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The axiom goes that an NBA team can’t ever have enough wings. It’s true, and if you don’t think so then watch any 2021-22 Los Angeles Laker game (please don’t actually, I care about you) or how puny the Brooklyn Nets were in their lone playoff series against the Finals-bound Boston Celtics. Wings that are big, long, and versatile defensively will always have a shot at cracking a playoff rotation. If they can hit threes or even make smart reads as a passer, even better. If they can create their own shot then they’re going in the lottery. But a player in the 2022 NBA Draft that likely won’t get selected in the lottery but does hit those benchmarks? Wake Forest’s Jake LaRavia

Cutting

Jake LaRavia is not going to be a guy you ask to create a lot of offense; he averaged just over eight field goal attempts per game over his college career and finished with a usage rate of just 21.9-percent. But LaRavia excels in filling in the gaps as a mover, a cutter, and a floor spacer, the primary ways he was used at college. He’s always vigilant without the ball in his hands. Once he sees an opening to zip through the lane, he hits it. Playing with a true point guard in Alondes Williams helped in finding LaRavia in those circumstances.

LaRavia shot 61.6-percent on two-point shots this past year and it’s easy to see why. He knows who he is and how to get the shots he knows he can make. He’s also more than sneaky athletic so he can punch those down once he gets the ball with that head of steam.

Shooting

LaRavia is also a very solid shooter. He didn’t shoot a ton of threes but he made 37.1-percent of the 132 threes he attempted over his three-year collegiate career. The stroke looks solid.

If Jake LaRavia is going to stay on the floor in high-leverage moments, he’s going to have to make shots like that. Luckily, he proved he can do so at a high level. LaRavia generated 1.5 points per possession on every unguarded catch-and-shoot jumper he shot last season, according to Zach Welch on Twitter. Excelling as a jump shooter as well as a finisher played a large role in LaRavia finishing last season with a 64.9-percent true-shooting percentage and a 60.6-percent effective field goal percentage. That he’s even somewhat close to the efficiency Chet Holmgren (69.1-percent TS; 68.1-percent eFG) posted is incredible and a testament to how well LaRavia excels at being a complementary piece. It isn’t as if LaRavia is only shooting corner threes like PJ Tucker either; he’s got NBA range and can hit shots on the move as well.

 

Playmaking

Another area of offense Jake LaRavia excels at is his passing. He reads the floor very well and especially so on the move, which will be very important in the NBA. Teams are going to force a team’s star players to get rid of the ball and force others to beat them. LaRavia can diagnose those defensive rotations on the fly and make the correct decisions to get his team a great look. This play is a great example. 

Towson traps the ballhandler. As they do, Wake Forest’s center slips to the rim. LaRavia makes himself available in the middle of the floor and sees the defender in the corner tagging Wake Forest’s roller. As he tags LaRavia zips it to the wing to create an open three. LaRavia is a smart and unselfish passer. It’s no wonder why he averaged 3.5 assists per 40 minutes (to 3 turnovers) and an above-average 17.8-percent assist percentage for his career. (For context: Karl-Anthony Towns and Thaddeus Young finished with a 17.7-percent assist percentage last season.) He has no problem manipulating a defense or making the simple extra pass. He keeps the machine humming.

Defense

The same way Jake LaRavia reads the floor offensively he also does so defensively. This side of the floor is where LaRavia’s bread gets buttered. At 6-8 227-pounds and a 6-9.5 wingspan, he can cover a ton of ground defensively. He has no issue disrupting offenses as a free safety. Watch here how he rotates from the weakside to strip the Towson roll man as he’s going up to force a turnover. 

That’s just one example of LaRavia putting out a fire off the ball. Here’s another. He begins the possession on a Towson big man. But as the ball rotates from one side to the other, a Towson guard is open on the left-wing. LaRavia sees it and zips over to make him put it on the deck, redirecting his rotating teammate Alondes Williams back to his original man. LaRavia sticks with the Towson guard and forces a wild shot as a result.

 

LaRavia can clearly defend in the team scheme, but he can put the clamps on people? That answer is also a definite yes. He’s got the quick feet to stick with guards and the size to stand up bruising wings. He didn’t have much of an issue sticking with two dynamic NC State scorers in Terquavion Smith and Dereon Seabron, both of whom fared well in May’s NBA Combine.

