The season is almost here! I’m sure if you read NBA blogs they are all starting this way right now. They count down the days to the first preseason game as of the publishing of the article. They speculate at some emerging training camp storylines. And maybe end the paragraph with an out-of-pocket prediction like; the Hornets will be repeat winners of Rookie of the year with… JT Thor.
And I love it. This is a great time, full of potential. Everyone; every player, every coach, every city can achieve the highest level, because they haven’t rolled out the round balls yet. Sure, Lamelo Ball’s wrist will be fine. Yeah, Gordon Hayward’s injuries are in the past. No, James Borrego doesn’t need a defense to win. It’s great. But wake me when it’s gametime.
Because, like an online dating profile, it’s all about setting expectations. What should this team be able to accomplish in this iteration? Because for all the excitement of possibility, they missed the playoffs last year ( and no I do not count that monstrosity of a play-in game.) So, before the potential turns into expectation, let’s do a little level-setting.
You can expect missed games. Take the Gordon Hayward of it all out of the equation. Forget about LaMelo’s wrist or Terry’s usage rate; flippin Covid is gonna have its say on this NBA season. Get ready for players to miss 5-7 games or more because of contact tracing. Get ready for longer DNPs for other exposures. I don’t like to write a lot about COVID (I like to speculate wildly without training or knowledge on reddit) because it’s a stone cold bummer, but ya know, make like Simba and be prepared. (Also get flippin vaccinated so I can take my daughter to a Hornets game, please, with no judgments.)
You can expect Dunks! You can expect Alley Oops, even if we haven’t settled on a nickname for Lamelo Ball to Miles Bridges. Allow me to submit: 2 Fly Crew. It’s a 2 Live Crew pun so I don’t know if they have made the nostalgia run yet, but it references LaMelo’s number (for now?) and Bridges being the best dunker in the league. But it’s going to be a dunk show. Don’t forget about Scary Terry either cause he’s been known to rock a rim every now and then.
Expect it to be tough to crack the playoffs in the east. So, assuming all the regular assumptions, you can write in the Bucks, Nets, Heat. They good, if you want to learn more, watch some basketball or read almost any other article. Some might say the Toronto Raptors should be in that tier, but I put them in a group right below with the Hawks and Celtics. So that’s six teams that, plus or minus catastrophe, have a reasonable expectation to make the dance.
For the last two spots there’s the Knicks, who some may have higher but since I wasn’t born with a subway E-Z I have them properly rated. There’s the Hornets, who, you know, will win the whole thing, probably… right?. There’s the Indiana Pacers who the aforementioned future champs lost to in a play-in game last year. Throw in Stevey Fish in Orlando, the Bulls, and, a darkhorse of mine, the Cleveland Cavaliers and we got ourselves a gumbo. Twelve teams, eight spots; I’m no Emmy Noether, but that algebra don’t compute.
Expect LaMelo Ball to lead the league in double doubles. ( no, don’t, just looked it up. LaMelo had 7 in 51 games. Jokic had 60 in 72 games… that’s uh, that a lot.)
Expect LaMelo to put up numbers. I think, if he is fully healed from the wrist, he’s going to eat. What Lamelo saw in Charlotte, while he was allegedly tanking interviews with the Golden State Warriors, was an opportunity to shine. Charlotte had a team where there is no alpha, where the scheme is centered around passing, and was a place where he could start almost immediately. Could this lead to mismanaged playmaking? Certainly, but he had the good fortune to be on the same team as Terry Rozier. The newly minted 100 Million Dollar Man who put him in his place when he was chasing for an early triple double last season. It’s important to note that LaMelo got that trip dub in the next game. That’s the type of heat that can light a championship fire.
Expect Bouknight to be a rookie. I have no doubt that he will show flashes, but he may have an NBA learning curve. The quickness that gave him an edge previously will be matched by the guard defending him a lot of nights. If you watched summer league as I did, and I pray you had better things to do, he had his struggles. Shooting percentages and turnovers fluctuated wildly game to game. He was not a highly touted recruit in highschool, but when he adjusted to life at UConn he became a go-to scorer.
Expect P.J. Washington will struggle if he has to be the primary 5 in the starting lineup.
Expect Ish Smith to play more than he should.
Expect a Kelly Oubre Jr. story that either says he’s in some way unsatisfied or he’s found a second chance in Charlotte depending on whether the ball goes in or out when he shoots.
Expect the unexpected. You’ve been around for the past couple of years, anything can happen in these streets. Vernon Carey Jr. started a game last year. I think some other stuff happened last year too. So, keep your head on a swivel, as my Uncle Mark loves to say, and be cautious of coming into new experiences with expectations. They are necessary for growth, but can steal joy like a thief in the night. Keep your head up Charlotte Hive, cause that’s what matters most. Peace out.