With exactly two months to go for the start of the 2018-19 NBA season and free agency almkst over, most NBA team rosters are all but decided except for the final few spots which will be decided during the training camps. Some rosters have become dramatically better by the signing of transcendent superstars (Los Angeles Lakers), some have become decidedly worse because of the departure of a transcendent superstar (Cleveland Cavaliers). Some bad rosters have become worse (Sacramento Kings) and some great rosters have unexpectedly become even better (Golden State Warriors).
However, one thing is certain about change. As it occurs in life, it’s not always the most calm and peaceful process. Infact, is many cases, change can be extremely volatile. When it comes to NBA rosters, the volatility is magnified. With so many characters, ideas, emotions and egos in play, any small thing can ignite a fire. Truth be told, every NBA roster is susceptible to a conflict between players, player and coach, player and ownership or coach and ownership. However, there are some rosters which seem closer to the edge than the others and the probability of a conflict occurring in those rosters is extremely high. Finger-pointing, players-only meetings, melodrama, trade rumours and cryptic tweets seem all but inevitable.
The following are the teams which are most likely to be plagued by internal strife and chemistry issues as the season progresses:
Los Angeles Lakers
When it comes to being a great basketball player, very few players in NBA history come close to LeBron James. Also, when it comes to being passive aggressive and overly dramatic, very few players in NBA history come close to LeBron James. The marriage of the league’s biggest name with the league’s most glamourous franchise is bound to shoot the drama levels to new heights. The Lakers have been a hot bed of off-court drama in the recent years also. D’Angelo Russell infamously leaked a video of teammate Nick Young confessing to cheating on his fiancee Iggy Azalea. After that, the Lakers picked UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball with the second pick of the 2017 NBA Draft. Alongwith Lonzo Ball, the most dramatic father in history, LaVar Ball also became a part of the Lakers circus. With claims like Lonzo Ball is better than Stephen Curry, and coach Luke Walton has lost control of the team, the off-court drama associated with the Lakers reached reality show levels.
The drama levels were only boosted by LeBron James’ signing. On top of that, the Lakers signed veterans such as Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee, Lance Stephenson and Michael Beasley. None of those players are famous for being a calming and uniting presence within the locker room. They are more famous for being exactly opposite. It’ll be extremely surprising if things don’t go awry at the start and the roster reaches the verge of implosion.
With Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma dropping diss tracks aimed at each other in the off season, and most veterans on a one year contract, LeBron James looks all set to star in the Los Angeles Lakers soap opera this season.
Despite initial skepticism, the Chris Paul – James Harden combination worked very well for the Houston Rockets last season. They had the best record in the league and took the mighty Golden State Warriors to seven games in the Western Conference Finals, where a Chris Paul injury and a historically bad shooting night led to a Game 7 defeat.
Carmelo Anthony on the other hand, endured the worst season of his career with the Oklahoma City Thunder. He didn’t gel with his All Star teammates Paul George and Russell Westbrook and refused to come off the bench, leading to the Thunder trading him away to the Hawks this offseason.
While his role with the Rockets has still not been determined, it’s unlikely that a heavily analytics driven team would have a significant role in mind for one of the most inefficient players in the NBA. On top of that, the current coach of the Rockets, Mike D’Antoni had a very public falling out with Anthony when they were both with the New York Knicks. The Rockets’ defence is also going to suffer because of Anthony’s shortcomings at that end of the floor. Until Anthony accepts whatever role is offered to him, his signing has all the potential to backfire on the Rockets.
This is one of the teams which didn’t really make any major lineup changes that can affect team chemistry. However, the Timberwolves were already suffering from team chemistry issues last season. Most notably over defence between Jimmy Butler and young superstar Karl Anthony-Towns. Because the team didn’t make any changes to the roster, the internal strife is unlikely to go away.
The upcoming free agency of Jimmy Butler is going to complicate issues even further. If his relationship with Towns doesn’t improve as the season progresses, the Timberwolves will have to trade him, to avoid losing him for nothing during free agency. A bad start to the season in the highly competitive Western Conference is also bound to put coach Tom Thibodeau‘s position in jeopardy as well.
With franchise legend Dwayne Wade still mulling his future, the focus of the team is the relationship between center Hassan Whiteside, coach Erik Spoelstra and GM Pat Riley. So far, Hassan Whiteside has expressed his happiness with the Heat’s plan for the 2018-2019 season. However, things can turn sour very quickly if Whiteside is made to sit on the bench during 4th quarters in favour of smaller lineups. If his displeasure becomes public, trade rumours are bound to rise again.
This was one of the most successful, drama-free and cohesive teams last season. Shockingly, they responded to that by firing their coach Dwayne Casey and trading away their best player, DeMar DeRozan. These might turn out to be the right moves in the long run, but as of now, things are far from pleasant. Point guard Kyle Lowry has openly expressed his displeasure at the DeRozan trade and as of the USA Basketball mini camp, hasn’t spoken with his newest teammate, Kawhi Leonard.
On paper, the team looks set to be succesful. However, a deep seated sense of resentment and mistrust among the players can derail the Raptors train away from the path of success.
Perennially on the verge of disaster and implosion, the Wizards are expected to face another season of in-fighting and off court issues. Last season, John Wall suffered a major injury and his tumultuous relationship with center Marcin Gortat made the most number of headlines in Washington’s newspapers.
They traded Gortat away for Dwight Howard this off season. This is Howard’s 5th team in 6 years. A resumé like that is hardly good for a team already plagued with chemistry issues. The acquisition of Austin Rivers adds more volatility to a squad which actually needed some tranquillity.
When the Trailblazers’ front office allowed Ed Davis to leave the team during the offseason, the team’s stars Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum were really unhappy. The organisation has insisted that it wants to keep the core group intact but Damian Lillard’s meeting with the team owner last year was a clear sign that the star point guard had become disgruntled with the fact that the team had made no moves to upgrade the roster to compete in the brutal Western Conference.
If the team doesn’t have a great start to the season and slides as badly as predicted by the Las Vegas oddmakers, Lillard might want another meeting with the owner, and this time, he might want out of Portland.