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.
Aaron Gordon, Forward
At 6-foot-9 and 220 pounds, with springs galore, he’s something like a flying Clydesdale. He gets intimate with the rim. Wines it, dines it. He’s not an astronaut, he’s a satellite.
Gordon looks drawn. Went to Arizona for one year. Sean Miller longs for the past. He sweats, night visions of wiretaps. Sometimes when Miller’s on the bench it looks like he fell asleep in the rain. How has a deodorant company not scooped him up as its spokesperson yet? Get on this, Old Spice. Do one of those commercials where Miller has, like, grizzly bears for hands and Terry Crews is in the background swinging a sword, screaming, making his pecs bounce.
Markelle Fultz, Guard
There are a lot of Fultz experts, it seems like. Some people can get downright apocalyptic when his name comes up. There’s one YouTube video with the title “Is All Hope Lost For Markelle Fultz?” There’s another YouTube video with the title “Markelle Fultz - L’enigma del suo infortunio.” Would love to see that in Old English script. Maybe on a bicep or a back. This whole shoulder saga has been something out of a very dumb television show. It’s like a rejected arc for Nathan on One Tree Hill. One Tree Hill is, obviously, a very smart, very great show, and while I think my point might have crash-landed here, it’s still recognizable. You get what I’m trying to say. Dan is the purest evil I will ever know. I mainly feel bad for Fultz and don’t have any more fun things to say. I want him to be good. I hope he’s OK.
D.J. Augustin, Guard
Been on eight teams since he entered the league. Played with Connor Atchley in college. Hung 25 and 6 on the future NBA champions in Game 1 of the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs last season, hit a 3 with three seconds left to win it.
On January 16, 2007, he was on the Texas team that went to Stillwater and lost a heartbreaker to Oklahoma State in triple overtime. Seven different guys played more than 50 minutes that night. Kevin Durant went for 37 and 12. Augustin was UT’s second-leading scorer with 19. This was that OSU team with Mario Boggan and JamesOn Curry and Byron Eaton and my man Tyler Hatch with his amazing Wolverine cut. With a little over 17 minutes left in the second half, Eaton saved a ball from going out of bounds around half court and, as he was falling down, he hurled the ball toward the goal. It went in. One of the weirdest makes you’ll ever see.
At the end of the third overtime, Boggan—a meat freezer—hit a nonsensical prayer of a 3 to win it. Augustin was guarding him.
Mo Bamba, Forward/Center
Sheck Wes got so many flows. I worked in customer service at Groupon in Chicago for almost three years. For a lot of my time there, I sat beside the greatest customer service representative I have ever seen, this guy named Terry. Terry was wiry and rumpled and woolly with a mad, wild laugh and exuberant teeth. He wore the same pair of Wranglers every day, looked exactly like the lead singer for Band of Horses, hated everyone that called in. I got really into Band of Horses during a particularly depressing year of my life. Found it to be very high-quality sad-white-boy music. Would get six-packs of MGD 64 and a Hot-N-Ready and just have a night flipping between a Bulls game and Jersey Shore reruns. Sometimes I’d walk the city, listen to “Detlef Schrempf,” think about moving home.
Terry loved Bob Dylan. Too much, really. Like, made his own T-shirts with Dylan lyrics on them. So, it’s a tagless tee from Hanes and in black marker he’s written on the back:
Buckets of rain
Buckets of tears
Got all them buckets
Comin’ out of my ears
Buckets of moonbeams in my hand
You got all the love, aw, honey baby, I can stand
Once, a few days before Christmas, a woman called in with questions regarding a remote-controlled flying shark she’d ordered through Groupon Goods. A box had arrived that morning, but it was completely empty. Her Christmas with her grandchildren was that night, and the shark was a gift for her grandson. Terry spent half the call flipping off the phone, and I might be remembering this wrong, but I’m pretty sure by the end of the call she’d written him into her will.
Nikola Vucevic, Center
Vucci Mane, Vucci Mane, Vucci Mane.
Kanye West spoke of Vucevic’s originality and uniqueness when, in the “Pinocchio Story” freestyle, he sang, “There is no Vucci I could buy.”
How many bigs do the Magic have on their team this year? I started counting but stopped when I got to a thousand. Vooch is good, too. He’ll probably be an All-Star if he stays healthy. How many minutes does he get? Thirty-plus, bare minimum, right? Then you got Jonathan Isaac and Mo Bamba. And have we just all decided that Aaron Gordon’s a 3? Are we sure about that? Doesn’t he seem more like the prototypical small-ball 5?
My favorite Jason Isbell lyric is “When I die, bury me inside that Vucci store.”
What about Khem Birch? What’s going to happen to him? He played in 50 games last year. Am I just not going to get to see Khem Birch play this year? Basketball’s an entertainment, Coach Clifford. Give me what I want or I will write nasty things on the internet.
Tyler Parker is a writer from Oklahoma.