For anyone who still believes the NBA is about the sport of basketball, I have some bad news. It’s a business and, just like any business, deals are constantly being made as companies (AKA, teams) vie for position and try to beat out the competition. Those not up to standards are rooted out and those who outperform, like Luka Doncic, look to receive an extra incentive for their talents. It’s a continuous battle that gets more pronounced each season.
Who’s Up, Who’s Down
Fred Van Vleet is one of those who wants to be recognized for having some of the best skills on the court. He is going to be an unrestricted free agent after this season is over and is putting everything he has into his game. It’s showing, too, with 18.6 points and 7.5 assists per game and a 40% success rate from beyond the paint. When it comes time for the Toronto Raptors star guard to move on, he’s expected to be valued at over $25 million a year.
That high a value may no longer be the case of San Antonio Spurs player LaMarcus Aldridge. Sure, he’s still in the top ranks of players, but this year hasn’t been the best. He’s averaging 18.9 points a game and it’s possible that his name could come up in trade talks. However, he still has two years left on his contract with the Spurs and, at $50 million, it might be hard to find someone willing to pay the premium.
The Portland Trail Blazers are likely going to get some much-needed help behind the bench soon. Pau Gasol, who has spent time bouncing around the league as a player, has been absent as he tended to a foot injury that took him to his native country of Spain to find relief. The Blazers are reportedly willing to bring him back to assist.
What About Luka Doncic?
He can’t even legally buy a beer in the US, but Luka Doncic is one of the most mature players in the NBA. The Dallas Mavericks guard is 20 years old and has lit up the courts with his talents this year. Originally from Slovenia, where you can legally drink at 18, coming to the US must have invoked a little bit of culture shock, but you wouldn’t know it by watching him play. Despite being the target of defenses across the league, he is averaging 30.6 points and 9.9 rebounds a game and has scored over 40 points in three of his last seven appearances. This is why Luka Doncic is well on his way to becoming the league MVP in a close competition with Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks.
The New Orleans Pelicans are going to have to scrap any plans they had for rookie Zion Williamson. The number-one draft pick was meant to bring the team to new heights, but a knee injury in the NBA sidelined him before he could make his debut. It has now been confirmed that the initial recovery period of six to eight weeks will be longer. Given his history at Duke University in North Carolina with knee injuries, it wasn’t too surprising that he would miss game time in the big leagues.
Just like players and teams need to always bring their best performances, so do the refs. Just like players can be benched for not living up to expectations, so should be the refs. However, that certainly isn’t the case. Perhaps the attention given a recent blunder during a game between the Spurs and the Houston Rockets will make a difference. Refs completely blew it when they couldn’t call a dunk as a made basket in favor of the Rockets, an error the team says cost it the game, and wouldn’t even let coach Mike D’Antoni challenge the call. The Rockets are appealing to the league for a decision.