The NBA is barely a week into its regular season. Draymond Green hasn’t even stretched for his first Rockette kick. Alternatively, the general election cycle is also closing in on two years of campaigning and punditry analysis. Thankfully, the end is near.

The intersection of these two events inspired a novel idea. Recently, Pat Buchanan used the term, “political athlete” in his column on the presidential race to describe the competitive political attributes of 2016’s nominees. I took it a step further by taking each team and comparing their 2016-17 campaign narrative to a president or presidential candidate in history. Although, the majority of the comparisons were kept as recent as possible, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and Lyndon B. Johnson didn’t make the cut.


Like a certain Democratic nominee, the Golden State Warriors are in the midst of an arduous journey to vanquish the demons of their stunning loss to an eventual champion from a major Midwest city(see: Chicago/Cleveland).

Running on a platform which supports the free and flowing migration of NBA superstars from city to city, the Warriors dominated preseason polls. Their problem has been closing out. It’s a vulnerability Candidate Clinton has exhibited Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. The Warriors blew a 3-1 lead and Clinton’s emails have tripped her campaign up again right before the finish line.

While detractors have spat venom at Kevin Durant’s decision to defect to the team that beat him, it’s a move that politically expedient politicians have pulled for decades. The expectation is that their results are more likely to match Michael Bloomberg’s switch from the Republican party to Independent governor turned Democratic surrogate than Charlie Christ’s.

Two Presidents living in one White House is equal to the power of two MVPs in their prime on one team. The harmonious atmosphere within the Warriors locker room is tempered by an external debate over who will run the top of this hardwood ticket between Steph Curry and Durant.

Internally, Durant fits like a latex glove. The quick ball movement and cuts Kerr’s Warriors utilize to create open shots should free him up for easier treys than the ones he took in Oklahoma City. Last season, Klay Thompson led the league with 10.3 catch and shoot points per game. By comparison, Durant was the NBA’s best pull-up shooting wing scorer, but only scored only 5.3 points per game in catch and shoot situations.

The criticism of Golden State’s offense has been that there’s only one ball. While that’s true, unlike the Heatles, off-ball movement and screens will make trying to keep up with that one ball, a shell game. Good luck to Warriors opponents trying to keep their eyes on the prize.



John Kerry’s campaign was one of contradictions. On one hand, he was a veteran of the Vietnam War. He was also labeled an elitist with an expensive haircut and a lavish lifestyle. Once you’re finished scoffing at the irony of the party of Romney and Trump calling a war veteran elitist, remember that once Kerry lost the election, he became President Obama’s Secretary of State.

San Antonio has the strongest foreign policy credentials in the NBA. Over the past 15 years, no franchise has done a better job sniffing out overseas talent. For a franchise with such a militaristic structure from Peter Holt’s ownership to its placement in a military city, you’d expect a more conservative ethos. Instead, Gregg Popovich is defending athletes kneeling for the national anthem and intelligently discussing police brutality.

At a time when the GOP has its base fretting over foreigners taking their jobs, the Spurs embassy was defiant enough to replace one of the 10-15 players of all-time with Pau Gasol. He’s only a stop-gap because of his own advancing age, but the show must go on. Although 60 wins is a possibility the widespread belief is that their window for a title may have finally collapsed. But what if Gasol is a significant step-up from a fragile Duncan?

Keep in mind that we also haven’t seen the best Kwahi Leonard has to offer either.

Even without the retired Duncan, who allegedly won’t go home and still hangs around the parking lot, Leonard anchors a top notch defensive unit. Here are the top 10 individual defensive ratings for last season. Only two were perimeter defenders, Leonard and Green. Together the pair incinerates wing scorers as the defensive equivalent of the Splash Bros.

1. Hassan Whiteside • MIA 94.5
2. Tim Duncan • SAS 95.7
3. Kawhi Leonard • SAS 96.0
4. Paul Millsap • ATL 96.1
5. DeAndre Jordan • LAC 97.6
6. Andre Drummond • DET 98.0
7. LaMarcus Aldridge • SAS 98.7
8. Rudy Gobert • UTA 98.7
9. Danny Green • SAS 98.8
10. Jared Sullinger • BOS 99.6

Leonard’s improvements as a shooter have made him an NBA star on both ends of the floor.  He maximizes his opportunities within the offense, but the final step in his superstar developmental training program is blinding defenses with a more diverse offensive repertoire off the dribble.

Rumors of LaMarcus Aldridge’s discontent in his role as Leonard’s lieutenant puts the normally drama-free Spurs under a Brexit vote type of microscope. That tension is reminiscent of A-Rod’s intense jealousy towards the adulation Jeter received. If Aldridge can’t find solace in being the primary frontcourt scorer on one of the two most stable franchises in North American pro sports, the Spurs may swap him for picks and/or multiple assets.



No presidential candidate has ever been as aggressive with his rhetoric regarding the potential use of nuclear weapons as Barry Goldwater. His most extreme declaration during the ’64 campaign occurred when he entertained the idea of using low-yield atomic bombs in Vietnam. The idea of Goldwater with the nuclear football inspired the infamous mushroom cloud ad.

Five decades later, the Thunder are being led by a brilliant, yet volatile player. There are no more checks and balances with Harden, Ibaka, Reggie Jackson and Durant to contend with. When the lights are on, his quick-trigger mentality is insatiable. Westbrook’s core has been burning red hot since Durant left him to fend for his own in Oklahoma City.   Victor Oladipo replaces Durant as Westbrook’s second-in-command offensively.  This season, Westbrook’s gone nuclear averaging over 30 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists per game through the first three games.

The Western conference title is out of reach, but Westbrook is on pace to become the second player to average a triple double for an entire season. How Westbrook meshes with Victor Oladipo is integral to how far the Thunder can climb in a restructured Western conference.

Rookie Damontis Sabonis and Ersan Ilyasova will battle for minutes at power forward, but defensively, the Thunder may be shrimp on a skewer. One thing that won’t change is their athleticism and length. The Thunder cleaned up the glass better than a Manhattan window washer by ranking first in rebound percentage and rebound differential last season. Averaging a double-double is entirely within the realm of possibility for Westbrook. What makes him so unique is that he’s the NBA’s best rebounding point guard.

