They are what makes the NBA the greatest reality show in the world.
From whacky characters to sticky situations, the NBA produces content that leaves fans on their seat, and not only with it’s on-court play.
At Calling Bank, we decided to get together and talk about our favourite storylines from the 2019-20 season so far.
Harry Rutner – Purple, Gold & We the North!
While I love that Derrick Rose is healthy and Small Ball is working in Houston, there are two storylines that I have loved so far this season:
The Western Conference Leading Lakers and the Second seeded Raptors
I’ll start with my boys in the Purple and Gold:
For 6 long seasons the Lakers have been in lottery obscurity, missing playoffs year after year, striking out on free agents and generally being quite trash (sorry Steve Blake and Tarik Black).
Then in 2018, we got Lebron and I got excited. Maybe, just maybe the Lakers will make a run. Maybe we are back.
But we didn’t and we were not back. Even with LeBron, Lakers didn’t even make playoff last season.
Then we got AD and I thought: Okay, no more mucking around, we are finally making a run.
And finally, that is exactly what happened this season.
Lakers are top seed in the West with a juicy 47-13, their offense is clicking as is their defence and showtime is back.
Caruso is still the Goat, AD and LeBron seem to complement each other quite well and the bench seems to be putting in an effort (every now and then).
They may not win the title, heck they may not even get out of the West but for a fan who has cried every playoff season since 2013 (let’s be real, since 2011), it is one of my favourite story lines of the season so far that the Lakers are good again (finally).
The other feel good story is that of the Raptors.
Last year they did the near impossible and beat the Warriors dynasty behind Kawhi “the Claw” Leonard.
But then they lost Kawhi, and to a lesser degree Danny Green, so people counted them out.
“Maybe they’ll get that eight seed in the East, maybe they’ll push for the second round, if they are lucky” is what the sceptics said. But then we realised that they’re still a really good team.
Wait a minute… the Raptors are 43-18, second seed in the East, second in defensive ranking, 3rd in net rating, they went on a 15 game win streak, and have only lost four of their last 22 games.
The Raptors came to play.
This is when we remember that they still had all the pieces pretty much from last season and a fantastic front office team. The combination of Masai Ujiri and Nick Nurse continue to find hidden gems in Terence Davis and Chris Boucher. Pascal Siakam keeps on improving and made a solid case for most improved for the second year in a row, Lowry, when healthy, is the floor general that is keeping it all together with solid assistance from VanVleet. OG has been great in his return from injury and Ibaka and Norman Powell (when healthy) have been big contributors off the bench. Not to mention that Marc Gasol has been injured most of the season and in general the Raptors have struggled with injuries thus far.
Despite losing Kawhi and Green, despite their injuries and despite the haters, the Raptors look like a team that could make a splash in the post season and I love that.
Tomas Kuru – Oklahoma City Thunder post-Westbrook
This has to be one of the biggest surprises of the league this year. After Paul George and Russel Westbrook moved on from Oklahoma in July last year, the media scrambled to make sense of it all. Fifteen first round picks? Chris Paul on a team whose average age is 10 years younger than him?
Early predictions saw Oklahoma with a negative win record, no chance at a playoff spot and an early exit for veteran Chris Paul to greener pastures.
During the first few weeks of the season, the predictions seemed accurate. Oklahoma’s 7-11 record before December was enough to convince the doubters but looking closer at the numbers it would have been easy to predict the sudden turn around. Out of the 11 losses, 7 of those were within a 5 point difference. The talent was there, but the chemistry and confidence to finish games was not.
That all changed in December. Suddenly, Oklahoma was no longer losing close games, they were winning. Chris Paul turned back the clock and went back to basics. With no other star in sight, Paul is free to take over in the fourth quarter. His experience and expertise has left opponents shocked: this was a Chris Paul we hadn’t seen since the golden age of the Clippers.
Chris Paul isn’t the only one who has turned it up to 11 for the Thunder, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has improved massively since last season on both ends of the floor. Gilgeous-Alexander is scoring 19.2 points per game and is number four in blocks by guards since January.
Rounding off their deadly backcourt is Dennis Schröder, who has improved even more than he did last year. Now fully committed to the sixth man position, Dennis Schröder’s contribution to the Thunder is invaluable. Schröder tops the league in sixth man scoring, with the best percentages of his career.
The frontcourt has been given a much needed boot as well. The injury bug has had Gallinari under everyone’s radar for years. Despite his incredible array of talents, teams don’t want to risk a long term injury on his contract. But Presti and Donovan’s faith has paid off, and Gallinari’s value in stretching the floor is paying off in spades.
Meanwhile, Adams continues to be a solid and unshakeable foundation, disrupting plays and anchoring the offence; many of Chris Paul and SGA’s shots usually follow a heavy Adam’s screen.
Even before the trade deadline, Oklahoma was expected to trade at least another one of it’s big contracts, such as Adams or Gallinari. The deadline passed and still the Thunder keep winning games. Any team who face Oklahoma in the playoffs will have to exercise caution, because they may find themselves on the wrong end of 7 games.
Tom Ballhausen – NBA Next Gen
The NBA this season has seen a rise in the next generation of superstars that will dominate the game for years to come.
Year in and year out we hear the same names when discussing who we think is the best in the league.
LeBron, Durant, Kawhi and Davis (just to name a few).
But this year we have witnessed the birth of the league’s next wave of superstars.
First time All-Stars in Luka, Trae Young, Jayson Tatum, Pascal Siakam, Bam Adebayo, Brandon Ingram, Donovan Mitchell and Devin Booker are joined by rookies that already look to be in complete control every time they step on the floor in Ja Morant and Zion.
Each player has had their moment in the sun so far, and we will continue to see that as the season progresses and playoff moments test the legitimacy of their games.
The NBA is in safe hands, arguably safer hands than it has ever been in, and we as NBA fans should be absolutely pumped for the years to come.