Roundtable: Looking back on the 2017-18 NBA regular season

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Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Several Society writers gather for a roundtable discussion to discuss the wild season that was in the NBA, including biggest takeaways, most compelling storylines and the best single-game performance this year. Our participants are:

1. What’s your biggest takeaway from the 2017-2018 NBA regular season?

Cortes: The biggest takeaway for me is that the NBA is in good hands after LeBron James, James Harden, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and others age and eventually hang up their shoes. From the likes of Ben Simmons to Embiid to even Lonzo Ball and Donovan Mitchell, the league has plenty of talent to carry its momentum in the long run.

Anderson: It would have to be injuries and how they can drastically impact a franchise. This year, a lot of All-Stars such as Curry, Gordon Hayward, DeMarcus Cousins, Kyrie Irving, and others went down, making the NBA Finals open for the taking. The Houston Rockets have proved they’re the best in the Western Conference, finishing above the reigning champion Golden State Warriors, which makes the anticipation for the NBA Playoffs even more exciting.

John-Baptiste: Dynasty windows may very well be shorter than anticipated. We came into this season with similar expectations to last season. Everyone was ready to write this off as another solidified championship for the Warriors. To the contrary, we’ve seen the likes of Oklahoma City and Houston give them trouble in the regular season. Some people also have Houston pegged as the favorites to win the Westen Conference.

In the Eastern Conference, injuries have thrown off the trajectory of conference foes, as a fully healthy Boston Celtics team would’ve likely posed the biggest threat to LeBron James not reaching an eighth consecutive NBA Finals. When teams mortgage their future and go into “win now” mode, you can clearly see the reason why. The future greatness is not always promised for years to come.

De Falco: Injuries are very unpredictable. Top stars like Hayward, Kristaps Porzingis, and Cousins are just a few of the current stars in the league that went down for the season due to tragic injuries. Staying fully healthy is really lucky, especially for this season. 

Allen: The biggest takeaway is that the NBA season isn’t as predictable as everyone always think. Coming in we just “knew” that the NBA Finals would be the Warriors vs. the Cavaliers again with Golden State winning it all. Here we are, and neither one of those teams are the clear-cut favorite. The NBA Playoffs are seriously a toss up and that’s what makes this season so great. 

2. The biggest storyline of the season was?

Cortes: The biggest storyline of the season would be all that drama in Cleveland from Irving asking to be traded, to Isaiah Thomas’ fit with LeBron to the bumpy road ahead even after making tons of trades. It felt like the NBA was centered around all the drama in Cleveland. This offseason, James’ future with the Cavaliers and Dan Gilbert is probably gonna be the focal point in the offseason for the NBA.

Anderson: The storyline of the year had to be Hayward’s injury at the beginning of the 2017-18 season. Unfortunately, Hayward’s leg injury occurred in the first quarter of opening night against the Cavaliers and at that moment, this NBA season was defined. Hopefully, we see less of these season-ending injuries in the following NBA seasons with the help of offseason training and conditioning.

John-Baptiste: It has to be EVERYTHING Cleveland related. They traded Kyrie in the offseason, tried to get their older roster to play well, and traded away that old roster at the trade deadline to completely reshape the team. To top it all off, LeBron becomes a free agent this summer and that somehow became the secondary story to figuring out how the new parts would mesh prior to the playoffs. I’ll give the Rockets a close second in terms of storylines for the season. The majority of folks (myself included) are just waiting to see how they perform come playoff time.

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Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

De Falco: It has to be the fall of Cleveland. Coming into the season with great expectations, they plummeted and did not live up to the hype. Management completely overhauled the roster in hopes of keeping LeBron around. Meanwhile, Boston looks smarter by upgrading from Isaiah Thomas to Kyrie Irving. We know Irving is out now, but he clearly gives them a better upgrade over Thomas in the future.

Allen: In my opinion, it was the Cavaliers. They’ve been a rollercoaster all year long and have struggled in a way that we haven’t seen LeBron James struggle in a while. So much so, that a lot of people have written them off before and after they completely changed their team. Outside of that, James has had one of his greatest seasons offensively which has been very fun to watch. 

3. Which team did the best job of stealthily tanking?

Cortes: The Atlanta Hawks. No one knows if they were tanking or if they were just a really bad team.

Anderson: I would have to say agree with Cortes and say the Atlanta Hawks were the team that stealthily tanked the best this season.

John-Baptiste: The Brooklyn Nets. Coming into the season everyone lauded Cleveland for grabbing that pick. Though Brooklyn didn’t make the playoffs, they have one of the better records of those teams at the bottom, and they were never an easy game, especially at home.

De Falco: The Hawks. To be honest, I do not think a casual NBA fan can name a player on the roster outside of Dennis Schroder. They tanked hard and not many realized it.

Allen: I would say the Phoenix Suns because they’ve been so bad this season that I forgot they existed. They still have Devin Booker who’s a stud and they’ll get a high draft pick to pair with Booker and Josh Jackson. 

4. Who had the most impressive single-game performance of the regular season?

Cortes: Lonz- I mean LeBron’s 35-point, 17 assist-game with zero turnovers has to be the most impressive performance to me. For one, it was the 17 assists with NO turnovers and two, it was against the best team in the East, record-wise. LeBron continues to dominate in his later years and it doesn’t look like he plans to slow down either.

Anderson: Joel Embiids performance against the Los Angeles Lakers on November 15th was the most impressive. Embiid finished with 46 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists, and seven blocks. We know it was against the Lakers, a franchise currently building around their young core, but it showed Embiid’s dominance in the league at 23-years-old.

John-Baptiste: Harden’s 60-point triple-double. I don’t think people realize sometimes how hard it is to get 60 points. That’s A LOT of buckets. And to top it off he had the rebounds AND assists to diversify his statline. Spectacular.

De Falco: C’mon. This is easy. James Harden dropped 60 points. If that was not enough, he had a triple-double with that. Need I say more?

Allen: Probably have to give it to James Harden. 60 points and a triple-double is remarkable. You can’t really go wrong with anyone you choose because we’ve seen some great performances this year but if I had to choose one, Harden would have to be it. 

5. Name your MVP and All-NBA First Team.

Cortes: My MVP would be James Harden. The All-NBA First Team for me would be:

G: James Harden, G: Damian Lillard, F: LeBron James, F: Kevin Durant, C: Anthony Davis.

Anderson: James Harden is my MVP with LeBron James as the runner-up. Both of them are having incredible seasons with Harden leading the Rockets to the top of the Western Conference and James continuously holding a playoff spot for the Cavaliers since the 2014-15 season. It is tough to decide but my All-NBA First Team would have to be:

G: James Harden, G: Damian Lillard, F: LeBron James, F: Kevin Durant, C: Anthony Davis.

John-Baptiste: James Harden for MVP. Hmmm, First-Team All-NBA?

G: James Harden, G: Russell Westbrook, F: LeBron James, F: Kevin Durant, C: Anthony Davis.

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Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

De Falco: James Harden is my MVP, which also puts him on my All-NBA First Team:

G: James Harden, G: Damian Lillard, F: LeBron James, F: Kevin Durant, C: Anthony Davis.

Allen: MVP is Harden. He’s well-deserving of it this season. He’s carried the Rockets and they did a great job of building a solid core around him. My All-NBA First Team would be as follows:

G: James Harden, G: Damian Lillard, F: LeBron James, F: Kevin Durant, C: Anthony Davis. 

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