His 2015-16 rebounding percentage was the eighth best by a point guard and he’s even more active crashing the glass this season. If he continues at his current pace, he’d reach a whole new stratosphere. The gap between Westbrook’s 12.3 rebounds per and Lever’s previous gold standard of 9.3 rebounds in ‘89 is equal to the gap between the 3rd and 47th best rebounding seasons by a point guard.

Unfortunately, he’s also a cowboy riding a warhead. It will be an exhilarating show, but eventually he may nuke the Thunder’s season by going overboard trying to win games all by himself.



Chris Paul has one mandate this season; preserve the union.

Doris Kearns Goodwin coined the term Team of Rivals to describe Abraham Lincoln’s cabinet, which consisted of his opponents in the contentious 1860 presidential election. Not only do the Clippers argue with officials more vociferously than any team in the league, their passions spills over into each other as well. De’Andre Jordan nearly signed with the Mavs last summer so that he could escape CP3’s demeaning treatment. Iron Faced team manager Matias Testi, who broke Blake Griffin’s hand with his head, is gone.

All seems harmonious in Clipperland, but the hand on their Doomsday Clock is always resting on 11. NBPA President Chris Paul is going to have his hands full brokering labor peace next summer, but until then he’ll have to keep a locker room, which nearly has nearly splintered before, from allowing the pressure of Griffin and his own possible free agency secession to become a distraction.

That tension could spill over once the reality of their place in the western hierarchy becomes clear. Getting roasted by the Warriors in their preseason debut won’t help matters. The hole at small forward still hasn’t been addressed by Doc Rivers and it probably never will be.


LOS ANGELES LAKERS [Woodrow/Edith Wilson]

Woodrow Wilson’s presidency was rather successful despite the scourge of World War I dragging the United States into European conflict. But the most aspect of Woodrow’s presidency was his wife assuming a pseudo-presidential role after he suffered a seizure towards the end of his second term.

Jim Buss has had final say on all organizational decisions since the death of his father Jerry, but his sister Jeannie is the real fulcrum of the front office. And if the upcoming season goes off the rails, she’ll go rogue and take her rightful place atop the organization’s hierarchy.

The Lakers hope that D’Angelo Russell and Brandon Ingram can eventually be their Westbrook and Durant-lite. Although, Russell is living up to his end of the bargain, Ingram looks more like Dan Quayle trying to channel Jack Kennedy vs. Lloyd Bentsen in 1988. Luke Walton coached against Kevin Durant, he knows Kevin Durant. At this point, Ingram is no Kevin Durant.

Russell takes his rightful place in the driver’s seat after his rookie season was hijacked by Kobe Bryant’s farewell tour. Russell cutting down on the turnovers while assuming a permanent residency at point guard is essential to his development in 2016.  Julius Randle is sitting shotgun as the Lakers’ roving double-double machine.

Walton will attempt to import Golden State’s ethos, with only a degree of their talent in Los Angeles.

Golden State had the fewest pick and rolls in the league. The Lakers led the league in frequency of plays that ended with the ball handler using the possession to yield a possession-ending event. PnR plays where the ball handler doesn’t share the rock are universally known as the least efficient play in basketball. Conversely, they finished 27th in frequency of pick and roll plays, resulting in the screen setter receiving the pass. Walton implementing more cuts and off-ball action off screens could go a long way towards spurring a Lakers resurgence



In a 1947 address to Congress, Harry Truman successfully convinced Congress to send $400 million in aid to Turkey and Greece so that their nations wouldn’t find relief in the arms of Soviet communism. This speech is believed to be the birth of the Truman Doctrine. The Doctrine ended the era of isolationism in foreign policy for the United States.

The Rockets were the antithesis of the Utah Jazz last season. Isolation basketball mucked up the flow of their offense. They were high-scoring, fast-paced, but very little off-ball movement as a result of Harden’s monopoly over the ball resulted in their offensive players finishing last in total distance covered. Despite playing at the league’s fastest tempo, they were among the least active teams away from the ball on offense.

Mike D’Antoni comes to Houston to open up the offense, discard the iso sets and get Daryl Morey’s crew back on track. Defensively, the Rockets won’t suddenly become a aggressive defensive unit, but the expectation is that they’ll contain opposing offenses more effectively.

James Harden’s transition to point guard added a level of difficulty when Patrick Beverley underwent arthroscopic knee surgery. Even before the Rockets asked Mike D’Antoni to supe the engine in their offensive engine, The Beard set a new single season turnovers mark. He’s already on pace to eclipse his own ignominious record of 374 total turnovers by averaging 2.3 more per game thus far, putting him on pace for over 500.



In 2012, Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign was damaged by his 47 percent comment being caught on video at a private fundraiser. In the absence of a low-post scoring option, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum accounted for 44 percent of Portland’s overall scoring.

Lillard and McCollum have become the Rain Men to Klay Thompson and Steph Curry’s Splash Bros. McCollum was second in the league in pull-up 3-pointers to only Steph Curry last season. Meanwhile, Lillard is third, behind only Curry and Klay Thompson in 3-pointers made in the last four seasons.

Unlike the Warriors though, Portland hasn’t found a viable third offensive option or patched up their defensive holes. The most glaring issue for Portland’s lineup has been the absence of interior scoring from the frontcourt since the departure of Lamarcus Aldridge during the 2015 offseason.

It’s hard not to imagine where the Trailblazers would be now if they’d integrated CJ McCollum into a lineup which also featured some combination of Nicolas Batum, Arron Afflalo, Aldridge, Robin Lopez and Wes Matthews.

Replacing Batum has been equally difficult. This preseason, Terry Stotts is auditioning Allen Crabbe, Mo Harkless and Evan Turner to be the starting small forward.



Ben Carson was a brilliant neurosurgeon, who capitalized on his notoriety to become an influential voice in the Republican Party and eventually a frontrunner for the GOP Presidential nomination. Ultimately, his candidacy proved that gifted hands do not correlate to a natural politicking. Vivek Ranadive’s tempestuous reign as the Sacramento Kings owner has been equally antithetical to the success of his entrepreneurial ventures.

