Basketball, or whatever sport you enjoy, can be a hobby or interest for some. But what is that compared to catastrophic worldwide events we are currently experiencing, such as the COVID-19 pandemic?
Adam Silver and league officials have set an example for those who dedicate time in their own lives to following the NBA. Silver did an admirable job of that by immediately postponing the season and allowing players to speak live on social media.
If in fact the 2019-20 season is lost due to this crisis, all we can do is speculate on questions such as: “Who would have made the Finals” or “who would have won the MVP award?”
All of the referenced players are Hall-of-Fame worthy in that sense for being able to accept that, “hey, there might actually not be a conclusion to this season but that’s okay because we are looking out for the best interest of everyone around the world.”
That leads me to league-wide subjects we can address as we look forward to the NBA eventually returning to action:
Are one or both of the L.A. teams destined for greatness?
LeBron James may be ineligible to win his fourth Larry O’Brien trophy in his 35-year-old season due to the suspension. That won’t tarnish his legacy but it clearly could take a toll on his quest for more championships. Although he has more mileage on him than any player in the league, it’s tough to imagine him at any age taking much less of a role.
For the Clippers, Kawhi Leonard could turn 29 before getting the opportunity to win a ring for his third franchise. Since he is still in the prime of his career, they might be more optimistic about their future than the Lakers are. Nevertheless, both teams have intentions of winning a championship and anything less would be a disappointment.
How will this impact Giannis Antetokounmpo’s future in Milwaukee?
Antetokounmpo was likely on his way to winning consecutive MVP awards as well as carrying his Bucks to the best record in the East (and possibly the league) once again. We know all too well though that the season is a marathon and is not always a strong indication of how the postseason will play out.
Assuming he doesn’t sign an extension, which he is eligible for, the Greek Freak can test free agency in the summer of 2021. Anything short of a championship could mean leaving Milwaukee for a larger market such as Golden State or L.A. This could very well end up being a climactic story-line in hindsight.
Will the Rockets run out of patience anytime soon?
If we’re talking about a team that has done everything in its power and has gotten so painfully close to putting itself over the top these last few years, it would absolutely have to be James Harden and the Rockets. It started in 2014-15 by losing to the championship Warriors team and then happened again three years later.
Only the second time, they actually pushed Golden State to the brink and who knows what would’ve happened had Chris Paul been healthy after Game 5? They say, “third time is the charm,” and with the two former MVPs in Harden and Russell Westbrook reunited, the Rockets’ last swing for the fences may be coming up shortly.
How much longer does the Ben Simmons-Joel Embiid duo have?
Simmons, 23 years old, and Embiid, 26 years old, are both young but that doesn’t necessarily mean the clock hasn’t started ticking for them to find playoff success sooner rather than later. In addition to that, both have missed their fair share of games and that’s probably not something the front office has simply written off or ignored.
The Sixers were a popular preseason pick to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals but Milwaukee was quick to change our thought process. The Al Horford acquisition hasn’t taken them to the next level. He’ll bring his game in the playoffs, but regardless, his age has showed there’s more to be desired for the team overall.
What will the Nets’ roster look like outside of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving for the 2020-21 season?
For the 2020-21 season, the Nets are only behind Golden State and Philadelphia for total payroll. Keep in mind they still have to re-sign Joe Harris and all indications have pointed toward them doing just that. However, there have also been whispers around the league they could be looking for another established All-Star.
We know that when healthy, Durant is the clear-cut number one option and Irving is the indisputable complementary star. Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie have both proven they can handle a significant workload, one that could get the job done as a third star. It remains to be seen whether the Nets front office agrees with that.
Do the Kawhi Leonard-less Raptors plan on still competing for championships?
This might sound like an odd question since they do have the third-highest winning percentage in the league. However, it is important to note that Kyle Lowry is now 34 years old and soon won’t be capable of carrying the load he has these past several years. Pascal Siakam certainly figures to be the new future of the organization.
Toronto also has decisions to make on free agents Serge Ibaka and Fred VanVleet. Ibaka isn’t a dominant player but has showed the all-around skill-set needed to help the team remain in championship-level contention. VanVleet is sure to get a large contract this offseason but will it be with Toronto or another team?
Are any changes ahead for the high altitude teams?
I mean quite literally the high altitude teams – the Jazz and the Nuggets. Utah has won 61 percent of its games the past four years while Denver has won 62 percent of its games the past three years. Both teams have mastered the art of the regular season but also have combined for just three conference semifinal appearances last decade.
With the exception of Donovan Mitchell on his rookie contract, the Jazz has the majority of its core locked up, including two key contributors older than 30, Bojan Bogdanovic and Joe Ingles. The Nuggets have a younger core with Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray but questions have been raised about whether they need another star to contend.
How great can the Jayson Tatum-Jaylen Brown duo become?
Through all of their roster changes going back to the Isaiah Thomas-led team, the Celtics have always been high-functioning on the defensive side of the ball. That might be perhaps the most overlooked component of this team. Tatum and Brown are 22 and 23 years old respectively, but have found their way awfully quick.
Because Tatum and Kemba Walker are usually the ones to make flashier plays, Brown’s 20 points per game sometimes flies under the radar. The tandem isn’t just based off volume either; Brown and Tatum are both efficient and consistent. It’s difficult to imagine a ceiling for these guys as we curiously await their playoff emergence.
Who isn’t a fan of Western Conference seeding implications?
The second through seventh seeds in the Western Conference were only separated by 5.5 games. Just as the past few years have gone down until the last day of the season to determine seeding, this year was primed to be no different. It would have been thrilling to witness that once again as it’s almost like the playoffs before the playoffs.
There were two teams in particular that surprisingly made their way into the mix: the Mavs and the Thunder. While the Mavs may have lacked experience in the first round, Chris Paul and OKC would have been no pushover. If we are lucky enough to see the season resume at some point, this is still something we could encounter.
Which players will we remember most when thinking back to this postponed season?
I touched on this with the question above. However, one could also think back to when Zion Williamson and Ja Morant were rookies or when a 21-year-old Luka Doncic led the most efficient offense in NBA history. This is pretty straight forward: when we think back on this in a couple years, which player(s) will be the most vivid representation?