I think Jake LaRavia would probably be better deployed in more of a free safety role like a Robert Covington, but he’s definitely capable of being a point-of-attack stopper too, in my opinion. But it’s clear to me he is a plus defender. The numbers back it up too. LaRavia finished with a 12.7-percent rebound percentage, 2.4-percent steal percentage, 3.9-percent block percentage, and 4.6 defensive win shares (this stat continues to accumulate the more games you play. The more games one plays, the bigger the number. Veterans will have a bigger number than freshmen.). That is very similar to or better than a number of wings projected to go ahead of him in this year’s class. Here are how a few others that share LaRavia’s position in this class compare to LaRavia:

Jeremy Sochan, Baylor: 14.7 RB%, 2.9 STL%, 3.2 BLK%, 1.9 DWS

Tari Eason, LSU: 15.2 RB%, 4.5 STL%, 6.2 BLK%, 3.4 DWS

Kendall Brown, Baylor: 10.5 RB%, 2.2 STL%, 1.5 BLK%, 1.8 DWS

EJ Liddell, Ohio State: 13.7 RB%, 1.2 STL%, 6.5 BLK%, 3.8 DWS

Patrick Baldwin Jr., Milwaukee: 11.2 RB%, 1.7 STL%, 3.2 BLK%, 0.4 DWS

Jake LaRavia is just as good or even a better shooter than some of these guys with the defensive impact, but isn’t mocked in the top 20 the way these guys are or have previously been. I think that’s a mistake. LaRavia is right there amongst the most impactful wings in this draft whose game fits the mold of an Aaron Gordon‘s. He may be a junior but he’s still just 20 years. He’s just six months older than freshman Chet Holmgren and 12 days older than freshman TyTy Washington. There’s plenty of room for LaRavia to grow.

Jake LaRavia should be a top 20 pick in my opinion, but any team that sees themselves as a contender picking in the 20s (such as the Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, Miami Heat, Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks, and Golden State Warriors) that is low on wing depth should have no qualms taking LaRavia in the first round. He is a perfect complementary piece on the wing that can step in and help a team immediately. Every team needs players like him to get through the riggers of the playoffs to get that elusive Larry O’Brien Trophy. If you like winning players, then Jake LaRavia is your man.

Ahh, the NBA is back! It’s so nice to have it back, isn’t it? Usually, I like to highlight players before the season starts as guys who could really shape the direction of the NBA season. This season, I want to get a little spicy with it. Everyone else is dropping hot takes into the atmosphere, why can’t I? You want hot takes, well I got them! Six of them, to be exact. Welcome back, NBA!

1) Zach LaVine leads the NBA in Scoring

Last season, there were only four players in the entire NBA who absorbed a usage rate of at least 30%, held an effective field goal percentage of at least 59%, and a true shooting percentage of at least 60%. Those players? Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo… and Zach LaVine. Not bad company to be in, I hear!

The parallels between Zach LaVine entering this season and Devin Booker entering last season are quite similar. Both players were forced into being primary ballhandlers, score-first gunners with a solid blend of playmaking to go with it because the rest of their backcourt mates were not up to par before finally getting them help to ease their burden. The Suns got Booker Chris Paul; the Bulls got LaVine Lonzo Ball, DeMar DeRozan, and Alex Caruso in the offseason and one of the better passing big men in the league in Nikola Vucevic at last season’s trade deadline. 

The playmaking surrounding LaVine now is robust. During LaVine’s Bulls career, only three times has a player averaged above five assists per game during a season: Kris Dunn (2017-18 and 2018-19) and Tomas Satoransky (2019-20). For context, Lonzo Ball’s career-low in assists per game is 5.4. DeMar DeRozan has averaged at least 5.2 assists per game every season for the last two seasons. 

That collective playmaking basketball IQ and playmaking is going to free Zach LaVine up to gobble up some of the easiest buckets in his career. LaVine already is a great off-ball scorer: LaVine ranked in the 97th percentile scoring off of cuts last season, generating 1.69 points per possession where he cut off-ball according to NBA.com. In transition, LaVine averaged 1.24 points per possession and now has one of the best transition passers in the NBA to work with. We know Zach LaVine is one of the best scorers in the NBA with the rock in his hands, but he’s also very good at using his otherworldly athleticism to his advantage when he doesn’t have the ball and now has better distributors to work with. The results have looked promising in the preseason so far. Combine that with what looks like a suspect defense (especially with Patrick Williams currently injured) and a contract year, don’t be surprised when Zach LaVine has another breakout season. LaVine leading the NBA in scoring is absolutely in the cards.

