NBA '17-18 Season Set To Tip Following Offseason Of Stars Changing Teams
The '17-18 NBA season tips off tonight following one of the "sauciest" offseasons in its history, which had the "feel of a coordinated leaguewide crusade," according to Marc Stein of the N.Y. TIMES. The Rockets and Thunder, "determined to close the gap with the runaway Warriors in the Western Conference, swung as big as they could in retooling their rosters." The "frenzy those teams helped incite ultimately led the marquee quintet" of Chris Paul, Jimmy Butler, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony and Kyrie Irving to new teams. The "staggering amount of star player movement alone would lead one to conclude that the race to the Larry O’Brien championship trophy must be completely wide open." However, "nothing has changed" regarding the talent on the Warriors' roster (N.Y. TIMES, 10/16). BLEACHER REPORT's Beck & Abrams wrote the NBA offseason "played out like a wicked game of musical chairs." Eight recent All-Stars "changed teams between June 22 and Sept. 25 -- an unprecedented and mind-blowing talent migration." It is as if the "basketball gods, angered by a preposterous talent imbalance, shook the NBA like a giant snow globe and reordered the landscape, hoping a new rival might emerge to challenge" the Warriors (BLEACHERREPORT.com, 10/16). NBA.com's David Aldridge wrote the Warriors are "still the prohibitive favorites to repeat this season, next season and into the foreseeable future." But it was "good to see a good chunk of the Western Conference" not "fold before the first card is dealt." That fact alone is "incredibly important." The Warriors are "still the best team in the West, without question." Aldridge: "But if teams don’t even try to get better, or spend money to compete, the whole rationale for playing fades away" (NBA.com, 10/16).
DURANT LEADS THE WAY: SI.com's Andrew Sharp wrote teams "all over the NBA watched the Warriors in the Finals and realized that they would have to 'up their risk-profile' to compete, but that was only half the equation." Kevin Durant's decision to sign with the Warriors last offseason was "so bold, and so effective, it freed superstars to try anything." Paul "forced his way" to the Rockets, while George "forced his way out" of the Pacers organization with his agent "openly pining for the Lakers." Irving watched the Warriors in the Finals, "heard LeBron rumors, and demanded a trade." All of them were "making career decisions that would have seemed insane even two years ago, but they were mostly insulated from skepticism this summer." After Durant's decision, "nothing feels that crazy." That move seems to have "ushered in an era that's rendered all NBA alliances more fluid than ever." For teams like the Celtics and for stars like Irving, "every move on the board is now in play." Sharp wrote it does seem "unhealthy for the NBA if players" like George, Butler or Pelicans C Anthony Davis "can't make it halfway through contract extensions before their incumbent teams are overwhelmed with trade rumors." This summer's "anarchy should be part of the NBA's business model." However, what is "great about the Warriors is that they haven't only changed the calculus for teams and superstars." Sharp: "Fans are adapting, too" (SI.com, 10/16).
CRUISE CONTROL: THE ATHLETIC's Phil Taylor wrote this offseason was "merely the wildest, most surprising, drama-filled summer the league has ever had, a mix of the frivolous and the serious, both petty and political." It was the "equivalent of a good, trashy summer novel, such a basketball soap opera that it’s fair to wonder whether the actual games will be a letdown in comparison." The NBA's regular season has "become little more than a formality ... with most of the games so meaningless that the league had to institute rules to keep the good teams from voluntarily resting their stars and the bad teams from tanking for better lottery odds." Watching the Cavaliers and Celtics "cruise toward a seemingly inevitable meeting" in the Eastern Conference Finals "won’t be nearly as fun as it was to monitor the offseason divorce of James and Irving" (THEATHLETIC.com, 10/16).
SUPERTEAMS BAD? Hornets Owner Michael Jordan decried the rise of superteams in the NBA, saying there are going to be "one or two teams that are going to be great, and another 28 teams that are going to be garbage." He said those teams are "going to have a tough time surviving in the business environment." Jordan: "You're starting to see a little bit of it now, where the stars are starting to gang up and go one team. I think it's going to hurt the overall aspect of the league from a competitive standpoint" (CIGAR AFICIONADO, 11-12/ '17 issue). The AP's Brian Mahoney writes NBA Commissioner Adam Silver "believes great teams are good for business," the way Jordan's Bulls were in the '90s and the way Warriors and Cavaliers are now. He said that "any of them can be beaten, too." Silver: "I'm confident that given some of the moves that our teams made in the offseason that there's no doubt there are multiple teams gunning for the Warriors and for that matter gunning for the Cavaliers this season as well" (AP, 10/17). Silver specifically addressed Jordan's comments by saying, "We should celebrate excellence. ... It raises the bar for all teams in the league and it is something that rather than teams sitting around and saying, 'We can't possibly compete against the Golden State Warriors,' you'd like to think that the collection of the very best players in the world on the 29 other teams would just have that team in their sight." Silver noted Jordan serves as the owners' Labor Relations Committee Chair. Silver said, "It's just like changes in the draft lottery. We're always looking ... and trying to find ways to create the best possible competition." He added, "Over time, if we need to make adjustments to our system, we'll look" ("Mike & Mike," ESPN Radio, 10/16).