Hey, everyone! Welcome back to basketball season. If you were around these parts last year, you remember our weekly feature: This Week in Hoops. It’s changed a bit, but the essence is the same. If you’re new to Palestra Back, TWIH is a helpful guide to the recent goings on in the world of basketball. If something happens on the hardwood, you’ll hear about it here.
The Biggest Story in Basketball
The Warriors have not lost a game to date this season.
The Sixers have not won a game to date this season.
Naturally, the two are attached at the hip in the minds of NBA fans.
The Warriors are not only a beauty to watch on the court, but have artfully crafted their team in ways that should make every other NBA organization jealous. Their core is defined by three high draft picks. Steph Curry was miraculously still available at #7, thanks to David Kahn in Minnesota. Klay Thompson was an excellent value choice at #11. The team tanked the latter half of a season to secure the top 7 pick that nabbed them Harrison Barnes. These three are surrounded by veterans acquired from worse situations (Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut) and a diamond in the second round rough (Draymond Green).
Everyone who is hard on the Sixers’ plan points to the Warriors’ success as proof that tanking is not required to win in the NBA, especially not to the levels or for the length of time the Sixers have exhibited. This ignores a few select facts. The Warriors, by choice and by accident, did tank. Between 2008-09 and 2011-12, they won more than 30 games just once and never finished higher than 10th in the Western Conference. When, why, and how they did this is less relevant than the fact that they did finish low enough in those four years to draft at picks number 7, 6, 11, and 7. Three of those picks proved fruitful, netting the aforementioned core. The fourth was used on Ekpe Udoh who didn’t contribute much.
With the mix of luck and skill the Warriors had, it is clearly possible to build a team with that foundation. What Sam Hinkie and Sixers ownership are attempting to do is reduce the luck and the skill needed to replicate this process.
The skill and scouting to nail the picks of Curry, Thompson, and Barnes isn’t easy. But if the Warriors had really tanked those years and instead of picking in the mid-lottery, picked near the top, would things be easier? Rather than Stephen Curry, they could have selected Blake Griffin or James Harden (or, of course, could have still been Curry). Instead of Ekpe Udoh, they might have taken John Wall or Boogie Cousins. Klay Thompson could have been Kyrie Irving. Harrison Barnes could be Anthony Davis or Damian Lillard.
Clearly, I was generous with my selections. Those same drafts also produced busts like Hasheem Thabeet and Johnny Flynn.
The Sixers plan is simple. They, and the rest of the league, know that rebuilding from the middle or bottom middle of the league is possible. Doing so, however, requires incredible precision and a touch of luck. Hinkie’s bet is that he can throw darts at the board just as well the other teams looking to build can throw thumbtacks at the same board.
The worse this Sixers team plays for the longer amount of time, the bigger the darts will start to feel in Hinkie’s hands.
Basketball is Fun!
With all of the hot takes and super serious basketball related opinions out there, it’s important to remember that this is a game being played and watched for fun. Every week we’ll highlight something on the lighter side of the hoops world.
No one is having more fun in the world of basketball than Monmouth’s bench players.
And they should be. After wins over USC, Notre Dame, and UCLA, they are on their way to a great season.
And they deserve to have some fun.
And they definitely are.
Rodger Sherman from SBNation provided a full recap here. It’s worth a click. There’s a lot more where these came from.
All the pieces and posts you need to read to be on the ball.
Giving Thanks: Setting the Table for the Rest of the Season – This is my debut over at Rush The Court, where I had some Thanksgiving related fun.
Hope burns bright in Minnesota – It’s so nice that we’ll continue to have Zach Lowe in our lives as he shifts to ESPN.com for now. This week his column focused on the Minnesota Timberwolves re-build, though my favorite part, as always, was the “10 Things I Like and Don’t Like”
Twenty Seven Losses – Apologies that I continue to include work from Liberty Ballers here, but they continue to deliver. This piece is as good as you can get about a team that has lost 27 games in a row.
May the Tuesday Top Tens rest in pieces. Long live Rank Shots! If you’re not familiar, this is where we rank the best teams in the NBA, college basketball, and rank another totally irrelevant something.
- Golden State Warriors
- (breathe in your nose and out of your mouth)
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- San Antonio Spurs
- Oklahoma City Thunder
- Michigan State
- Iowa State
1990’s Family Sports Movies
Whether or not to include Heavyweights on the list really troubled me. It would have been #1, but it’s not actually about sports. Really at all. I think I just wanted to talk about it.
- The Sandlot
- D2: The Mighty Ducks
- Space Jam
- The Little Giants
- Cool Runnings
- The Mighty Ducks
- D3: The Mighty Ducks
- Air Bud
- The Big Green
- Little Big League
- Angels in the Outfield
- Rookie of the Year
Something Vaguely Basketball Related You Should Have Seen By Now
“93 Jordan lay-up style”
Some language NSFW.
Yeah, we’re testing the limits of the word “Vaguely” and yes, this is an 8 minute audio clip of a man talking about in-flight pancakes.
Games To Watch This Week
NBA: Spurs at Bulls (8PM/NBATV)
NCAA: Clemson at Minnesoat (9 PM/ESPN)
NBA: Lakers at Sixers (7PM/wherever dreams come true)
NCAA: #8 Villanova at St. J0e’s (7 PM, CBSSN)
The ACC-B1G Challenge! Notably: #16 Purdue at Pitt (9 PM/ ESPN2), #15 Miami at Nebrasketball (9 PM/ESPNU), #2 Maryland at #9 UNC (9:30/ESPN)
NBA: Pacers at Clippers (10:30/NBATV)
NCAA: Butler at #24 Cincinnati (7 PM/CBSSN), BYU at Utah (10 PM/PAC12), #10 Gonzaga vs Washington State (11 PM/FS1)
More ACC-B1G Challenge! Penn State at BC (7:15/ESPNU), Louisville at #3 Michigan State (7:15/ESPN), Wisconsin at Syracuse (7:15/ESPN2), #13 Indiana at #6 Duke (9:15/ESPN)
NBA: Thunder at Heat (7PM/TNT)
NCAA: #1 Kentucky at UCLA (9 PM/ESPN)
NBA: don’t watch knicks-nets, i wont even say what time or where to find it
NCAA: #21 Oregon at UNLV (11PM/ESPN2)
NBA: Cavs at Heat (8PM/NBATV)
NCAA: #11 Arizona at #10 Gonzaga! (3:15/ESPN), Syracuse at Georgetown (1 PM/FOX), about a million other games
NCAA: VCU vs Florida State (2PM/ESPNU), #19 Vanderbilt at Baylor (8PM/ESPNU)
Enjoy the Games, Everyone.
(Note: Every edition of This Week in Hoops will end with a song. I’ve compiled all of these songs into a playlist that you can find here.)
Header Image via Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Shane McNichol is the founder, editor, and writer at PalestraBack.com. He has also contributed to SALTMoney.org, Rush The Court, and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @OnTheShaneTrain. If you have any suggestions, tips, ideas, or questions, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.