2) OG Anunoby leads the Toronto Raptors in scoring and becomes an All-Star

Let’s start with this: Kyle Lowry is now in South Florida with the Miami Heat, and Pascal Siakam is out until possibly December rehabbing from shoulder surgery. All of a sudden, 47% of Toronto’s usage from last season is going to disappear by the time the regular season comes around. Sure, you figure Goran Dragic (acquired from the Miami Heat in the Lowry sign-and-trade) will eat into some of that void, but a candidate to take a big leap would be OG Anunoby. 

It looks like that leap is coming for OG Anunoby. In the preseason, Anunoby has soaked up 24% of Toronto’s possessions. He’s turned in 19.25 points per game on 65% effective field goal percentage and 69.1% true shooting. Yes, the sample size is super small and convoluted (we are talking about preseason basketball after all), but Anunoby has steadily improved in both usage and scoring output over the course of his career. 

One area where Anunoby did dip last season is his effectiveness in scoring off the dribble. In the 2019-20 season, Anunoby put up 39 shots off the dribble, converting those with an effective field goal percentage of 52.6% (though he only shot 4-15 on pull-up twos and 11-24 on pull-up threes). Anunoby bumped that total up to 68 last season, but only converted 19 of them and saw an effective field goal percentage of 32.4%. Again, it’s only the preseason, but it looks like Anunoby has leveled up in this regard. Against both the Philadelphia 76ers and Houston Rockets, Anunoby has flashed much more polish and confidence in his scoring off the bounce, hitting stepbacks, pull-ups, you name it. Even Raptors head coach Nick Nurse has noticed this growth in Anunoby’s game. It’s possible that preseason is tricking us, but I’m 1000% willing to overreact to this and project very big things for OG Anunoby this season. The path is there; why not?

3) Austin Reaves starts at least 25% of the 82 games for the Los Angeles Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers are stacked with a lot of combo guards who can toggle between either guard spot. The downside is that you can’t play all of them. The plus side, however, is that you have depth in the event of an injury or few. With Wayne Ellington, Malik Monk, and Kendrick Nunn on the mend, for now, enter 23-year-old Austin Reaves.

Austin Reaves, dubbed with the nickname of Hillbilly Kobe due to his Arkansas roots growing up on a farm (I’ve given him the nickname of Jordan Farmer but we’ll stick with Hillbilly Kobe for now), has quickly become a fan-favorite and for good reason. No, he’s not Alex Caruso 2.0 but he looks like he belongs in the Lakers’ rotation from the jump because of his blend of two-way play. The Lakers may have a lot of combo guards, but really only Kent Bazemore and Kendrick Nunn (defending point guards) are someone you trust to get a stop defensively. Reaves helps there too. 

Austin Reaves’ size and athleticism won’t sneak up on anybody, but that doesn’t stop him from competing and knowing where to be. This play provides the ultimate example of his defensive chops. Reaves cuts off the cutter, scrambles back onto a new defender then caps the possession off with contesting a shot at the end of the shot clock. Individually, though Reaves will be at a size disadvantage plenty of times, he can put the clamps on too with quick feet and a willingness to bang. Here, he stays in front of his man on the drive then swipes the ball away from the opposition as he goes up for a shot. You could make the argument that Reaves is one of the best two or three defenders in the Lakers’ backcourt already.

Defense is great, but matching it with a jumper to fear and occupy the defense should jump-start his case for playing time. Before the Lakers’ preseason game on Tuesday against the Golden State Warriors, Reaves was shooting 8.2 threes per 36 minutes and hitting them at a 41.2% clip. To put that in context, Zach LaVine shot 8.4 threes per 36 minutes & shot 41.9% on them. What’s great about Reaves’ shooting is he can hit threes in any context. He’s a superb catch-and-shoot shooter with an extremely quick release that allows him to shoot and convert in tighter windows. Whether he’s relocating to open spots on the floor, running off screens, or going into a pick and roll or dribble handoff, Reaves can also deliver when on the move too.

