Michael Walton II writes about the NBA for We Are Regal Radio.
Michael is a student, freelance writer and burgeoning high school basketball scout based in Chicago. He’s previously been published in TrueStar Magazine, the Redeye Chicago and thelyricallab.com.
In the past, every time the NBA has inherited a new commissioner, the league takes on a new shape or form with him.
When Adam Silver stepped in as the new commish in February the biggest headlines in the immediate months that followed were the racist comments by notorious bigot Donald Sterling and the huge talent-gap between the Eastern and Western Conferences, which played itself out in San Antonio’s domination over Miami in the Finals.
Now the dust has cleared on Silver’s first season, he’s officially the NBA commish in my book and the league has entered a new phase under his leadership, one punctuated by a free-wheeling period of off-season transactions that has seen lots of dollars fly and the League’s premier player change teams once again but declaring his lasting love for home at the same time.
LeBron James successfully changed the landscape of the NBA once again so in front of us is a lot of unknowns, unknowns that provoke a wealth of speculation. Happens to remind me of another exhaustively analyzed event to come where we’re still not sure where all the major players stand.
The 2014-15 NBA season is a ways off and so the 2016 Presidential election is even further in the distance but their stakeholders hold some interesting comparisons amongst each other. In honor of them all, I decided to match-up the direction some NBA franchises are going in after the first wave of free agency signings and trades with the current likely presidential candidate that most represents them.
Cleveland Cavaliers = Hillary Clinton
Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. After Barack Obama overtook Hillary Clinton in 2008 to become the lead candidate and eventual winner for the Democrats, she re-evaluated her options and is back, making a strong push (although not official, yet) to be the democratic candidate come 2016. The Cavaliers went through a similar transformation after losing the favor of LeBron James in 2010. Embarrassed, but proud, Cleveland welcomed the chance to bring him back when the possibility rose of that happening in 2014. Now, like Hillary, the Cavs are a favorite to win again.
The hoopla surrounding the Cavs is incredible, but from a pure basketball standpoint they have a lot of work to do. James has never got to play with a legitimate point guard, which he will now in Kyrie Irving, neither has he had to deal directly in the development of a young player with as much upside as Andrew Wiggins. At the same time, the Cavs show themselves to have similar issues as the Miami Heat, including a lack of big man depth and an unreliable defense. Regardless, the Cavs are the big winners of free-agency so far.
Detroit Pistons = Bobby Jindal
This one was easy. The Detroit Pistons feel they have a strong foundation for the future, and so does Jindal. While both have decent constituencies, a certain delusional confidence permeates both fan bases. Jindal likes to put his foot in his mouth with controversial statements that alienate many, like his support of ‘Duck Dynasty’ star Phil Robertson, he left himself open for more scrutiny on that front by appearing in an episode of the show.
The Pistons cemented their status as the Bobby Jindal of NBA free agency by signing Jodie Meeks to a three-year deal worth around $19 million dollars. I’m not sure why Detroit felt compelled to offer the Lakers cast-off such a big contract, but this will definitely come back to haunt them.
Meeks had a career year on arguably the worst team of his career in Los Angeles, production on a bad team is what Meeks specializes in, so it made sense for him. On the other hand, the Pistons also signed DJ Augustin, Caron Butler and re-signed Jonas Jerebko (whatever that’s worth). New coach and team president Stan Van Gundy obviously has some kind of vision, I am just not sure what that vision is.
Indiana Pacers = Jeb Bush
The Pacers have a long and storied history in America’s most fervent basketball state and Jeb Bush comes from the illustrious Bush family. Both have been groomed for greatness. Only occasional hiccups seem to prevent each from attaining ultimate success. But now both Jeb and the Pacers can be linked through the fact that they both have given up their greatest chances at winning it all.
Bush made the recent mistake of saying many illegal immigrants come to America out of an ‘act of love.’ This statement showed everything potentially presidential about the former Florida governor, he could set himself apart from his contemporaries in the Republican Party, a true conservative whose sympathetic toward the plight of illegal immigrants.
At the same time, while this statement may have seemed appealing to outsiders of his party, it almost definitely put him out of the running for the candidate spot for his party, it was simply too progressive of a statement for the GOP. As far as the Pacers go, coming out of this most recent season they and many other teams around the league felt that Lance Stephenson was too “progressive” of a talent for Indiana.
Stephenson turned down a reported five-year, $44 million offer from the Pacers for a three-year, $27 million deal with the Charlotte Hornets. This is a huge blow to the Pacers as they are perilously thin at the wing positions with free-agent options running out quickly. Moving Roy Hibbert for some valuable pieces may be a way to go, or else Indiana could be looking at a huge uphill battle in the most improved division in basketball.
Chicago Bulls = Joe Biden
Joe Biden has been an active presidential candidate for what seems like forever, off and on since 1988. The Bulls have been constant winners across periods of the 1980s, ’90s and 2000s. In their heart of hearts, Vice President Biden/Bulls are likely wishing some kind of stumble ahead for Hillary Clinton/Cavaliers, though LeBron James’ move to those Cavaliers allowed Miami to be downgraded and has resulted in the Bulls possibly being the strongest team in the entire conference.
The Bulls missed out on Carmelo Anthony and the other top tier free agents, but they landed Pau Gasol and hot-commodity Nikola Mirotic. The Bulls have amnestied Carlos Boozer (finally), and will likely signed one more guard to help make up for Jimmy Butler’s offensive shortcomings.
Chicago will be an extremely tough and balanced team next year, just as Biden will be always be a tough and resourceful presidential candidate. Like the Bulls up until this weekend, Biden is still waiting to see if he can get the official support of a top-tier free agent — Barack Obama, who can hold his own in a pick-up game, but still wouldn’t want any parts of Melo on an isolation play.
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