In the NBA, who just got overpaid? And who got underpaid?

One of the best things about NBA Free Agency is witnessing the many athletes who have spent years toiling on blacktop courts in ignored corners get paid. Nothing wrong with hard-working people getting money legally. Isn’t that the American Dream? Playing armchair quarterback in group chats, comment threads, and…

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It’s appears there is a new and improved Luka Dončić playing for Slovenia

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There are two major concerns with Dončić’s game. They are his defense and his offseason conditioning. Slovenia lost the bronze medal game in the Olympics on August 7, 2021, and Dončić still showed up to Mavericks training camp in late September out of shape. It took him about a month of regular season play to get into NBA basketball shape, and he even admitted in December that he needed to do better.

That picture of him on Saturday looks like he’s had the most successful month of offseason conditioning in the history of professional sports. However, that picture belongs in a promotional packet for a movie release. The light is hitting him perfectly as he heads to the bench after a stint on the court. If I worked in the Mavericks ticket office, that picture would be on everything I send out on all renewal information for season ticket holders, and in all of the emails I send to people who purchased single-game tickets to try and get them to buy larger packages.

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While Dončić is clearly in better shape, he has not had enough time to make a Nikola Jokić-level slim down and add muscle definition. In other offseason pictures his face looks smaller and his arms are certainly more toned. He is much leaner than he was during the NBA season, but he’s not built like Peloton instructor instructor just yet.

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However, not only is he leaner than he was during the season, as Slovenia gets ready for FIBA World Cup qualifier competition, he looks completely different than he did last year during the Olympics. He was far from out of shape then, leading Slovenia to within one Nicolas Batum block from playing against the United States in the gold medal game. Dončić was certainly nowhere near the 260 pounds that he was reported to show up to training camp weighing a month later, but his face looked much different then.

The 2022-23 season will be Dončić’s fifth in the NBA. He tasted playoff victory for the first time, and maybe that — and a little shame from early last season — is what he needs to take another major step forward as one of the best players in the league. His talent is undeniable, but as good as he is, in the NBA talent can only take a player to a certain point. Stephen Curry showed in this NBA postseason what a great conditioning program will do. He completely transformed his body from not being able to hold a basketball jersey on his shoulders, to using those shoulders to absorb contact and be able to hold his own on defense against bigger perimeter players. Curry can do all of that and is still able to bury 3-pointers late in games, late in the season, and later in his career.

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It’s the step that all players have to take when they want to make the transition from great to all-time great. Dončić appears well on his way in June, let’s see what he looks like in September.

2022 NBA Draft Profile: Shaedon Sharpe and Detroit

What is Shaedon Sharpe? Future bust? Future superstar? Role player? Sharpe is the enigma of this Thursday’s draft. He could be many different things, perhaps a few at the same time. The only thing we know for sure is he’s going to be a Lottery pick. Nevertheless, Sharpe has been projected to go in the Top 10 in almost…

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Your 2022 NBA All-Postseason Team

In the NBA, the playoffs are truly a second season. There are no more back-to-backs, but there are also no more rest games for players. Also, there are no more sub-.400 teams on the schedule. To recover from a bad loss in the postseason, requires returning to the court 48 hours later and playing against the very same…

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Steph Curry is the black swan

In becoming a black swan, Curry propelled himself into top-10 all-time player discussions. If you glance at any respectable rankings of the top 10 players in NBA history, you could argue each player or ones on the fringe were always destined to be in that conversation. Jordan was being called God in disguise by Larry Bird at the end of his second season.

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Kobe Bryant was a pioneer in the preps-to-pros pipeline. But he was also a Jordan facsimile from whom greatness was expected. Magic, Bird, Kareem, LeBron, Shaq, Wilt, Duncan, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Bill Russell were selected first in their respective drafts. The Hall of Fame was a given and leading respective franchises to NBA titles was the bare minimum of their career to-do lists. Oscar Robertson ended his collegiate career as the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer and has a Player of the Year trophy named in his honor.

Steph was a mid-major phenom, who fell in the draft because he was too small to play shooting guard and teams were unsure how he would fare transitioning to point guard. His first four years

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were marred by ankle injuries.

At 6-foot-3, Curry is the smallest player in the aforementioned group of greats. If you divide NBA 75 legends into divisions by size, Curry occupies a tier of his own within the ‘6-foot-4 & under’ class. Relative to his size, there’s a wider gap between Curry’s accomplishments and those of Jerry West, Isaiah Thomas, or Allen Iverson than there is between LeBron and MJ or Shaq, Olajuwon, Wilt, or Tim Duncan in the heavyweight division.

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In the ensuing decades, we might witness an undersized superstar guard come along to take advantage of modern spacing and shatter Steph’s 3-point records. And there will be other scoring champs smaller than Curry, but he’s the first below-the-rim guard to be the anchor of a bonafide dynasty.

After Durant left for Brooklyn, the Warriors were counted out again. Their acquisition of Andrew Wiggins was divisive. Bob Myers picking James Wiseman over LaMelo Ball was viewed as a blunder that would sink the Warriors’ trajectory. The league was beginning to catch up to their offense and Curry was in his age-34 season. We should have seen this coming, A lack of imagination once again led too many to count the 3-time champions out.

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The Big 3 of Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson were graciously fading into obscurity during their early to mid-30s. Expectations for Klay Thompson 2.0 were modest after he suffered an ACL tear and Achilles rupture in consecutive years. Before this season, Draymond Green was frequently mentioned as one of the NBA’s most overpaid aging assets. Iggy was traded to Memphis.

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Even all the way up to Game 4 of the 2022 Finals, Golden State retained its black swan status. At the beginning of the 2022 postseason, Curry was slumping like we’d never seen him before. Two months later, he averaged 31.2 points, five assists, 5.8 rebounds, shot 44.2 percent from distance and earned his first Finals MVP. Prior to Game 1, FiveThirtyEight’s forecast model gave Golden State a 17 percent chance of beating Boston despite their home court advantage. After four games, those odds doubled to 29 percent. FiveThirtyEight’s Basketball Power Index algorithm blew the Finals worse than they did the 2016 election. Steve Kerr even called their championship, the unlikeliest title of the nine he’s won as a player or coach.

The first title was the launching pad. Charles Barkley’s 2015 proclamation that “jump shooting teams don’t win championships” is emblematic of the popular Warriors sentiment of yesteryear.

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The energy has shifted again.

The first title was the launching pad for Curry’s legacy. His fourth title is a monument to his achievements and probably means more than any title they’ve won. He might be the first black swan to ever surprise so many people twice. Curry’s shooting changed the paradigm for better or for worse. He’s duplicated often, but never replicated. Golden State is back to being touted the favorite for the 2023 title. A fifth ring would make Curry’s case as a top-10 all-time player indisputable.

Kenny Atkinson pulled a Whitley, leaving Michael Jordan and the Charlotte Hornets at the altar

This is not said very often, but poor Michael Jordan. The NBA legend got Whitleyed by Kenny Atkinson. Jordan was about to start a new life with Atkinson leading his Charlotte Hornets. They fit together as well as Byron and Whitley in the fifth season of A Different World, but then Dwayne Wayne, a.k.a. The Golden State…

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