Austin Reaves toggled between these roles in college. When he was at Wichita State, Reaves was primarily a catch-and-shoot ancillary piece. After he transferred to Oklahoma, Reaves was forced into a primary ballhandler role, honing in his scoring abilities off the bounce and playmaking that we’ve seen flashes of in the NBA too. Austin Reaves can really play and really help this Lakers team from the jump. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him take off even in his rookie season.

4) Ja Morant makes an All-Star AND All-NBA appearance

Ja Morant leveled up in the playoffs a year ago. A 47-point, 7 assist bonanza would seem to suggest such a thing.

Sure, the Grizzlies got bounced in the first round of the playoffs, but Ja was spectacular all the way throughout that series, averaging 30.2 points, 8.2 assists, and 4.8 rebounds while shooting 48.7% from the field and 77.5% from the free-throw line (on eight attempts per game). Absolute insanity.

That will be a tough act to follow for Ja Morant, especially with his offensive buffer Travis Kel– damnit I messed it up again– Jonas Valanciunas off to New Orleans. More will be thrust upon Jaren Jackson Jr.’s shoulder (health permitting) but also Morant. I just think Morant builds off his postseason brilliance and really etches himself amongst the game’s greats this season.

5) Karl-Anthony Towns leads the Minnesota Timberwolves to an average defense and they qualify for the play-in tournament

Minnesota and turmoil have grown to be quite the potent relationship, and this season already got off to a rollicking start in that department after Head of Basketball operations Gersson Rosas was caught pulling a George Costanza and got fired for that along with other general incompetence. A lot is riding on Towns and Minnesota getting back to some kind of relevance. Health and improvement defensively can get them there.

Let’s start with health because that department has not been kind to the Timberwolves in recent seasons. After the Wolves traded for D’Angelo Russell in February of 2020, he and Karl-Anthony Towns played just 25 minutes together. Then the world caught on fire. Eventually, the Wolves would be fortunate enough to draft what looks like a future All-Star in Anthony Edwards, only for Russell and Towns to combine to miss 52 games while Edwards played in all 72 games in last year’s truncated season. The triumvirate of Towns, Edwards, and Russell only graced the court for 327 minutes last season, boasting a +4.9 Net Rating in the process.

Offense is easy to come by with that group given the nature of their games steering towards that end of the floor. Each of the three coexists well with each other and can tilt their games towards whatever the defense gives them. The problem is on the other end. When all three were on the floor together last season, their defensive rating was at 116 points per 100 possessions, which would’ve been second-worst in the NBA. The Timberwolves’ defensive rating altogether was the third-worst in the NBA a year ago.

Projecting them to even be average is a big leap. Maybe that doesn’t happen, but they should be better. The Timberwolves don’t have many two-way players outside of Jaden McDaniels, but a lot of specialists who skew towards defense in Patrick Beverley, Josh Okogie, and Jarred Vanderbilt. Malik Beasley and Taurean Prince can provide *something* there, and undrafted rookies McKinley Wright IV (Colorado) and Isaiah Miller (UNC-Greensboro) have strong defensive reputations. There are some quality defensive pieces here, but it won’t work if Towns doesn’t improve. He should be a much better defensive anchor than he is and was that in Kentucky. Towns playing higher in pick and roll coverage this preseason is interesting and could be a strategic bump to his defense kind of reminiscent of the way the Nuggets deploy Nikola Jokic on defense. It’s something to keep an eye on. I think Towns and Minnesota can make it happen, but that also is relying more on faith than performance.

6) NBA Patty Mills becomes FIBA Patty Mills for the Brooklyn Nets

Kyrie Irving… *sigh.* I believe Kyrie means well in his stance to not get vaccinated that has prompted the Nets to elect not to play him in any capacity due to the state of New York’s rules prohibiting access to local unvaccinated citizens in indoor gatherings, but that also means he won’t be able to play basketball for the betting favorite to win the title. Luckily, the Nets were able to pluck Patty Mills in free agency, who could not be a better fit next to Kevin Durant and James Harden.

The Nets can deploy Mills as a Steph Curry proxy. Mills runs around the court like an Olympic sprinter with the stamina of a marathon runner to cause headaches for defenses. He’s a willing screener and passer that’s going to help Durant and Harden get any mismatch they want because of fear of Mills’ deep ball. It could work the other way too if Mills captures his FIBA essence and carries that lethal offensive creation into the NBA. With how much space he should have and attention heaped upon Kevin Durant and James Harden, Mills should help keep that Brooklyn train humming just fine in the regular season. The playoffs could see Kyrie’s (he always seems to step it up in the playoffs) absence really matter with individual matchups, but Mills still can pick up *some* of that mantle. Probably enough of it for the Nets to get where they want to go at the end.

