Should I stay or should I go now?
Should I stay or should I go now?
If I go, there will be trouble
And if I stay it will be double
So come on and let me know
– The Clash
Every season, there are NBA teams put into a precarious situation where they have to balance on a pendulum between immediate satisfaction (likely to end in heartbreak) and long-term planning that may incur the rancor of its fanbase. Obviously, the goal is to always make the postseason, but do you want it to be a casual fling inevitably involving the walk of shame or an actual relationship where you discover the minutiae of the other’s being?
In the Eastern Conference, a mere three games separate the 10th-seeded Indiana Pacers (17-22 record) from the Toronto Raptors (0.5 games behind), Cleveland Cavaliers (2.0), and Washington Wizards (3.0). In the Western Conference, it’s not relatively as close as the east. The 10th-seeded Memphis Grizzlies (18-19) lead the New Orleans Pelicans and Oklahoma City Thunder by 2.5 games, and the Sacramento Kings by 3.5. What should the trailing six teams do? Come on, I’ll let you know.
Toronto Raptors (17-23); 2-8 in their last 10
It’s been an odd season for the Raptors, kind of like they have all the puzzle pieces except that one piece that goes exactly in the middle of it to complete the image. The talent is there with Pascal Siakam who dipped a bit in terms of three-point shooting, everyone should know Norman Powell is (sneaky) good, Chris Boucher broke out at age 28 and leads the team in PER (23.2), Fred VanVleet is shooting (inefficiently with a 39.4 FG%) and scoring, and Mr. Old Reliable, Kyle Lowry is still doing Kyle Lowry things.
I just reread what I wrote and it makes perfect sense I give both praise and criticism toward the Raps because it’s pretty emblematic of their season – choppy. So, Raps, keep doing what you’re doing in regards to inconsistency, sit back living off the cachet of recently winning an NBA title, and improve your draft position in what’s looking to be a loaded 2021 NBA Draft.
New Orleans Pelicans (17-23); 4-6 in their last 10
The Pels are loaded with talent on the top end with Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram (both of whom should eventually be legends), and dare I say, Lonzo Ball. Despite such a strong young core, including Jaxson Hayes if you ask me, New Orleans has underachieved to a degree, especially with a mostly healthy Zion, who has only missed two of their 40 games. Of their 23 Ls, eight of them have been by five points or less, half of which were losses by one or two points. Like a defender on a shooter, they have to learn to close out.
Ball has been the subject of trade rumors of late, and the Pelicans have a copious amount of future draft picks that they can attach to any swap, including for a player with more star power than Zo. They definitely need a more veteran type of player that can get the job done at the end of games, and still on the timeline of Z and BI. Zach Lavine has been a name floating around.
Establishing a winning culture ASAP in Zion’s career is the best long-term bet for him to eventually re-up with the franchise, so whatever it takes. In David Griffin we trust.
Cleveland Cavaliers (15-25); 5-5 in their last 10
Sitting Andre Drummond in hopes for a trade before next week’s deadline that will never appear because of his near $29 million salary, even prorated it’s an untouchable contract, should signal where the Cavs’ thought process is. They are not looking to make the playoffs. And, you know what? They shouldn’t.
They have an exciting young trio in Colin Sexton, Darius Garland, and Jarrett Allen that are still on the cheap, although Allen will get paid by them this offseason, and are obviously the future of the franchise. Cleveland is currently pegged to pick fifth this year, which puts them in the mix for adding a top wing (sorry, Isaac Okoro, you ain’t cutting it) – Jonathan Kuminga, Scottie Barnes, or Ziaire Williams would be incredible additions to the Cleveland core. Don’t mess this one up, Cavs. Wait, yes, keep messing up… just on the court.
Oklahoma City Thunder (17-23); 5-5 in their last 10
Hold up! The Thunder have won 17 games?! Nice. According to Basketball Reference, they were only expected to have won 13 at this point. Not bad, OKC. There have been a lot of games missed by players, such as top dog, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander missing seven games and veteran Al Horford missing 14. Other smatterings of injury have made it so players like Luguentz Dort, Isaiah Roby, Theo Maledon, and Darius Bazley received key minutes, and continue to get significant burn.
Horford on the Thunder has been an anomaly from the beginning, and considering their current trajectory, the rumors of his pending departure definitely has some meat on it. That would open the door for more hardwood time and less bench time for Moses Brown, who surprisingly leads the team with an outstanding, however from a very small sample size, PER of 25.3! Could he be the center of the future? It’s quite possible, but the team will need to give the young man the opportunity. No vets allowed should be the mantra in OKC.
Washington Wizards (14-25); 3-7 in their last 10
I’m not trying to be lazy here and not write much. I’m just being direct.
WHATEVER BRADLEY BEAL WANTS.
Sacramento Kings (16-24); 4-6 in their last 10
The positive spin on this particular situation for the Kings is that, hey, they’re in playoff contention! Sure it took a rule change to adjust to COVID-19 and accommodate a global pandemic, but despite what could be the subject matter of many disaster movies to come (COVID, not the Kings), Sacramento has a chance to play in the postseason! Look, it’s something.
At some point, the collection of young talent through the draft will eventually pay off. It just seems like it’s taking forever. Fortunately, they do have one anchor in De’Aaron Fox, and it looks like Tyrese Haliburton may pay off and give the Kings one of the better backcourts for the future. But, what’s up Marvin Bagley? Just ball out, kid. Forget about being part of the draft class you were a part of and go! Oh, that go is specifically for Bagley, otherwise, the Kings should…
And, here’s the inspiration for this post. Enjoy the tunes! I’m pretty sure the above teams won’t be enjoying too much considering the upcoming decisions that need to be made, especially with next week’s trade deadline! The cure is always The Clash!