By: Robert Bishop
Back again, and though it has felt like a foregone conclusion that the NBA season would conclude at some point this summer. Now, however, as the situation surrounding the pandemic only worsens, pessimism regarding the NBA’s chances at either resuming with an abbreviated regular season or a postseason of sorts is growing. Hopes of scheduling the playoffs in a neutral site and playing without fans is a nice thought, but the logistics of pulling off such a feat are staggering to execute. Plus, with each successive week that passes with no basketball, the need for a training camp before restarting the season becomes greater. There are far greater concerns in the world right now, but sports fans hoping for a distraction by way of the NBA are likely going to be disappointed.
Off-court, the NBA announced its annual Hall of Fame class for 2020, and it boasts some of the game’s all-time greats. Leading the way is Kobe Bryant, who died in a tragic helicopter crash earlier this year along with his daughter and several others. Bryant was a five-time NBA champion, won a pair of Finals MVP awards, and made a whopping 18 All Star teams. There is no denying Bryant belongs in the Hall of Fame. The only question surrounding his legacy is where he ranks among the handful of basketball’s greatest players ever.
Joining Bryant in the class is Tim Duncan, who like Bryant won five championships during his storied career. Duncan was easy to overlook at times during his career due to a lack of flash, but he was a titan on the court for the San Antonio Spurs, leading the way for multiple iterations of championship contenders that began in the late 90s alongside David Robinson, extended to a run paired with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, and ended as the wily veteran providing support to Kawhi Leonard. Duncan has a claim to be one of the most best power forwards in NBA history.
Kevin Garnett lacks Duncan and Bryant’s championship pedigree, he did finally win a title in 2008 as a member of the Boston Celtics. Known for his unrivaled—and sometimes frightening—competitiveness, Garnett was an offensive juggernaut that saw the best years of his career wasted in Minnesota as the Timberwolves continually failed to surround him with worthy teammates. While Duncan has a claim to being the best power forward ever, Garnett is right there alongside Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, and Dirk Nowitzki in the battle for second place on the list.
Current Chicago big man Lauri Markkanen’s displeasure with the Bulls was obvious during the regular season, making it no surprise his unhappiness is now generating headlines. Markkanen, who has failed to show any signs of improvement during his third season in the league, is eligible for an extension this summer, though it appears unlikely he’ll sign without assurances from the franchise. Markkanen, like many of his teammates, has been woefully mishandled by Chicago, and with head coach Jim Boylan seemingly untouchable despite a lack of success, a trade could be a best-case scenario for all involved. Unless the Bulls make the overdue though unexpected move to replace Boylen, Chicago may be forced to sell-low on Markkanen.
Another player seemingly ready for a change of scenery is DeMar DeRozan of the San Antonio Spurs. Overrated due to his primarily skill being scoring, DeRozan has been miscast as a star since emerging as the focal point of Toronto’s offense earlier this decade. Now, as more of a supporting piece with the Spurs, DeRozan’s inefficiency as a scorer, inability to shoot three-pointers, and defensive struggles are far more glaring. DeRozan has a player option worth more than $27 million for next season, a sum he is unlikely to match as a free agent. The level of his unhappiness will be put to the test this summer.