The NBA has generally done a good job enhancing its product and growing the game of basketball. The creation and execution of the bubble last October could not have gone more swimmingly to finish off the 2019-20 season. As a Laker fan especially, I could not be more thankful to see my team get crowned as champions, but the basketball was great all the way around. This season, however… has not gone as well. Then again, what else could you reasonably expect traveling from city to city to play basketball during a pandemic? The league is near the finish of its regular season, but I wonder if the juice was worth the squeeze. 

When the NBA announced that the 2020-21 regular season would begin on December 22nd, eyebrows were raised. The prior season had just concluded 71 days ago once the Lakers claimed the title. Though this season features 10 fewer games than that of a normal regular season, the NBA could not fit it into a normal NBA calendar with the Olympics at their heels in July after that got postponed a year because of the pandemic, so the NBA had to cram 72 games into roughly four and a half months. Keep in mind, a normal regular season is at least a month longer. Add to it a reduced training camp, and the result from games stacked on top of each other alongside restrictive health and safety protocols (until players opted to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, which I encourage anyone to receive if you haven’t already) has led to a diminished product. Typically I don’t buy into much rating talk with cord-cutting become a more viable option, but NBA ratings have been down 13% this season. NBA broadcasts being done from home is certainly a part of this, in my opinion, but also how daunting this season has been on the players has to be another. According to Chris Herring of Sports Illustrated, there have been a significant and nearly historic amount of blowouts this season, especially after the All-Star break. A staggering amount of regular season has just lacked any juice whatsoever. While that isn’t foreign to this season, in particular, the nature of this season has made these types of games more common.

A huge reason why more games have concluded in a blowout? The number of games missed. According to ManGamesLost.com’s Twitter account from a tweet posted on May 11th, just seven teams have lost players for fewer than 150 games. These tracked games missed are solely games missed due to injury, not because of COVID-19. However, in an article posted on February 12th, 2021, by injury guru and tracker Jeff Stotts of InStreetClothes.com, Stotts delivered this amazing nugget: ‘the total number of games lost for illness-related issues during the first 20 games of the 2020-21 season is four less than the five previous seasons combined. Nearly 90 percent of these games can be attributed to NBA players that have confirmed a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. Furthermore, these elevated totals do not include the over 150 games lost to players sitting out due to the NBA’s Health and Safety Protocols.’ Think about that; that was an article posted in February. This NBA season has lasted THREE MORE MONTHS since that article was published, yet multiple seasons’ worth of games missed due to an illness had taken place in the span of not even two months. Do you want to know why there has been a crap-ton of blowouts? Because just about everyone has missed time, one way or another. 

Just think about how many teams have had their season altered because of the nature of this season. None of the four conference finalists (Lakers, Celtics, Heat, Nuggets) from last season are above the fourth seed in their respective conferences. The Lakers built their team around LeBron James and Anthony Davis only for them to appear in 77 combined games. The Nuggets lost Jamal Murray to a torn ACL in perhaps the cruelest injury of this season. Miami is just now getting healthy after just about everyone from their Finals run missed time during the season. The Celtics are the exact opposite, with news that All-Star Jaylen Brown will miss the rest of the season the icing on the cake. No Celtics four-man pairing has played at least 300 minutes this season, according to NBA.com. Only three other teams can say the same: the Houston Rockets (who were forced to up-end their entire franchise), the Orlando Magic (who chose to up-end their entire franchise), and the Washington Wizards. The Celtics’ four best players (Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart) have appeared together in just 17 games over the course of only 292 minutes. It doesn’t stop there. The Brooklyn Nets’ Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden have only played 186 minutes together in just seven games. The Minnesota Timberwolves’ three building blocks of the future (Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards, D’Angelo Russell) have linked up for just 251 minutes over the course of 21 games this season. Multiple teams, including the San Antonio Spurs, Memphis Grizzlies, and Washington Wizards, teams currently in the play-in tournament, literally had to pause their season as if this was NBA2K because the coronavirus got so out of hand in their clubhouse, through no fault of their own. Could they be squarely in the playoff field had that not occurred? It’s tough to say, but maybe! Whatever the case may be, it’s hard to ignore how the contamination of this season has affected the actual product.

