Welcome to the new NBA decade. We've had a look back at the previous decade, but now that all of that nostalgia is out of the way, how about we look forward.
What will happen in the NBA over the next decade? The possibilities are endless. Rather than sit around and actually live the decade live a normal person, lets peer into our crystal ball and take a sneak peek at some of the events and trends that the 2020's will provide us NBA fans.
The 2020's are the first decade of true International dominance.
We start the 2020's with a slew of young international stars asserting their dominance over the NBA.
This seasons All Star fan voting was released earlier this week. The positional top 10's in each conference feature: a Latvian, a Serb, a Slovenian, a Senegalese, a Greek, a Lithuanian (albeit American born), an Australian and a pair of Cameroonians. Not one of these players are over 25 years of age.
Admittedly not all of them will become stars – sorry Tacko – but this is the air raid siren over the NBA. The International Invasion is here.
The NBA has had it's international stars like Hakeem Olajuwon, Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki, but never in it's history has the league had this much international talent come through at the same time.
All of these young stars play the game in varying styles. Domantas Sabonis plays like an old fashioned battering ram. Nikola Jokic plays like Sabonis' dad. Ben Simmons channels a young Magic Johnson (but with even less 3's). Giannis plays like absolutely nobody else before him.
In previous decades, aside from some notable exceptions, international stars were rotation peices and journeymen in the NBA: think Luis Scola or Jose Calderon. This crop are genuine stars and could conceivably win the majority of MVP awards this decade.
Who Ya Got? Giannis or Luca to be the greatest non-American player of all time.
Who is the greatest non-American NBA player of all time? It's surely out of the Nowitzki/Duncan/Olajuwon troika. Your vote possibly depends on your style preference. Duncan was a walking fundamental, Nowitzki reinvented how bigs could play the game, Olajuwon is the most graceful post player the sport has ever seen.
In football, the Pele/DiStefano/Maradona debate had raged for decades until Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi graced us. I predict we're going to see a similar changing of the guard as to who is the best international of all time, with this debate centred around Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Doncic.
Giannis has re imagined the sport. A legit 7 footer, playing point guard on offense and sometimes centre on defense. He is basically a giant Allen Iverson with the ball, able to pierce the paint seemingly at will despite being a limited deep threat and either finish at the rim (he leads the NBA in points in the paint both this and last seasons) or find teammates with crisp passing. His all world athleticism makes him completely unguardable. His excellent defence is merely gravy.
Luka is the youngest veteran I've ever seen. He came into the league as an experienced pro, despite being 19 years old. That has undoubtedly helped hone his otherworldly ability to manipulate space, work angles and find seams that other professionals can't envision, let alone exploit. He is a rare play maker with the size and strength to take a beating, pass or shoot over the defense, and the IQ to slow the game down to his liking. Luka's relative lack of athleticism means he should (all other things being equal) age well and have a long, productive career.
Both will win multiple MVP's this decade. What's the over/under on the amount of seasons these two finishing top two in MVP voting? I'll set the line at 4.5.
This will be like the LeBron/Jordan argument, except that they get to play against each other.
Dallas and Milwaukee to be the Lakers vs Celtics of the decade.
In playing against each other, but in different conferences, Doncic's Dallas Mavericks and Antetokounmpo's Milwaukee Bucks have the chance to be our generations Lakers versus Celtics.
Despite a looming free agency, I believe that the Bucks will hold on to their walking cheat code of a baller, and that he, alongside an excellent coach and ownership willing to spend, will attract other top players to a traditionally barren free agent market.
Giannis is only 25 years old, and it's highly likely he'll be a 2 time MVP at the end of this season. His is a game that can be tailored to any number of methods. Giannis as the point guard clearly works. He can also work as a secondary creator – imagine Giannis attacking scrambled coverage – and as he ages, his passing ability should see him work well as an elbow creator, in a similar way to Nikola Jokic.
Doncic is still a pup – he'll dominate this decade. He's at the helm of a team that is perhaps a year and a player away from true contention, despite their borderline historic offense. They're headed by an bona fide genius of a head coach, a front office that consistently pulls the right levers, and owner that, whilst not insanely rich by current NBA standards, has always spent money and is at the forefront of looking after their players.
There will be other teams that rise and fall though the 2020's, but the Bucks and Mavs are best set to dominate this decade.
There will be outdoor regular season games.
The NBA under Adam Silver is a league that is open to new experiences, both for it's fans and it's players. One of those new experiences will be an outdoor game at some point this decade.
The NHL has been running their Winter Classic games since 2008. In Australia, the NBL has been hosting open roof basketball matches since 1998. Both are huge successes for their respective leagues, generating immense interest for fans to both attend or watch at home.
The NBA has played outdoor preseason games in the past, going back to 1972. Due to the timing of the season, weather is most often cited as the reason why no regular season games have been played outdoors. For hockey, the weather obviously doesn't matter quite as much as basketball. The NBL has the advantage of stadiums with retractable roofing and a summer season.
Could the Knicks and Nets play games at Arthur Ashe or Louis Armstrong stadiums? Could one of the many gridiron or baseball fields with retractable roofs be restructured for basketball?
As they tend to do, the NBA will find a way to make this happen.