The Starting 5: A look at some of the best hoops content from around the Internet
Fans can get a little drunk on optimism in the lead up to the season; you’ll notice it in Lakers fans talking themselves into the eighth seed, or Pacers fans expecting a return to 50+wins. In Brooklyn though, where that optimism has been beaten down by three years of the NBA’s least charismatic team, the silver lining is a little more tarnished. That’s why we have articles like this, where Rodriguez focuses on all the ways the Nets can be the second-best team in the Atlantic Division, based on where they have matchup advantages. It’s good analysis, although the idea that Isaiah Thomas and Shane Larkin is a worthwhile battle might be oversold a bit. And after three years of watching basketball be played with all the vigor of a disillusioned high school teacher lecturing on the day before summer break, managing to muster even this much excitement for the Nets is to be commended.
The Raptors are the reason Brooklyn is unlikely to do better than second-best in the division, but they’ve also fallen apart in the postseason the last two years, washing out in the first round to lower seeds. Things have to change in Toronto, and there’s real hope that the addition of DeMarre Carroll will be the catalyst needed to put things right. His ability to get stops on the perimeter should help Toronto raise its defense up from 25th in the league, and his experience in the fluid Hawks offense may help inspire a bit more ball movement. If the Raptors can accept him into their core and learn the lessons he has to teach, they have a decent chance of making the second round. Of course, it doesn’t hurt their chances that Paul Pierce plays in the Western Conference now.
It is almost unforgivable that Stan Van Gundy didn’t keep Rasheed Wallace on his coaching staff. But even with the loss of Coach Sheed’s post practice dunk-contests, it’s an exciting moment for Detroit basketball. Brunkowski here explores the three men who are shaping that moment, and the individual impacts each is having. And while the players are, of course, most responsible for the anticipation building in the Motor City, it’s interesting to read about some of what is playing out behind the scenes in support of them. Arn Tellem’s role with the team is the most fascinating; if he can use his almost 25 years of experience as a sports agent to turn the Pistons into a major free agency destination, it will alter the power structure of the Eastern Conference.
Billy Donovan came within inches of flat out saying his plan for this Thunder season was to just let Westbrook be Westbrook, so things are already looking good for his tenure as head coach. A lot has been said about the crucible facing Oklahoma City this season, so instead let’s take a second and remember how fun this team could be. If Russ can hold on to the player he became when he was fully unleashed last season, and KD returns to MVP form…well, Matt Bilinsky thinks we’re in for Pippen/Jordan 96 levels of dominance. That could very well be hyperbole, but it’s also a great reminder that we should be thanking the Basketball Gods every day for the chance to watch this team play.
The Boston Celtics do not have a superstar. They don’t really have a star, either, although Isaiah Thomas probably disagrees. In fact, there are folks who think Danny Ainge has put together a team made up entirely of eighth, ninth and 10th men, a bunch of serviceable players who could give a contender spot minutes in the first round of the playoffs, maybe. That’s a big part of what makes the team so interesting though. Who will start? Who gets big minutes? Is there any hope for David Lee at all? With the starting backcourt of Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart pretty much set, all the mystery is up front, and that’s where the meat of this article is spent. The Celtics have a lot of power forwards and very few true centers; Brad Stevens’s sterling reputation as one of the game’s best coaches will be put to the test figuring out what to do with his big men.