The Starting 5: A look at some of the best hoops stories from around the Internet
Last year around this time, Bradley Beal’s comments at media day had embroiled the Internet in a debate about who had the best backcourt in the NBA, a conflict perhaps best remembered for this infamous Dion Waiters tweet. Mora’s article is either the inevitable sequel or a nice change of pace, depending on how much you enjoy talking about this sort of thing. There’s definitely a case to be made that he’s right; it’s hard to find another trio that pairs the name recognition, offensive prowess and defensive resilience everyone expects from San Antonio’s starters. The best counterargument is Utah, which has the advantage of youth, two of the league’s most underrated players in Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward, and the best rim protector in the game in Rudy “The Stifle Tower” Gobert. Of course, you could also say that the backcourt with LeBron James in it wins by default, but it’s not nearly as fun to talk about.
It takes a certain type of person be a New England sports fan, to defend Kelly Olynyk’s arm-bar on Kevin Love while decrying Matthew Dellavedova’s antics, or to be a dyed-in-the wool liberal but keep rooting for the Trump-endorsing, Obama-snubbing Tom Brady. So if MacLean shades a tad optimistic in his assessment of Jae Crowder’s potential, it’s easy to forgive him. Crowder is a hard working defender on a sweetheart contract and is just now entering his fourth season in the league; there’s a lot to look forward to and a lot of room for improvement. MacLean’s right to call out his three-point shooting as a major area to work on, although he shot 34 percent from three in Dallas before being traded, so his 28 percent mark from deep in Boston may have been more representative of the looks he was getting than Crowder’s ability. But it may be asking a bit much of the fourth-year forward to expect him to develop into a reliable secondary playmaker. Not that it wouldn’t be great! But if your team “making the next step“ requires a small forward who has averaged around two assists per 36 minutes his whole career suddenly becoming a legitimate playmaker, you could be standing still for a while.
Posting and Toasting does silly basketball writing better than pretty much any site that isn’t run by Jon Bois. There’s definitely a core of logic to this post; jersey numbers are important, but we pay little attention to their shifting patterns from season to season. You only really hear about someone’s number if there’s an issue, like Dion Waiters weirdly not being able to wear 13 in OKC because James Harden did. But the core logic of tracking who will succeed departing players in a given jersey number is deeply undercut by creating horrifying Cronenbergian fusions of all players who wore a number, like #1 Alex’e Shvedmire, and lumping their win shares together. It’s just a really great way to make what could be a pretty boring topic a lot of fun, and there’s a message of hope in there too, as real NBA players replace the league’s dregs at many positions. A surprising amount of credible people think New York has a shot at the No. 8 seed, and this article points to why.
Articles like this, deep dives into the potential future of players who have yet to take the floor in an NBA game, are great. You get a real sense of the writer’s passion for the team, the player and the game, and a great picture of what that player can be in the NBA. Garrett’s piece makes it clear that Stanley Johnson’s draft stock benefited quite a bit from the positional versatility revolution, as he likely would have been labeled a positionless tweener not too long ago. That said, there does seem to be some concern about his wingspan; most of the players Garrett mentions in comparison have a bit of extra length that allows them to more effectively play up a position. But damning a player for their below-exceptional wingspan is an old song whose lyrics often devolve into nonsense – take, for example, this 2012 piece on how Blake Griffin’s lack of wingspan will prevent him from being truly elite. Having long arms might have made things easier, but Johnson can still become a player in this league – no matter what position he ends up at.
While we’re on the subject of Blake Griffin’s tiny arms, if you feel like reading what is best described as a meditation on the Clippers’ title hopes and what this season means to Chris Paul, look no further. While there’s some basketball in the piece, the main thrust is the psychology of Paul and Doc Rivers, and how it feels to come up short when you’re so close to the goal. Things look good for Los Angeles this year; they’ve restocked their barren bench with a mix of steady veterans and unpredictable wildcards, they didn’t lose DeAndre Jordan and they’ve got a stinging loss to draw on when they need fire late in the game. But they’re still in the Western Conference, and as good as they look on paper, it still might not be enough to get Paul the ring a lot of folks think he deserves.