And, they are back!
Finally putting an end to the offseason, the NBA roared out of the gates. It put out its finest teams on show, with the Golden State Warriors locking horns with the Houston Rockets and the Cleveland Cavaliers taking on the Boston Celtics. These four, along with the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder are the favourites to reach the Finals.
While the league will live and die with them, there is a place where others can be talked about too. Where stats don’t matter and the teams are irrelevant, the real holy grail of basketball: the highlights reel.
As a fan, it is useful to know which players are likely to make the highlights reel. Because as fun YouTube compilations are, there is nothing quite like watching a random Miwaukee Bucks match where all of a sudden Giannis Antetokounmpo does this.
Here is a look at three players who might not make the Finals, but will still be discussed through the season.
To be honest, it could be one of many genuine talents which the Philadephia 76ers have in their arsenal. However, even among them, Embiid is special. A seven-foot centre who can shoot the three-ball almost as well as he shoots the mid-range jumper is rare. And in the pick-and-roll game, Embiid is more wall than screen as you can just about forget trying to go through him as you chase the ball-handler.
Watching Embiid bulldoze through opposition defences or stepping back for a three-pointer is extremely enjoyable, but far more entertaining is watching him on defence. And that is not something you usually hear about NBA players.
It is apt for Embiid however. At 113 kilograms he is nigh impossible to displace once he plants himself, so few players will try to post-up against him. With a wingspan of 7’5, he also forces opponents to significantly alter their shots (higher arcs, step-backs) if they want to score.
And then there are the blocks. Embiid loves to block shots.
Does he really have to swat that layup so hard that it bounces off the backboard and ends up at the three-point line? Possibly not.
Is it awesome every single time? Most definitely.
By all means, it should Lonzo Ball who gets all the attention for the Los Angeles Lakers. Ball is by all means a special player, a franchise player even, and will definitely dominate all discussions about the Lakers in the foreseeable future.
Kuzma however seems more… fun. He is a 6’9 power forward with a neat three-point stroke and the ability to finish at the rim. He can also finish with either hand, a useful trait when finishing at close quarters as it allows him to finish cleanly without giving the defender a look.
Kuzma is also an “athlete”, which is NBA speak for being tall and fast. This makes him an asset on the fast break and with Ball’s passing ability, you can expect some full-court passes being converted into two-handed dunks. Further, while not being especially strong, his game in the paint is eye-catching due to his quickness which lets him steal a step on defenders and get his shot off.
He was also good enough in the NBA preseason to merit his own mixtape from the official NBA channel which we all know is the gold standard for basketball excellence.
The Los Angeles Clippers lost Chris “Point God” Paul to the Houston Rockets in the offseason. Considered by some to still be the standard for point guards in the business, Paul was a big loss to the Clippers. So when they decided to replace him with a 30-year-old NBA rookie, more than a few eyebrows were raised.
For the NBA, Teodosic is a new entity. However, for those who know of a basketball world outside the NBA, the man is a legend already. He led Serbia to second place in the Rio Olympics as well as the 2014 Basketball World Cup. He was the EuroLeague MVP in 2010 and won the EuroLeague with CSKA Moscow in 2016.
Teodosic is an average-sized guard and will not dominate the paint by clashing with the bigs. His career shooting is 44 percent which is fine but not something to write home about.
Why the hoopla around him then? Maybe because he can do this:
Milos Teodosic is the reincarnation of Pistol Pete Maravich...
80-foot underhanded outlet pass on the money pic.twitter.com/NzBtE5fcfj
— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) October 4, 2017
Teodosic is an exceptional passer of the basketball. And if you don’t want to take my word for it, then maybe you should listen to Kevin Durant who said that Teodosic once made the greatest pass he has seen in his entire life. And rest assured that was not a one-off thing because Teodosic can produce highlight passes on demand. His court vision is almost unparalleled and it seems like he makes more no-look passes than normal ones.
Los Angeles was Lob City before Teodosic got there. If he picks up where he left in Europe, then you can be sure that that title will stay in place. Also, in case you were wondering, he is eligible for Rookie of the Year honours, so don’t place your bets on Lonzo Ball just yet.
The Human Highlight Reels are here
None of these players are likely to make their respective Conference finals, let alone the NBA Finals. However, they all will be tremendously entertaining to watch through the season as they block like they’re playing volleyball, finish full-court fast-breaks in a flash or make fifty feet no-look passes for fun.
Either Stephen Curry or LeBron James will still take the Championship Ring at the end of the season. However, the presence of the likes of Embiid, Kuzma and Teodosic will ensure that we have a lot to look forward to this season.
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Updated Date: Oct 21, 2017 16:22:16 IST