22 Questions you were too afraid to ask about the NBA

published : Friday, 18 Mar 2022

  1. What is the NBA?

The National Basketball Association, known as the NBA, is a professional basketball league comprised of 30 teams across the United States and Canada. It features the best basketball players in the world.


  1. How many players on an NBA roster

Each NBA team can have a maximum of 15 players, 13 of which can be active each game. Each starting lineup has 5 players. Players can sub in and out an unlimited amount of times during stoppages in the games.


  1. What are the positions on an NBA team?

Because a team only features 5 players, there are 5 positions.


Point Guard (PG) – average height 6' to 6'3" – typically the shortest player on the team. The point guard runs the offense and usually is the team’s best dribbler and passer. The point guard defends the opponent’s point guard and tries to steal the ball. Notable PGs: Chris Paul, Steph Curry, Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas.


Shooting Guard (SG) – average height 6'2" to 6'6" - usually the team’s best shooter. The shooting guard can make shots from long distance and also is a good dribbler. Notable SGs: James Harden, Klay Thompson, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan.


Small Forward (SF) – average height 6'5" to 6'9" - the small forward plays against small and large players. They roam all over on the court. Small forwards can score from long shots and close ones. Notable SFs: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Julius Erving, Larry Bird.


Power Forward (PF) – average height 6'8" to 6'11" - does many of the things a center does, playing near the basket while rebounding and defending taller players. But power forwards also take longer shots than centers. Notable PFs: Charles Barkley, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett.


Center – average height 6'10" to 7'2" - the tallest player on each team, playing near the basket. On offense, the center tries to score on close shots and rebound. But on defense, the center tries to block opponents’ shots and rebound their misses. Notable Cs: Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O'Neal.


  1. How many teams are in the NBA?

The NBA is a collection of 30 teams, broken down by two conferences with three divisions apiece.


The Western Conference plays host to the Northwest, Pacific and Southwest Divisions, featuring the following 15 teams:


The Eastern Conference’s 15 squads also break up across three divisions: the Atlantic, Southeast and Central.


  1. Why are there two conferences?

The United States is geographically gigantic. It takes 5 hours to fly from LA to New York and there are 4 time zones in between these cities. It is not feasible for these teams to play each other frequently, especially when the NBA first started out, so they came up with conferences.  


  1. When was the NBA established?

The National Basketball Association was founded on June 6, 1946 at the Commodore Hotel in New York City. Maurice Podoloff was the league’s first president, a title later changed to commissioner. Eleven teams were part of that league, originally called the Basketball Association of America.


Podoloff’s name is now emblazoned on the NBA MVP trophy.


This season, the NBA is celebrating its 75th anniversary.


  1. Why are there so many games in an NBA season?

Each team plays 82 games in an NBA regular season.


  • Each team has to play four games against the other four teams in their division (16 games in total)
  • Four games against six out-of-division conference teams (24 games in total)
  • Three games against the other four teams in the conference (12 games)
  • Two games against all teams in the opposing conference. (30 games)


There are 15 teams in a conference, and after a team plays against all four teams in their division, there are still 10 opponents left. Then, a five-year rotation decides which of those teams are played against four times and which teams are played against three times.


Then we have the playoffs.


  1. What are the NBA playoffs?

The NBA regular season is basically one long group stages like in the Champions League or World Cup.


By the end of the regular season, the playoff seeding is determined. The top 8 teams in each conference face each other in best of 7 rounds to advance to the NBA Finals. In the NBA Finals, the team that advances out of the Eastern Conference faces the team that advances out of the Western Conference to determine that season's NBA champion.


The top eight teams in each Conference reach the postseason, with the No. 1 seed facing No. 8 in the first round, No. 2 vs. No. 7 and so on.


Each round features a best-of-seven series with a 2-2-1-1-1 format (two games at the top seed’s home court, two games at the lower seed’s home, then back and forth one game at a time).

The winners of each Conference meet in the best-of-seven NBA Finals.


In each best of 7 series, the higher seed hosts 4 games and the lower seed hosts 3. The crucial Game 7 (if needed) is always hosted by the higher seed.


  1. So why play so many games if we end up going to knockout stages at the end of it?

Money! The NBA earns most of its income from broadcasters that pay the NBA to air its games. If the NBA were to air less games, it would earn less revenue, so there's little incentive to reduce the number of regular season games. Efforts have been made to space out the games so that players receive adequate recovery time in between games.


  1. When does the season begin and end?

The NBA season begins in the 3rd week of October and ends by the 3rd week of June. This season it began on 19 October 2021 and ends by 19 June 2022.


The NBA playoffs begin on April 16th. The play-in tournament lasts from April 12th to April 15th.


  1. Play-in tournament? There are playoffs and play-ins? What's going on!?

The play-in tournament was brought in last season to introduce some excitement to the end of the season before the playoffs begin.


At the conclusion of the regular season but before the first round of the playoffs, the team with the 7th-highest winning percentage in each conference will host the team with the 8th-highest winning percentage in a Play-In Game (the “Seven-Eight Game”). The winner of the Seven-Eight Game in each conference will earn the No. 7 seed.


The team with the 9th-highest winning percentage in each conference will host the team with the 10th-highest winning percentage in the “Nine-Ten Game”. The loser of the Seven-Eight Game will host the winner of the Nine-Ten Game in a Play-In Game, and the winner of that game in each conference will earn the No. 8 seed.


  1. What are the best teams in NBA history? What are the best teams now?

Both the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers have won 17 championships each. The Lakers won theirs most recently in 2020, and the Celtics last won in 2008. The Golden State Warriors and Chicago Bulls have both won 6 titles; the San Antonio Spurs have won 5; the Detroit Pistons and Philadelphia 76ers have each won 3.


