Here are the five most underrated NBA subplots of ’10-11:
The Offseason Non-Movement of Top Eastern Conference Teams
We’ve heard countless times of the moves made by Miami and Boston to bolster their respective lineups. Meanwhile, the Hawks and the Magic have sat relatively idly, re-signing their cores and adding small pieces. Do they appear to be significantly behind the League’s powerhouses, at least on paper? For sure. But we shouldn’t forget both of these teams are led by still-getting-better big men (Dwight Howard, Al Horford) and in-their-prime guards (Jameer Nelson, Joe Johnson), so to assume these teams are improving by simply retaining their main pieces isn’t a stretch. Nor is the fact that another year of playing together will only help chemistry issues, certainly an advantage given that some teams will have to spend the season learning just that.
There wasn’t must off-season noise coming out of Oklahoma City either, but the Thunder should still be a joy to watch this season. In case you haven’t heard, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook (both age 21) are tearing it up in Turkey as I type this, while the squad’s other young guys—Jeff Green (24), James Harden (21), Segre Ibaka (20), Cole Aldrich (21), Daequan Cook (23), and Eric Maynor (23)—will continue to improve. Add a strong big man to the roster (via a trade or a rapid Aldrich/Ibaka development), and this team will make the Lakers awfully uncomfortable.
George Karl’s Return
Don’t call it a comeback; he’s been here for—actually, wait. Call it a comeback. And give him the respect he’s earned. After being forced to sit out of the ’09-10 Playoffs to fight “treatable” neck and throat cancer, Coach Karl will be back on Denver’s sideline in October hoping to bring a Nuggets team inundated with talent back into post-season play. Those of you who tuned into the ESPY Awards saw Karl make an extremely passionate and heartfelt speech, the kind that gets you pulling for his side, whichever it is. Unfortunately, he’ll return to a team riddled with off-the-court problems, from trade rumors regarding ‘Melo and JR Smith to the injuries of Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen. Here’s to a strong man’s strong comeback.
Hope For (Young) Bad Teams
Every year, a handful of depressing franchises sit at the bottom of the standings, giving their fans little reason to maintain faith or even crack a smile. This season, though, most those teams have a good amount of young talent, leaving way for a needed dose of that always-coveted optimism. The Kings, Timberwolves, Nets, Raptors, 76ers, Wizards, Warriors, and Pacers all have some combination of youth and financial flexibility, at least to the point where each could change their fortunes, if not in ’10-11, then at some point soon after. The only team with really no hope at all—well, you guys have gone through enough this summer. I’ll just move on.
A Do-Over For The Injury Prone
The next few months will see the return of a whole gang of previously injured NBAers: Yao Ming, Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, the entire Trail Blazers team, etc. What’s better than a fresh start?
Bonus: The worst subplots of ’10-11: ‘MeloMania; any lockout speculation; any Shaq-in-Boston attention; any off-the-court Miami news; and any growing Kobe-MJ comparisons.