The denizens of Sac-Town’s newly-built Sleep Train Arena have witnessed how Demarcus Cousin’s outbursts have disrupted his locker room chemistry. The Kings are harder to watch than a drowsy Carson speech on the importance of clean coal. They’ve also mucked things up by using consecutive lottery picks on a par of 7-footers in Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere from Kentucky to play alongside or behind their other All-Star ex-Wildcat.

There is no rhyme or reason to what Sac-Town is doing. This summer they swapped out Rajon Rondo for Ty Lawson, whose career has been derailed by alcohol dependency. New starter Darren Collison will sit the first eight games after pleading to a misdemeanor domestic violence count, stemming from an incident involving his wife this summer. Rudy Gay and the Kings are still living under the same roof during his contract year, but have promised not to cross into each others half of the residence.

I’m also reminded of a story that illustrates the lack of discipline and leadership exhibited by the Kings. Before they faced Boston for a regular season contest in Mexico City, both teams were invited to a banquet. The Celtics showed up, mingled and left. Meanwhile, the Kings stayed until the wee hours of the morning and played Dance Dance Revolution long after the room cleared out.

To further their streak of mixing cyanide into the team’s Gatorade supply, they also signed Matt Barnes in free agency.

If SportVU tracked team chemistry and leadership, the Sacramento Kings would rank last every year of the Ranadive era.



Nearly 30 years ago Joe Biden was the young, inspiring Senator in Washington. His blue collar persona was as conspicuous in Washington as Cuban’s over exuberance was to the NBA’s aristocracy 15 years ago. However, Biden’s 1988 presidential campaign was derailed by multiple plagiarism controversies. In the twilight of his career in government, he’s the beloved crazy, but loveable liberal uncle of national American politics. Despite this, he doesn’t have presidential DNA. His next role in American politics after the vice presidency may be as Hillary Clinton’s Secretary of State. These background roles suit him best.

I’m not sure how much pro basketball Biden watches, but he’d appreciate that it’s okay for the NBA to be a copy-cat league. Dallas’ strategy this season was to replicate the Warriors as closely as possible. These Mavericks are the Dolly clone version of Golden State. It’s not quite the original, but Seth Curry has flashed the potential to be Dell Curry off the bench while high post maestro Andrew Bogut and Harrison Barnes round out the Warriors expats. Wes Matthews is the Klay Thompson-lite of this group.

Nowitzki is their Durant of Christmas Future. He’s also a 7-foot-tall 50-40-90 player, and has a release that stretches into the rafters. But, he’s 38 years old and it remains to be seen if the Mavericks have finally found a sidekick who can supplant him as Dallas’ go-to offensive centerpiece in a player with an underwhelming career average of 10.1 points per game.

Barnes sparked fears about his readiness when he shot 27 percent from the field in the preseason and recorded more turnovers than assists. After scoring 50 points in his first two games, Barnes cratered in a loss to the Rockets with a total of (pause for drumbeat) 10 points. He also has just one assist during Dallas’ 0-3 start which indicates a vast change of pace from the playmaking of his predecessor on the wing, Chandler Parsons. The idea of Barnes as a premier sounded like it had merit when he was a freshman at UNC and again during the lead-up to his free agency, but it’s becoming painfully clear he has role player DNA.


UTAH JAZZ [Chris Christie]

Three years ago, two lanes on the George Washington Bridge between Manhattan and New Jersey were inexplicably shut down. The closures created gridlock so extensive and conditions so hazardous that an investigation was launched. Eventually, investigators uncovered collaboration between the New Jersey governor and several of his appointees to punish the mayor of Fort Lee as the root of the week-long gridlock.

Christie’s involvement in Bridge-gate is analogous to Quin Snyder’s sluggish offense, which ranked 30th in pace last season, but actually covered more distance, in terms of movement, than any team in The Association. Their inability to create easy buckets put a strain on their defense, which ranked seventh in efficiency and second in points per game.

Part of what makes the Jazz so enticing is what bridges the gap between them being great. Derrick Favors, Gordon Heyward, George Hill, Rudy Gobert and Joe Johnson have had very good careers and are safe players. But none have shown the capacity to be the anchor for a potential championship contender. The Jazz could use an explosive scoring swingman like the Laker who dropped 60 in his career finale against them. Offensively, Rodney Hood and Heyward are the primary shot creators, but in crunch-time situations, they aren’t playmakers skilled enough to manifest points.

The best hope for Utah is that they somehow unlock the formula for replicating the ‘Sheed-Billlups-Wallace-Rip-Tayshaun era Detroit Pistons in a 2016 shell. Gobert is big and long without being slow-footed.

Acquiring Hill to be their Junior Chauncey Billups should upgrade their perimeter defense from stifling to suffocating. Hill is 6-2 with a 6-9 wingspan and even if he departs in free agency next summer, he’ll simultaneously serve as a mentor for backup Dante Exum. The Jazz have an entire Big Brother Little Brother operation running. Heyward has one in Joe Johnson and Trey Lyles will model himself after a leaner Boris Diaw.



The Yugoslav Wars was one of the major post-Soviet conflicts of George H.W. Bush’s term. Yugoslavia’s splintering led to war between numerous ethnic groups and even affected the friendship of Croatian NBA All-Star Drazen Petrovic and Serbian Vlade Divac, who were previously teammates on the Yugoslavian national team. Their fractured relationship was even the subject of the ESPN 30 for 30, “Once Brothers.”

The Nuggets have relied on foreign talent to restock their roster in the last three years. Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic are the pillars of their rebuilding plans. Jokic and Nurkic weren’t born when the wars began, but Jokic, a Serbian and the Nurkic of Bosnia are products of nations that emerged from the rubble of Yugoslavia’s collapse.

Two seasons ago, Nurkic flashed his potential as anchor in the middle. While he was a raw space eater with a mean disposition, he also cleaned the glass, altered shots near the rim and proved to be a double-double threat at the pivot position.

