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Steph’s sizzle and LeBron’s lament: 20 things I learned from the NBA playoffs | NBA

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The longer term is in good hands

If I had to decide on one overarching theme of those playoffs, it will be this sentiment. Young stars like Luka Dončić, Ja Morant, Anthony Edwards and others showed that they aren’t even slightly bit afraid of the moment, and absolutely have what it takes to guide their teams to future playoff success. And as for the aging superstars standing of their way? Take it from me and my retinol cream: father time comes for us all.

(Roster) patience is a virtue

There was a time when NBA fans and experts alike were questioning if Boston’s two superstars, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, would ever have the opportunity to get it done together. That point? Fall 2021. Flash forward a handful of months and the duo was lighting it up within the NBA finals. Yes, it took a number of years and a number of things breaking right for the Celtics’ core, painstakingly assembled through the nice ol’ draft, to succeed in the promised land. But Boston’s 2022 playoff run looks like pretty solid evidence that teams may need change into slightly too trigger-happy with the trade machine.

Head coaching experience: not a prerequisite for playoff success

Speaking of those Celtics, their head coach, Ime Udoka, had logged zero time as an NBA head coach (not even within the G League) before his appointment this 12 months. It seems several years of assistant coaching experience on good teams, which loads of missed candidates possess, might be enough to guide a gaggle to wins within the playoffs. Hopefully his success story shall be enough to embolden teams on the cusp of greatness to try something latest in lieu of playing musical chairs with the identical group of head coaches. The Lakers definitely appear to have taken note.

Ja can carry a playoff team

My “boldest” prediction ahead of this NBA season was that the Memphis Grizzlies were going to be the 12 months’s dark horse team as a result of Ja Morant taking a step forward. Within the regular season, they exceeded even my very own expectations for what that will appear like. And within the playoffs they showed flashes of a team that might be truly great for a few years to come back, bringing to mind, satirically, a younger version of the identical Golden State Warriors by whom they met their playoff demise. That is due in no small part to Ja’s incredible leadership and poise on the ripe old age of twenty-two.

The Grizzlies’ Ja Morant: poised beyond his 22 years with talent to burn. Photograph: Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images

The Recent Orleans Pelicans are gonna be really fun next 12 months

One of the vital nice surprises of those playoffs was absolutely the gauntlet Recent Orleans put Phoenix through in the primary round. By all accounts, the Pelicans weren’t even purported to be within the postseason; many predicted that a more seasoned (if hobbled) Clippers team would best them within the play-in tournament. But not only did the Pels make the playoffs, they made it highly uncomfortable for a confident Suns squad that had, little doubt, expected to breeze through their opening series. And so they placed on a hell of a show in the method. With a passionate, well-rounded team, a improbable coach in Willie Green, and Zion waiting within the wings, the longer term looks vibrant in Louisiana.

Superstars discover a solution to be impactful regardless of what

In Game 5 of the NBA finals, Steph Curry made history in a way he probably would’ve preferred to avoid. The world’s best shooter missed all nine of his attempts from beyond the arc, marking the primary time in 133 profession playoff appearances that he didn’t make not less than one three-pointer. Golden State pulled out the win anyway, partially as a result of Steph’s savvy ability to be impactful even when the shots aren’t falling: the Warriors scored 118.7 points per 100 possessions with him on the court, and he ended the sport with 16 points and eight assists. They went on to seal the championship in the following game.

JJ Redick was born to broadcast

The NBA player-to-NBA broadcaster pipeline is a well-worn trajectory. We’ve seen everyone from superstars like Tracy McGrady to role players like Kendrick Perkins pivot to media to various degrees of success. But broadcasting, sort of like basketball talent, is just one in all those things that’s hard to predict: while you got it, you bought it. It’s been eminently apparent since day one in all JJ Redick’s tenure at ESPN that he’s a real savant on the art of talking about basketball on TV. The network isn’t particularly wealthy with engaging and informative basketball evaluation talent, and after they do come across it, they don’t have a fantastic track record of rewarding them (justice for Tim Legler!), so seeing Redick rise within the ranks of airtime so quickly has been a breath of fresh air.

