It’s go again. Like every year in the fall, the North American basketball league resumes its rights. Tuesday, October 18, a new NBA season begins, with, on the program, 82 regular season games per team, followed by the final stages for the eight best teams in each conference (plus two, who are playing a playoff accession dam).
With the exception of the transfer of French pivot Rudy Gobert from the Utah Jazz to the Minnesota Timberwolves, the offseason transfer window has not been the most lively. The chronicle was fueled more by the affairs away from the field, between the owner of the Phoenix Suns, suspended for a year by the NBA for racist and misogynistic behavior, coach Ime Udoka, sidelined by the Boston Celtics for not having respected the team’s code of conduct by maintaining a (consensual) relationship with a member of the team’s staff, or the desires of Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant, who, after requesting his transfer or the head of his trainer, Steve Nash, finally resumed training.
A very open season
“There are a lot of great teams and, in particular, a lot of talent in the Eastern Conference. But it’s only after the games are played that we’ll see who has the better team.”, summarized Kevin Durant at a press conference. Because the suitors are not lacking. Having returned to the heights of the NBA in June, two years after hitting rock bottom, Stephen Curry’s Golden State Warriors aspire to achieve another double. But they will notably find on their way their predecessors on the throne, the Milwaukee Bucks of the Greek phenomenon Giannis Antetokounmpo.
In an increasingly international league – as shown by the Euro disputed in September, where certain NBA stars shone – several teams are displaying their ambitions. “It’s very open. There are different strata, but this year there is no team that we imagine dominating everything, as has been the case in the past.said Chris Finch, coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves. This season is going to be hooked. »
Especially since, like the Denver Nuggets of Serbian pivot Nikola Jokic, double MVP (“most valuable player”, best player) in title, several NBA franchises find important players, injured during the 2021-2022 season.
Record points to come for LeBron James?
Always leading scorer in NBA history since April 1984, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar should be dethroned during the season. The 38,387 points of the former center of the Los Angeles Lakers should be exceeded by a player also playing in the Californian franchise. With 37,062 points recorded at the start of the season, and an average of 27 points per game since the start of his career, LeBron James is on the way to settling at the top of a ranking that many observers thought was immutable.
“To just be there and know that I’m about to break the record that a lot of players are chasing is incredible”, acknowledged the Lakers star. In the NBA since the 2003 season, LeBron James is entering his twentieth season in the league – as much as Abdul-Jabbar. Nicknamed the “King” for years, James should claim the crown of all-time leading scorer, barring an injury.
Nine French, with varied ambitions
The tricolor contingent was reduced, a few hours before the start of the season, with the successive breaches of contract by Killian Tillie and Thimoté Luwawu-Cabarrot. But they will be nine to represent France in the NBA this season. Among the headliners, Rudy Gobert, who is embarking on a new adventure after his transfer to the Minnesota Timberwolves, Evan Fournier, still starting at the New York Knicks despite a complicated first season, and winger Nicolas Batum, solidly installed in the rotation of a team aiming for the title, the Los Angeles Clippers. “Batman” has chosen to miss the Euro this summer, to recover, and enter his fifteenth season in the league in great shape. “We are going to play to get to the end. This might be my only chance to do this.”insisted the Frenchman.
If their role should be less important, Franck Ntilikina (Dallas Mavericks), Killian Hayes (Detroit Pistons) and Ousmane Dieng (Oklahoma City Thunder) will have a card to play this season. As for Théo Maledon (Charlotte Hornets), Moussa Diabaté (Clippers) and Olivier Sarr (Portland Trail Blazers), their “two-way contract” will force them to go back and forth throughout the season between their team and the G-League – the NBA development league.
Last season before the takeoff of the Wembanyama rocket
At 18, Victor Wembanyama has not yet played in the NBA. But the immense potential of the endless Metropolitans 92 player (2.21m) is turning heads in the North American league. “He has all the attributes of a player capable of changing basketball”, acknowledged Adam Silver, the commissioner of the NBA. The biggest potential in world basketball since LeBron James twenty years ago, the Frenchman is attracting the attention of all franchises. And even more since the two exhibition matches played by his club in Las Vegas, at the beginning of October, where the “unicorn” – nickname given to outsized players – shone. Without evolving in the big league this season, it should influence its progress.
In this closed league, where the thirty teams in the running are guaranteed never to be relegated, the draft system – a sort of great purse for university and foreign players who do not yet belong to the NBA – favors the teams with the worst results, to enhance their competitiveness. Also, when a player with immense potential, like Wembanyama, who has the ease of a full-back or a winger in the body of a pivot, some teams do everything to finish the season with the worst record. . This phenomenon, nicknamed “tanking”, is never officially accepted – and remains prohibited –; but there is a good chance that many teams will quickly abandon the race for the play-offs to hunt the French unicorn, almost guaranteed to be number 1 in the next draft.