Full Court Digress: Your Official 2019-2020 NBA Season Preview

As we crack the seal of a new NBA Season, Atticus Grinch takes a look at the season's hottest talking points.
By    October 23, 2019

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Mike Dupar ain’t playing the bench.

As the world continues to teeter on the precipice of environmental catastrophe and geopolitical annihilation we turn our weary eyes to the lone bastion of entertainment that maybe all decent folk can agree upon- a sports league which champions teamwork, diversity, civil liberties, workplace autonomy and of course kowtowing to our capitalist overlords.  Welcome to the 2019-2020 NBA Season!

It was all good just a week ago. Back then our eternal salvation in Zion seemed inevitable. Back then Trump had bent over for one less evil dictator. Back then China’s torture of Muslim Uighurs and their war on Democracy was unknown to NBA Twitter, the Internet’s Most Woke Community. But on the eve of what was promised to be the most competitive and entertaining season since the time when LeBron Zedong’s PR blunders were purely domestic, one can’t help but feel like this season might just be another grainy Ben Simmons three-pointer video masquerading as a sign of good things to come.

Just when I began to think that there may be a God and that maybe we are being punished, I turn back to one sobering fact, a fact that reassures me that we are capable of change, that this NBA Season is not yet another false promise and that God is indeed dead: the fact that Diet Drew Carey and the Toronto Raptors won an NBA Championship.

The Raptors winning an NBA Championship in and of itself is not proof of the self-determination of mankind, no, rather it is the fact that a city whose major global export is Drake won an NBA Championship. This moral contradiction is what ultimately assures me that there is no order to our universe and no God and this is why I still hold out hope for this NBA Season and the future of humanity. More so for the former but who’s with me?

Parity is the one large reason why I’m hedging against eternal sadness. It is hard to recall a time when there was more talent and talent distribution in the league. Long defunct and middling franchises like Milwaukee, the Clippers and Denver are now three of the odds-on favorites to win the NBA Championship and largely due to roster depth/construction and chemistry. Despite being partly due to unlucky injuries, the death of the super-team Warriors has potentially ushered in an era of competition that will hopefully define the sport for years to come. 

Like our country, the NBA is at an inflection point. The ideals that prevail in 2020 have the potential to define far more than the next decade. In the NBA the wealth of talent has been redistributed for the 2020 season. The question is whether or not this redistribution will be merely a footnote in history that is looked back upon with teary-eyed nostalgia, or a philosophical rejection of the consolidation of power that defined the SuperPAC…. Uh I mean the LeBron Zedong prime era. 

Only time will tell but without further adieu and too many political analogies, I present a few things to look forward to this season.

Reunited and it Feels So Good

Narc-ass Chris Paul has finally been banished by way of a royal decree from Emperor Morey and in his place comes the half enigma/half Übermensch/half piranha of a man known as Russell Westbrook.  Yes, he is comprised of three halves. 

At first blush Westbrook’s inability to move off-ball or to not brick threes make this somewhat of an odd fit but despite these inadequacies, I believe that Houston can succeed by way of the proficiency of their Chuck-and-Fuck system. Until they reach the playoffs that is.

We’ve seen it too many times; James Harden is a flaccid playoff performer. Remember when we all thought he’d been roofied?

If Harden couldn’t muster the strength to push past an injured Warriors team last year at home then he never will. Sure, there is some wild scenario where Harden and Westbrook coalesce into some Supernova of will power and jiggy step-back wizardry the world has yet to see but I’m putting my money on these two imploding once the regular season honeymoon comes to an end.  Remember when Harden and Paul first teamed up and Paul said this about Harden, He likes french fries just as much as I do, first and foremost.”

Yeah, these guys ain’t winning shit but the honeymoon will be legendary.

South Beach Jimmy and the Lil Scrappy All Stars

Take a cast of misfit toys, Dion Waiters and a handful of hungry young players and indoctrinate them in the ways of a warmongering bastard and the catalog of Lil Scrappy and you have this year’s Miami Heat. We have yet to begin the season and Waiters has already lost his mind, Tyler Herro has set the pre-season ablaze and Jimmy “Bastard Buckets” Butler looks like an amused sadist who has finally found his home.

