Diehlman at Halftime: An NBA Column

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Get hyped, NBA fans! It’s almost Halloween time… oh yeah, and another exhilarating season of basketball is officially back! That’s kind of important.

Fanatics owner Michael Rubin sold his ten percent stake in the Philadelphia 76ers and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils. This stake was purchased by 76 Devcorp chairman David Adelman.

And what is 76 Devcorp, you may ask? It’s the development company that’s working on the construction of 76 Place at Market East, the proposed 76ers’ arena that would be located in Center City, Philadelphia. The 76ers and Flyers are aiming to move there at the start of the 2031-32 NBA season.

Finally, NBA commissioner Adam Silver seems to be worried about teams tanking for potential 2023 No. 1 overall pick Victor Wembanyama. This was reported in an article by ESPN senior writer Baxter Holmes.

“… Silver told employees that the league has thought about relegation as a potential solution to ensure the worst-performing teams are incentivized to compete,” Holmes said in the piece. “But the commissioner then said relegation would be ‘destabilizing’ to the NBA.”

One idea mentioned would be to demote one or two of the worst NBA teams to the G League, while promoting a few of the top G League teams to the NBA. This would be really interesting if it were to happen.

So, who’s raising eyebrows at the moment?

Highlight

The 2-1 L.A. Clippers are attempting to make serious noise this season now that they’re healthy again.

Kawhi Leonard is back after a year off due to recovering from a partial ACL tear. In the season opener against the Lakers, Leonard came off the bench for the first time since the 2013-14 season as part of a minutes restriction.

I really like the Clippers’ well-balanced roster.

Paul George is still a solid superstar. John Wall, a former star with the Washington Wizards, should make an impact off the bench. Luke Kennard, Robert Covington and Nic Batum are also key veterans that can shift between the starting lineup and the bench if need be.

Here’s the thing, though. Leonard and George have not been to the Conference Finals together since arriving in L.A. The Clippers made the Conference Finals in the 2020-21 season when Leonard first got injured. Last year, they failed to make the playoffs after losing to the Pelicans in the play-in tournament.

I’m not saying the Clippers are the title favorites, but their fanbase should have high hopes.

Lowlight

It’s always sunny in Philadelphia… unless you’re the 76ers.

The Phillies, Eagles, Flyers and Union are all successful right now. The 76ers, on the other hand, not so much.

They’re 0-3 this season and tied with the Orlando Magic at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. I understand that they’ve faced the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks in their first two games (although they were capable of beating at least one of them) but on Saturday, Oct. 22, they lost to the Spurs at home.

If you remember from last week, I predicted the Spurs as being the second-worst team in the NBA this season.

The 76ers have championship aspirations for 2022-23, and anything less than a Conference Finals appearance will be a massive failure. James Harden and Joel Embiid have to be near perfect to get the 76ers to the next level. This mentality also applies to head coach Doc Rivers.

As a 76ers fan, I was not thrilled with the Doc Rivers hire because of his questionable postseason history outside of winning the 2008 championship with the Celtics. Was my prediction correct all along? Regardless, it’ll be a long season if they don’t figure this out.

Random Stat

Rookie expectations are something, you know that? One minute, you’re compared to Michael Jordan, the next, fans think you’re a bust.

Orlando Magic rookie forward Paolo Banchero did something very unusual in his rookie debut against Detroit, though. Banchero, who was the 2022 No. 1 overall draft choice, dropped 27 points, nine rebounds, five assists and two blocks in his debut. Only two other No. 1 overall picks since 1969 had at least 25 points, five rebounds, and five assists in their openers — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and LeBron James.

So, does this mean that Banchero is a first-ballot Hall of Famer already? No. But it’s a great start.

The 19-year-old forward from Duke averaged 17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 3.2 assists on 47.8% shooting from the field in his lone season with the Blue Devils. Even with these numbers, let’s pump the brakes on any Hall-of-Fame comparisons.

Remember when Ben Simmons was christened as “LeBron 2.0?” Let’s not make the same mistake again.

For comments/questions about this story tweet @TheWhitSports.

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