How To Sound Like An NBA Expert: Players & Teams To Watch

In case you haven’t had time to keep up on the happenings surrounding professional basketball, let’s quickly get you up to speed with a simple guide:

  • LeBron is no longer in Miami
  • LeBron has last two Finals’ in a row
  • LeBron’s team is no longer the most exciting in the NBA

Now for a little more details, starting with who is the most exciting team to watch in the NBA, and it’s not even close …

Golden State

The Warriors might be the 2nd best team in history

Steph Curry and the Warriors are on track to win back-to-back championships for the first time in franchise history and are also at a clip to beat the 1996 Chicago Bulls’ all-time best regular season record of 72-10. 

Curry, who is also leading the NBA in scoring, is likely to shatter the regular season mark (which he already holds) for most three-pointers made. There are months when he makes more threes than some teams

But 72-10 is a prolific mark from Michael Jordan’s Bulls team. If the Warriors hope beat that record, they’ll have to stay healthy and have a little luck a long the way. But even if they do end up 73-9, they can’t be compared to a team led by Jordan and Pippen from an era that was exponentially more physical. 

2nd best team all-time still ain’t bad …

So, what’s going on in Cleveland?

New coach means new direction?

CLEVELAND, OH - JANUARY 27: Head coach Tyronn Lue listens to LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the first half against the Phoenix Suns at Quicken Loans Arena on January 27, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Head coach Tyronn Lue listens to LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the first half against the Phoenix Suns at Quicken Loans Arena on January 27, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

The Cavs might not even be the 2nd best team in the NBA right now. They are probably the first team in history to fire their coach in the middle of the season while in first place of the conference. They got rid of David Blatt at the end of January, giving the reigns to assistant Tyronn Lue. 

Rumor is the players (ahem, most notably LeBron) weren’t responding well to Blatt and that they actually listen to Lue. Either way, LeBron still needs help to bring a title to Cleveland. 

His main side-kicks, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, have been battling injuries all year. LeBron almost won a title without them last year (losing in 6 games to the Warriors). Imagine if all three are healthy and have a respectable coach. 

You know who isn’t healthy right now …

Blake Griffin 

The superstar could be traded after an in-house brawl

Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers dunks against the Utah Jazz at Staples Center on November 25, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

You know Griffin as they guy from the Kia commercials who could be the best dunker since Vince Carter. But things are looking bleak for the 26-year-old right now.

The former No. 1 pick is out with a broken hand and will miss 4-6 weeks after punching an equipment staff member. Rumors are now swirling the team is in turmoil and the Clippers have been in talks with the Nuggets about a possible trade — all this after Griffin has had a career year, posting more than 23 points, nearly 9 boards and 5 assists per game.

And they’re not the only team in town going through unrest …

What’s next for the Lakers?

Kobe Bryant is retiring after this season.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers want a superstar. Supposedly they’re willing to trade Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell — their last two top picks — to get one. So who would the star be?

Everyone keeps pointing to Kevin Durant.

The Thunders star is a free agent after this season and is still only 27-years-old. If OKC doesn’t make a deep run this season, especially if Russell Westbrook doesn’t dish the ball more, don’t be shocked to see Durant leave for a team capable of building a championship team in a post-Kobe-era … Although some think Durant wants to play for Golden State …

Meanwhile, Kobe’s mentor, Phil Jackson, has already started his own movement in NYC…

The Knicks’ next superstar is from where??

You can’t pronounce his name, but he’s the next big thing in the Big Apple.

Chicago Bulls v New York Knicks

New York isn’t buzzing about Carmelo Anthony any more. It’s all about Latvian 20-year-old Kristaps Porzingis. 

Fans booed the team when they selected him No. 4 overall in last summer’s draft. But now the move is making Phil Jackson look like a genius.

Averaging 14 points and 8 rebounds per game, the 7-foot-3 star is getting comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki. He is also fourth in jersey sales right now, only behind Curry, LeBron and Kobe — certainly someone who looks like the future of New York Knickerbockers basketball as Anthony will be 32 this year. 

Another aging superstar has already passed on the reigns, only his team actually has a shot at another title …

Tim Duncan is no longer the star in San Antonio

But the Spurs might be the only team that can challenge Golden State.

Kawhi Leonard #21 and LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs watch a pass go out of bounds with Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks at BMO Harris Bradley Center on January 4, 2016 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Kawhi Leonard #21 and LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs watch a pass go out of bounds with Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks at BMO Harris Bradley Center on January 4, 2016 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The Spurs, good grief, can they ever not fail?

Duncan is still great as a role player, but this is now Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge’s team. 

Both All-Stars this year, Leonard has blossomed into one of the best players in the NBA, averaging 20-6 a night, while Aldridge pitches in around 17-9 every game. 

With those two guys leading the way, San Antonio could match their all-time franchise record for most wins in a season.

But, finally, there are some teams choosing not to win … losing on purpose…

Let the tanking begin

Teams are competing for the No. 1 draft pick by not competing

Mississippi State v LSU

The Philadelphia 76ers have been the laughing stock of the NBA, tanking for years with nothing to show for it — drafting players so young they’re likely still years away from full maturation (Jahlil Okafor, Nerlens Noel) or health (Joel Embiid).

Still if you land the right top pick, it only takes one to set yourself up for success for a decade (Tim Duncan, Michael Jordan, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, etc.)

So who’s everyone gunning for this summer? LSU power forward Ben Simmons. 

The Australian is still a teenager, but one who can do it all: shoot, dunk, pass, rebound and run the open floor. He’s a kid who could be the best prospect in years.

So who’s vying to get him?

As of Feb. 8, there are really only two teams who appear to be losing on purpose: the 11-42 Lakers, and the 8-win 76ers.

Recap

So there ya have it. 

  • Ben Simmons is the best thing since sliced bread and could be in Philly or LA by August.
  • The Spurs might have their all-time best team with Tim Duncan as a role player.
  • A kid from Latvia might be the Knicks’ most important star since Patrick Ewing.
  • The Lakers will likely make a run for Kevin Durant after Kobe retires. 
  • Blake Griffin punched a guy and might be traded.
  • Cleveland needs to find a coach and get healthy.
  • And the Warriors could beat the ’96 Bulls’ all-time record of 72-wins in one season.

There, you’re an expert. You’re welcome.


Josh Helmuth is the editor of Crave Sports. Follow him on Twitter or like the channel on Facebook

Photo: Getty