I love the Heat on and off the court this year. Butler will finally give an already competent team that someone to lean on when buckets are hard to find. The versatility of their roster remains tantalizing but even more so with the removal of Whiteside and Spoelstra’s newfound fondness of playing Winslow at the point.

This team already has all the makings of a hilariously fun league pass staple but then there is also this- A source close to me has described Tyler Herro’s father as Wisconsin Lavar Ball. Upon review of what I believe to be Chris Herro’s twitter he does appear to refer to his testicles and/or dick as “tater-tots” or “taters”. This is going to be one hell of a season for the Heat.

Marc Gasol’s Hangover

I present without comment, Marc Gasol’s Summer of Parades:

Saturday, January 4th

This is the date that the New Orleans Pelicans and the Sacramento Kings play each other for the first time. File that as a sentence I never thought I’d write without sarcasm.  By this time Zion should be back from his injury and ready to aid in the battle for the title of fastest team in the league. I expect both of these Western Playoff hopefuls to lead the league in pace and pure joy. Zion will lead the league in Almond Joys.

While the Hawks are also contenders to run and gun with the best of them, their lack of a veteran presence (outside of Vince Carter) will make their approach slightly less palatable than that of the Kings and Pels.

While Zion’s injury has put a damper on the start of the season it will afford the Pels the luxury of figuring out for themselves just exactly what the fuck Brandon Ingram is capable of. I like Ingram but I’m concerned that he’ll never find a system or a fit that suits him. If that is ultimately the case I’ll blame him for his inability to adapt but for now he still deserves the benefit of the doubt- see D’Angelo Russell and what leaving the Lakers did for his career. If Ingram can prove himself to be the focal point of the offense while Zion is out this team very well could claw their way to the 8-seed.

* I wrote this prior to Tuesday’s game but Ingram looks like he’s off to a good start

As for the Kings, I said some disparaging things about them last year and suggested that they were unworthy of discussing until they proved themselves competent. Well that time has come. De’Aaron Fox, Marvin Bagley, Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic comprise the most complete and entertaining young core in the league-for the time being.  With some competent help from their veterans the Kings could also find themselves pushing for the 8th-seed. Either way, both of these teams will be appointment viewing for me throughout the season and I’d advise of you the same.

Brooklyn’s Finest?

Last year the Nets were my favorite team to watch outside of my beloved Bucks. The Nets featured a scrappy collection of young bastards who could’ve pushed the Sixers to 6 games if a few plays had broken differently. Caris LaVert vaulted himself to the precipice of stardom despite a terrifying injury and Spencer Dinwiddie continued his candidacy for fan favorite of the league.

Then the Nets did what any franchise would do if given the chance, they signed the Flat-Earthers Illuminati Chakra Liberation Movement. Kyrie and Durant have to be two of the most insufferable stoners to ever walk the earth, which is really saying something. While I’m rooting for Durant’s full recovery and enjoy watching both him and Kyrie play basketball, I can’t recall a quicker downgrade in my personal hierarchy over one offseason than this Nets team.

Regardless of your feelings about Kyrie, this year should be interesting for the Nets. Either Kyrie is going to continue to be who he is in the public eye or he is going to continue to be who he is but behind closed doors. Either way this could go awry at any moment. I’m counting on it and will be ready when it happens. The Nets may have the organizational fortitude to withstand his insanity but to date no one else has so don’t bet the farm. If only Jared Dudley were still here to play peacekeeper.

The Grizzle Dance

This is my league pass darling of the year. They’ll suck from a wins perspective but just look at the chemistry between Ja and Jaron already!

Twin Peaks

Just a year ago the NBA intelligentsia were screaming from the mountaintops that the big man was dead. Years earlier the Warriors had ushered in an era of small ball that would be universally emulated and the big man would face an extinction event. With my regards to Greg Monroe this may have been a bit overstated, as the NBA now seems to believe in the big once again.

Atop the Eastern Conference you’ll find four big honking sasquatches who will play large roles in deciding who represents the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals. Two of which are the Bucks’ Lopez brothers, Sideshow Bob and Splash Mountain. The other two are Philly’s Al Horford and Joel Embiid.

