deep, experienced, and simultaneously youthful and hungry squad, with a vet coach to boot. Unfortunately, this year is the year of the offense, and Tom Thibodeau suddenly seems sorely out of style.
Minnesota is in the middle of a long road trip — they play tonight in Sacramento — but they have not taken well to leaving the Midwest, as they’ve lost four straight to Golden State, Portland, and both teams in LA.
I. Stats Are Important But Not Everything: Scoring Feast
Golden State is averaging 122.4 points per game right now. No team is averaging under 100. As Brian Windhorst reports in this piece,
“Consider that between 2014 and 2016, teams crested the 140-point barrier in regulation a total of three times. In the past two NBA seasons, as the frenzy started ramping up, teams reached 140 points eight times each year. In the first month of this season, it has happened six times, and there's no end in sight.”
II. Basketbappetizers: Keeping Tabs On The Dregs
John Wall is making approximately $12 billion every time he steps onto the court, and he still, after all these years, looks like a skinny, not-quite-as-good Russell Westbrook. That contract is an albatross for the Wizards, as they’re essentially stuck with him for a very, very long time. I don’t want to paint too bleak a picture here, but there is basically no hope for this franchise.
Deep In The Heart Of Tejas
The Mavericks spared no expense for their acquisition of Luka Doncic, and the decision seems to be paying off for both Dallas and Atlanta, as both Doncic and Trae Young are kind of kicking butt for their teams. What does hurt, and what will be sorely felt next year, is the probable lack of a first-round pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. The Mavs still have an exciting young core of Doncic, Dennis Smith Junior, Harrison Barnes, and a hell of a lot of cap space. But Mark Cuban has been whiffing hard on free agents for some time now.
Like Dallas, Phoenix isn’t really aiming to make some sort of deep run. I’m sure they’d be happy winning more, but they’re also firmly on the rebuilding side of things, and if they lose a bunch of games and get a high draft pick — hey, what’s wrong with that? Throwing Zion Williamson on this squad sounds exactly like the right thing to do, actually.
What Happens In Florida
Mo Bamba has not been great for the Magic. Aaron Gordon is still here, and somehow DJ Augustin is their starting point guard (don’t come at me; I’m a huge Texas fan so love me some DJ, but . . . really?).
The Land, Chi-Town, New York Knicks, & The Other Team In New York
The rest of the league’s bottom-feeders are somewhere in between the Dallas/Phoenix and Washington/Minnesota spectrum. The most depressing case study at the moment is probably Cleveland, just two years removed from an NBA championship and several months away from a fourth straight NBA finals appearance, brief though it was. Now LeBron James is gone. Kevin Love is hurt. There’s vague dissatisfaction with Collin Sexton. And the Cavs have the worst record in the league.
III. Player Of The Week: Jamal Murray
Is scoring 48 points great? Sure. Is scoring 48 points on 19-30 even better? Yes, definitely! Is scoring 48 points why Murray is here? No.
Murray gets this award for chucking up a three-pointer as time expired against the Boston Celtics in an attempt to eclipse the 50-point mark, an — according to Kyrie Irving — absolutely abominable act that sparked some delectable beef between the two guards immediately thereafter, as Irving heaved the ball into the crowd out of, um, frustration, incurring a $25,000 fine in the process.
In a world of midterm elections, economic fear, of a deeply divided United States of America, of hot rhetoric flying about like darts in that one scene of Indiana Jones, this beef between Murray and Irving is the stuff of legends, the real meaningful stuff you remember for posterity.
What a fantastic sport.
IV. Get Off My Parquet, As Told By Adam Oestreich
By Adam Oestreich, of course
Stop firing coaches midseason. End.