Doris Burke makes every part higher

On the subject of those rare supremely excellent broadcast talents on the ESPN roster, the latter rounds of the playoffs notably lacked one in all the NBA’s most beloved voices: Doris Burke. They are saying absence makes the center grow fonder, and never has that cliché been more true then when one is listening to one more senseless Van Gundy and Jackson argument, eager for the engaged, whip-smart and passionate voice of Burke to say something concerning the actual game at hand. ESPN, is that a lot to ask?

Doris BurkeESPN’s Doris Burke: conspicuously absent throughout the latter rounds of the playoffs. Photograph: Nathaniel S Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

Situations are every part

The word “washed” has been overused within the NBA Twitterverse to the purpose of parody. Even LeBron has jeeringly adopted the insult into his facetious self-branding as a #WashedKing. But when we learned anything this 12 months, it’s that a change of scenery should at all times preempt the writing off of any struggling player. Cases in point: CJ McCollum’s dazzling renaissance on the upstart Pelicans, or Andrew Wiggins’ decisive rebirth because the overqualified role player of dreams who played a considerable role within the Warriors’ return to the NBA throne.

Anthony Edwards is capital-H Him

There’s so much that goes into what makes someone a superstar: basketball acumen, god-given physical gifts, inner drive. But there’s also an undeniable je ne sais quoi involved, a certain swagger, a spark that’s immediately recognizable and yet almost completely undefinable. As anyone who watched Minnesota and Memphis face off in the primary round knows, Anthony Edwards has it. The series was a real “star is born” moment for the 20-year-old guard, who possesses an absolute fearlessness on the court and a larger-than-life charisma (that even Hollywood has taken note of).

Anthony EdwardsThe Timberwolves’ Anthony Edwards: absolutely fearless on the court with a larger-than-life charisma. Photograph: David Sherman/NBAE/Getty Images

Championship teams aren’t math

We’ve been living within the era of the “superteam” for over a decade, in the event you count its inception because the day LeBron decided to take his talents to South Beach. After the immense success Kevin Durant found after joining up with the already dominant Warriors, it seemed that this particular team format was becoming as inevitable as Thanos. But after the implosion of the Brooklyn Nets’ Big Three this 12 months, and the abject failure of the Lakers attempt at replicating an identical template, we is likely to be staring down the death of the superteam. In a league-wide realization that ought to make fans of teams with one or two big-name stars quite pleased, it seems as if the key to NBA team success is once more greater than simply the sum of its parts.

The Utah Jazz have to burn it down ….

Yes, all good things must come to an end. But all “meh” things must also meet their maker eventually. This iteration of the Jazz showed multiple flash of greatness, and for several years running they entered the regular season with buzzy championship expectations. But in 2022, as with all of the years prior that Utah rolled out the odd-couple one-two punch of Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, those expectations collapsed early within the playoffs. This 12 months, they didn’t even make it past the primary round, so it seems mainly inevitable that half a decade into this particular chemistry experiment, it’s time to blow it up.

… and so do the Portland Trail Blazers

One other team that feels destined for a rebuild are the Blazers, noticeably absent from the postseason this 12 months for the primary time since 2013. Damian Lillard seems understandably discontented, Jusuf Nurkić alluded to selling his house in Portland in a Twitter reply and the departed CJ McCollum resides his best life on an exciting Pelicans team. The Blazers made some baffling roster decisions this season that appeared to put them in a wierd purgatory between excellence and tanking, but it surely’s time to commit to the bit, change into a bottom-dweller for a number of years and let Dame live out the remainder of his prime elsewhere.

