Is this season the deepest the NBA has ever been? For a good part of the last decade, the Western Conference has consistently been the better conference, and you had to win a couple games above .500 for a fighting chance of the playoffs. In the East, teams usually sneak in with a 7th or 8th seed with a subpar record.
This year marks our first ‘regular’ season, after the fiasco that was the training camp-less, condensed scheduled, and decently entertaining lockout season. The landscape has completely changed since then.
As it is right now, there are 12 teams in the Western Conference fighting for a playoff spot. The 13th team in the West—the Nash-less Phoenix Suns—only recently ended a 4 game winning streak. The 12th team in the West—the Dallas Mavericks, are three games below .500, but have also been playing without Dirk for the whole season thus far.
We head out to the East, where the conference is not as deep, but we still have 10 teams contending for the eight playoff spots. Two of these teams are missing their star players. Former MVP Derrick Rose, and All-Star center Andrew Bynum. Pacers have been missing Danny Granger, and Amar’e Stoudemire has the potential turn Knicks into a truly formidable squad if he can find a way to fit in upon his return. It’s a deep league.
The bottom two teams in the West are not exactly horrible. DeMarcus Cousins is still one of the most intriguing young talents in the NBA. A complete mess, but an exceptional talent most teams would take a gamble on if the price was right. They have another player in Tyreke Evans, who is an All-Star talent if he can just one day get it together. They have plenty of decently good young talent to round out the rest of the roster (Jimmer Fredette anyone?).
The worst team in the West—the Hornets, may be one of the best teams in the future. They have been playing most of their games with their two most valuable players. Eric Gordon is a top 5 shooting guard in the NBA when healthy, and the same thing will be said about Anthony Davis in a few seasons. Ryan Anderson, Greivis Vasquez, hell maybe Robin Lopez are all playoff quality NBA players. Whatever lottery pick they end up getting will probably be valuable to them in the future. If I had to pick one rebuilding team that was following the ‘OKC Model,’ the Hornets may be well ahead of the pack.
In the East, Toronto leads the pack of shitty teams, but this may be the best the Raptors have been in their post-Bosh era. Kyle Lowry is one of the top point guards in the league when healthy. DeMar DeRozan is having the best season of his young career, and Jonas Valanciunas has shown great flashes of potential.
The Bobcats are a much better team that the complete failure that was last season. Kidd-Gilchrist will be a great player in this league, Kemba Walker actually looks like an NBA player on the court, and then they have a few guys on the roster who are fun to think about but probably won’t amount to anything significant in their NBA careers.
The Pistons—they have the foundation for the next great twin towers with Monroe and Drummond, Kyle Singler could be a phenomenal role player, and even though Brandon Knight is one of the worst point guards in the NBA, a statline of 15-4-5 (P-R-A), with percentages of 41-43-77 (FG-3P-FT) is still impressive, a true testament to how talent-rich this league has gotten.
The Cavaliers are still one of the worst teams in the league, but it is very clear that that won’t last long, as Kyrie Irving has proved he is good enough to be one of the true superstars in the league. They also have Sideshow Bob who is playing amazing this season, and they may be able to get some nice young talent to fit alongside Uncle Drew if Dan Gilbert decides to trade Varejao.
And now we are left with the absolute ‘worst’ team in the NBA.
The sad thing about the Wizards is that even if John Wall was on the team, they might still be the worst team in the NBA. Of each rebuilding team’s top franchise piece, Wall could be the worst of them all. The poor guy does suffer from playing with some of the most poorly constructed teams in recent history, but that is not an acceptable excuse for a number one pick.
Is this the most talented the NBA has ever been? A league where over two thirds of the teams are in playoff contention, and where each struggling team has at least one decently good star talent (maybe except the Wizards) seem to agree.
A deep league is great, but it can hurt some of our younger stars. Kevin Love is the lead victim of such a deep league. Not that long ago, the Oklahoma City Thunder made the playoffs as an eighth seed… with a 50-win season. Is this Timberwolves team a playoff team? It’s hard to tell in 2013.
And you wonder why players join superteams. In a world where the quality and quantity of young basketball players is ever increasing, and a league where the number of teams and roster sizes stay constant, it is only a matter of time until the amount of star talent in the NBA catches up to its size. I think we are already seeing this at the point guard position.
Could an expansion of the league and adding an extra playoff spot (in some sort of wildcard play-in format) be in order? Maybe we can develop the D-League more? It seems like a reason why the MLB has such a strong minor league system is because the game has been around for so long.
Ok now I’m just talking out of my ass, and this article is more mindless Jordan babble than an attempt at sports journalism, but the NBA is now incredibly deep, and guys like Kevin Love and in the future, Anthony Davis are getting screwed because the top teams are too loaded, and even a decently constructed team around one possible superstar is not enough.