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.
Karl-Anthony Towns, Center
Hammered one on Semi Ojeleye last year. A kind of tomahawk. I think their armpits touched. The dunk made Mark Jones scream, “Oh, he faced the nation. Wow.” The dunk made Doris Burke follow that with, “My goodness.” Dunked on a lot of guys last year. Appears to take great pleasure in doing so. Likes to puff his chest out on the trot to get back on defense.
Posts lots of pictures of himself where he’s not looking at the camera. Sometimes he’s checking the phone or sometimes he’s just staring off at something we cannot see. I think checking the phone is a power move and I respect the hell out of it. The man has business to conduct.
I think it’s funny when you hear someone say something like, “Have you guys ever thought that maybe, just maybe, it’s not good how dependent we all are on our cellphones? Why don’t we hold our heads high and have actual conversations with one another? Instead of typing words into our screens, let’s actually sit here and speak words to one another.” It’s interesting, in a way, how the internet has made us less connected than ever. I am deeper than the ocean.
We were probably going to get ninja-headband KAT this year, but because of the NBA’s stupid rules now it looks like if he has any kind of head accessory at all, it’s going to be a headband. What a loss for the basketball world.
Jarrett Culver, Forward
Sixth overall pick in this year’s draft. West Texas grown. Stayed in Lubbock for college. Became a Red Raider. Guarantee you he knows who Andre Emmett is. Guarantee you he knows who Tony Battie is. For sure he’s aware of Darvin Ham. Ham once shattered a backboard, made it rain plexiglass crystals, sheets of the stuff snowing down like ice breaking off a glacier.
Culver is serious business. He’s been under the tutelage of Chris Beard. Came out after his sophomore year. Finally, there is a new member of Team Sleeves in the league. Would like to see the sleeves be a little bit looser but that’s not, at present time, part of his journey. I respect that.
If I were in the league I would wear a Nike Dri-Fit T-shirt under the jersey itself. I’d also wear a nice pair of crew-cut, white socks. May even double up on those, take it easy on the toes, and then my basketball shoes would be exclusively black. You know what? I’m wearing the all-black Nike Air Zoom Huarache 2K4s. Those are the shoes I would wear every single game. When I run my feet would blur—in this particular dream I am very fast—and it would be like I was riding a black wave, surfing on obsidian beams.
I’m buying up whatever Culver stock there is to buy. He’s versatile, resourceful. I want him to blow up, become a guy you have to go see play in person, introduce some diversity into the on-court fashion choices seen around the league. Let this short-sleeved T-shirt be a snowball, and let this snowball become an avalanche.
Robert Covington, Forward
I know it’s RoCo, but feels like Rococo could work well too. Great Arcade Fire cut. Let’s go downtown and watch the modern kids. Actually, never mind. I revoke my invitation. That doesn’t sound fun at all.
I wouldn’t hesitate to call Covington a great defender. Has spiderlike qualities but is also foxish. Is he a spiderfox? I don’t know. Probably not. What about a foxspider? Feels like he’s definitely not that. Foxspider is much harder to say than spiderfox. Spiderfox rolls out nicely. Foxspider rolls out like a brick.
His Twitter bio says, “I love the person I am becoming.” Has his own lounge in the men’s basketball locker room at the school he played his college ball, Tennessee State University. A proud member of TSU’s 40 under 40 in April of this year, Lord Covington was voted First Team All-Defense for the 2017-18 season.
I was driving in Oklahoma once, and a guy riding this yellow Yamaha sport bike passed me on the highway. He came up fast, going at least 90, then slowed down when he got next to me. He nodded. I nodded back. He wore a helmet, and his T-shirt was like a flag. The man kind of danced on the bike, wiggled some, then sped on ahead. I changed lanes and got behind him. He passed another vehicle, did the same nod and dance at them. Then he sped up again. Got side-by-side with this silver Jeep. He reached out, held hands with the driver. She wore so many bracelets. They just drove off like that, holding hands. I don’t know why Covington made me think of that story.
Shabazz Napier, Point Guard
I would describe his handle as entertaining. I have a great time watching him dribble. It’s like I throw this tiny little party every time he crosses somebody.
Golden hands. Hands like the Run the Jewels 3 cover. Two-time national champion. Most Outstanding Player of the 2014 Final Four.
Can still get the job done. There’s still money in the bank. There’s still gas in the tank. And although I would love to be smart enough to think of a third rhyme in a row, unfortunately, at this time, I am not. The closest I could come up with was there’s still ice in the drank, but that’s taking a lot of liberties with the word “drank.” Anyway, Bazz lit up the Bucks in January of last year.
Understands the importance of a little self-care. Relaxed in Turks and Caicos in June, then went to the Bahamas in August. I get it. Sometimes you got to take your fedora and go down to the water, unbutton your shirt, stand in the sand, toss the ole pigskin around.
Jake Layman, Forward
“Turtles All the Way Down” is the opening track on Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. The title is in reference to the world turtle myth. The idea’s basically that there is this one world turtle that holds the entire planet on its back. Below that turtle is an even bigger turtle. Below that turtle is an even bigger turtle. A trend is emerging. Below that turtle is an even bigger turtle and below that turtle is an even bigger turtle and on and on this chain of turtles goes, indefinitely.
Layman would like you to fear the turtle. Do you understand me? Fear the turtle! Be terrified! Lonny Baxter! Byron Mouton! Ralph Friedgen! Turtle wrath!
The Layman hair—they call it coiffed—ripples like amber waves of grain when he’s running a lane in transition. His is a proud sort-of-pompadour with a severe part on the right side of his head. Is currently really into daily fantasy and coffee bean futures. Probably going to be asking for at least one Patagonia fleece vest for Christmas. Maybe two. Depends on how cool the designs are. Used to be more of an off-white hue but hit the tanning beds this offseason, made himself gold.
Tyler Parker is a writer from Oklahoma.