My Favorite Player on Each NBA Team: Eastern Conference


With the NBA season about to start, I decided to go through each team and pick my favorite player, the player I want to see most on each team. It is a silly, pointless exercise. So, naturally, it had to be done.

Boston Celtics

As a Celtics fan, I love all my team’s players. As someone who watched the 2018-2019 Celtics, I’m ready to love Kemba Walker like someone who has just gotten out of one of those infuriating early-20’s relationships where you want badly to be in love but the other person is just an idiot or a dick or actually, wait a minute- BOTH! Normally, there would be a good chance that Kemba would end this up-coming season as my favorite player. He is the biggest star. He plays my favorite position (point) and he is not that other guy. Lots of potential there.

But this is a special case. My favorite Celtic is not going to change. It’s Marcus Smart. It will be Marcus Smart until he departs the green-and-white and I hope that only happens two decades from now when he simply picks himself up off the floor for a final time, attaches his jersey to a small dangling hook and allows it to be lifted off his body directly into the rafters, the Riffs Man pounding out ‘Crazy Train’ all the while. Marcus Smart is not a basketball player. He is Norse God, the God Smarf, God of intensity. It is almost unfair to pick him from a roster of otherwise mere mortal (plus one TimeLord).

If I am forced to limit myself to mere mortals, it’s Jaylen Brown, with Kemba a close second. After everything that happened last season, I am choosing to believe all the ire directly at Brown was because he just couldn’t stop mocking Kyrie for the flat-earth thing.

Toronto Raptors

The easy (and probably correct) answer would be Fred VanFleet here. He has some vaguely Smarfian qualities and he played through getting a tooth knocked out in the finals. But the tooth thing kind of put FVF too far into the mainstream for me. I liked his first album, before he got all commercial. Now, I have to go with Pascal Siakam, because I could watch him do that spin move of his all day and still never understand how it could be so smooth and easy and still so damn effective.

Milwaukee Bucks

Giannis.

Why?

Are you really asking? Do I really need to explain?

[real answer: Drew Bledsoe]

Philadelphia Phillies

Dear Al,

Sometimes, I wake up at night and I forget that you are gone. Then, it hurts all over again. I miss you. I miss what we had together. I miss the pick and rolls, the switches, the dribble hand-offs. I know it wasn’t always perfect. I know you had your share of pain here too. I want you to be happy. I really do. I just want to look into those beautiful brown eyes for one more season. Please come back, baby, please.

Yours forever,

Every non-idiot Boston Sports Fan

Indiana Pacers

I first really watched Victor Oladipo when he was on the Thunder, standing at the break, wide open, watching Russ not pass to him on his way to crashing into every player on the other team. That was sad-faced Oladipo. I hoped that guy would get the ball the way you hope Charlie Brown will finally get to kick the football. I was thrilled when he made himself into a star. Then I heard about his music. Then I HEARD his music. Man, that guy can sing some smooth, sultry pornography. Victor Opadipo does not believe in euphemisms, my friends. This is an easy pick.

Brooklyn Nets

Spencer Dinwiddie is a heck of tough name to carry around in this world. If I was not aware that he is a basketball player for the Brooklyn Nets, I would have assumed Spencer Dinwiddie was the name of an accountant character on some office-based sitcom, a lovable nerd, a stickler for the numbers and the would-be love interest of a near-sighted assistant to the boss…oh, if only those two could finally get together.

I root for the real Spencer Dinwiddie exactly the same way I root for the Spenser Dinwiddie in my head and that is appropriate. The real Dinwiddie was drafted in the second round and barely played in two seasons with lousy Pistons teams. He got traded to the Bulls for a large Australian, got waived there twice and picked-back up twice, then landed in Brooklyn. The NBA is his will-they-won’t-they sitcom love interest and the 2018-2019 season was the year they finally kissed in the supply closet and we all cheered. The guy is even a huge nerd. He asked the NBA to not schedule playoff games on the day Avengers: Endgame came out and he “tokenized” his hard-won NBA contract, something that only a secret accountant would do.

