Klay Thompson, the NBA draft, Daryl Morey and much more in Five Things From the Week.
1. Klay Thompson’s injury is no temporary set back for the Warriors
Even with a healthy Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, the Golden State Warriors were not going to return to being the NBA’s best team next season. The landscape of the league is different. Their bodies are worn down from years of deep, taxing playoff runs and they’re both in their 30s now. The potentially career-altering Achilles injury Thompson suffered creates a series of difficult questions that have to be answered if the Warriors are going to build another title contender.
It’s hard to imagine Thompson being the same caliber of defender after he recovers, so he won’t be worth the money Golden State is paying him. Curry may look around and decide he doesn’t want to spend the rest of his career on a mediocre team. No dynasty that was able to retool for a second set of titles did so with the same group of players. The Warriors were a move or two away from being a real force again. The confirmation of Thompson’s torn Achilles has ramifications far beyond the 2020-21 season.
2. An impressive trend is on track to continue in the NFL
In the last five seasons, 28 of the NFL’s 32 teams have made the playoffs at least once. Exactly half the league has made it multiple times. Of the four teams who have not reached the postseason in that time frame, three are in a position to do so this year: Arizona, Tampa Bay and Cleveland. New England and Houston — two of the four teams to miss the playoffs less than twice — will need a miracle to get in.
The Browns moved to 7-3 with their win over the Philadelphia Eagles and have sole possession of second place in the AFC North. Tampa Bay can go a game clear of everyone in the NFC Wild Card race and 2.5 games ahead of the first team out with a victory against the Los Angeles Rams on Monday Night Football. Though the Cardinals lost to the Seattle Seahawks, they are still in the current playoff field and have a favorable schedule the rest of the way. Should all three get in, the lone team without an appearance in the past six postseasons would be the New York Jets.
3. The NBA draft was, relatively speaking, uneventful
It is not very often the top two picks in a draft are potentially available for trade, but that was the situation in the days preceding the 2020 NBA Draft. The Minnesota Timberwolves are trying to build a contender now, so they were always going to listen to offers for the No. 1 pick. Golden State was in the same position at No. 2, at least until Thompson’s injury happened. Instead of a whirlwind of activity, the first three picks went exactly as expected. Minnesota took Anthony Edwards, the Warriors selected James Wiseman and LaMelo Ball became a Charlotte Hornet.
Additionally, all 14 teams possessing a lottery pick at the beginning of the night held onto them. None of the top prospects thought they were headed one place only to find out their career would start somewhere else. There were plenty of trades later on, none of which were really needle-movers. James Harden and Russell Westbrook are still Houston Rockets. All in all, it was a tame NBA draft, especially considering the flurry of activity that’s taken place this offseason.
4. Atlético Madrid are the best team in Spain
A quarter of the way through the season, the La Liga table is a strange place. Barcelona and Sevilla are outside the top six. Real Madrid are fourth. Real Sociedad remain at the top courtesy of their six straight wins. Right behind them is Diego Simeone’s Atlético Madrid, three points back with two games in hand after a 1-0 win over Barcelona on Sept. 21 and the league’s last unbeaten team. Their lone defeat in any competition this season was at Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
The periods of transition at Real Madrid and Barcelona opened the door for Atléti to dethrone the two giants for the first time since 2013-14. Their 16 draws last season prevented them from being a factor in the title race. But something has happened in the aftermath of their upset of Liverpool in the Champions League round of 16 before the COVID shutdown. João Félix is in excellent form after an up-and-down first season. They’ve been fairly consistent when so many of the world’s top sides haven’t. Simeone’s magic has returned and La Liga is theirs to lose.
5. Daryl Morey didn’t waste any time
Daryl Morey inherited the NBA’s most puzzling roster in Philadelphia and solved two of its three biggest issues by the time the draft was over. Unloading Al Horford’s contract for a 2025 first round pick while getting Danny Green and Terrance Ferguson in return improves the 76ers now and opens up cap space down the road. That was problem one. Problem two was the lack of shooting even with the addition of Green. So Morey got Seth Curry from Dallas and drafted sharpshooter Isaiah Joe in the second round.
Just like that, the Sixers’ roster looks pretty balanced. The one issue remaining, however, looms large over the entire franchise: Can Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons co-exist well enough to be the two anchors on a championship team? That question cannot be answered accurately until the pieces around them aren’t a jumbled mess. If it still doesn’t work this season, then Morey will know for sure. Maybe they trade one for James Harden and it’s a moot point. Nevertheless, the way Morey transformed this roster in a matter of days is awfully impressive.
The Major League Soccer playoffs are the most underappreciated form of entertainment in the U.S. sports landscape. There is no way to completely capture how wild Orlando City’s win over NYCFC in the first round was. Let’s just say it ended with Orlando selling goalie jerseys with defender Rodrigo Schlegel’s name on them.
Look what we have here. We got a new goalkeeper kit in stock ?
— Orlando City SC (@OrlandoCitySC) November 21, 2020
Photo by Ennoti / Flickr