While Nurkic missed much of his sophomore season, Jokic settled in as a point-center with unique court vision. It was an equally effective, albeit, more finesse skillset.

Nurkic has been a preseason revelation for the Nuggets. He may be the most surprising success story thus far. Once expected to come off the bench to spell Nikola Jokic, a rejuvenated, healthier Nurkic minus 30 pounds is going to be difficult to keep out of the starting lineup. He’s also hitting approximately 80 percent of his free throws.

The Nuggets also may have to choose between the two of them or move Jokic to power forward where he can play alongside Nurkic in the post.

After finishing 10th in the west, another year under their belts puts the postseason within reach. But for all of their talent, they appear to be devoid of a star that can make a quantum leap forward into franchise cornerstone.



JFK was a hopeful president during a grim period in American history. The South was ripping itself apart from within over the obliteration of Jim Crow laws and the nation was on the precipice of nuclear war with the Soviets.

In 2016, the city of Minnesota has dealt with the sudden death of Prince, a gruesome knee injury to Teddy Bridgewater, Adrian Peterson’s tepid start followed by a possible season-ending MCL injury and the retirement of Kevin Garnett just before training camp. Minnesota needs its spirits to be raised. The Timberwolves must emerge as a source of healing.

The crux of Tom Thibodeau’s inaugural campaign is to improve Minnesota’s defense.  Half the coaches in the league are promising improved defensive effort, but Thibodeau’s is the only one with a track record of success. Reigning rookie of the year Karl Anthony-Towns is the Timberwolves bulwark in the paint.

For the second time in three years, Wiggins has been displaced as the most valuable player on a roster by a less-heralded center. Three years ago, Joel Embiid’s maturation made him an afterthought at Kansas and last season Karl Anthony-Towns’ emergence knocked him off the franchise player perch. Before he can be considered Towns’ equal, he’ll have to extend his range and realize his destiny as a lockdown perimeter defender.

Kris Dunn is the archetype for the slashing point guards Thibodeau utilized in Chicago whereas Rubio is a more coachable Rondo-duplicate. Neither is a very reliable shooter, but Dunn I projected as Minnesota’s hardwood quarterback of the future. In the preseason, Dunn averaged 4.6 points per game on a ghastly 22 percent shooting exhibiting just how much ground he has to make up before realistically challenging Rubio for the starting job.


MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES [William Jennings Bryan]

William Jennings Bryan is arguably the most resilient nominee in the history of presidential politics. On three different occasions, Bryan earned the Democratic nomination. If his name doesn’t ring a bell, you can probably surmise that he lost all three elections.

Memphis has been within reach of the pinnacle for the past half-decade. Ultimately, the Grit and Grind era will be washed away from the memories of NBA fans like a sand castle during morning tide. Remarkably, this core STILL haven’t been plastered onto memorial coins as relics of a past age.

For what it’s worth, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley are the best two-way 1-5 combo in the league. Unfortunately, Conley’s $150 million dollar contract was printed on the back of the $120 million deal Joe Johnson signed with the Hawks in 2010.

Chandler Parsons was Dallas’ prime free agent pickup, but his right knee has seemingly left him perpetually hobbled and Zach Randolph is a pillar of the past.


NEW ORLEANS PELICANS [William Henry Harrison]

William Henry Harrison presidential term is notable for both its brevity and its lengthiness. He delivered the longest inauguration address in history on a frigid March day. Unfortunately, he also contracted pneumonia and died on his 32nd day in office.

The Pelicans are supposed to be climbing the Western Conference’s playoff ladder this season. Instead, they’ll simply be looking to attain a postseason ticket. A major reason for their regression last season was that a majority of their roster was in a sling. A rash of injuries ravaged the Pelicans roster from beginning to end. By the end of last November, New Orleans was six games under .500 and their playoff aspirations were already on life support.

They expected to embark on the upcoming campaign with a clean bill of health. Instead, Anthony Davis is nursing an ankle sprain, Tyreke Evans’ is stuck in a time loop where his knees are perpetually taking advantage of his top-notch healthcare plan and Jrue Holiday will be taking a leave of absence to stick by his wife, who recently gave birth before undergoing brain surgery.

Alvin Gentry was hired to upgrade the offense, but on the other side of the floor, New Orleans ranked 28th in defensive efficiency. The difference between their effectiveness when Davis was on and off the court was negligible.

Buddy Hield’s strikes from drone range will make it more difficult to defend their offense, but perimeter defense was another Pelicans soft spot.

That’s why they shelled out $82 million for 3-and-D henchmen Solomon Hill and E’Twaun Moore to guard the perimeter.


PHOENIX SUNS [Robert F. Kennedy]

The Suns might as well be the Jr. Timberwolves. Without tanking, Phoenix has accumulated a slew of lottery talent. However, Minnesota’s shooting woes and robust frontcourt are countered by Phoenix’s stock of players who can spread the floor and uncertainty in the post.

They have a borderline All-Star at point guard in Eric Bledsoe, a starting-caliber backup behind Bledsoe and a potentially transcendent scorer at the 2. Tyler Ullis would have been a top-15 pick if he were three inches taller. At Kentucky, he was known for his surgical precision on the offensive end, but he was also the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Year, which speaks to his scrappiness for such a diminutive lead guard.

The most promising baby Sun is Devin Booker, who projects as a Klay Thompson level shooter at 2-guard as long as he improves his efficiency.

Phoenix beefed up down low by drafting Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender in the lottery. Chriss’ reputation was built above the rim, but his upside relies on refining his advanced perimeter shooting ability.

Meanwhile, Phoenix is banking on Bender’s potential as a baby Porzingis. Yet he’s even more of a mystery man than New York’s new skyscraper. As a result, Bender’s bust potential is exponentially higher. It’s difficult to point out an elite skill. His greatest strength is his versatility for a player with his length. If Bender pans out as Porzingis’ Mini-Me, the Suns could find themselves on a trajectory similar to Minnesota.




Obama’s presidency began as a beacon of hope for a country in disarray. Eight years later, he’s lived up to his promise, put the economy on a positive track, has accrued an exceptionally high approval rating and remained scandal-free. The former community organizer has also shown the most genuine empathy for his fellow man from all backgrounds than any POTUS  in our lifetime.

