In the hours leading up to Thursday night’s NBA draft, many of the top prospects will be in hotel rooms watching TV analysts speculate where they’ll spend the next few years of their lives. The “experts,” like the players themselves, have little concrete information. One thing is certain: As much as the players dreamed about this day, by Thursday afternoon they just want it to end.
There is an unspoken understanding between the NBA and its casual fans: We will ignore you for most of the winter in favor of football and college basketball and pay attention come playoff time. You, in turn, must deliver exciting action. Rest your stars and beat up on the 76ers all you want in December. But the final two minutes of most playoff games better be entertaining.
The NBA has not held up its end of the bargain in 2016. Not even close. There are numbers that prove this: There have been 10 games decided by at least 30 points. The previous high for one postseason was seven such games. On one day in the opening round, three of the four games had at least 20-point margins. The average victory margin was at a record high of 14.2 before the first three games of the finals were decided by 15, 33, and 30 points.
Maybe it’s because the star of the league is 6’3″, 185-pounds. Or maybe it’s because there are so few true centers these days. But look at the starters, as voted by the fans, for Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game. Positions are no longer explicit in basketball, but we can probably agree there are three point guards (Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, and Kyle Lowry), two shooting guards (Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant), and five others who, if you had to choose one position, would be small forwards (LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard). They combine to be the shortest All-Star starters since fans started voting.