Basketball was invented by God as a means to give giants something to do beyond losing fights via slingshot. From those early days, it evolved into a use for peach baskets once all the peaches had been consumed. The bigwigs at the ladder factory kept the bottom of the baskets intact for decades, citing a need to keep the game “pure, beautiful, and slower than a tortoise with his hands tied up.” That phrase doesn’t make much sense to me either, but what was once a boring, often cumbersome sport to watch has blossomed into one of the great games on this planet. The NBA, National Basketball Association for long, began seventy five years ago as the Toronto Huskies hosted the New York Knickerbockers, losing 66-68. Basketball then isn’t close to what it is now. Baseball added the curveball well over a century ago. Football did the same with the forward pass. But basketball’s true genesis of the modern, perfected sport didn’t come until just 60 years ago when the three-point arc was added in the ABA. It would be 18 years before the NBA officially adopted it and decades more before it altered the game. Now the David sons (part of me will have you laugh at that) can truly be equal with the Goliaths. And here we are, in the amber of the moment, and the damn Bucks are the reigning champions.
I’ve said for years that the NBA offers something pretty much every other sport fails to provide, and that’s a compelling narrative every night. The extreme casual fan might only care about the Lakers, Celtics, and whatever teams are particularly hot at the moment. While I understand the complete lack of time in modern life, those folks are missing out.
Any matchup can provide some interesting storyline for a team as well as the greater league-wide narrative. Yes, that includes Orlando Magic games, maybe.
So while the fuss around who gets the 2pm slot on Christmas Day is fun discourse, in reality the games the next day are just as relevant if the time is taken to understand why. So for the 2021-22 season, what I hope is finally a full NBA season for me to cover here, I’m boiling each team down to at least one good reason why they deserve your attention.
The order is in the amount of nationally televised games, so put down the tweets when you see who is first on the list.
Los Angeles Lakers
Ugh, I know. But they have an insane FORTY-TWO national games this season.
- LeBron James is still a top 3 player going into his 19th season, and needs 1,562 points to pass Karl Malone for second on the all-time scoring list.
- Carmelo Anthony could have been drafted 2nd by the Pistons and won a ring as a rookie, instead he’s in year 19 still chasing one.
- Russell Westbrook has to understand that he’s likely the third option at any given time, which is hilarious.
- Anthony Davis playing center is beautiful and IF HE STAYS HEALTHY will be something to marvel at every night.
Golden State Warriors
Coming up just shy with 41 national games.
- Will Klay Thompson ever play again and can he be anywhere near his peak if he does?
- Steph has a near-lock to break the all-time threes record. He needs 141 to do it. Honestly, I don’t need reasons beyond just watching Steph be Steph. It has not gotten old yet.
37 nationally televised games
- On any given night Kevin Durant is capable of putting on a timeless performance
- On any given night Jim Harden is capable of putting on a timeless performance.
- Kyrie Irving might miss the season due to the goalposts of his anti-vax being moved so much that he’s practically on the moon BUT if he plays, he is capable of putting on a timeless performance.
- That big three played in thirteen games between the regular and postseasons last year. If Kyrie caves on getting the jab, the potential is limitless.
36 nationally televised games
- Giannis needs to start being added to the GOAT conversation. Now with his first title bagged, the pressure is off. One of the most imposing figures in NBA history has zero baggage. He’s been taking jumpers in the preseason. Prepare for the end of days.
- And it goes for the rest of the team as well. This is a brilliant, well-oiled machine capable of beating everyone by double-digits if they so desire.
- Khris Middleton is a 50/40/90 candidate and another soul who has benefitted from the addition of…
- Jrue Holiday, who took a step back in his scoring, but two steps forward in scoring efficiency in his first year in Milwaukee. He’s the chemistry guy. His alley-oop to Giannis in the Finals was an instant classic that will be replayed for decades.
33 national games, which is a bit of a head-scratcher, but whatever
- Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are All-NBA caliber talents that keep the Celtics relevant.
