The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / The State of the Association Part 3

The State of the Association Part 3

Part 3

The NBA Draft has come and gone and a whole new class of future stars have now joined the ranks of the best in the world. Over the last three draft classes I’ve become more and more excited about the future of the association. We’ve really seen some brilliant young players emerge and I can’t help but think that I’m watching the future of the NBA. While I’ll never get tired of watching players like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, or Stephen Curry, it’s always cool to see some fresh new faces and to follow their careers. For some reason I find the idea of getting to watch a player’s career from start to finish fulfilling. Getting to see the develop, overcome obstacles, and evolve their games so they can compete for championships.

Deandre Ayton was taken No. 1 Overall by the Phoenix Suns in this year’s draft. That didn’t surprise anyone though. Almost everyone thought he was going to be taken at that spot for months. Marvin Bagley III went second to the Sacramento Kings and European star Luka Doncic went third to the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks then traded him to the Dallas Mavericks. That’s something you see in the NBA draft that you don’t see in places like the NFL. There are tons of draft night trades that can make the whole process confusing. No sooner has a guy put on his new team’s hat, then he’s traded.

I think it’s pretty clear that the Denver Nuggets, Phoenix Suns, and the Dallas Mavericks have the best incoming talent classes. The Nuggets and Mavericks both have four rookies and multiple college standouts. The Mavericks ended up with Doncic, but also added two-time National Champion Jalen Brunson, Ray Spalding, and Kostas Antetokounmpo. You may be familiar with his brother Giannis. The Nuggets landed the best player in the draft, Michael Porter Jr., at the fourteenth spot. That’s an incredible steal for them and one that’ll pay off big time. They also added Justin Jackson from the University of Maryland. The Suns got Ayton and then traded with the Philadelphia 76ers for Mikal Bridges, giving them two of the top ten selections in the draft.

One player who I loved in college that I don’t think got enough credit is Miles Bridges from Michigan St. He’s 6-7, 230 lbs and shoots three pointers with the silky smooth shot of a guard. We’ve seen the NBA transition to players who are bigger and more athletic but can still handle the ball, like Ben Simmons or Porter Jr., and Bridges falls in that category. But unlike Simmons he has a proven, quality three point shot. I think he’ll fit in great at the NBA level.

Not everyone heard their name called during the draft. There are still a few high quality undrafted free agents that teams are moving to scoop up quickly. The most notable undrafted players are North Carolina’s Joel Berry II, Notre Dame’s Matt Farrell, Arizona’s Allonzo Trier, Duke’s Trevon Duval, Xavier’s Trevon Bluiett (I love that name), Kansas’ Malik Newman, and Purdue’s Isaac Haas. If you’ve watched college basketball over the last few years these guys are household names. There have been plenty of recent undrafted players who have turned into success stories in the NBA like Quinn Cook, Yogi Ferrell, Bryn Forbes, and Robert Covington. Hopefully things work out for this class of undrafteds in the NBA.

Another name we didn’t hear called was LiAngelo Ball. If you’ve had enough talk about him and his family, skip this paragraph. It’s okay, I understand. No one should be surprised Ball wasn’t taken. Before he was arrested for shoplifting in China he was going to play for UCLA, but he was going to be a bench player. Let me say that again: BENCH PLAYER. Instead his father pulled him from the school and sent him and his younger brother to play professional ball in Lithuania. The UCLA team he was going to play for sparingly was bounced from the NCAA tournament in the First Four by St. Bonaventure. St. Bonaventure was one of the colleges I looked at when I was deciding where to go after high school, it’s small. I’ve been to larger high schools. Anyways, Ball will probably be signed to a summer team by someone, just not the Los Angeles Lakers who already turned him away.

The 2017 NBA Draft yielded day one stars like Dennis Smith Jr, Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum, Kyle Kuzma, and Lauri Markkanen. There were others too who weren’t stars right out of the gate but can certainly get there. We really haven’t seen a healthy Markelle Fultz yet and I like Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart in Los Angeles. That crew of Ball, Hart, and Kuzma is a riot. I hope they keep that group together because it’s just fun to watch them play together and then listen to them roast each other off of the court. Personally I really like Jordan Bell, who was drafted in the second round by the Golden State Warriors. He’s a defensive specialist that fits the team so well and should have a long career in the NBA.

And of course the 2016 NBA Draft was led by the first three draft picks Simmons, Brandon Ingram, and Jaylen Brown. That class doesn’t have nearly as much depth as the 2017 group, but it still produced some names that will be relevant for a long time. Jamal Murray and Buddy Hield have also been noteworthy.

Despite all of these young names listed, there’s something I want to point out. None of them have made an All-Star game. Which is alright, it takes time for players to adjust to the NBA and reach the final stages of their development. Carmelo Anthony wasn’t an All-Star until his fourth year. It took Dwight Howard and Karl-Anthony Towns three years even though everyone already knew they were stars.

Speaking of Howard, he was traded from the Charlotte Hornets to the Brooklyn Nets recently. Howard and his new team are now working towards a buyout that will make the big man a free agent. While popular opinion has soured on Howard over the last few years, Superman flashed his cape several times in Charlotte last year.

In 2018 Howard played in 81 regular season games, the most since his 2009-10 campaign when he played in all 82 games. He recorded 16.6 points per game, the most since his last All-Star campaign in 2013 when he had 18.3. His free throw percentage (.574) was the best since 2010 (.596). Although those numbers aren’t exactly ones he should be bragging about.

In terms of season totals, Howard had 1,347 points this year. That is also his best mark since the 2010 season (1,784 points), when he claimed .531 MVP award shares. He finished second in the race, losing to a young point guard names Derrick Rose. You may have heard of him, although probably not recently. He’s been MIA for a while. Howard also had 1,012 total rebounds this year. The last time he has more was, you guessed it, 2010 when he had 1,098. He added 131 blocks which are his most since 2012 (186 blocks). He has more left in the tank than people think. Some team will pay big money for him in free agency.

Another story I found interesting from the last few says was something Dwyane Wade said. He told Joe Weber of Bloomberg that he wants to become part of an ownership group. That’s not surprising, plenty of retired NBA players are involved in owning teams and Wade is one of the smartest, savviest players in the league. But the team he wants really surprised me. “Seattle. I want Seattle’s team, the Sonics, to come back”. I’m on board. The return of the Sonics would be great for the NBA and would finally satiate all of the calls for the team’s resurrection. Of course, Wade’s waiting to make his move until he retires.

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