So, you live in Seattle — maybe you’ve been here your whole life, maybe you just moved here. If you’re a basketball fan, you know about how Seattle’s beloved SuperSonics were relocated to the dusty fields of Oklahoma City in 2008 and formed into the OKC Thunder (or, as Seattleites often call them, the “Zombie Sonics”).
Without a professional basketball presence in Seattle, you may be struggling to find a team that captivates and maintains your interest in the NBA, especially with so much time before the playoffs even begin next April.
It can be hard to untangle your feelings in a league of so many rising newcomers and such exaggerated, eccentric personalities.
Between aging foreign veterans like Dirk Nowitzki, Manu Ginobili and Pau Gasol trailing off; Kobe Bryant retiring; Vince Carter losing his spectacular slam dunking prowess and even Kawhi Leonard and Chris Paul taken out with injuries, much of the focus of the NBA landscape has shifted towards a new generation of stars.
The 2017 NBA Draft was highly-touted with Lonzo Ball, Josh Jackson and others who looked like they could create instant impact for teams in desperate need of revitalization.
MVP oddsmakers still have LeBron James and Kevin Durant near the top of the list. Despite this, the sports betting website Bovada lists Giannis Antetokounmpo (22), Anthony Davis (24), Kyrie Irving (25), Kristaps Porzingis (22) and Karl-Anthony Towns (21) in the top 12 players most likely to take home the honor, with Antetokounmpo leading the way at +200 as of Oct. 24.
Post players like Denver’s Nikola Jokic and Detroit’s Andre Drummond are tearing it up in the paint. Jokic is averaging 17.7 points and 11.6 rebounds per game, and Drummond has snagged 15.1 rebounds per game while increasing his free throw shooting from 38 to 64 percent this season.
James is the only player over 30 in the top 15 of the NBA in points per game. The average age of those other 14 players: 25.8 years.
All that leads to a fun, fresh NBA where anything can happen. Anything except the Warriors losing the Finals in June. Just kidding. Kind of.
The pace of play has kept increasing year after year, with this year only continuing that trend. The lowly Brooklyn Nets have an average pace of 105.9 (measured in possessions per 48 minutes) which is faster than all but one game played by the “seven-seconds-or- less” Phoenix Suns of 2005, coached by Mike D’Antoni (who currently coaches the Houston Rockets).
The Rockets, led by James Harden, are attempting 45 three-pointers per game this year. Half of the NBA is shooting at least 29 threes a game. No team in league history had averaged 27 three-point attempts in
a single season until the 2014-15 season. The NBA has become a long-distance shooting league.
This, combined with so many stellar young players entering the league, makes it a great time to choose a team to get behind.
If you’re looking for a team to support, never fear: we have you covered. This burgeoning new NBA season has plenty to offer, and we’ll take you through our top eight choices of teams that could be fun to root for.
The buck stops in Milwaukee with the NBA’s newest superstar, Antetokounmpo. The man affectionately dubbed “the Greek Freak” is tearing up the league with 31.9 points per game. He’s given up a substantial 37 turnovers already, but with the ball in his hands so often, that comes with the territory.
General Manager Jon Horst just traded center Greg Monroe for Phoenix point guard Eric Bledsoe. Bledsoe fits them perfectly, as they are shifting toward playing without a true center most of the time, and Bledsoe has a chance to take some of the burden off of Antetokounmpo.
Quick ball movement is Head Coach Jason Kidd’s forte following his stellar career as an NBA point guard. The Bucks trail behind only the Warriors for the highest shooting percentage in the league this season.
The Rockets are developing a tenacious reputation when push comes to shove: in games decided by less than eight points, the Rockets have won all five times. Houston is holding opponents to the lowest number of offensive rebounds per game. A large part of that comes from the toughness brought by new acquisition P.J. Tucker.
Even to an untrained eye, Houston is exciting to watch, with 41.2 percent of their points coming from beyond the arc. Harden recently set a career high of 56 points in a single game against the Utah Jazz.
Chris Paul was traded from the Clippers to the Rockets this offseason, but you might not know it by watching the games. He’s been nursing a knee injury since playing in the opening game of the season.
There is also a feel-good aspect to supporting the city of Houston after the spirit it has shown in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
The blockbuster trade of the NBA offseason was Kyrie Irving. Despite giving up a lot to get him, the Celtics are at the top of the league with a 11-2 record. That’s after having lost their first two games and with Gordon Hayward’s horrific leg injury in the first five minutes of the first game.