- Robert “Time Lord” Williams took a huge leap in his third year, and first-year coach Ime Udoka might be able to unlock him further.
- Al Horford, the only Celtic older than me, is back in green, just in time to be that centrifugal force they were lacking last season.
33 national games, appropriate for the reigning West Champs.
- Deandre Ayton is ready to become the superstar he was born to be. Good lord he’s exciting to watch.
- Devin Booker is a nightly 40+ point threat and if he can find some consistency, MVP votes are not far off.
- Chris Paul got so close to his first title that he could smell the gold in the Larry O’Brien Trophy. The Point God returns to Phoenix with the biggest chip anyone’s ever seen on his shoulder.
- Absolutely a title threat, and should be considered must-see tv anytime.
New York Knicks
29, and I mean come on, okay, sure, whatever.
- The Knicks are good…? again and that’s great for the league and for aficionados of manic Knicks fans running around outside MSG shouting obscenities that my midwestern lexicon can’t pick up.
- RJ Barrett can become a face of the game kind of player if he wants it. Same with Julius Randle. Be good on the Knicks and you’re probably making multiple all-star games.
- Derrick Rose isn’t what he was ten years ago, but neither are you, so chill out. Appreciate him.
Los Angeles Clippers
27 games, and really I couldn’t tell you why.
- Kawhi is probably out forever, so look at what else they have. Paul George! He’s pretty good!
- Terance Mann (happy belated burthday) had a great postseason and earned a pretty decent extension. He’s absolutely the biggest non-PG13 storyline for the Clips.
- Really though this team could be the 4 seed in the West or they could play in the play-in games. Genuine chaos possible each night.
27 games, but honestly this team is just a reality show with a hardwood side gig.
- Ben Simmons, lol. I mean if he’s traded, whenever that team plays Philly its gonna be nuts.
- The Process seems to have failed, but Joel Embiid winning an MVP award might validate it somewhat.
- Really though, this franchise is a hot mess of world-beating, underachieving talent. Pick a side, whether you’re for or against them, and enjoy the collapsing star that is their season.
26 national games, plenty of chances to see the Luka show.
- Luka Doncic might retire as the best to ever do it. He’s just that special. Honestly I’m not even going to research another reason to watch the Mavs. Maybe the throwback uniforms will be cool. I don’t know. If you don’t want to see Luka do basketball to another team, maybe the sport isn’t for you and you should go check out Rick Copper’s hockey writing. It’s great!
26 national games
- If you’re tired of the Lakers and Nets and Bucks getting all of the title contender attention, the Jazz might be the team for you.
- Donovan Mitchell will get MVP votes, book it. He’s capable of leading this team to the 1 seed and is a damn carnival in crunch time.
- Rudy Gobert was EXPOSED in the playoffs, look for vengeance from the three-time DPOY.
25 national games, which means us outside of Colorado will be able to see more Nuggets games than those within it.
- Nikola Jokic won the MVP and everyone was kinda “meh” about it, but it’s well deserved. Jokic can do absolutely everything. He’s likely the best passing big man in history and has the power to do it all himself when the game requires.
- They drafted a kid who goes by the name Bones.
- An honest to goodness title threat if everyone can just stay healthy.
- Jeff Green, the only Nugget older than me, means that Denver will always have someone on the wing prepared to give them 3 points.
- Aaron Gordon can jump out the gym, and seeing his fit over a full season will be interesting.
22, and good for them.
- Jimmy Butler remains a guy who can grab a game by the neck and toss it into chaos. He’s a true leader on a team that’s chock-full of talent and eager to get back to the top.
- Tyler Herro thinks he’s in the Luka-Trae level of elite players, and since everyone looked at him sideways when he said it, maybe he tries to prove them wrong. If Michael Jordan can manufacture adversity, why not Tyler Herro?
- Bam Adebayo just feels like a nine-year veteran, but in fact he’s only 24 and going into season five. Entering those athletic peak years could lead to an ascension into the upper realm of NBA big men.