The Sixers decision to go out and sign Horford appears to be three-fold; take one of your competitors best players, provide positional cover for your sometimes chubby star center and to acquire a player who has had some semblance of success against your Conference’s best player. Not a bad idea if you’re the Sixers.

The Bucks seemingly countered this with the addition of Robin Lopez, a goon and a perennial Never Scared Enforcer (shout outs Bone Crusher) who excels in every facet of the game his brother doesn’t. 

At first blush the Robin Lopez signing smelled of the type of small market PR stunt that the Herb Kohl Bucks would’ve lapped up but with respect to Robin I’m holding my tongue on the experiment until I see how Bud chooses to utilize him. If him and his brother see the court together with any notable frequency outside of their matchups with Philly and few other select opponent lineups I’ll be irritated. 

With that said, I’ll be paying extra special attention to how/if these two tandems matchup in their regular season duels as it could very well define how the Bucks and Sixers decide to matchup when it really counts.

Then there are the Knicks. After failing to sign a marquee free agent the Knicks went out and cornered the market on disgruntled motherfuckers by signing Taj Gibson, Marcus Morris, Bobby “Crazy Eyed Killah” Portis and Julius Randle. From a basketball standpoint this is transcendent malpractice (which is really saying something for the Knicks) but off the NBA court this quartet could establish itself as a New York City street basketball legends.


Coaches Challenges

The notion of sports precipitating or even mirroring the values of a culture at a moment in history is something that I’ve thought about more and more as of late and as our society trains its attention to litigating the past and rectifying our mistakes (often for good reason), so too have our sports. 

This year the NBA is allowing coaches challenges for the first time in league history.

I’m vehemently opposed to this because it is one large step toward a future in which I’ll only have myself to blame for my emotions/actions. One day when everything is reviewable I can no longer blame the refs for my sorrow, anger or acts of vandalism. I’ve gotten out of parking tickets due to citing “the goddamn refs” and I for one won’t allow it. 

Hilariously the refs seem to feel the same way and are prepared to fight back. Last night in the season opener the refs called a lane violation and an 8-second violation shortly after Slim Fast Drew Carey shot his wad far too quickly and on a pretty obvious call. This felt like the equivalent of a resounding “Fuck You!” to the league from the refs.

 

East Seeding Predictions                           West Seeding Predictions

Bucks                                                                               L.A. Clippers

Sixers                                                                              Utah

Drakes                                                                            Houston

Celtics                                                                             Denver

Miami                                                                             L.A. Lakers

Nets                                                                                 San Antonio

Orlando                                                                         Golden State

Indiana                                                                          OKC

 

East Semis                                                    West Semis

Bucks vs Heat                                                             Clippers vs Golden State

Sixers vs Drakes                                                       Lakers vs San Antonio

 

East Finals                                                   West Finals

Bucks vs Sixers                                                         Clippers vs Lakers

 

Finals

Bucks over Clippers in 7

A Few Final Thoughts and Questions

In a year defined by parity I still like the experienced teams and star players to define the playoffs. The exception to that rule is obviously Harden and Westbrook, who I think will be ceremoniously pantsed by Greg Popovich and the Death and Taxes Playoff Spurs. We’ll collectively skewer Harden again and he will again focus more on the fact that he didn’t win another MVP. One must imagine Sissyphus forever tumbling done the same hill. The Spurs won’t have the juice to march past LeBron Zedong but we will at least get to see Pop take a crack at him one more time.

Ultimately, I think that the Lakers regular season will be a bit of a disappointment due to a lack of consistent shooting and some flaccid bench play. But when it all matters they’ll be there to run with the best of them.

I believe in Steve Kerr and the chip that Durant’s tenure in Oakland left on Steph and Draymond’s backs. Moving from Oakland to San Francisco is a very curse-worthy offense and Lil B could change their fate at any moment but short of that I trust Steph and Dray to carry this team to a first round upset over a very competent Jazz team. 

The Jazz and the Nuggets have rosters built for remarkable regular seasons but at the end of the day I’ll be surprised if teams championed by the likes of Mike Conley and Nikola Jokic can overcome the likes of Steph and LeBron when it really matters and the rotations shrink like the balls of an elk in the altitude of the Rockies.

