Curry became the first next generation star to get a NBA title. Durant, Harden, D. Rose and A. Davis saw how it was accomplished. A change of the guard is taking place right now at the NBA. The “NBA life” of the most dominant players like Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan is coming to an end. These younger kids will run the show from now on. They are hungry for success. They know it is possible. Will 2016 be the year when one of these stars gets the desired Larry O´Brien trophy?
The road less travelled
It starts when you´re young, playing with your homies at the local playground. The trash talking, the countless hours making hoops and playing D. Trying to avoid all the problems and temptations. It could be a best friend suddenly shot on the street. It can be struggling to survive in a monoparental household with just a few dollars to spend. Running away from the local gangsters, the drug lords of the ´hood. At the end of the day nothing seems as important as basketball. The hours of work spent enhancing your set of skills. Some day, some day… He will be a a huge superstar. He will finally give back to the supporting family all the sacrifices endured. One day, one day… “We wasn’t supposed to be here. You made us believe.You kept us off the streets.Put clothes on our backs, food on the table.When you didn’t eat, you made sure we ate. You went to sleep hungry. You sacrificed for us. You the real MVP.” in Kevin Durant NBA MVP Award Speech. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NmRJgKbibB8
Now is the time
Memories are a tricky thing. They can inspire or haunt you. For Durant, reliving the 2012 NBA Finals – when he had a chance to win a title against Miami´s big three – won´t be his finer remembrance. The Thunder had a good young core but, like it is often the case, inexperience proved costly. After these Finals choices had to be made. James Harden had to go, Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka were now the Thunder Big Three. A lot has changed since those days, including a massive campaign questioning Westbrook´s value. Last season, taking advantage of Durant´s injury, we saw the evolution of Russel Westbrook to new heights (vide http://www.nba.com/2015/news/03/02/fantasy-week-19-russell-westbrook-historical-month/). At one point he was posting stat lines a la Oscar Robertson. He finally silenced his fiercest critics, showing them he was the real deal. With an improved Ibaka – who managed to add a reliable mid-range shot – the Thunder were happy with the progress of their very own Big Three. However, bench production was missing. It was needed more quality and depth. Entering 2015-2016 season, Durant is hoping to finally exorcize his 2012 NBA Finals demons. The OKC roster is more balanced now, with the inclusion of Kanter, Waiters, DJ Augustin, plus the young Steven Adams and Mcgary, who showed a lot of promising attributes. Also, Novak and K. Singler will provide that indispensable stock of sharp outside shooting, vital to win a title in today´s 3-point NBA gameplay. Coming out of a nagging injury, will this be Durantula´s year? Will he deliver a deserved title to the faithful OKC fan base? Time will tell. For now, we just hope he plays at the same level, making absurd shots and completely dominating the game. The NBA and the fans will certainly appreciate it.
The bearded one
James Harden´s rise when he moved to Houston was as meteoric as unexpected. Although everyone knew he was a very good player, no one truly anticipated he would become one of the best scorers in the NBA. His wicked ankle breaker plus his trademark slashing move into the paint – which always gets him a ton of free throws – are two of his areas of expertise. Ah, his outside shooting “isn´t too bad” as well. His rise to the top is backed up by his improvement year after year in ppg, rpg, apg and steals. Has he already reached his full potential? After the first “honeymoon” seasons with the Rockets, where he discovered what it meant to be the main focus of offense, Harden is now arriving to that place which is very familiar to all the NBA stars. He wants support and consistent play from his colleagues in order to get the Championship. No one questions Harden´s ability to be decisive and key to dismantle an opponent team defense. The question lies in the Rockets supporting cast. Josh Smith is gone (a valuable loss) but, on the other hand, Houston managed to address their recurrent flaw over the past few years: a reliable and effective backcourt. Ty Lawson and Marcus Thornton were excellent additions. Harden is counting on them to ease the offensive load while P. Beverley can take care of the complicated defensive assignments. D. Howard will, evidently, play a decisive part on Rockets success, assuring no one gets comfortable driving to the Rockets restricted area. At the end of the day, it will be Harden´s year to win or lose. Houston Rockets are his team now. Like his former colleague at OKC, Harden has a few demons to exorcize as well, namely the widely criticized “disappearing act” in the above mentioned 2012 NBA Finals, as David Steele alluded back then: http://www.sportingnews.com/nba/story/2012-06-20/james-harden-okc-thunder-miami-heat-russell-westbrook-kevin-durant-nba-finals
No more injuries, please!
When speaking about D. Rose the word injury will definitely come up. In fact, it became embedded in his personal NBA journey storyline, as poignant as the amazing plays he did beforehand, when he became the youngest Regular Season MVP in NBA History. The Chicago Bulls fanbase still looks away every time they see a discomforting expression on his face after a dangerous maneuver on the court. Nevertheless, his return last year provided great happiness throughout the league, eager to see Rose´s amazing moves once again. Although he wasn´t exactly on the same form, he still managed to have a positive year, punctuated by a buzzer beater shot that defeated the Cavs. That victory seemed to mark the return of the best Bulls we´ve seen, with their trademark suffocating defense and a serviceable offense. The script, however, wasn´t written according to these guidelines. With a hurt on and off Gasol the Bulls weren´t able to eliminate the Cavs. They succumbed to their usual fragility: an absence of consistent offense. Some rumors also arose regarding a possible feud between Derrick Rose (the acclaimed superstar who some thought would never be able to return at a proper fitness condition) and Jimmy Butler (the emergent star of the team, directly responsible for maintaining the Bulls competitive). Facts or fiction, the future will tell. For now, D. Rose wants to take another step towards the 2011 best version of himself. By doing so, he will be able to surpass his own personal ghosts, proving the basketball world he can still be the best guard in the League, getting his team the first Championship after Jordan.
Last but not least
The unibrow has got to be one of the funniest NBA nicknames ever. Having said that, there is nothing laughable about Anthony Davis game. Highly praised from players, coaches and fans around the League, the sky is the limit for this young man. According to the NBA Scholar, he is still far away from a title, not because of his individual skills set but mainly due to the lack of “championship substance” showed by the Pelicans. Tyreke Evans, Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon and Asik provide some quality but that means nothing in the “Wild wild west”. A team must be absolutely bullet proof to make it there. Having said that, what if A. Davis continues to amaze us with his apparently enormous untapped potential? His Playoffs debut against the future champions showcased some glimpses of pure basketball brilliance. In case you need to quickly recap, the NBA Scholar strongly recommends checking this extraordinary page about A. Davis achievements so far, “Must see AD”: http://www.nba.com/pelicans/mustseead?ls=nbahpsplit2&cid=nbatvsocial_tw_sf11365110 From all of these 4 Aces, A. Davis is probably the one who is further away from getting his hands on the Larry O´Brien Trophy. On the other hand, he might be the one with more rings out of these 4 players when all is said and done. A. Davis is a once in a lifetime talent.