There was a seismic shift in the NBA landscape last week and unless you were vacationing in the Antarctic, then you know LA made New Orleans a godfather offer, to wit Anthony Davis to the Lakers for a king’s ransom down on the bayou. The blockbuster deal reverberated all the way to Sin City and beyond, as the betting odds there and at all of the best online sportsbooks, which can be seen over at Sportsbook Review, currently show the Lakers as the favorites to claim the NBA championship next season. LeBron now has AD as the Robin to his Batman but the roster shakeup in LA is still not necessarily done shaking as the Lakers’ brass is on the hunt to woo a coveted free agent to join their dynamic duo.
This is the way things go in today’s NBA because the players have a big say in their destination of choice. All-Star teams are no longer relegated to a random Sunday in February but rather an 82-game slate where they routinely thump most of the league and contend against only a handful of teams that also assembled their own collection of superstars. If the Lakers can convince Kawhi Leonard that Toronto is a nice place to visit but LA is the place to call home then, barring injuries, any other team would be considered a longshot to win the title next June.
Of course, anything can happen, which is why they play the games, but Golden State is bearing a striking resemblance to a team in decline, even if Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson do return. Both suffered serious injuries at the end of this past season and both will be in their 30’s when the playoffs roll around next April. The best a professional athlete can hope for when they move out of their 20’s is to maintain their conditioning and performance because improvements are the province of youth. Lebron James has been able to fend off the adverse effects of time, even at the ripe old age of 34, but assuming he was to experience a slight dip in production, he’s got a young fire breathing dragon in Anthony Davis in the frontcourt and could very well enjoy another Godzilla on the roster as well, if Kawhi Leonard or Kemba Walker join the LA Mercenaries.
So where does this leave our beloved Boston Celtics? Danny Ainge assembled his own three-headed monster a decade ago when he teamed Paul Pierce with Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. A generation before that triumvirate, we saw Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish wreak havoc and garner championships. But the other franchises have caught on and are upping the ante in a game that is strictly for GM’s who never heard the words, “too rich for my blood”.
Does it really even matter whether Kyrie Irving is coming back to Boston? Boston’s Big Three last season - Irving, Hayward, and Tatum – pale in comparison to the generational talents rolled out on a nightly basis by others. Irving is a legitimate wingman on any team but he proved last season he is far from a leading man. Gordon Hayward will most likely never be the dominating player he was in Utah after his grotesque injury sidelined him for an entire season. And Jayson Tatum, the burgeoning superstar we all believed he would be after his rookie campaign, could very well have reached his ceiling. Okay, so that might be a bit harsh, after all, he is still only 21-years-old and has the potential to be a truly elite player in this league. But right now, he’s more of a T. J. Warren than a Paul George. And to quote a phrase, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” but to win a title in this era, a guy like Tatum is a fabulous sixth man, not the game-changing superstar needed to complete a Big Three.
The Celtics will be competitive next season but visions of banners dancing in our collective heads are the realm of sugarplum fairies, not reality. Unless Ainge has made a Faustian deal in the offseason to sell his soul for a championship, the 2019-2020 iteration of the Boston Celtics will be gritty, and perhaps, a lot more loveable than the whining bunch we saw this past season. But an NBA title will have to wait. The question is, how long?