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.
Mike Conley, Point Guard
Mountain Mike. The steadying force. Well-balanced and solid. A stand-up guy. His favorite person is you. He is so thankful for you. Wants you to just keep doing what you’re doing, because you’re enough. Those are his words, not mine. I like you fine. It’s nice of you to take time out of your day to read this. Totally cool if it’s not your cup of tea. I’m honestly not even sure it’s mine, you know?
Can create offense for himself and others. Will take some of the load off Donovan Mitchell. Went as Tiger Woods for Halloween last year. His wife and children went as actual tigers. Gave Memphis everything he had. Always played so hard, so smart. The Grizzlies are the only organization he’s been with since he came into the league in 2007. Been there for 12 years. Went to the playoffs six times, the Western Conference finals once. The Jazz are hoping he’s their ticket back to the glory days. He might be. There’s something about him. He projects a decency that doesn’t feel forced or contrived. I would trust him with my most prized possessions (my memoirs and Beanie Babies). Salt Lake City must be pumped.
I sincerely think SLC is beautiful. If you’ve never visited, take time to go. It’s awesome. Once, when I was there I went through the drive-through of this Carl’s Jr. over on North Temple. I doubt it’s still there but at the time across the street there was a store where its whole thing was it sold all different kinds of maps. Sort of over near the airport? Maybe? I might be making that part up. That Carl’s Jr. had the best Western Bacon Cheeseburger I’ve ever eaten. The bacon was crispy. The onion rings were crispy. I’ll ask you to trust that I’m telling you the truth when I say the sample size is enormous. I just started applauding the burger in my rental car, almost ran into a Chevrolet Cavalier on Redwood. Didn’t though. My reflexes are unbelievable. I have the quick twitch muscles of those stray cats you see in motel parking lots.
Donovan Mitchell, Guard
A stupid-good two-footed jumper. One of the best in the industry. I’m trying to use the word industry more. It’s my opinion that there are guys who are jumpers and guys who are launchers. Young Kenneth Faried was a jumper. Young Derrick Rose was a launcher. Donovan Mitchell is a grade-A launcher. Talking about a primo launcher.
That’s some exceptional launching. Mitchell appreciates Tom Holland. Calls him Brodie. Keeping Spider-Man part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe mattered to Mitchell. It makes sense why. When you have two nicknames listed on Basketball-Reference and one of them is Spider and the other one is Spida, I certainly get being personally invested in the fate of Peter Parker.
Going to be a nightmare for defenses for years to come. Can sometimes fall victim to being a lot and doing the most. I could see him Photoshopping himself into the album cover for Drake’s Take Care for any number of reasons at some point in the next five years. He’s boys with Lamar Jackson, so he’s a Ravens fan now. Has he tried to educate himself on Ravens past? Does he know who Mark Clayton is? Know for a fact he’s got hand-drawn pictures of Mark Andrews and Hollywood Brown on the walls of his living room. His illustrations are impressionistic and full of rage.
Joe Ingles, Forward
Six feet, 8 inches tall. Australian. 226 pounds of loving. That’s not a five o’clock shadow you see. Those are storm clouds on his face. Beneath his cheeks, inside his mouth, the hurricane of chatter is about to begin. The roosters are crowing, and the cows are spinning circles in the pasture. This Jazzman is an aggravator and agitator. Not going to back down. Will tell you about it when he makes you look silly. You’ll find him in the low-top Chucks and gray hoodie. Australian netball legend Renae Ingles’s husband. The man in the black baseball cap. Jingles is a highly skilled conversationalist and he knows how to interact with others. Looks like the type of guy that would try to sell you a fake Rolex and you’d say no but you’d have a great time listening to him try to convince you to buy it. He’s entertaining as hell and completely nonthreatening. Not going to have to do nearly as much this year and will be better on both ends because of it.
Got hot in Phoenix one night last year. Toasted them for 27. Racked up eight assists. Hit six 3s. Had the announcer screaming, “It’s the Ingles show!” after one of his makes. That sounds like one of the greatest shows in the history of the world. He hit another 3. The same announcer screamed, “Oh, Joe, you’re amazing, man!”
Royce O’Neale, Forward
Mountain Time! Take Note! He wears the Squidward Kyries so we know this is a man of extraordinary elegance and refined taste. A fancy, classy man with big-time plans. Anybody can be a SpongeBob guy. That’s easy, OK? Any old moron can be a Patrick fan. Ditto for Sandy and Mr. Krabs. Squidward, though, we’re talking about an octopus here. That’s a complex creature. Some people think octopi are aliens. I think I’m with those people. I say that having done no research whatsoever.
Burgundy suits on Christmas Day. Make it a three-piece, something special for the holidays. He’s a former Baylor Bear. Was there the same time as Taurean Prince. O’Neale’s a scrapper. He grinds. I don’t know how many minutes are even going to be available for him this season, but whenever he’s in the game he just competes like wild. Hard not to like players like that.
Rudy Gobert, Center
The French Rejection has a 7-foot-9 wingspan and loads and loads of passion. Not yet in his prime. Defends like he’s wearing those oversize hands Wayne Coyne’s always bothering with. When he spreads his arms out, he’s a plane. The Gobert Report erases light.
Of all the current members of the Jazz, I am most excited to see Rudy in the ’90s purple mountain majesty throwbacks this year. I think that’s going to be fun. The Stifle Tower! Ensconced in violet! He is an orchid! I know that’s not the actual name of the jerseys. I know they’re just called the Purple Mountain jerseys. I only added majesty to the mix because I’m selfish and the word makes me feel good. It sounds nice when said aloud. It warms me. If you didn’t click on the link above to see what they’ll look like, the first thing I’d say to you is just hell yeah, man. You click on whatever you want to click on. I don’t control you. Who am I to ask you to go do even more work? You’re already reading this. Now you got to go read something else? I get it. You do what you want. You’re cool as hell. What I was going to say was, the Purple Mountain jerseys are the road unis from late-period Stockton-Malone, those years they played the Bulls in the Finals. I rewatched part of Game 1 of the 1997 NBA Finals the other day. The Jazz were in the Purple Mountain jerseys. They looked unbelievable. A brilliant grape, and if you squinted the jerseys turned to fuzzed bars of wisteria.
Tyler Parker is a writer from Oklahoma.