The reigning champions are the Milwaukee Bucks. They won their second ever title last season by beating the Phoenix Suns in the NBA Finals. The teams contending for the title this season are the Phoenix Suns, Golden State Warriors, Milwaukee Bucks, Brooklyn Nets, Chicago Bulls and Philadelphia 76ers.


  1. Who are the greatest players in NBA history?

This season the NBA announced its list of 75 greatest players of all time. Notable names include Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Shaquille O'Neal, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Kevin Garnett, James Harden, and more.


From the current crop of NBA stars, keep your eye on LeBron James, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokoumpo, James Harden, Joel Embiid, Anthony Davis, Nikola Jokic, DeMar Derozan, Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, and Ja Morant.


  1. What is the NBA All-Star Game?

The NBA All-Star Game is a basketball exhibition game hosted every February by the National Basketball Association (NBA) and showcases 24 of the league's star players. It is the featured event of NBA All-Star Weekend, a three-day event which goes from Friday to Sunday. The All-Star Game was first played at the Boston Garden on March 2, 1951.


The starting lineups are selected each year by fans around the world, who can vote online at nba.com, the NBA app and on social media.


The reserves are selected by NBA head coaches. If a player is unable to play due to injury, his replacement is selected by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.


If a team has a starter who’s unable to play, the head coach of that All-Star team will select his replacement from his bench (including any Commissioner-appointed players).


  1. How do players enter the NBA?

Players enter the NBA in a different manner than players enter football leagues. To enter the NBA, players must be drafted.


The pool of players that can be drafted includes all players over the age of 19 who are more than a year removed from high school, and who have also officially declared for the NBA Draft; all international players over the age of 22; all players over 19 who’ve signed a contract to play with an international professional team; and all US-born players who’ve played their four years of college eligibility.


  1. How does the draft order work?

Each spring, a lottery — comprised of ping-pong balls drawn randomly in an audited event — decides the fate of the 14 teams who did not qualify for the Playoffs. The teams with the fewest wins have the greatest chance at winning the Lottery. Three Lotto balls are drawn, deciding the first, second and third picks. After that point, the remaining picks go sequentially, in order of lowest finish to highest finish in the standings.


After pick No. 14, the teams choose in reverse order of regular season finish (the team with the best record goes last).


Teams may move up and down in the order with trades.


  1. Wait, so the worse teams get the higher picks i.e. can pick better players? Why is that?

Yep, the worst teams have a better chance at getting a higher pick and can theoretically pick the better players. You do have players drafted late that turn into stars e.g. Steve Nash and Nikola Jokic, but usually the higher drafted players turn out to be the more accomplished players. The reason worse teams get higher picks is to ensure that there's a level of parity and competitiveness between teams and a means for the worst teams to get better.


  1. How else does the NBA ensure parity and competitiveness?

There's a salary cap! Teams are limited in how much they can spend each season to pay their players. Teams can choose to go over the salary cap in certain situations but they end up being taxed heavily for going over it, reducing the incentive to exceed the cap. There is also a max contract i.e. a maximum that an individual player can be paid.


  1. How are players traded?

Unlike football, NBA players are traded for each other and for draft picks. Players also have the same contract once they've been signed, unlike in football where football players sign a new contract with their team. So for example, if LeBron James plays for the Miami Heat under a 3 year $100m contract, and he gets traded to the Lakers, he will now be playing for the Lakers under that 3 year $100m contract.


  1. Why are the Lakers so bad this season?

Hoo boy where to begin with this one… last season the Lakers were the defending champs and lost to the eventual Finalists Phoenix Suns in the first round of the playoffs after their star player, Anthony Davis, got hurt. The Lakers thought they were just one star away from being title favourites and traded a boatload of good players for Russell Westbrook, the 2017 MVP (Most Valuable Player i.e. player of the year). Unfortunately, Westbrook isn't a good fit for the Lakers and his play has massively declined this year. LeBron James is a year older and Davis has also missed a lot of games. As a result, the Lakers have not lived up to expectations.


  1. Who's going to win MVP?

The MVP (Most Valuable Player) is the award given to the best regular season player. It is the most prestigious individual award the NBA hands out. The reigning MVP is Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets and there's a good chance he wins it again this season. Others contending for MVP are Joel Embiid, Ja Morant, Giannis Antentokoumpo, DeMar DeRozan, and Luka Doncic.


Kareem Abdul-Jabbar holds the most NBA MVPs with 6. Bill Russell and Michael Jordan hold 5 each. LeBron James and Wilt Chamberlain hold 4. Moses Malone, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson hold 3 MVPs each.


Of current players, LeBron has 4; Steph Curry and Giannis Antetokoumpo have 2; James Harden, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Nikola Jokic have 1 each.


  1. What are the most fun teams to watch?


In no particular order:


  • Golden State Warriors – they play a beautiful brand of basketball with nonstop ball movement and players in perpetual motion. Steph Curry could also always go off and start bombing numerous 3s from deep.
  • Memphis Grizzlies – Ja Morant is a human highlight reel. He's scoring the most points in the paint which is astonishing for a PG.
  • Denver Nuggets – Jokic is a point guard trapped in a center's body.
  • Brooklyn Nets – Kevin Durant might be the most effortless scorer since Michael Jordan, and Kyrie has the best handles in the world.
  • Milwaukee Bucks – Giannis Antetokoumpo might be the best two way player in the league and the Bucks are defending champs.
  • Chicago Bulls – DeRozan is breaking records held by Wilt Chamberlain.
  • Charlotte Hornets – LaMelo Ball passes the rock like the second coming of Magic Johnson
  • Phoenix Suns – they are winning at a pace not seen since the 2016 Warriors.

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