By Eric Vallen
This season, the NBA celebrates its 75th anniversary, which the players, former players, managers, and coaches of the league celebrated by releasing a list of their top 75 NBA players of all time. The list received copious praise from players and coaches, yet to the average fan, has unreputable traits. Several players from the late 1960s and early 70s were given places on the list, places that several hundreds of thousands of fans deemed ill spent. However, many fans lack knowledge of players such as Billy Cunningham, Sam Jones, and Bob Pettit, especially the contexts in which they played, and the impact that they actually had on the game. Billy Cunningham may have only averaged 20+ points per game four times, but he was a key part of a 1967 Philadelphia 76er championship. Sam Jones was a role player, but he was the best one on a Celtics team that won 10 championships during his tenure there, with a team that had eight Hall Of Fame players. Lastly, for Bob, although many have deemed his ancient stats irrelevant, he averaged 31.6 points in a league without a three point line, or any form of fast paced play. Put in context, each was the greatest of their time.
On the topic of greatest of their time, currently the Warriors, Jazz, Knicks, Heat, Wizards, and Bulls are the greatest of our time. All of the aforementioned teams are currently 5-1, the leaders of their respective conferences. Surprisingly, four of the top 6 teams in the league so far have been eastern conference teams, deviating from the trend of the last 20 years of a league dominated by the western conference. The Knicks and Heat are bouncing back from first round playoff losses, and are dominating the league under revamped teams. Knicks additions Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker have bolstered the team’s backcourt, providing a wave of extra firepower to the offense. The Heat signed star point guard Kyle Lowry, and role players P.J. Tucker and Markieff Morris, all of whom are defensive minded players, resulting in Miami’s number one ranked defense. As for the Wizards and Bulls, both had momentous offseasons, as Washington traded away star point guard Russell Westbrook, as Chicago signed Demar Derozan, Lonzo Ball, and league wide fan favorite Alex Caruso. The Jazz are currently championship favorites, having an elite defensive core, while our hometown Warriors are dark horse contenders for this year’s finals.
Several teams have underperformed so far this season, most notably the Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks. Both teams made finals appearances last season, yet are starting off the season 2-3 and 3-4 respectively. Additionally, the Brooklyn Nets, who are perennial finals favorites, have started off 4-3. Many fans blame these slumps on new NBA rules, which discourage offensive players from making non-basketball moves. In previous seasons, non-basketball moves were the source of a vast portion of foul calls, resulting in more free throws per player. However, the new rule has lessened that total, and point totals have fallen. Many stars around the league who relied on non basketball moves, such as James Harden, Damian Lillard, and Trae Young, have all seen drops in their averages due to the new rules.
On the flip side, Stephen Curry leads all scorers with 28.7 points per game, while Andrew Wiggins, Jordan Poole, and Damion Jones are all having breakout seasons. With a potential return from Klay Thompson following the All-Star break, the Warriors may be back to championship form once the playoffs come. Yet, although the Warriors are dominating to begin the season, the road may still be tough. The Phoenix Suns are fresh off a finals appearance, the LA Lakers revamped their roster, and the Timberwolves, Grizzlies, Clippers, Mavericks, Nuggets, and Jazz are all top seed contenders in the western conference. Several teams have had hot starts, but perennial contenders are likely to recover from their rule-induced slumps, and the standings will tighten in the weeks to come.