In the dead of the bleak midwinter, basketball shocks the otherwise deadened spirit to vibrant life. The winters can be grueling, even in milder climates, but nothing keeps one warm like watching a 200-pound athlete soar in the air for a windmill jam on the fast break. Here are three narratives of the NBA’s 75th anniversary that stand out so far this hoops season.
THE WARRIORS ARE BACK
Stephen Curry and his Warriors, aka “The Hamptons Five” (the starting lineup of Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, and Draymond Green), changed the game forever, shifting the focus of their offense to the three-point line and consequentially dominating the last decade. However, over the past couple years, the Warriors have struggled mightily through brutal injuries to key players, including Curry and Klay Thompson, and the departure of Kevin Durant. Meanwhile, other teams, like the Milwaukee Bucks and the precocious Phoenix Suns, developed their talent and matured into championship contenders.
This year, though, the Five are looking as good as ever with their backcourt, now mostly healthy, accounting for most of their offense. Green, Curry, Jordan Poole, and Andrew Wiggins are moving and shooting the ball as well as you can, and that’s not even to mention that five-time NBA All-Star and sharpshooter Klay Thompson is set to return soon. Though many non-Warriors’ fans were sick of the team’s dominance over the last decade, a few humbling and mediocre years have just about everybody ready for their return to NBA relevancy.
WAIT, ARE THE BULLS THE BEST TEAM IN THE EAST?
We knew teams such as Phoenix, Milwaukee, and the Nets would be good this year, but it has been a surprise to see the Chicago Bulls (close behind the Nets in the Eastern Conference Standings as of the date of this article) come out of the gate swinging this 2021-2022 season.
This Bulls’ team is led by DeMar DeRozan, who has also gotten off to arguably the best start of his career. He is averaging 26.4 points per game, which is the fourth overall in the NBA. This team is a strong balance of star power in its two wings, DeRozan and former dunk contest champion Zach LaVine, and veteran role players who have helped this team succeed despite the key players’ injuries thus far. Look for this team to contend with the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks for the Eastern Conference.
DOES NO. 1 PICK OVERALL CADE CUNNINGHAM LIVE UP TO THE HYPE?
While the Pistons are off to the worst start in the NBA, many are excited about the team’s seemingly infinite upside. In keeping with the NBA zeitgeist, this long, athletic, and sharpshooting core seems to be trying to model themselves after The Hamptons Five. That said, this team has and will continue to endure growing pains. The mean age of the starting lineup is 21.8 years old, and the inexperience has hindered winning a few big games so far in the 2021-2022 campaign. Despite their ridiculous youth, this team has all the pieces to become elite over the next few years as they mature.
That all starts with Cade Cunningham, affectionately nicknamed “Motor Cade” by Pistons’ fans. The 6’8” point forward can do it all—pass, shoot, drive, rebound, and defend. In his last and only season in college, he shot a maddeningly efficient 40% from 3-point range, which hasn’t yet translated to NBA range, but the youngster is still getting a feel for the professional game. To be fair, he can’t even legally have an alcoholic beverage in the United States.
If you want to know what the future of the NBA looks like, Cade Cunningham and the Pistons will be worth keeping an eye on as they hope to become contenders in the weaker Eastern Conference over the next few years.