Orlando Magic

Markelle Fultz was supposed to be basically the unanimous top pick of the 2017 draft. The Celtics seem to be the only team that weren’t sold and backed-off him, trading the number one pick to the Sixers for the third pick which became Jason Tatum. Jason Tatum might be a star in the near future. Markelle Fultz might be out of the NBA by next season. And no one knows why.

Maybe his shoulder is shot. Maybe he got the yips. It’s all a mystery. We all have to root for Markelle Fultz because the alternative is accepting the idea that all of our talents, all the work we put behind them, all of the hours spent to maximize them are all capable of being erased by a buzz in the back of our brains that says, “hold up,” just when it shouldn’t. Fultz isn’t playing for the Magic, he playing for Magic itself. He playing against meaninglessness. Godspeed Markelle.

Detroit Pistons

It’s the 50th Anniversary of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid this year. The William Goldman/ Roy Hill masterpiece is largely about the world changing around you while you stay the same. Butch and Sundance are robbers and they rob banks and trains. Early in the movie, Butch walks into a bank and sees it has been changed completely:

Butch Cassidy: What happened to the OLD bank? IT was beautiful.

Bank Teller: People kept robbing it

Butch: Small price to pay for beauty

Andre Drummond is the Butch Cassidy of the NBA. He didn’t change. He never changed. The world changed around him. He was born into a world where a big, hulking man could hang out near the rim, clean the glass and slam down dunks with impunity. He got all the way to NBA living in that world. Now the world has changed and he is expected to do things he never had to do. He has to shoot threes. He has to make free throws. He has to space the floor. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Next time I say something like, ‘Andre, let’s go to Bolivia, let’s go to Bolivia.’ (Is there a Bolivian basketball league?)

Charlotte Hornets

Terry Rozier had a rough season in his final year with the Celtics, but he is still the man who broke Eric Bledsoe’s ankles and soul in the 2017-2018 playoffs then called him Drew Bledsoe. That series was more fun than the entire 2018-2019 season, so I still have love for Scary Terry, aka Tito Three-Sticks.

Miami Heat

Has anyone ever seemed less like a seven-footer than Kelly Olynyk? His game seems to have no connection to his considerable height at all. Maybe he doesn’t know he’s that tall?

Washington Wizards

IT4 Forever!

Atlanta Hawks

Trae Young got hammered heading into the draft for a late-season slump in college and the Hawks got slammed for trading down to take him and another pick instead of Luka Doncic. Sometimes, the story is not about you but about the story. People heralded Young as the next Steph Curry, then he didn’t live up to that wildly hyperbolic comp so they got down on him for not being what he never really was in the first place. That is the kind of garbage you get thrown at you for being really good at a sport. What fun world we have created here.

Young can shoot, pass and get to the rim all at a high level and he’s still just a skinny kid adjusting to the league. Even if he isn’t the next Steph or Dame or whoever, he is just about as fun a player as you will find in the league right now.

Chicago Bulls

Zach LaVine is a super athletic dude and might just be a better player than he gets credit for but the Bulls are a tough watch these days. Can I list watching-Scottie-Pippen-defensive-highlights as my favorite Bulls player? Please.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Whenever I remember that Kevin Love is still on the Cavs, it makes me think about parties back in college, where you would go to the bathroom or make a beer run and when you come back, the party has suddenly evaporated and the only people left are like five guys you don’t know.

New York Knicks

Old School Knick fans are going to love themselves some Marcus Morris. Morris would have fit right in on those 90’s Knicks teams, standing back-to-back with Charles Oakley, just throwing fists at everyone, randomly hitting someone with the ball. The Flask Dad once got beat to the hoop by Lebron in a playoff game and just climbed right on his back for the ride to the hoop.  He didn’t just foul him, he MOUNTED him. The Knicks best hope is not that R.J. Barrett will be the next great point guard in the game. It is that Marcus Morris will intimidate James Dolan so badly with a single stare that he just sells the team because he “doesn’t want any of that noise.”

Up next: My Favorite Player on Each NBA Team: Western Conference

 

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