A look at the teams that got more likeable during the 2017-2018 offseason
The relatively mediocre regular season, followed by playoffs mostly ridden of any true competitive tension, lulled the majority of NBA fans into a sense of indifference; however, they were almost instantly prompted into spending sleepless nights smashing their F5 buttons. This action-packed offseason redeemed the somewhat lacklustre 2016-2017 season, and with the formation of various big threes, big fours and brand new tanking machines we’ve witnessed early standings projections fall through day in and day out.
It was not the sheer quantity of trades that were made (14 trades with 32 players moved), but rather the quality of players involved in those trades that made this offseason as extraordinary. The fact that four of the five starters from the 2014 East All Star team got relocated in a single offseason just three years removed sounds downright outlandish. These personnel changes will definitely affect the inter and intra conferential distribution of power from a purely competitive standpoint, but will also have an impact on how the NBA fans perceive the teams on an emotional level.
Let’s take a look at the teams that successfully managed to reinvent their public image to garner more attention and sympathy from the neutral NBA fans:
After five consecutive years of having the upper hand in a playoff series and eventually being eliminated, the Clippers have decided to take a different route. Chris Paul, who was the main defendant in the case of Clippers’ notorious lack of playoff success, was allowed to make a go at establishing his legacy elsewhere. That U-turn, coupled with the accompanying tidal wave of change in the Western conference, instantly demoted the Clippers from a fun contending team to a fun team that’s hardly a championship threat whatsoever.
The move will obviously be a big blow to Steve Ballmer’s dreams of adorning his investement with a golden lining, but considering the pieces the Clippers targeted in the CP3 move and the addition of Danilo Gallinari and Miloš Teodosić, the Lob City won’t reach its expiration date anytime soon. Now that they got rid of the pressure that comes with the presence of a ringless nine time All Star, they will have complete freedom to focus on what suits them the best.
Attractive, fast-paced brand of basketball permeated with risky outlet, no-look and bounce passes already put on display by their newly acquired point guard, fast break and alley-oop dunks consistently being converted by DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin, and relentless three point barrage by the rest of the complementary crew in a setup where defense is a mere afterthought will surely make tons of basketball fans stick to their TV screens. With their new look, the Clippers will easily become the team you show your friends to tip them over the edge of getting into basketball, and rest assured that they will top the League Pass rankings this season.
The period of dysfunctionality which apparently plagued the franchise on all levels seems to have passed, and many were surprised with rational moves the Kings made in this calendar year. The refurbished roster devoid of any true starpower is a major shift from the policy of putting up with DeMarcus Cousins’ up-and-down’s, and actually seems like a logical step towards waiting out the era of dominance by their divisional buddies.
The squad consisting of veterans who are well into the twilight of their careers on one end of the scale, and a mix of unproven youngsters on the other end, might not tickle the interest of a casual fan right now, especially since the stacked West won’t even allow the opportunity of causing an upset. However, the fans that are deeply invested into the NBA are in a constant search of a young, “two years away from being two years away” team to love and cherish (see: 2015-2016 76ers and 2016-2017 Bucks), and the Kings seem like a perfect candidate of taking up that spot this season.
An astounding number of nine players with no more than one year of NBA experience, who will have the honor of at least a year long mentorship provided by the likes of Vince Carter and Zach Randolph, makes the Kings one of the most underrated storylines of the upcoming season. The Kings are oozing with smartly conducted potential, and now is the right time to hop on the bandwagon.
Westbrook’s fruitful hunt for the MVP and Big O’s long-standing triple-double record simultaneously made the Thunder one of the most exciting and most polarizing teams of the last season. Many were straight up enraged with his purported stat-padding, while others found his inflated numbers completely justified. All of that will, however, fall between the cracks as the landscape in Oklahoma City completely changes with the addition of Carmelo Anthony and Paul George.
It’s not just the Thunder fans who are eager to see their new trident in action; Anthony’s and George’s stagnation, caused by the incapability of their respective front offices to put them into the position to consistently compete, became the source of frustration for the majority of basketball afficionados. Now that they have both joined forces with the reigning MVP and, more importantly, one of the best facilitators in the game, there will be absolutely no excuse for even a slight hint of complacency or underperformance. Multiple stars forming these kinds of ad hoc alliances is definitely becoming a trend in the modern NBA, and even though it evidently yields a high rate of success, there is always a looming possiblity that the system implode as a consequence of unrestrained egos.
That exact win or bust situation will force the fans to continuously tune in and track the progress. If everything clicks, and the Thunder eventually face the Warriors in the latter stages of the postseason, they will get the support of an army of neutral followers, but if any adversity causes the train to derail, there will be loads of those who will wallow in schadenfreude. The Thunder will, without any doubt, be under relentless scrutiny of the public eye over the course of the season, and a good percentage of their matchups in the upcoming season will be a must watch even for the casual fans.
Speaking in terms of absolute numbers, it is obvious that neither the Clippers, the Kings nor the Thunder will be the most popular team in the league. Most of the big market teams haven’t regressed at all during the offseason, so it’s pretty much expected that the teams such as the Warriors, Cavs, Lakers or Celtics will continue on sporting the largest fanbases across the league.
However, there is a good chance that the three mentioned teams will record the highest relative surge in the number of those who decide to closely follow them; the Clippers because of their attractive and fast-paced system in which both offenses are bound to shine, the Kings because of their potential and a good statistical probability that they might be developing a couple of future all stars at the moment, and the Thunder because their new acquisitions might make them the symbol of restoring parity to their conference and the league.