LeBron’s return to Cleveland inspired an entire city, provided a jolt to the local economy and his outspokenness on issues is evidence of his social awareness. He’s also steered clear of any scandals on or off the court and been in a committed relationship for the past 15 years. Most importantly, he’s de more tangible contributions to the unity then any superstar athlete in the post-Ali era. LeBron’s lived an idyllic existence since he’s been in the spotlight that’s rivaled only by No Drama Obama.

Within the confines of the game, he’s the reigning champ and last summer he squashed the conversation over who is the NBA’s best player.

Yet, both James and Obama have overcome the doubts over whether they could live up to the respective hype. They can finally see the end creeping closer. LeBron is entering a phase of his career where he’s simply coasting during the season until he can pad his resume in May and June. Obama is finally planning his post-presidential legacy.

Kyrie Irving’s handles are as magnificent as Obama’s rhetorical flourish, but Uncle Drew is the equivalent to Uncle Joe on this ticket. 

For the second consecutive offseason, a prominent Cav held out for a new contract. After Tristan Thompson’s lengthy negotiations ended right before the regular season opener, JR Smith joining the team during the preseason was a welcome change. The Cavs appear “fired up and ready to go for their repeat campaign.”



Ted Cruz is an uber-talented politician, a national champion debater with an Ivy League pedigree and wholly unlikeable. Yet, he was the final challenger to Donald Trump in the GOP’s 2016 race. Challenger is a strong word. He was more like the doormat Trump wiped his balky shoes on before entering the establishment party. The Raptors are a franchise that’s been run exquisitely by Masai Ujiri, setting franchise records for wins three years in a row and reached their first conference finals. Despite taking the Cavs six games, they never felt like a true threat.

Toronto played aesthetically unpleasant basketball at the second slowest pace in the league, ranking 29th in assists. The 76ers were the only team to drive into the lane more frequently than Toronto. It’s a testament to their athleticism along the perimeter.

Staring directly into Demar DeRozan or Kyle Lowry’s jump shots risks permanent blindness. DeRozan is the antithesis of Klay Thompson and a remnant of the era of volume scorers. DeRozan’s violent assaults on rims are well known. Unfortunately, he is also a sub-30 percent shooter from 3-point range for his career. 70 percent of DeRozan’s field goals were unassisted. To put that in context, 81 percent of Klay Thompson’s were assisted on.

However, he accounts for his ineffective hurling from deep with constant movement off the ball, slashing into the lane, midrange jumpers, a refined post-up scoring skillset and uses those strengths to become a prolific penchant to create trips to the charity stripe. Fifteen years ago, he’d be showered with darkhorse MVP praise. In 2016, we’re not sure what to make of him.

Most observers of the Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals were so enamored with the rise of Bismack Biyombe, they forgot about the hobbled Jonas Valanciunas. He’s back and healthy. The Raptors tend to hide him on the bench in fourth quarters and he is a lumbering albatross on the defensive end against quicker frontcourt players and this summer they may have drafted Utah’s Jakob Poeltl to be his eventual heir apparent or his to relieve him against quicker lineups.

He’s a long, relatively athletic, but lanky low post scorer and a competent shot blocker. Those are all things Valanciunas is not. If the Raptors want to make a splash in the East, Ujiri may not be content to sit pat. Valanciunas should keep his head on a swivel.

Sidenote: Now is the time for the Raptors to reap the benefits of the instability of the United States’ election system. Every few years, Americans threaten to leave the United States if their candidate loses the presidential election. If Donald Trump bloviates his way to the White House next month, the exodus that’s always promised  by supporters of the election’s losing party may actually come to pass. The portion of the population most likely to follow through on this threat as a Trump administration looms are African-Americans. Stars who were previously reluctant to play north of the border may now view the Raptors in a more favorable light. A max-four year deal would give them an option to conceivably return at the end of his first and only term.


NEW YORK KNICKS [Bill Clinton]

Bill Clinton’s era of peace and prosperity coincided with the peak of Phil Jackson’s popularity in the basketball zeitgeist.  Phil’s individual legacy was built on the implementation of his Triangle Offense in Chicago and L.A. Clinton’s was on free trade agreements like NAFTA. Neither has held up over the years.

Free Trade Agreements are misunderstood, but unpopular. The Triangle is perceived to be an archaic offense which overemphasizes midrange shots and long 2s over three-pointers and neutralizes playmaking point guards. It just so happens that 3-pointers and dynamic point guards are the foundation of the modern NBA offense.

In his third season with the Knicks, Jackson has united a broad coalition of players who’ve been bullied by LeBron in hopes of putting up a battle for the Eastern Conference territory.

This summer, Jackson annexed Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose and Brandon Jennings to partner with Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis. Each one of them has been victimized at the hands of King James. Joakim Noah and Rose were Miami’s greatest adversaries for a brief period. Melo has been minimized beneath LeBron’ shadow and Jennings Pistons were eviscerated by the Cavs in the first round of this year’s playoffs

Rose’s propaganda campaign to dub the Knicks a super-team was mocked in the offseason. LeBron’s grip on Eastern Conference supremacy has never seemed tighter. That may be the reasoning by Phil Jackson’s offseason acquisitions. If the Warriors are the Marvel shared then the Cavs are the DCU, which makes New York the CW’s off-brand Arrowverse. However, the Big Apple is the city of big dreams, bigger skyscrapers and bloated (political) egos.

The uneasiness of Rose’s civil trial draws a correlation between some of the most unsavory aspects of Bill’s legacy, but the Knicks hope that eventually he’ll settle into a solid starter.

Hornacek’s modifications to the Triangle will incorporate pick and rolls early in the offense, which should take advantage of Rose off the dribble more effectively than Rambis’ triangle would have. Whenever his trial run with the Knicks reaches its end, Phil will probably find himself back on the west coast permanently with Jeannie Buss. Together, they comprise the most powerful executive couple in the sports world. Wait…


BROOKLYN NETS [Donald Trump]

The Nets are the only franchise with a closer relationship to Russia than Donald Trump. Mikhail Prokhorov rose to prominence in Brooklyn promising a championship in Brooklyn within five years. Despite his exorbitant spending and a ritzy arena, Prokhorov’s mouth ultimately wrote a check, his team couldn’t cash.

