Since the Golden State Warriors beat the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals, winning their fourth title in eight seasons …
Celtics coach Ime Udoka was suspended for an improper relationship with a female subordinate. Warriors forward Draymond Green wasn’t for punching teammate Jordan Poole.
Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell and Dejounte Murray were traded. Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Russell Westbrook weren’t.
Suns owner Robert Sarver announced he will sell the team, after a 10-month independent investigation into his behavior, which “clearly violated common workplace standards.”
My annual player rankings based on last season:
Who played more than 2,000 minutes:
Age 19 >> Jalen Green
Age 20 >> LaMelo Ball, Evan Mobley, Scottie Barnes, Cade Cunningham, Anthony Edwards, Franz Wagner.
Age 21 >> Tyrese Haliburton, Tyrese Maxey, RJ Barrett, Cole Anthony.
Haliburton and Maxey have two things in common. They are the only two players named Tyrese in league history, and both are excellent shooters:
2021-22 pts 2 pt 3 pt ft
Tyrese Haliburton 15.3 51.7 41.4 84.2
Tyrese Maxey 17.5 51.2 42.7 86.6
Age 22 >> 1. Luka Doncic, Mavericks. 2. Ja Morant, Grizzlies. 3. Darius Garland, Cavaliers.
A couple generations ago, this group would have just finished its rookie season. Instead, Doncic and Morant are All-NBA players, and Garland was third in the Most Improved Player voting.
Age 23 >> 1. Jayson Tatum, Celtics. 2. Trae Young, Hawks.
3. Jarrett Allen, Cavaliers. 4. Desmond Bane, Grizzlies. 5. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Thunder.
Tatum played a league-high 3,714 minutes in 100 games, including the playoffs. He was spent in the NBA Finals.
Young was the most one-way player in the league — possibly the second-best offensive player and near the bottom in defense.
Bane shot 48% on 2-pointers, 44% on 3s and 90% from the line.
Age 24 >> 1. Bam Adebayo, Heat. 2. Robert Williams III, Celtics.
Head-to-head in the Eastern Conference finals:
2021-22 min pts reb 2 pt
Bam Adebayo 37.3 15.0 8.4 60.3
Robert Williams III 22.5 9.2 6.0 70.4
Williams played hurt and missed Game 3, when Adebayo had 31 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
Adebayo is the better player over the next five seasons.
Age 25 >> 1. Devin Booker, Suns. 2. Dejounte Murray, Hawks.
3. Donovan Mitchell, Cavaliers. 4. Domantas Sabonis, Kings.
5. Jaylen Brown, Celtics.
Three All-Star guards:
2021-22 pts reb ast TS%
Devin Booker 26.8 5.0 4.8 57.6
Donovan Mitchell 25.9 4.2 5.3 57.2
Dejounte Murray 21.1 8.3 9.2 53.3
Murray, the best all-round player of this group, was traded to the Hawks, who were 26th in defensive rating last season. An elite defender who led the league in steals, Murray should change that.
Murray and Trae Young are the most interesting backcourt in the world. Murray will play plenty of point, allowing Young to play off the ball.
Age 26 >> 1. Nikola Jokic, Nuggets. 2. Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves. 3. Zach Lavine, Bulls. 4. Kristaps Porzingis, Wizards (51 games).
Jokic’s season was a masterpiece: 27.1 points, 13.8 rebounds, 7.9 assists, with 65/34/81 shooting and Magic passing.
Best seasons this century:
1. Stephen Curry, 2016
2. Nikola Jokic, 2022
3. LeBron James, many seasons
Towns says he is “the greatest big man shooter of all time.”
He’s not. It’s Dirk Nowitzki, according to KD and science.
Age 27 >> 1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks. 2. Joel Embiid, 76ers. 3. Fred VanVleet, Raptors. 4. Marcus Smart, Celtics.
5. Pascal Siakam, Raptors.
Antetokounmpo has been among the top three players in the league for four seasons. Two MVP awards. One Finals MVP.
Embiid is a great player. Just not as great as Jokic.
Age 28 >> Injured: Anthony Davis (40 games), Bradley Beal (40 games).
Davis should return to form. He’s great every other season.
Age 29 >> 1. Rudy Gobert, Timberwolves. WTF. Kyrie Irving, Nets (29 games)
The Timberwolves acquired Rudy Gobert as part of Danny Ainge’s Utah Jazz teardown, which means they will start Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns — two of the four best centers in the league.
