NBA Journey, Week Five: The Springtime of Youth!

The start of the 2017-18 NBA season is underway. There will be scores of articles about questioning good teams, declaring individual award races over, and unnecessarily early playoff odds. There is also a feeling surrounding this season that we're headed towards the inevitability of a Golden State Warriors championship. Thus, some of the fun is met with a bit of gloom. Cheer up, lover of hoops. Basketball is a sport in which the journey of the season is just as important as its destination in the Finals. Here at TSFJ, we're going to highlight some things and people the basketball realm can be excited for between now and June.

Song of the Week: Donald Byrd - "Stepping Into Tomorrow"

Joel Embiid.

While I would like to leave this post at just the mention of the Philadelphia 76ers' big man's name — as he appears to be a version of the Terminator, warning of a very different NBA future — he also deserves words and paragraphs in essay form.

Last Wednesday against the Lakers, Embiid put on a show never before seen in NBA history. Sure, his 46 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists and seven blocks are far from the respective record totals as individual stats. But no player to ever play in the National Basketball Association had a box score line like Embiid did in Los Angeles. His performance felt more like a true arrival of a being no basketball court had ever seen in this millennium.

The numbers alone do not completely explain just how dominant Embiid was. His offensive repertoire is so advanced, evidenced by his Euro step and personal twist on the 'Dream Shake,' made famous by Hakeem Olajuwon. Embiid has a knowledge of footwork and leverage, even though he hasn't fully developed physically or in terms of basketball IQ. Lovers of hoops certainly can fairly claim that at 22, Embiid is high on the list of young players who will headline the next generation of NBA basketball.

Basketball fans hope these two will face off many times for the next decade or so. (Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)

However — and do not consider this as a putdown aimed at players barely old enough to buy car insurance — it appears there is a desire to rush the maturation process of these players. We want potential to become reality so fast because society has learned how to make almost anything microwaveable. We digest everything as quickly as we can, then try to formulate concrete opinions. Once we've established a label with a narrative, we move onto the next illuminating ball of potential.

To apply this to basketball, players like Embiid, his teammate Ben Simmons, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Karl-Anthony Towns, Kristaps Porzingis and Nikola Jokic get us tremendously excited for what the NBA will look like for the next decade or so. Every played just mentioned is 22 or younger — and 6'10" or taller (!) — with limitless talent. From another angle, every player except Simmons is in my personal top 20 players in the Association, with Simmons looking to break into that list very soon. We should be excited about the future. But have we shortened the generations and eras of players too quickly?

For example, I mentioned last week that Brook and Robin Lopez are not yet 30 years old. For perspective, neither are Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Blake Griffin isn't 30 yet, as well. John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins are roughly the same age at 27. Ricky Rubio is younger than those two former Kentucky Wildcats.

Anthony Davis is 25! That sentence deserves its own paragraph.

As bright or as apocalyptic the NBA's tomorrow may look as the new breed of basketball player is created, we must understand that even our outright superstars and budding talents are still quite young. The new era of the NBA includes a lot more players than we readily think, and we should let them shape our future. The future may be now, but we do not have to force it to exist right now.

Though players like Wall and Cousins are veterans, they're still relatively young. (CBS Sports)


  • So Chris Paul came back from injury on Thursday. The Rockets then proceeded to score 90 points in the first half against the Suns. The most interesting part of that game is as efficient as Houston looked on offense, Paul nor James Harden assisted on each other's field goals.
  • Recently, Eric Bledsoe was traded to Milwaukee. After winning the first four games with the former Suns guard on the roster, the Bucks have lost two straight to Dallas and Washington. Bledsoe should provide explosiveness for a team that while beautifully weird and versatile, does not have much to fear outside of Giannis Antetokounmpo.
  • A theory: LeBron James is using the new setup of the regular season schedule to be able to play more minutes per game. The season having fewer back-to-back games does not help be fresh for the playoffs, but it will allow LeBron and other stars to possibly play longer in each contest. It may be why LeBron was able to lead Cleveland to overcome large deficits and beat both the Knicks and the Hornets.

We're into the second month of the season. Happy NBA, folks.

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