19, and it feels low for a team that’s rising earlier than expected.
- Trae Young’s ascent has been quick and fun as hell. He’s really leaning into that heel role that’s desperately needed.
- John Collins, and I’m saying this for the seconds straight year, is a superstar in waiting. He’s so damn talented… if he can stay out of his own way.
- Nate MacMillan now has a whole season to lead the Hawks, after taking the reigns midseason and guiding them to the Conference Finals.
- Kevin Huerter, who looks like one of the baggers at the Kroger in my town, is actually a damn fun player to watch be underestimated. Expect NateMac to give him more designed plays to open up his shooting.
New Orleans Pelicans
16, which feels way more appropriate than recent years.
- Zion Williamson’s foot is all messed up and he showed up kinda chunky. This kid is a generational talent, but if he can’t stay off of the injured list, he’s nothing but a really fun “guy”.
- That said, when he’s playing… goddamn, he’s a walking highlight reel.
Portland Trail Blazers
15, not too many, not too few.
- Damian Lillard dropped a pretty good album this summer, and also pseudo-threatened a trade demand. He was also in Space Jam 2, which feels like it came out a few years ago. He’s worth the time every night. Genuinely one of the best players to watch night-in, night-out.
- Chauncey Billups gets his shot at coaching. No pressure, but if he doesn’t gel with his superstar, this could be high drama all year as Dame gets uncomfortable losing.
- CJ McCollum is always a potential trade chip it seems, and this might just be the year it happens.
- Larry Nance, Jr. is here, which should create a little breathing room for Dame and CJ
11 national games, a modern tragedy.
- The Bulls went for it, man. Acquiring Nikola Vucevic, Demar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball, and Alex Caruso is some will-ass GM work and it turned the Bulls from also-ran into the most compelling roster in the league. Seriously, I have no idea how well this team will gel together, but damnit if it won’t be fun to see.
- Zach LaVine finally, for the first time in his career, has a bounty of threats around him. Give him any kind of space and he’s dangerous.
11 games, which is super frustrating
- Ja Morant might jump through the hoop at some point and you don’t want to miss it. But really, he’s electric and talented and with another season under his elastic belt, he is primed to rise into that star category that’s so important.
- Jaren Jackson, Jr. is my pick to click as a breakout candidate. He’s already shown that he’s a great second option for Memphis, and another positive year might show just why its critical to keep Ja and Jaren together.
8, which feels about ten too few.
- LaMelo Ball is fantastic and I highly recommend watching him create. His flashy passing and court clairvoyance really are incredible to witness.
- Gordon Hayward should bounce back from a moderate-to-lackluster, injury-shortened campaign. If he does, the Hornets could host a play-in game or better!
- The uniforms, man. That teal. That purple. Its like nostalgia overload and I’m fine with it. God save the 1990s.
6, which is just enough games to remind you they’re there.
- Realistically, a few guards will be playing for their trade chip stock to rise. Buddy Hield needs a change of scenery.
- De’Aaron Fox is in that space where he can play at an elite level, but sustaining that level for a stretch of the season is tought.
San Antonio Spurs
6 nationally broadcast games
- Keldon Johnson proved he can hang in the NBA last season, and it’s likely that Gregg Popovich will give him more free reign in offensive creativity.
- Fiesta court, fiesta uniforms, all that. It’s nice to look at.
- Iconic journeyman Thaddeus Young found his way to the Alamo.
- Dejounte Murray is now, somehow, in his fifth season. Its nut-up or shut up time.
6 televised American national games, which is nice of them.
- The champs-twice-removed are past the Lowery-DeRozan era in full, can Paskal Siakam lead a team to the playoffs?
- After a complete season on the road, the Raptors are back in Canada, so expect some rowdy crowds in Jurassic Park again.
- The fun thing where unvaccinated players can be arrested if they’re caught walking around Toronto.
6 national games, sure.
- Bradley Beal nearly won the scoring title last season, and has the tools and talent to go for it again in ’22.
