While the world awaits LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant in the Finals, here are five things you should be ready to talk about intelligently while watching the NBA this season.
1. 30 is the new 20. Want a fun twist on the All-Star Game that would assure fierce competition? Make it the Over-30s vs. the Under-30s. And don't you dare underestimate the old men. We're talking a starting five of LeBron, Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Stephen Curry and Dame Lillard, with James Harden, Chris Paul, Paul George, Russell Westbrook, Jimmy Butler and DeMar DeRozan off the bench. Throw in Draymond Green and Klay Thompson... OK, so maybe this isn't such a good idea after all. It's a blowout.
2. Step back to move forward. It's more than just chicks who dig the long ball in the NBA. The Jazz flung up 43 3-pointers per game last season. Jazz. 43. Not sure what's more surprising. In Curry's NBA lifetime (the start of the 2009-10 season), the team that's led the league in 3-point attempts has accumulated a 654-294 record, a .690 winning percentage that is 51 percentage points higher than the champion Bucks' regular-season mark last year. Dunk that into your morning coffee.
3. "Russian Roulette for Chet." Tanking is a serious crime in the NBA, but when there are basically 27 teams out of the running for the title before the first tip, you know it's at least being discussed in board rooms. The Magic, Rockets and Thunder don't have to intentionally lose in order to lead the race for the right to draft Gonzaga big man Chet Holmgren, but look out below if/when the hopelessness prompts a trade-deadline call on Portland's Damian Lillard, Washington's Bradley Beal, Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns or Sacramento's De'Aaron Fox.
4. Welcome: James Harden Rule. It must be cool for an NBA rule to have your name. Or maybe not. The NBA wrote an "Allen Iverson Rule" to require a dress code for non-participants on the bench. "The Charles Barkley Rule" now prevents players from backing down opponents for more than five seconds. There's even a "Rajon Rondo Rule" regarding the proper way to wear a headband. We'll see what Harden thinks this season when the NBA cracks down on 3-point shooters blatantly throwing their bodies into defenders, trying to get three foul shots. It'll be a point of emphasis for referees, and no doubt a point of contention for Trae Young.
5. Going for the (2024) gold. Auditions are underway for the team the world can't wait to root against in Paris three years from now, and a handful of young American standouts would benefit from reaching elite-level status this season. You could argue that Zion Williamson and Trae Young are already there. Maybe even De'Aaron Fox. But in the "You Heard It Here First" category, keep an eye on this potential breakthrough quartet: Jaylen Brown, Tyler Herro, Jarrett Allen and, yes, Lonzo Ball, a vastly underrated passer and defender who, in the Olympic spirit, has improved his 3-point shooting from 30.5 percent to a very respectable 37.8 over his four-year NBA career. Bulls fans will love the show.
--Dave Del Grande, Field Level Media