The Nets have gone boom in recent years as a result of gambling their future away in a 2013 trade with the Boston Celtics. The Celtics used Brooklyn’s 2016 on slashing Cal small forward Jaylen Brown. In 2017, they have the right to swap picks and in 2018, they own Brooklyn’s first round pick outright. It’s the biggest tumble into despair since Trump’s bankrupted Atlantic City casinos or that time he advised the USFL to try competing in the fall. In other words, the Nets leaders negotiated a very bad deal.

If the Nets 2018 pick turns into Deandre Ayton, which is very possible given their current downward trajectory, and Brown reaches expectations, Brooklyn may enter a great depression. Not an economic downturn, just a general melancholic feeling about their circumstances. Trump dodged the draft by claiming he had bone spurs in one of his feet. In the meantime, he’s been boom or bust as a businessman. Brooklyn’s draft dodging could keep them in the dregs for years to come.

After dumping a swath of aforementioned draft picks in pursuit of that championship, the Nets suffering is the result of the front office’s malfeasance which put them in this position. Just as Trump’s scorched earth policy has put the GOP in a hole they’ll struggle to dig out of until 2020.

Until then, new head coach Kenny Atkinson will lead a cast of enigmatic characters who deserve their own place in the Witness Protection Program, making Jeremy Lin even more conspicuous. At the very least, Atkinson is making things interesting by exchanging their rusty, slow grind it out offense for a chic new up-tempo pace.


BOSTON CELTICS [Bernie Sanders]

Barring catastrophic injuries to key members of the Cavs and Warriors, the Boston Celtics are here to keep the Cavs on their toes. For a year, Bernie Sanders’ campaign also had the establishment sweating bullets.

The Celtics egalitarian offense relied on small contributions from a multitude of role players. Despite Danny Ainge’s best efforts, there are no superstars on this roster. Al Horford stretched beyond the three-point line during his final season in Atlanta, but he’s not efficient from deep to account for the cratering 3-point shooting percentages of Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley. Horford’s talents inside will make them tangibly better, even without Jared Sullinger, but the lack of outside shooting remains a legitimate concern as the Celtics ranked 29th in percentage of catch and shoot 3s made last season.

Whether this team can eventually ascend into serious contention depends on the long term potential of rookie Jaylen Brown. Brown’s upside projects to be anything from Jimmy Butler to Harrison Barnes. However, his limited range as a shooter may also limit his production as a rookie.

If the Celtics need a shooting coach, there’s a disheveled New Hampshire Senator with free time and whose services are available.

 photo anim_berniebball_zpsou8ikggc.gif

ATLANTA HAWKS [Gary Johnson]

Libertarians squandered an opportunity to make serious headway in this campaign by electing a goofy, one-dimensional ex-governor. His grasp of domestic policy is countered by his complete ignorance in foreign policy.

Dwight Howard suffered his own humiliating “What is Aleppo” 2012 moment in Orlando , when he was caught acting two-faced with then-coach Stan Van Gundy, but remains as incapable of being serious as he was when he warred with Shaq over who was the real Superman. Defensively he’s one of the greats of his era. Unfortunately, that gets overshadowed by his rudimentary low post moves, which are as refined as the depth of Johnson’s grasp of geopolitical issues.

One area where Howard should make a difference is on the break with point guard Dennis Shroder, who is a pick and roll fiend. Unfortunately, Howard has been averse to being the roller in PnRs throughout his career. Something has to give.

After getting frustrated with Harden’s heavy usage last season, Howard will be enthused to play in an offense which shares the ball so consistently. Paul Millsap is one of the better big-to-big passers in the NBA, so Howard could be getting fed easy buckets from all over if he buys into Mike Budenholzer’s system.

Where Howard does offer his most immediate contributions are on the boards. Atlanta was one of the league’s worst rebounding teams in the league and averaged the fewest post touches in the league.

Last season, Howard was second in paint touches and had one of the five highest field goal percentages inside the paint for any player with at least three attempts per night. Furthermore, the Hawks also acquired the draft rights to Baylor’s Taurean Prince as part of the three-team trade that sent Jeff Teague to Indiana.

In case his name doesn’t ring a bell. Prince was teammates with Rico Gathers, the nation’s best rebounder and is himself, a leading expert in the art of rebounding.


INDIANA PACERS [Dwight Eisenhower]

It’s been 60 years since the Eisenhower administration signed the Federal Highway Act of 1956 into law. At the time, it was the costliest public construction project in United States history was inspired by the German autobahn network. In all, it added 46,000 miles of expressway roads to facilitate interstate travel and eliminated traffic congestion.

Larry Bird has spent the last few years urging his basketball team to play more like a team on the freeway than one slogging it out in rush hour. Last season, he used his authority to force Paul George into an ill-fitting part-time small ball offensive power forward role (while CJ Miles defended the 4 spot) even though his star player abhorred the switch.

However, Frank Vogel increasing Indiana’s pace by four possessions a game elevated them from 19th in pace to 10th in the league. They also improved their modest transition offense from 27th in scoring to 12th without detracting from their bludgeoning defense but still wasn’t enough for Bird. Mainly because by midseason, they’d reverted back to their grind it out style by playing Myles Turner at power forward. At the Al-Star break, Indiana was eighth in pace. After the break, they were 16th.

In the offseason, he made his move by cutting ties with Vogel, traded for Atlanta’s Jeff Teague and signed Al Jefferson. As a result, Myles Turner is now the starting center and looks the part of a future All-Star-caliber.

The Pacers are taking a colossal leap of faith by hiring Nate McMillan. The Bulls attempted a similar organ transplant by transitioning from Tom Thibodeau to Fred Hoiberg. McMillan’s most successful offenses in Portland thrived when they executed at the most sluggish pace in the league.


