Professional basketball; a fraternity of familiarity

Jake Elmslie -Sports Editor

The NBA is an absolute wasteland at the moment. The Golden State Warriors have somehow found a way to reach a new echelon of greatness with the addition of a newly healthy Demarcus Cousins and are almost certainly cruising to their 4th title in five years. With that in mind fans of professional basketball have had a couple of choices when it’s come to enjoying the NBA over the last few seasons. Option A has always been to simply ignore reality and delude oneself into believing that any other team has had a chance against the Warriors since they added Kevin Durant three seasons ago. This of course has never at any point been the case since somewhere along the way humanity apparently lost the privilege of enjoying competitive professional basketball.

For those that accept the actualities of the NBA in the era of the Super Team, the options are to either, try and starve off the knowledge of how the season is inevitably going to conclude for as long as possible, or to indulge in the only truly compelling aspects of the NBA calendar. Those being the intricacies of roster construction and the nearly non-stop rumor mongering and drama that seems to follow the league’s elite players.

For those that take the latter path when it comes to their consumption of the NBA, this last week’s trade deadline served as a tantalizing appetizer to the buffet of intrigue that will be the 2019 offseason. What fans saw was a prelude to what promises to be a complete reshuffling of the power hierarchy in the league, a perfect storm of contract expiration where over half of the greatest basketball players in the world will stretch the limits of the illusion of management that extends over the NBA.

This trade deadline was highlighted by an influx of sub all-star level players into the eastern conference with difference makers like Marc Gasol and Tobias Harris joining the Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers respectively and versatile sharp shooting big man Nikola Mirotic joining the Milwaukee Bucks. However these transactions all paled in comparison to the theater surrounding Anthony Davis’s efforts to prematurely rid himself of the shackles of being a member of the small market Pelicans. Now while he will remain on the team for the remainder of the season is a near forgone conclusion that his soon-to-be former organization will trade him in the offseason, effectively adding him to a luminous free agent pool.

The list of upcoming free agents reads like an All-NBA team, highlighted by names such as Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard and of course most importantly to Boston Celtics fans Kyrie Irving. Nearly every one of these players debatably has the ability to entirely reverse the fortunes of an organization, both by joining and through leaving. These players are listed without even mentioning the itinerary of other available players who are all capable of filling key roles in a championship caliber core.     

As has often been the case in the NBA over the last decade or so teams are at the mercy of the whims of these players in a way unlike any of the other major professional leagues. It is very telling that the meticulously laid plans of Celtics general manager Danny Ainge who in the eyes of many has spent the last five or so years meticulously making trades, accumulating assets and managing contracts in a way that would put him and his organization in the best possible position to land Anthony Davis if he was ever to become available in a trade may just have his hopes dashed simply because Lebron James and Davis share the same agent. But so is the nature of the NBA, a league where the interpersonal network between players dominates everything from the news cycle to the construction of the teams themselves.