In the end, I see the battle for LA unfolding a lot like it did Tuesday night. It’ll be a well fought series but the depth, experience and sheer top to bottom competency of the Clippers will prevail. Jason Kidd will also find a way to be coaching the Lakers by seasons end and no good can come from this for the Lakers.

In the East, I like the Bucks and their system to once again trample all competition in the regular season. Like the Rockets, the system just works in the regular, but when it comes to the postseason the difference is of course Giannis. While I don’t buy Giannis’ “I’m only at 60% of my potential” shtick I do belief that this man can do whatever he sets his mind to. After sniffing the finals for the first time I’m putting my faith in Giannis. Only two things truly concern me with the Bucks, Fred Van Vleet and Bud’s strange and inexplicable decision to rest Giannis in the Eastern Conference Finals last year.

Ultimately I think that despite their glut of talent the Sixers fall short due to coaching and their inability to define their late game offensive hierarchy. Last year the Sixers looked absolutely lost in late game situations when the ball wasn’t in Jimmy Butler’s hands. This year the burden will fall upon Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons or Tobias Harris. Embiid’s affinity for pick and pop threes continues to be out of whack with the best interests of the Sixers and he has yet to prove that he can handle 40+ minutes of elite playoff basketball without his ass starting to drag. Ben Simmons and the rest of the roster’s lack of deep range make this offense hard to make sense of in crunch time. Tobias Harris has the skills to fill the vacancy but on a roster with two stars already jockeying for alpha status I’m not sure I see Harris demanding the ball for the final shot in a close elimination game.

Don’t sleep on the Drakes and their try-hard ways. The Drakes will finish 3rd in the East due to depth and sheer competency in a conference that lacks continuity and day one chemistry. It may take Marc Gasol until January to detox but this roster has a lot of talent and the personality to rise to the occasion with the loss of Kawhi. Their East semi-final matchup with the Sixers should be interesting from a matchup perspective but I like the Sixers to exact their revenge. The Drakes got a lot of breaks to go their way last and there is just no this shit continues for another entire season. Oh and Fuck Fred Van Vleet.

The Celtics will find themselves back in the fray due to the addition by subtraction of Kyrie Irving. The Celtics will have some matchup issues due to the vacancy left by Horford and Baynes, but I’d bet on Stevens being able to patch the holes with some of the milquetoast wizardry he was known for before he’d run into (insert Harry Potter wizard terminology here) Kyrie. Stevens gets the Celts back on track but they don’t want no problem with Lil Scrappy All Stars in round one.

Jimmy Butler and the Lil Scrappy All Stars are poised for a playoff run thanks to their matchup versatility and their ability to dictate style and pace of play. Spoelstra has done it all before and still doesn’t get enough credit for what he’s been able to do in past seasons with a much stranger cast of characters. They’ll meet their fate in Milwaukee come playoff time but it’ll be a compelling series if only due to a fistfight between Robin Lopez and Kelly Olynk. 

The remainder of the East, save for the Nets  (see above), could come together in many strange combinations. I like Orlando to stand pat and for Fultz to actually find his footing this season. I don’t anticipate much more than a playoff berth and some linear growth but there is the possibility that the Disney Magic could get as high as the 5th seed if Kyrie derails the Nets’ chemistry and Jimmy Butler decides to enlist into the Navy Seals midway through the season.

The Paceless Pacers are in danger of missing the playoffs thanks to the loss of Bojan and the knee injury to Oladipo that could keep him out until early 2020. At some point this team can’t overachieve and despite the additions of Brogdon and Warren my gut tells me that this team doesn’t have what it takes to punch down like they have the last two years. At the end of the day there is no other clear candidate to take their playoff spot so unless you subscribe to the notion that Jim Boylan’s Bulls or the Young Hawks make a premature leap then we’re stuck with the Pacers. Hopefully, Oladipo comes back at 100% but I’m not holding my breathe.

There is much more to cover but we’ll get to it in the coming weeks. Enjoy the first full slate of NBA basketball and I’ll see you soon.

*For those 25 million podcast subscribers*
We are unfortunately on hiatus due to some exciting life developments for Dylan. We’ll return in some fashion but for now find I’ll have to suffice on my own…terrifying I know. Thank you for your support.

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