- Rui Hachimura took a step forward in nearly every facet of his game last year, and another step could mean playoffs for the Wiz.
- Spencer Dinwiddie feels like a great fit in the backcourt with Beal.
- New head coach Wes Unseld has been an assistant since 2005, and is finaly getting his shot at running a team.
5, which is funny because top picks usually get at least double-digits. Oh well.
- Cade Cunningham was said pick and showed why in Summer League. If the Pistons are going to build around him, he needs to go out and win games on his own.
- The dark ages of Pistons basketball usually precede an era of enlightenment on defensive superiority. Tickets for the next bandwagon are available by the basket-ful.
5, which in the NBA’s defense feels right because who knows if they’ll all be injured at some point.
- Domas Sabonis had a colossal game in the play-in tournament and is a low-tier star.
- Caris LeVert, if healthy, is a legitimate vision of offensive precision and has been a favorite of mine for years.
- Myles Turner led the league in blocks last year and was snubbed for DPOY, so there’s a good chance he plays angry.
- If there’s some point where LeVert is able to play along side TJ Warren, the Pacers could have a very explosive offense.
4, which feels sufficient
- The backcourt duo of Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, commonly known as SexLand, is well educated in the NBA style now and have the ability to really develop into an upper-tier guard pair.
- Kevin Love is still here, probably playing to get traded, so a resurgence is possible.
- They went and got Lauri Markkanen, which is fine.
4 national games, but really all you’ll need is the highlights because…
- Jalen Green is probably going to win the Rookie of the Year award. He should be given a green light for just about whatever he wants, and with his strength and athleticism, he should be able to cook against most defenders in his way. The problem is that he won’t score 95+ each night, so the Rockets are going to lose… a lot.
4, which is disrespectful to how fun this team can be.
- Anthony Edwards is a certified monster. He took an insane 520 three point attempts in his rookie season, sinking 33% of them. That said, the Pups’ 2 guard is poised for a great sophomore season.
- Karl-Anthony Towns is going into his seventh season in Minneapolis. He has the potential to be a top-ten player in the league, but doesn’t quite know how to put it all together. It’s tough when the team around you is rarely good, though.
Oklahoma City Thunder
4, probably all on NBAtv
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is a true playmaker and a lot of fun to watch. Another instance of highlights being good enough, though.
- If your favorite team isn’t the Thunder, and your favorite team plays the Thunder.
4, for some reason.
- Don’t worry about it.
(1) Jazz over (8) Timberwolves
(4) Lakers over (5) Clippers
(3) Suns over (6) Mavericks
(2) Nuggets over (7) Grizzlies
(4) Lakers over (1) Jazz
(2) Nuggets over (7) Grizzlies
(2) Nuggets over (4) Lakers
(1) Nets over (8) Hornets
(5) Heat over (4) Sixers
(3) Hawks over (6) Bulls
(2) Bucks over (7) Knicks
(1) Nets over (5) Heat
(2) Bucks over (3) Hawks
(2) Bucks over (1) Nets
Nuggets over Bucks.
Jokic vs. Giannis.
Believe in something.
But… where’s all of the NBA75 stuff? Oh don’t you fret… I’ll get to that soon. I just want the NBA’s official list to come out first.
A major change in FBC NBA coverage will be the addition of the NBA Championship Belt, to be held initially by the reigning MVP. Here’s how it will work.
- Each week, I’ll pick the best matchup for the belt holder’s team, that will be the game where the belt is at stake.
- If the belt holder’s team wins, he retains the belt into the following week.
- If the belt holder’s team loses, the belt is transferred to the player on that team who had the best game (decided by me if close).
- If the belt holder does not play in the selected game for any reason and his team wins, the belt is passed to the teammate with the best game that night (decided by me if close)
The first NBA Championship Belt match will be Wednesday, 10/20 between reigning MVP Nikola Jokic’s Denver Nuggets and the Western Conference Champion Phoenix Suns.
Cheers to the 75th NBA season. May it be played in full.