In lieu of a traditional franchise-by-franchise NBA preview, we asked Tyler Parker to give us five players to watch on each team. If we want. For reasons entirely his own.
Nicolas Batum, Forward
Once punched Juan Carlos Navarro in the balls so hard the continents briefly shifted, realigned, became Pangea again, then stretched back out to what we think of presently as the world. I’m sure Nic’s not altogether stoked about that memory kicking things off but I can’t help my brain. It does what it does and it makes my life hard. I’d love to get a new one, so, if you hear of anything, holler. Something cost-effective, but reliable. It doesn’t need to be MENSA-level or anything. I’m not asking for genius. Just give me one of those brains where the person’s kind of oblivious but completely content in every way. And maybe give me one with a lot of information on something awesome in there like surfing or bullfighting or Carlos Santana. Batum seems like the type of guy who will find his way onto a contender before his career’s up, coming off the bench in the Finals to try and bother De’Aaron Fox into some turnovers. The Kings have rolled through the playoffs and are an absolute juggernaut. Buddy Hield is averaging, no lie, 39 points per game. Bogdan Bogdanovic is made of stardust. Fox is making it all hum. He’s averaging 16 assists per game and his latest album just reached the top of the charts. He’s the king of the radio. He’s the king of the world.
Miles Bridges, Forward
I’ll be sending around a petition at some point this year. Not sure when yet. This is real in my head and right now I’m certain I’ll do it, but I’m also lazy and could absolutely see myself being all about the task right up until actually doing it. I was this way when I decided I would run a marathon. I was this way when I decided I would learn to play the guitar. I was this way when I bought white jeans. Committed to the max, then not. The petition will be to change Bridges’s first name to Nash.
He admitted he was bad last year and I’ll root for him for the rest of his life because of that.
I didn’t get snubbed. I played like ass all year. I don’t deserve to be on any team. Next year will be different ♂️— Miles Bridges (@MilesBridges) May 21, 2019
Self-awareness is rarer than a thunderstorm in the desert. I’m not happy with that sentence. It makes me yawn. I like how the word thunderstorm looks, though, so I’m going to leave it. Bridges plays like he’s wearing trampolines on his feet. He’s a tank strapped to the back of a jet. The first time I watched the dunk below I was wearing a hat.
Somewhere around the time his feet touched the ground, I stopped being able to feel it. A buzzing in my head. The Great Chiseled Bunny, soaring, looking for bodies.
Terry Rozier, Point Guard
Scary Terry’s in the Tar Heel State with a full wallet and a starting spot. MJ came down from on high with the JNCOs people and the Hanes people and the mustache people. He spread his arms out wide and smiled.
“Look, man, look at this energy,” said Jordan. “Also, have you ever seen The Big Country starring Gregory Peck?”
“Of course I have, I’m not an idiot,” said Rozier. “I loved Bryant Reeves. Brooks Thompson could cook, too.”
“We are not talking about the same things.”
Mike deemed it wise to bestow upon Ter a chill $58 mil over the course of the next three years. What do the smart people say? I like him fine as a player, but not at that number? He’ll have a game this year where he flirts with 40. It will be kind of fun.
Malik Monk, Guard
I never watched Monk. Shalhoub’s a welcome addition to any ensemble—Wings was fantastic, was and is classic—but Monk never appealed to me. I think it had something to do with the font.
Let Malik take you on fall tours of Bentonville as the leaves of Northwest Arkansas change. See him there, clothed in floral-patterned sweatshirts—the flowers are orange, I don’t know their name—answering questions about Crystal Bridges.
I do not, ultimately, care about efficiency.
The classic white throwbacks the Hornets played in last season, with the pinstripes like Muggsy and them used to wear, would look great on anyone. They’re a fantastic choice for any event, any season. Wear it to your daughter’s friend’s bat mitzvah. Wear it to the beach. Wear it to a job interview. Jerseys these days have largely been stripped of their personalities. Where have all the eccentricities gone? The strange has fallen by the wayside as franchise valuations reach up into the billions. The ’90s were filled with swings for the fences (see: Grizzlies, Vancouver). I almost typed “the ’90s were filled with swings for fashion’s fences.” I didn’t, though. Teams nowadays seem content to try and hit singles. Here’s the thing about singles, though. They’re boring.
Hit triples. This is what we were promised Monk could do. He plays defense like someone told him it was optional. One day he’ll start for the Spurs, average 18 a game, get it. For now, he’s in Charlotte, refusing to play in summer league, trying to not get slapped by Michael Jordan again.
Devonté Graham, Point Guard
Last winter, Devonté Graham showed up in D.C. with the rest of the Greensboro Swarm and put up 42 on Capital City Go-Go. Bags are outdated and should go the way of the dodo. He was in his treasure chest in our nation’s capital. I like it in National Treasure when Nic Cage says the word “spectacles.”
Get Bill Self the Enid Plainsgod to talk about Graham and he’ll just start reading the thesaurus entry under the word supreme. Self has his reasons and they’re good. At Kansas, Graham was a dog. See him in Phog wearing a chain with a jayhawk piece the size of a yoked-up hamster, a constellation around his neck. Let me go full JVG here—he plays with remarkable energy. Burns bright. He’s all diamonds and gasoline.
Tyler Parker is a writer from Oklahoma.