ORLANDO MAGIC [Ronald Reagan]

Over the course of his two terms in office Ronald Reagan increased the U.S.’ military budget from $456 billion to $325.1 billion. Based on the makeup of his roster, Frank Vogel is attempting to recreate the peak of his Indiana years in Orlando by investing in a slew of rugged frontcourt defenders.

Victor Oladipo was once thought to be Orlando’s Dwyane Wade, but in fitting fashion was traded to Oklahoma City for Secretary of Defense, Serge Ibaka. To backup Nikola Vucevic, the Magic gave Bismack Biyombe $72 million over four years after he averaged 5.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game when he was the understudy to another 7-foot plodding Eastern European pivot with an advanced offensive game which hid his defensive shortcomings.

Evan Fournier is Orlando’s swingman of the present while Mario Hezonja is the flickering offensive flame of tomorrow. But few contributors on the Magic bench have the capacity to provide firepower behind the arc.

Aaron Gordon is somewhere in purgatory as the 6-9, 220 pound tweener of a power forward starting at small forward.


DETROIT PISTONS [Theodore Roosevelt]

Theodore Roosevelt expanded the presidential authority to new lengths. He was the first president to issue 1000 executive orders, regulated industries and many believed he excessively stretched powers of the executive office. In three years, Van Gundy has used his tentacles to completely alter the Pistons trajectory beginning with his decision to drop Josh Smith into the abyss.

Yet, the Pistons have the feel of a young team which has nearly maxed out its talent. Drummond is the NBA’s best rim-runner and he’s improved his low-post scoring within 3-9 feet, but how much better can they get if he can’t shoot better than 50 percent from the free throw line? Last season, he shot a record-low 35 percent from the charity stripe. In his regular season opener, he made only 2 of his 6 attempts.

Where is the room to grow?



Jesse Jackson’s 1984 and 1988 presidential campaigns reached new heights for an African-American presidential candidate. A civil rights icon for much of the past four decades, he faded into the background during Barack Obama’s unprecedented rise, experienced a dip in popularity over his petty rivalry with the current POTUS and was inexplicably booed at a Black Lives Matter rally.

Michael Jordan, the player, was the most marketable athlete of the 20th century. In the 21st century, Jordan the owner and team exec took a few lumps. Jordan’s tenure with the Wizards was an unmitigated disaster and his best acquisition was an over-the-hill Michael Jordan.

However, prospects around Charlotte have picked up in the last two seasons. Kemba Walker reconfigured his jump shot and played in his first All-Star Game. After losing Courtney Lee, Jeremy Lin and Al Jefferson, the only hopes for improving in 2016 are if Walker takes a Steph Curry circa 2014-sized quantum leap. If that development is going to come from anywhere it’ll have to be his continued progression as a 3-point marksman. After fixing his shooting form, Walker improved from a streaky 30% 3-point shooter to a 37% threat.

In the preseason, he drained better than 42% of his attempts from behind the arc in a 19 shot sample size. Walker’s output from downtown through three regular season games? He’s 9-for-23. It’s not much, but it’s a considerable improvement.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s return to the lineup puts an elite perimeter defender in the lineup. At the age of 23, we have yet to witness the best of Kidd-Gilchrist alongside Marvin Williams and Nicholas Batum. When coupled with the addition of Roy Hibbert, the Hornets should strike the perfect balance between a steely defense which can compensate for the departures of Jeremy Lin and Al Jefferson on offense. If anything, they should be more versatile, if not equally efficient on the offensive end.



John McCain was one of the oldest presidential nominees of all-time in 2008. He ran a respectable campaign, but if he was ever going to be the most powerful man in the free world, his time was actually eight years earlier when he lost to George W. Bush.

Conversely, the Bulls were able to nab free agents Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo—five years too late. But in the pace and space age, pairing a trio of average to below average shooters on the perimeter is an archaic plan of attack. Instead of being built to win now, or rebuilding around Jimmy Butler, Chicago is stuck in place by walking the wrong way on their escalator to title contention.

The Bulls frontcourts and backcourts are as poorly matched as McCain and Palin. Defenders can sag off of Rondo from the parking lot, while Butler is still improving his potency from behind the arc. Wade has shown the capacity to hit treys, but is still one of the lowest percentage three-point artists in league history. He’s mastered the art of cutting to the basket from the perfect angle, which Rondo should take full advantage of, yet it may not be enough to account for them lacking a threat behind the arc  their starting backcourt. Wade seems willing to concede the bulk of the playmaking to younger franchise player Jimmy Butler. However, Rondo is moody enough to go rogue if he’s unhappy with his role.

Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic are the Bulls two best floor spacers. Robin Lopez will start at center, but Mirotic and McDermott will be a sieve manning the four and at a disadvantage under the boards, which is why Taj Gibson began the season in the starting lineup. It’s hard to believe it’s been six years since they advanced to the conference finals and Gibson is now a 31-year-old vet.



Ending the rancor in DC between Bradley Beal and John Wall is priority number one for Scott Brooks. The Wizards new tactician was presumably hired because of his professional connection to Kevin Durant. After all the machinations intended to make the Wizards more palatable to KD, they did less in 2016’s highly anticipated free agency period than President Buchanan did when the states began threatening to secede. It was so pathetic; they couldn’t even cop a meeting. Grunfeld tried every gimmick in the book to lure Durant back to DC. Except improve their roster.

Ultimately, their scheme was more reminiscent of Elmer Fudd’s schemes to catch a rabbit and it left them in a lurch. They’re rarely mentioned as one of the more attractive free agent destinations and Brooks acting as the marriage counselor mending the Beal and Wall rift is an even more inauspicious forecast of the future.

If the Wizards have to let one make like Jefferson Davis, they face a difficult quandary. John Wall is the Wizard’s obvious linchpin.  He’ll also be eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2019. Beal’s contractual free agency clock gives them more breathing room until it expires in 2021.

Marcin Gortat is creeping on his mid-30s, which necessitated the need for a youth infusion at the position in the frontcourt, which is where the signing of Ian Mahimi comes into play. Otto Porter’s promise has been tempered by reality. He’s a stop-gap role player in a seat being kept warm for an aforementioned superstar. A year ago, Oubre was chained to the bench. Now, he’s the bench apprentice being groomed for Durant’s spot on the wing.

