BreakingModern — It’s better to be lucky than good, they say. Apparently the Los Angeles Clippers and their head coach, Doc Rivers, didn’t get the memo.
“You need luck in the West. Look at Golden State. They didn’t have to play us or the Spurs.”
Yes, those “undeserving” Golden State Warriors, the team that won an NBA championship last season, beating a Cleveland Cavaliers team in the Finals that arguably had the best player in basketball, LeBron James.
Doc, check your facts. I believe your team did lose when they were ahead 3-2 in the series that would have sent them on to play those lucky, cheap Warriors. As Golden State All-Pro guard Klay Thompson put it, “I wanted to play the Clippers last year, but they couldn’t handle their business.” Ball don’t lie.
So who’s going to get “lucky” this NBA season?
Weak Eastern Conference Opens Door For Cavs, Hawks
One thing we do know: James’ Cavaliers will benefit from a weak, top-heavy Eastern Conference. Three teams with .500 records or worse made the playoffs from the East last year, and only three teams had marks over .600. Welp.
Look for the reigning Eastern Conference champion Atlanta Hawks to get even better. Atlanta acquired 6’11” center Tiago Splitter from the San Antonio Spurs during the offseason, which will give them more depth down low, something they lacked last season with such a small lineup (only Al Horford was above 6’8”). Expect the Hawks to improve their rebounding, a facet only two other teams were worse at last year.
Speaking of small teams, the Warriors also thrived last season with a very small lineup. The center position has lost a lot of value in recent NBA seasons, as teams that rebound in the middle of the pack actually won the most games last year on average. The league has become more athletic over the years. Size, while still important, isn’t as crucial as it once was.
The Warriors won’t have any problems with their small lineup this season, but luck might run out, at least a little bit. They lost the fewest minutes to injury in the NBA last season — so maybe Doc’s statements had some truth.
Even in spite of this, reigning MVP Steph Curry and his Splash Brother sidekick, Klay Thompson, will be simply too overpowering for most teams (yeah, you too Clippers) in the West to overcome, save for maybe Oklahoma City and San Antonio. It’s hard not to see Golden State as title favorites once again.
The Thunder’s injury fate was the polar opposite of Golden State’s last season. Look for the Thunder to turn it around under new head coach Billy Donovan and with (hopefully) full seasons from free-agent to-be Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka. It’s Durant’s contract year, so I’m betting Oklahoma City regains the fire they lacked last season.
San Antonio, the team that always gets older and never gets any worse, benefited from adding LaMarcus Aldridge during the offseason. Once the star meshes with his new squad, which isn’t necessarily a given (See Lakers, Los Angeles and Howard, Dwight) San Antonio could be scary good.
The Tanking War
Who doesn’t love a good race for last? Sure, none of the potential lottery picks like Skal Labissiere, Ben Simmons or Jaylen Brown have good tanking slogans yet (Suck for Luck!), but that doesn’t mean people aren’t fired up to see their teams lose!
Jahlil Okafor and the Philadelphia 76ers are still years from contending. They’ll be in the thick of the race for last place, along with teams like the Lakers, Aldridge-less Trail Blazers and Orlando Magic. The Knicks could be a surprise contender here, with starting center Robin Lopez and point guard Jose Calderon buoying a very mediocre team.
And Winner Is …
Look for a Warriors/Cavaliers rematch in the NBA Championship this season. And the winner will once again be those lucky Warriors.
For BMod, I’m Ben Leonard.
Featured Image Credit: Stephen Curry. Wikimedia Commons
Image Credit: LeBron James. Wikimedia Commons
Image Credit: Kevin Durant. Wikimedia Commons