The product is one thing, but what concerns me the most is how these contaminated results of this season could affect the health and well-being of its players, coaches, and front office personnel. Another team hit hard by COVID-19 this season? The Toronto Raptors… who are not even playing in Toronto this season. They’re in Tampa Bay for Christ’s sake! After spending multiple months in Orlando in the bubble. Do you think their mental health hasn’t been challenged by this hellscape of a season? On top of that, as I said earlier, they had to deal with actually contracting the virus. Guard Fred VanVleet was very open in the complications he experienced fighting the virus. Celtics All-Star Jayson Tatum admitted to using an inhaler before games after his bout with COVID that he continues to suffer symptoms from. I’m not sure there will be a quote or soundbite that will be more noteworthy than Tatum’s admission here. One of the league’s brightest ascending stars that has already been to multiple Conference Finals, multiple All-Star games, and an All-NBA team (3rd team All-NBA in 2020) saying that COVID-19 is still affecting him so much so that he needs help to breathe properly to get back to that star level of production. Tatum most notably went through the wringer in February of 2021, averaging his typical 24 points per game, but doing so shooting less than 40% from the field and just 31.6% from deep. He has responded resoundingly since then, including a 60-point masterpiece against the San Antonio Spurs, but this was only after he said he started to use an inhaler before games. That his production could dip like that lets you know this virus can and has impacted the outcomes of these games. Luckily in Tatum’s case, he’s found a way to be productive in the midst of the virus, but there’s also a good chance this won’t be the last we see or learn about COVID-19 looming over the NBA and its games.

These are just a couple of examples, but surely there are more out there. What if Jayson Tatum has to deal with this for the rest of his career and that hinders his play? What if this was the Nuggets’ best chance at a title that got wiped away because of Jamal Murray’s injury? What if a rotation player who plays the role of a specialist for a team suddenly becomes less effective in the role the team needs from him after contracting the virus and finds himself out of the league entirely? Surely that can’t be out of the question.

Players suffering through injuries and COVID-19 infections have ramifications throughout the rest of the league as well. Odds were recently released for the next NBA Head Coach to be revoked of his duties. Uncoincidentally, many of the top favorites involved teams that have been dealt a tough hand in the age of COVID-19, with Indiana’s Nate Bjorkgren and Portland’s Terry Stotts most notably in the crossfire. If a team were to underwhelm in the playoffs, they could join the numerous teams outside of the postseason to shake up their roster or power structure. The Timberwolves already fired Head Coach Ryan Saunders. The Hawks firing Lloyd Pierce kind of saved their season, yet key addition Bogdan Bogdanovic and rising forwards De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish both got injured early in the season under Pierce’s watch. Maybe that move was a blessing in disguise with how well interim Head Coach Nate McMillan has done, but it also is plausible Pierce could have resurrected the team as well once he had a full squad to work with, yet he lost his job. More will follow, yet I don’t think it’s all that fair under these daunting circumstances.

That isn’t to say this season hasn’t given us something to celebrate. Nikola Jokic is having a historic season that should result in him winning the MVP. Steph Curry scorched the entire earth during the month of April. Russell Westbrook just broke the All-Time NBA record for Triple-Doubles accumulated over the course of a player’s career. We’ve still seen the greatness we’ve been accustomed to watching during an NBA regular season. It’s just been fewer and farther between with the variables of injuries and COVID-19 contaminating a lot of these games. That isn’t to say the NBA is out of the woods either. Someone could easily contract the virus during the playoffs and be forced to sit out the rest of a series potentially and really alter the results of this season. Let’s hope that it doesn’t.

The NBA had to go through with a regular season this season. There was too much money involved for there not to be one or have one with fewer games than the 72 we ultimately got. I’m thankful in the sense that bad or contaminated basketball is better than no basketball. I usually have no problem watching any kind of NBA basketball, but this season felt different. It felt off. Maybe it’s the many empty seats in the stands altering the viewing experience. More likely, it’s because the pandemic threw this NBA season off its axis from the start and it only continued to spiral downhill from there. But, we’re almost at the end, and the end of the regular season means the start of the postseason, with the NBA’s new play-in format being experimented with for the first time and likely not the last time. The NBA kept COVID-19 out of its playoffs once before; here’s hoping it can keep it out again this time around.