Overall, this team has the look of a team destined to top out at 46, 47 wins while a debate rages over whether Beal or Wall should be the designated survivor if they nuke this roster.


MIAMI HEAT [Herbert Hoover]

Herbert Hoover was the president whose legacy paid for the excess of the Swingin’ Twenties. NBA fatcats Pat Riley and Eric Spoelstra have enjoyed the fruits of LeBron, Wade and Chris Bosh’s labor down on South Beach. For the first time since 2003, none of them are in the fold and Riley is starting from below sea level. In the interim, Hassan Whiteside must prove he’s fit to lead. To do so successfully, he must suppress Hassan Darkside, his temperamental alter ego who can get him into trouble with officials or interfere with his focus. Tyler Johnson was the recipient of a polarizing $50 million deal, but he may not be a starter once Josh Richardson returns from injury.

Johnson, Goran Dragic, Justise Winslow, and Richardson return to find that Wade and Bosh’s on-court brilliance has been replaced by Whiteside’s volatile leadership. They’ll be joined by Dion Waders. He’s never quite reached the DWade Jr. expectations that were placed upon him when he entered the league.

Defensively, Winslow is on the verge of forming a nasty inside-outside duo with Whiteside. Offensively, he has a long way to go and unfortunately, without Wade or Bosh, the Heat need more contributions from him as a scorer.

There are varying opinions on whether he can ever become a great two-way player ala Paul George and Kawhi Leonard after a rookie season in which he played his heart out defensively. Yet, his 6.4 points per game, 27% shooting from three and 68% free throw percentage are a sign that he isn’t close to being able to shoulder a heavy portion of the offense. Worst-case scenario is that he’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist reincarnate.

Most of the points will be created by Johnson, assuming he stops using his face as a S.W.A.T. team battery ram. Waiters and Dragic. Whiteside will score in the paint, but he relies on dunks, lobs, the transition game and second chance points.

But overall, this campaign is about who isn’t in a Heat uniform rather than who is.


MILWAUKEE BUCKS [Dick Cheney (George W. Bush)]

In 2000, George W. Bush tasked his father’s former Secretary of Defense with leading his campaign team’s vice presidential search committee. Instead, he wound up the subject of that search.

Two years ago, Jason Kidd forced his way out of Brooklyn. Allegedly, he sought a more prominent role in the personnel decision-making process despite John Hammond’s presence. For two seasons, the pair have co-existed, but there have been rumors that Kidd is exerting his influence on Hammond’s personnel decisions and that he attempted to negotiate a trade for Ricky Rubio before the last trade deadline.

Surprisingly, a team coached by a future Hall of Fame point guard who finished his career fifth in 3-point field goals made, treated 3-pointers with alarming indifference. They attempted fewer treys than any team in the league due to the makeup of their roster. In September, the Bucks lost their most reliable shooter from the wing, Khris Middleton, to a torn hamstring for six months is devastating.

Giannis Antetokounmpo came into his own after the All-Star Break as a mix between Magic Johnson and a quicker, leaner Ben Simmons. Unlike Simmons, Antetokounmpo’s passion has never been questioned and his wingspan dwarfs Simmons’ by four inches. In fact, his ceiling could be higher than the 2016 No. 1 overall pick. But like Simmons, his scoring radius is limited to the paint. At the tender age of 22, developing a perimeter scoring game is the only obstacle preventing him from breaching the league’s upper echelon of franchise cornerstones.

Greg Monroe was a major dud after agreeing to 3-year, $50 million with Milwaukee last summer and has been jettisoned before this season tipped off. The Bucks would jettison him completely, if it weren’t for the player-option in his contract complicated matters. His contract can’t be traded as an expiring contract because of the possibility he’ll opt-in. If a team expressed interest in acquiring Monroe in the offseason with the intent of keeping him for two years on his current deal, there’s no guarantee he won’t opt-out next summer when the salary cap explodes again.

Jabari Parker excelled as a cutter in Kidd’s Corner offense, but extending his range beyond the arc will be pivotal to his continued evolution. Defensively, Milwaukee plummeted from 2nd in defensive efficiency to 22nd last season. The integration of Matthew Dellavedova and Mirza Teletovic kills two birds with one stone as both are defensive stoppers who can also stretch the floor for an offense cramped in the paint.


PHILADELPHIA 76ERS [Franklin Roosevelt]

Following a couple of seasons with depressing win totals due in part to a payroll which grazed the salary cap floor all in the name of tanking for premium lottery picks, the Colangelos are offering Philly a New Deal once he finishes wheeling and dealing one or a few of Philly’s power forwards. It was the only surplus Sam Hinkie’s plan generated.

The Colangelo’s trade policy will take centerstage this season as the 76ers will attempt to hollow out their logjammed frontcourt by trading Nerlens Noel, Jahil Okafor or both. Noel, Ben Simmons, Okafor and Joel Embiid were all either the No. 1 prospects in their respective prep classes or after a year of college. None look like busts.

Embiid is the oldhead on this squad at 22 years old and a frontrunner for Rookie of the Year. Yet, he is the closest to a sure thing on their roster.   Simmons, Noel and Okafor are all natural power forwards with no range beyond 18 feet.

Having injuries curtail their respective rookie seasons is also another shared trait among Philly’s bigs.

Noel, who hasn’t played since straining his left abductor on Oct. 6, will be elsewhere by the deadline. Okafor is also on the bloc k for the right price. However, his status is shrouded in mystery.

On the positive side, their glutton of bigs should clean up a weakness for the NBA’s worst rebounding team. The problem is that few of them are actually healthy enough to play. Jahlil Okafor has been cleared to play multiple times since March, but has been absent all training camp, preseason and in the regular season. All this franchise does is catch the wrong type of breaks. The playoffs are not in the immediate forecast, but a 10-game improvement in the win column is expected. Their less-heralded 2017 lottery pick should be a perimeter shooting guard though. Philadelphia’s starting center shouldn’t be the most reliable three-point specialist on their roster.