I always like to hear bad news first since then I end on a positive note, so we’ll start with disappointments. Although there are several players and teams I’m disappointed (and also happy) with, I can’t cover them all now. However, you’ll get an update after the trade deadline soon so don’t worry!
Disappointment #1: The Brooklyn Nets Super-Team
I suppose this is a surprise because we all expected a team featuring Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving to dominate the league. Are the Nets doing badly? No. Have COVID-19 protocols messed with their mojo a bit (with several players missing some time)? Absolutely. But this team has one of the worst defensive ratings in the NBA (28th out of 30). The last NBA team to have a defensive rating lower than 11 was the 2001 LA Lakers, who had Shaq and Kobe. Most commentators agree that this season is a “championship or bust” season for this team. Their offense is incredible, but they also have three ball-dominant stars who each have a history of clashing with teammates. I’m not saying they don’t have a chance to win it all, but they certainly aren’t there yet. I struggle to see how this team would cope defending the Bucks, 76ers, or especially the Lakers in a 7-game series. We shall see….
Disappointment #2: The Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets, currently sitting as the 7th seed in the west, have taken a major step back from their Western Conference Finals run last season. They did lose one of their best wings in Jerami Grant (who they should have just paid) and Michael Porter Jr missed a few weeks with after testing positive for Coronavirus. However, aside from Nikola Jokic (an MVP candidate for sure), this team has on the whole been underwhelming. They have time to turn this season around and get their groove back, but if they fail to make a deep playoff run again it may be time to go for the big swing a trade for a 3rd star (a move they passed on when they did not go for James Harden). I’m a massive fan of Jokic and would love to see this team have a great second half of the seasons and build last year’s success.
Pleasant Surprise #1: The Utah Jazz
Last season was unfortunate for the Jazz; Mike Conley had the worst year of his career and Bojan Bogdanovic missed out on the bubble. However, this season the tables have turned for the Jazz. They are now at full strength, Mike Conley is playing more like his former self, Rudy Gobert is showing why the Jazz are paying him 40 million a season, and Donovan Mitchell is elevating his game. Third in defensive rating and fourth in offensive rating, the Jazz are dominating and are currently the first seed in the west. It appears the Jazz are finally reaching the heights many hoped they could. While getting out of the Western Conference in the playoffs is tough, but with the way the Jazz are performing who’s to say they don’t have a shot?
Pleasant Surprise #2: The Philadelphia 76ers
There were many doubters over whether Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons couldn’t play together, how wrong this turned out to be. Currently the first seed in the East, coach Doc Rivers and new general manager Daryl Morey have crafted the right team and strategy for their star duo to succeed after several seasons of disappointment. Adding Seth Curry (the better shooting of the Curry brothers, despite what my Warriors fan girlfriend would have you believe) and Danny Green adds spacing and makes Joel Embiid even more dominant (and a frontrunner for the MVP). While there is a concern for the minutes where Embiid doesn’t play (and his perennial injury scares), this team is primed for success. Their core (Embiid, Simmons, Harris, and Curry), veteran presence, and their younger players mean that they have a window to compete for a championship. If they keep up their current level of play, then the sky’s the limit.
Please reach out if you have any disagreements with my opinions. I always love to discuss basketball with fellow fans!