A Very Cool Pass
The Los Angeles Clippers spent the earliest part of their summer watching Chris Paul leave for the Houston Rockets. This is a problem, as Chris Paul is really, really, really, good. Replacing him will be next to impossible and anybody expecting the team not to suffer for his absence is deluding themselves. That said, the Clippers did add Milos Teodosic, a 30-year-old Serbian point guard who apparently does stuff like this:
So, yes, not having Chris Paul is a bummer, and yes, the Clippers will be worse off without him, but if they start piling up incredibly fun assists like this one, they will be worth checking out. Because incredibly fun assists are cool, and if this tiny website is about nothing else, it is about the celebration of cool things happening on basketball courts.
Beating The Golden State Warriors
On yesterday’s Lowe Post Podcast – a very good, albeit very dry, podcast – Zach Lowe and Jeff Van Gundy discussed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s offseason moves. Those moves saw the team adding a superstar (Paul George), a star (Carmelo Anthony), and quality-ish roleplayers (Patrick Paterson, Raymond Felton). It also saw the team moving away from its attempt to offensively-rebound its opponents into the ground.
Previous iterations of the Thunder had seen the team simply try to overwhelm opponents with size. This included having Kevin Durant, but also Steven Adams and Enes Kanter, two players who were simply bigger and better rebounders than the frontlines they were going up against. The idea was that the team was gonna shoot a lot, and use its offensive rebounding to get itself more shots. This was very interesting in a modern NBA that tends to eschew offensive rebounding, and it damn near worked against the Golden State Warriors in the 2015-2016 playoffs. Although the Thunder ended up losing that series, after having been up 3-1, the team still showed a way forward for beating the seemingly unbeatable Warriors.
But then Durant signed with Golden State, and Oklahoma City’s strategy was forced to change. It is one thing when one of team’s three seven-footers is also among the game’s greatest ever scoring machines; it is quite another when defenses no longer have to worry about containing a player of Durant’s pedigree. Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook won an MVP last season averaging a triple-double, but the team had nothing in the playoffs. So the team has rebuilt in an attempt to get Westbrook the help that he needs.
Which leads us back to Lowe’s and Van Gundy’s analysis, which looked at everything Oklahoma City Thunder did in the offseason and concluded, “Yeah, but will it really be enough to beat the Golden State Warriors?” Van Gundy was more positive on this possibility than Lowe was, ultimately suggesting that Oklahoma’s roster moves could at least make the Thunder more competitive, but even he ultimately decided that Golden State would still win.
Which, great, yes, Golden State would still win, mostly because Golden State is currently one of the greatest basketball teams ever assembled, full-stop, bar-none. But if all basketball analysis is going to begin and end with, “Will this be enough to beat Golden State?” then what is the point of basketball analysis exactly? Because anybody is capable of answering that question, and answering it quickly too: no, nothing currently will be enough to beat a healthy team comprised of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green.
It should be noted that this criticism should be understood to be general, and not specific to Lowe and/or Van Gundy. Lots of analysts seem to genuinely believe that the only thing worth discussing is whether or not the Golden State Warriors can be beaten in the playoffs, as if nothing else matters. But basketball isn’t only played to win championships, and a team’s ability to be worth watching isn’t pegged to its ability to beat one of the greatest teams the league has ever seen.
The OKC Thunder have added considerable talent around their MVP, and they will be a fascinating team to watch play basketball. They are beginning a new strategic era, and they have a genuine chance to challenge both the Houston Rockets and the San Antonio Spurs for second in the Western Conference. There is plenty to talk about without focusing on what is going to happen nine months from now.
Because there is more to basketball than what happens in the playoffs after all. So here’s hoping basketball’s talkers adjust accordingly, and stop worrying about what it will take to beat the Golden State Warriors, and start worrying instead about what will make the game worth watching, what will make it interesting, and what will make it compelling. Dismissing everything because it ultimately won’t be enough to be Golden State is none of that.