Members of the media were quick to create new storylines following the dethroning of the Golden State Warriors dynasty in the Finals and the reshaping of the entire NBA landscape in free agency. Many, such as the “Battle of L.A” or the “Can Westbrook and Harden succeed together?” storylines have been way overstated and have blocked many other intriguing storylines from getting any attention. Here are 5 that may not get much media coverage but still deserve to be on your radar heading into the 2020 NBA season.
1.) Can the Third Option Provide Enough Support?
Coming out of this NBA off-season, there are no “superteams” like the Warriors with 4 all-stars or the Miami Heat with LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. All of the contenders now have one or two bonafide stars and plenty of solid role players, but no all-star third option. Of course, the media focused on the newest all-star duos such as LeBron and AD and Kawhi and PG. I didn’t bother to speculate about the duos, though, because I know they will perform as expected. I thought more about players such as Kyle Kuzma and Lou Williams, who aren’t guaranteed to play well next season and postseason in their first year on a contender and must step up as that third option in the playoffs to take some pressure off the stars. These players will separate the contenders from the pretenders come playoff time, as you need a dependable third man to win a championship. Players like Chris Bosh and Kyle Lowry have shown this, and it won’t change next year. A lot is riding on these players’ performances, especially in the playoffs, and the media isn’t talking enough about them.
2.) Contenders Staying Put (Nuggets, Bucks)
As teams scrambled to sign stars this offseason and all the media focus shifted to them, a few proven contenders stayed quiet. The Nuggets and the Bucks quietly kept their core intact with max deals to Khris Middleton and Jamal Murray and made a few smart, under the radar signings, but didn’t make any huge splashes or even try to add one of the many star free agents. Maybe that will prove to be worth it, though. The Bucks were the best team in the NBA until Kawhi and the Raptors won 4 straight in the ECF, and MVP Giannis should get even better in his age 25 season. The Nuggets’ duo of Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray both have another level to hit at ages 24 and 22, which should be scary for the rest of the league considering they were one game from the WCF last year. Don’t sleep on these two teams heading into next season amid all the free agency distractions.
3.) Are Murray and Simmons Worth 170 Million Dollars?
Let’s delve deeper into that max deal given to Jamal Murray and later to 76ers rising star Ben Simmons. 5 years. 170 million dollars. That’s an insane amount of money to give to one player who has never averaged more than 20 points, 5 rebounds, or 5 assists in any season for his Nuggets and another player who was his team’s fourth option on offense in the playoffs for his 76ers. You can’t blame the teams too much, though. It was necessary to overpay these two players who look like second options on their respective teams to keep their championship window open, and they may even live up to their contracts and become stars. However, these seemingly necessary overpays may look like awful moves in two years and could potentially cripple their respective franchises for the next five years if they don’t improve enough,which the media isn’t talking enough about. These are two very risky contracts the Nuggets and 76ers are doing, and they don’t have any room for this to go wrong as expected contenders for the next few years.
4.) D’Angelo Russell’s Second Revenge Tour
The Brooklyn Nets were the NBA’s feel good story last season. Made up of late first round and second round picks, forgotten role players, and castaways they unexpectedly made the playoffs as the 6th seed in the Eastern Conference and even stole a game from the powerhouse 76ers. Fittingly, they were lead by D’Angelo Russell, a likable player who was kicked out of LA to make room for Lonzo Ball and then turned into an all-star with the Nets. Then this offseason happened. They signed Kyrie Irving, a better player at the same position, and Kevin Durant, another amazing player on max deals. D’Angelo Russell was once again shipped away, this time to the Golden State Warriors. The media is obsessed with this new duo of Kyrie and KD, as they once were with Lonzo Ball, and D’Angelo Russell is already an old memory in Brooklyn. However, history could very easily repeat itself and the media isn’t talking enough it. D’Angelo Russell is only 23 and could improve greatly with his new team (as he did with Brooklyn). Kyrie Irving may not live up to expectations with his new team or become disgruntled as he’s known to and be out of Brooklyn in the next two years (as Lonzo Ball did, now with the Pelicans). The media may be sleeping on this possibility (as they didn’t two years ago when Russell was traded for the first time), but you certainly shouldn’t.