It’s worth a shot, because great players don’t come to Minnesota on purpose. Towns is all offense, no defense. Gobert is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year who led the league in rebounding (14.7). He is limited on offense, but the Jazz used him so well that he led the league in 2-point shooting (71.8).
The pairing won’t be as good as Tim Duncan and David Robinson or Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson. But they will be better. At least better than Patrick Ewing and Bill Cartwright.
Age 30 >> Khris Middleton, Bucks. DNP. Kawhi Leonard, Clippers.
Leonard has played nine seasons, just three of the past five. There’s some resume rebuilding to do.
Age 31 >> Jrue Holiday, Bucks. Injured: Draymond Green (46 games), Klay Thompson (32 games), Paul George (31 games), Damian Lillard (29 games).
Health is the biggest concern for the Warriors next season.
Age 32 >> 1. Jimmy Butler, Heat. 2. DeMar DeRozan, Bulls.
3. James Harden, 76ers.
Jimmy Butler isn’t a superstar. He’s the anti-superstar.
He was the 30th pick in the 2011 draft. Averaged 8.5 minutes in his rookie season. In the starting lineup in his third season. Most Improved Player in his fourth.
At 32, he just finished the best three-season stretch of his career. It’s flagrant that he didn’t make any All-NBA team. A flagrant 2 that Pascal Siakam received more votes.
Butler makes as many winning plays as anyone in the league: points, rebounds, assists, steals — but also tip-out offensive rebounds, defensive switches, screens and cuts.
James Harden, on the other hand, is a superstar — who has played for three teams in two seasons.
Butler is the better player.
Age 33 >> 1. Stephen Curry, Warriors. 2. Kevin Durant, Nets (55 games).
Curry burnished a legacy that was already settled science. Most career 3-pointers. Four championships. NBA Finals MVP. The Warriors were 45-19 with him, 8-10 without him.
Best player of the century? LeBron is No. 1. Curry’s only competition for No. 2 is Tim Duncan and Shaquille O’Neal.
Durant is often lauded as the game’s best player by television’s professional screamers. Not sure why. His only MVP award was eight seasons ago. Since then, he hasn’t led the league in any traditional or advanced metric. He has missed 64 games over the past two seasons.
Age 34 >> Mike Conley, Jazz
He will probably be traded by the deadline.
A complete list:
Age 35 >> 1. Al Horford, Celtics. 2. Kyle Lowry, Heat. Also: Jeff Green, George Hill, Rudy Gay, Wesley Matthews, Garrett Temple, Rajon Rondo, Lou Williams, Goran Dragic.
Horford averaged 12.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and shot 15-for-24 on 3-pointers in his first NBA Finals.
Pat Riley says Lowry needs to be in “world class shape.”
Age 36 >> Chris Paul, Suns. Also: P.J. Tucker, Dwight Howard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Taj Gibson, Paul Millsap, Trevor Ariza.
Paul’s season was like another 36-year-old Suns point guard who led the league in assists:
pts reb ast 2pt
Chris Paul, 2022 14.7 4.4 10.8 55.9
Steve Nash, 2011 14.7 3.5 11.4 52.5
Age 37 >> LeBron James, Lakers. Also: Carmelo Anthony.
LeBron had the best season ever by a 37-year-old: 30.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 6.2 assists (56 games).
He has played 52,139 minutes, 11,035 more in the playoffs, in 19 seasons. Missed 53 games over the past two seasons. A full offseason, with no playoffs, should help him stay healthy.
Age 38 >> Andre Iguodala (31 games)
Age 39 >> none
Age 40 >> Joe Johnson (1 game)
Age 41 >> Udonis Haslem, Heat (9 games, 54 in the past six seasons)
Udonis Haslem has played 19 seasons with one team and more than 150 teammates.
He has played with a King (LeBron James) and a Barron (Earl), with a Cook (Daequan), Waiters (Dion) and three Butlers (Jimmy, Caron, Rasual).
He has played with a Herro (Tyler) and Justice (Winslow), with a Person (Wesley) and a Guy (Kyle).
He has played with a Birdman (Chris Andersen) and a Dedmon (Dewayne), with two Walkers (Antoine, Henry) and a Parker (Smush).
He has played with a Nunn (Kendrick) and a Bimbo (Coles).
He has played with a House (Eddie) and a Shaq (O’Neal), with Banks (Marcus) and a Penny (Hardaway).
He has played with a Head (Luther) and a bust (Greg Oden).
He has played with all sizes and colors: White (Chocolate), Brown (Shannon) and Green (Gerald).
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