The Starting 5: A look at some of the best hoops content from around the internet
1. LeBron James chases the ghost from Chicago and basketball immortality – Lee Jenkins, Sports Illustrated
Over a month has passed since the Cleveland Cavaliers came back from a 3-1 deficit to win the NBA championship, but it’s just as fresh on the minds of those in Cleveland and for LeBron fans everywhere. There isn’t much to say about this piece that Jenkins didn’t put eloquently in the article, and when Lee Jenkins writes something, it’s required reading for NBA fans.
C.J. McCollum was the first player to earn an extension from his draft class, but he won’t likely be the last as other players drafted in 2013 will look to cash in for their first real payday by the October 31st extension deadline. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Rudy Gobert will almost assuredly receive a max extension and Steven Adams could be another player to receive a major raise. More interesting cases could be Oklahoma City’s other free agents (Victor Oladipo and Andre Roberson), Nerlens Noel and even Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who has shown some potential but probably not enough to warrant a maximum contract.
3. Houston Rockets: 2016 Offseason Grades – Gerald Bourguet, Hoops Habit
The Rockets had one of the most active free agencies of the summer. They lost one of their key players from last season (Dwight Howard), they added players that will certainly help their offense next season (Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson), and they came to terms on an extension with their best player (James Harden). While things probably aren’t as bad in Houston as they appeared last season, they may have outperformed their actual ability two seasons ago with a Western Conference Finals appearance. With the new pieces floating around in Houston, it’s difficult to determine what their record will be this season, but there is little doubt that points will be scored in Houston, both for the Rockets and for any team playing them.
4. My Sophomore Crush: Jahlil Okafor – Scott Rafferty, Hardwood Paroxysm
Jahlil Okafor had a rookie season that was difficult to evaluate. On one hand, he put up very respectable numbers: 17.5 points, 7.0 rebounds on an effective field goal percentage of 50.9%. On the other, his team was quite a bit better when Okafor was on the bench last season, with all of the obvious caveats about on/off metrics. Adding three talented players to an already crowded front court won’t make it easier to judge the second-year player (Ben Simmons, Dario Saric and Joel Embiid), but it may provide the motivation necessary to improve in areas that he currently lacks.
5. USA Basketball is dominant entering Rio, but the future is looming – Michael Pina, Vice Sports
The USA will almost assuredly dominate the 2016 Olympics if the warm-up competitions are any indication of what’s to come. The team seems to be competing against previous iterations of USA Basketball instead of the teams they share the court with as a way to stay focused. But that might be set to change in the immediate future, as many of the NBA’s young stars have ties with countries outside of the United States. Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Ben Simmons and Giannis Antetokounmpo are just a few of the names that could give the team trouble in the next Olympics.