Regardless of the exceeding amounts of skills and talent on display in today’s NBA, rivalries seem to attract fans more than any aspect of basketball. In what is said to the most friendly era the league has ever experienced, it seems to be the rival games that get the most attention.
It’s not rare that savage post game comments easily trend on Twitter to create tension between two teams or players. Regardless of the status, today’s NBA popular duels will be extremely amusing to watch and crucial to determining player/team success for years to come.
Joel Embiid vs. Andre Drummond
The tension between Joel Embiid and Andre Drummond is heating up. One needs to look no further than December 2nd, when the 76ers defeated the Pistons 108-103. Drummond committed a late game foul, which aided in giving the Sixers momentum to pull off a crucial win in a high-intensity game against a rival.
The antagonism between these two became evident in the post game interviews. "I mean you can't really have a conversation with a man who can't play a back-to-back... I've been playing for six years and I've missed maybe 4-5 games. So when he can play a whole season without taking a rest, he can come talk to me," said Drummond. Joel Emiid would later display his confidence when asked about the best big man in the league, Emiid answered: “You are looking at him right here.”
Russell Westbrook vs. Kevin Durant
The separation of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook was clearly the most dramatic breakup of teammates in NBA history. Thus, to see them battling with each other today is hard to believe. But, the tension between Westbrook and Durant escalates with every encounter. In the latest matchup, the two literally went head-to-head (These former best buddies butted heads near center courts, like a couple of rams fighting over dominance of a mountaintop).
Despite both players playing well, Westbrook’s performance was far more impactful. Brodie went off with a near triple-double (34,10,9); leading the big three, which cumulatively scored 76 points. Nevertheless, the win showcased what OKC is capable of when they are peaking. The Warriors dominance will remain a threat, as the Thunder’s losing record needs immediate improvement.
LeBron James vs. Kyrie Irving
Kyrie Irving's departure from Cleveland was heralded by many insiders as the biggest transaction of the summer. Leaving the comfortable setting of what seemed to be an easy road to making the finals, Irving’s mission to be the superstar for his new team has been on display. In the opening meeting between the Cavaliers and Celtics, the tension between Uncle Drew and The King seemed friendly and mature (unlike KD and Russ).
Despite the Celtics holding the #1 spot in East, the Cavaliers have yet to play with the key player of the trade, Isaiah Thomas. As the intensity of the season grows, the matchup between these teams will be extremely interesting. Many NBA analysts believe the Celtics and Cavaliers will meet in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Karl-Anthony Towns vs. Kristaps Porzingis
Looking through their game styles, stats, and build, Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis are extremely comparable. Both players were drafted top 5 in 2015, they have been competing in the spotlight since.
They share strengths such as; 3 point shooting and dribbling (for bigs), rebounding, post work, speed and basketball IQ. Due of these similarities, with improvements to both of their games, these two bigs will always always be compared. There's legacy are in the making and it will be interesting to see which player can carry their franchise further.
Last but not least, the rookies.
Ben Simmons vs. Lonzo Ball
The rookie vs rookie matchup is the predominant reason behind the Simmons Ball comparison. In efforts to lead a rising team, the two will be compared and judged on their value all season long. There is no doubt Simmons is the better athlete, on a better team, and consistently out hustles Lonzo night after night. Rookie comparisons seem to always key in Simmons and Ball thanks to their pre-draft expectations. Simmons, who dominated at LSU, where he was frequently compared to, and even in contact with LeBron James. Lonzo’s dad has made claims stating his son is “already better than Steph Curry.”
It is no doubt that these players have potential to be superstars. Only time will tell who these rookies will become and the Rookie of the Year will be one of many rewards these youngin’s strive for.
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Boston Celtics
So far throughout the season, the Cavaliers (13) and Celtics (16) hold the longest winning streaks. Kyrie and LeBron statistically have played more productively than prior years, but which team won the trade?
On August 22nd, Kyrie had become and Celtic and the season opener, facing off against Boston, became the most highly anticipated game in all of October. Both team’s despite injury have conquered the east. The battles between these teams will be crucial confidence builders for the probable meeting these teams will have in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Golden State Warriors
Surrounding the anarchy the Thunder-Warrior teams, these meetings will be the most hostile games of the NBA season. Reporters and fans can’t seem unable to get enough of the Durant Westbrook drama. The teams have three more key matchups in the season.
OKC and Golden State’s star power puts them both in an elite superteam category. The Oklahoma City fan base will forever detest Kevin Durant’s cowardliness which creates a united hatred city wide atmosphere.
Will the hostility be enough to fuel for Westbrook to cease the Warrior Dynasty once and for all or will Golden State trump Oklahoma City once more?
San Antonio Spurs vs. Golden State Warriors
The matchup between Golden State and San Antonio will be very important as the Spurs seem to be one of the only current threats to challenge the Warrior’s finals appearance. Awaiting the Kawhi return, San Antonio will battle short-handed.
As we know it, the Warriors seem to have a dynasty created and San Antonio will be looked at to challenge their path to a fourth straight finals appearance.
Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Timberwolves-Thunder meetings have been highly entertaining due to three very close games. In a western conference rivalry the Timberwolves look to rewrite the script and rank higher come seasons end over OKC. Battling a 13-year playoff drought, the Timberwolves will rematch the Thunder once more an in a major western conference showing. The Timberwolves have taken two of the three games in intense battles all determined by less than five points.
October 22nd: Timberwolves: 115 Thunder: 113
October 27th: Timberwolves: 119 Thunder: 116
December 1st: Timberwolves: 107 Thunder: 111
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Los Angeles Lakers
In what looks to be a future’s game, the Los Angeles Lakers will face off against the Philadelphia 76ers in a true showing of young talent. This year the Lakers and 76ers games will be remarkably popular due to NBA fans’ curiosity of how these young teams will compete. With rising stars on each side, these out of conference matchups will be interesting to see how these teams stack up.