The injury cut short this year’s biggest reunion, with Celtics Head Coach Brad Stevens who recruited Hayward to Butler, where the duo were one half-court shot away from stunning Duke to win the 2010 NCAA National Championship.
Stevens looks poised to become coach of the year, and youngsters Jayson Tatum and Jalen Brown are killing the early part of the season.
The Celtics have also held opponents to the lowest points per game in the league, at 94.6.
Gregg Popovich is the teacher we all want to have. His words on topics beyond basketball make him a legend, such as his speaking out against the recent immigration ban.
The mechanisms behind the scenes in San Antonio are a perfect Swiss watch; it works in perfect unison and is foreign.
The multiculturalism of the Spurs has long been known. With the likes of Ginobili (Argentina), Gasol (Spain), Tony Parker (France) and Patty Mills (Australia) coming from all around the globe, San Antonio has managed to exploit an undervalued foreign player market that has kept replenishing their roster with fresh talent.
Jimmy Butler made the switch from Chicago to Minnesota on draft day in one of the most underrated trades of this offseason. Butler hasn’t quite acclimated himself yet to his new surroundings; he capsized in a foot of water while wearing two life jackets during a Minnesotan canoe adventure, but he should be fun to watch once he embraces all the quirks of Prince’s hometown.
MVP candidate Towns is currently averaging more than 20 points and 10 rebounds per game, continuing his dominance on the block. He’s not just a big bruiser; Towns is making one three- pointer per game and his free throw percentage is up to 87 percent this year. Jeff Teague, averaging more assists per game this season than any season previously, is another new addition to the Timberwolves’ backcourt.
Also, Anthony Wiggins can rock cornrows pretty darn well.
There’s been an uncommon amount of petulance shown by Warriors, with both Kevin Durant and Steph Curry being ejected from the third game of the season in Memphis.
Curry threw his mouth guard at a referee, which kind of represents the mediocre 4-3 start that kicked off Golden State’s season. But Steve Kerr is one of the most in-tune coaches in the league, and has his team on a five-game winning streak.
They are currently leading the league in points per game and points per game differential (the difference between offensive points scored and points allowed on defense), and by wide margins in both categories, as well as blocks per game and assists per game.
If you like frontrunners and good basketball, this could be your team.
Philadelphia’s voracious defense disrupts their opponent’s offensive abilities by holding them to the second lowest shooting percentage in the league. Philly’s rebounding isn’t shabby either, as they lead the league in rebounds per game this season.
Adrian Wojnarowski, the ESPN insider with the best scoops, reported on Oct. 24 that rookie Markelle Fultz had fluid from his shoulder drained. That evening, Fultz’s agent Raymond Brothers came out with a statement to ESPN saying, “He had a cortisone shot on Oct. 5, which means fluid was put into his shoulder — not taken out.” These conflicting reports led to much consternation among loyal Sixers fans.
Fultz has had a rough start to his first season in Philadelphia, specifically with his shooting motion. However, that doesn’t stop most Sixers fans from their zealous devotion to “the Process,” the plan put in place by former General Manager Sam Hinkie intended to make them slowly progress over an extended timespan. Other top draft picks Ben Simmons (first in points per game by a rookie), Joel Embiid (great on Twitter) and Dario Saric are exciting young players that could be really good for years to come.
James is earning that MVP buzz. He’s the one driving the Cavs, but right now they are running on fumes.
Things are looking shaky so far in Cleveland for the 5-7 Cavaliers, this after trading away Kyrie Irving for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and some draft picks on Aug. 22. They also acquired veterans Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose, with the former reuniting with James after their days winning a pair of championships in Miami.
With a defense that appears lackluster and unfocused, it’s no wonder that James put out the meme of Arthur the aardvark’s clenched fist. The Cavs just need to get along with each other.
But LeBron’s still LeBron and he’ll transform himself Optimus Prime-style for the playoffs. He put up 57 points against the Wizards on Nov. 3. Yeah, he’s still got it.
30. Oklahoma City
Yes, many people around here consider them evil incarnate. However we can’t overlook the fact that they acquired both Paul George and Carmelo Anthony this offseason. A rough start doesn’t stop them from having a chance when push comes to shove in the playoffs. And Russell Westbrook crushes everyone.
By CJ PRIEBE, Sports Editor
Photo Courtesy of WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Photo: Kyrie Irving making his season debut with the Boston Celtics, Oct. 17, 2017.