The Starting 5: A look at some of the best hoops content around the Internet
The death of Flip Saunders has hit the NBA community hard, as evidenced by the outpouring of grief and condolences on social media, some of which is collected here by ESPN. There is no shortage of tributes and obituaries, many of which will be written by those who knew him well. McPherson did not, but he is one of basketball’s very best writers, with an uncommon ability to inject real emotion into his work. His remembrance is simple and short, but clearly telegraphs the way life is suddenly and irrevocably changed by loss. There is an unusually high proportion of Timberwolves fans among the upper echelons of sportswriters; that the teams Saunders led inspired talents like McPherson, Myles Brown, and Zach Harper is another tribute to his legacy.
Since he left Utah, Enes Kanter has been the laughingstock of the league. Widely accepted as the worst defender in the league, former teammates have mocked him, in turn, he nsulted his former team, and his new contract was derided in every corner of the web. It’s almost enough to make you forget what a significant impact he is poised to have on one of the best teams in the association. Kennedy’s piece spells out his importance in Oklahoma City, highlighting his fit with the Thunder and outlining a potential role without glossing over the 6’10 Turk’s defensive limitations. Kanter is an undeniably brilliant player on offense, and the degradation of his skillset in some ways mirrors what has happened with Carmelo Anthony. As James Holas pointed out on Twitter recently, consistent and efficient scoring is undervalued in today’s media environment.
DeMarcus Cousins is the Sacramento Kings franchise player, and a bit of a head case. If franchise players are supposed to shape the soul and personality of a team, it’s easy to see why the Kings have been so chaotic with Big Cuz. He’s a charging rhinoceros whose grace in the post is matched only by his incredible social media game, but his penchant for pouting has seen him finish top 5 in technical fouls every season of his career, according to ESPN. This year looks to be the first time Sacramento has embraced the power and insanity of their superstar, assembling a team of giant speed demons that cuts against every trend in the league. With Willie Cauley-Stein the likely starter next to Cousins, Yeung sketches out a picture of a truly insane team, with Boogie gunning from deep, George Karl tinkering like the “eternal mad scientist” that he is, and the continued confusion in the front office all playing a role. He’s right that the Kings likely won’t make the playoffs, but their unique blend of talent and turmoil make them one of the league’s can’t miss teams.
Expectations weigh heavy on the Milwaukee Bucks this year, after their surprising run to the playoffs last season. With the addition of Greg Monroe, July’s most surprising acquisition, and the expectation of continued development from their exciting young core, there will be a lot of eyes on the BMO Harris Bradley Center when the Bucks tip off their 2015-16 campaign on Wednesday against the Knicks. Madden’s piece examines the young Bucks’ preseason play for signs of what to expect from the team, exploring the highs and lows visible during their exhibition games. As expected, outside shooting remains one of Milwaukee’s biggest concerns, but signs of an improved stroke from Giannis Antetokounmpo and an uncharacteristically weak performance from Khris Middleton are reason to believe improvement is possible.
If you can forgive them for missing the opportunity to title this piece “Extreme Makeover: Hive Edition,” there’s a lot to like about it. Everyone gave up on the Hornets when they announced Michael Kidd-Gilchrist would undergo surgery to repair a torn labrum suffered in the team’s first preseason game. However, after going 7-1 in the admittedly meaningless exhibition schedule behind whip-smart passing and a barrage of outside shooting, things are getting interesting in Charlotte. With a variety of video clips and careful analysis, Peters shows just how those shots are being created, highlighting heavy use of the dribble handoff that the Hornets have been using to spring shooters. The question now is whether the new look offense will be enough to cover for the loss of MKG’s defense as the Hornets make a push for the playoffs.