Portland Trail Blazers and Utah JazzThe Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz: time to burn it down. Photograph: Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

Luka’s got next

Luka Dončić not being taken No 1 overall goes to live in infamy among the many worst draft decisions of all time, right up there with Michael Jordan going third and Steph Curry going seventh. This isn’t meant as a slight to Deandre Ayton or Marvin Bagley III, but anyone who watched a then-18-year-old Luka win EuroLeague MVP could’ve told you that this kid was going to be something special. After slaying the dragon that was one of the best team in basketball this 12 months within the Phoenix Suns and eventually getting Dallas out of the primary round of the playoffs, special looks like a gross understatement when describing Doncic. If there’s to be an heir apparent to LeBron’s throne, Luka seems primed to sit upon it.

The regular season is just too long

Everyone knows the physical toll the ramped-up intensity of postseason basketball can tackle the bodies of NBA players. This 12 months saw what felt like an unprecedented amount of injuries to crucial players, which made, at times, for some very disappointing matchups. Eighty-two games is a grind even before factoring in an additional couple of weeks or months of the best level of play, and the sport is more physically demanding than ever. We’ve seen how little regular-season success can amount to under the brightest lights (the 64-win Suns come to mind), so why not shorten the season in service of creating sure the games that actually matter feature the true better of one of the best of NBA talent?

The ‘G’ in G League stands for ‘gems’

Jose Alvarado was one in all the breakout stars of the primary round as his infectious energy helped lead the Pelicans to some of unlikely wins against the formidable Suns. Gary Payton II proved invaluable for the reloaded Warriors and broke hearts as Dillon Brooks “broke the code”, and Payton’s elbow, within the second round. What they’ve in common is extensive time spent within the NBA’s developmental G League, a source increasingly often for among the league’s vibrant young stars and indispensable role players. Search for it to proceed to play a vital role as potentially heavily recruited college prospects opt, as an alternative of collegiate life, for a guaranteed paycheck with the newly minted G League Ignite team.

Jose AlvaradoThe Pelicans’ Jose Alvarado: one in all the postseason’s breakout stars. Photograph: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

LeBron has a tricky road ahead to ring No 5

Far be it from me to bet against the king. However the small window where the Western Conference looked slightly less menacing than usual (dropped at you, partially, by the transient hiatus Golden State had from greatness), appears to be closing. And on top of that, the East looms as a more foreboding opponent than it has been in years past. Even when the Lakers coaching reset proves helpful, and even in the event that they can work out what to do with the mercurial salary-suck that’s Russell Westbrook, if LeBron wants a hoop for each finger on his shooting hand, the road there next 12 months could also be his hardest yet.

Chris Paul will retire ringless

In the beginning: I hope I’m improper. But after the regular-season world-beating Phoenix Suns flamed out within the second round in spectacular fashion, even the least superstitious amongst us should wonder if the “Chris Paul is cursed” conspiracy theories have teeth. The person is undeniably one in all the neatest and most expert point guards the league has ever seen, and will certainly be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. But at 37, and with the Western Conference primed to only be higher and more competitive next 12 months, it feels increasingly likely that he’ll retire with one glaring omission from his impressive resumé.

Role players win championships

No less than one superstar is undoubtedly a prerequisite to a championship. But role players who excel at playing those roles are an equally, if no more, vital ingredients to a winning NBA recipe. Looking especially on the business end of the playoffs, players like Al Horford, Robert Williams III, Andrew Wiggins and Kevon Looney proved a key component to games that, amongst well-matched teams with keen defensive acuity, are won within the margins.

Steph Curry’s legacy is cemented

By the close of Game 4 of the finals, Steph had achieved something of a luxury for an NBA player: for all legacy-related intents and purposes, it didn’t really matter if his team won or lost the series. It had already, by that time, change into crystal clear that the one real reason Golden State was in position to hoist one more Larry O’Brien Trophy was due to Curry’s mind-blowing, unwavering excellence. His brother in splash, Klay Thompson, had been streaky at best this postseason. There was no Kevin Durant to deflect a part of the credit to. Yes, the role players showed up, however the success of this particular Golden State run got here all the way down to one undeniable thing: Curry continues to be one hell of a Chef.

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