What separates the NBA’s top clubs from the rest of the pack?

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The NBA season so far has been a completely different affair compared to last season. Throughout the progression of the 2015-16 season, Golden State and Cleveland looked to be the clear finalists in the lead up to the championships, and despite a few hiccups in the playoffs, the Cavs and Warrior ended up in the NBA Finals for the second time in a row. This season looks similar again, as the mid-season review shows that the Cavs and the Warriors are yet again top of their divisions, but neither team looks as invisible as they were last season. The Cavs have already clocked six loses, while the Warriors have been defeated four times. This is thanks to the teams trailing behind them such as the Raptors and Spurs. Other teams in the NBA have played really well this season, with certain players producing a flamboyance that has made this season exciting to watch. So what separates the top clubs from the rest of the pack?

A Game of Stars

The NBA, more than any other sport, is considered a game of stars. With only five players on the court at one time, having that one marquee player can have a far greater impact on his teams’ fate and progression than an NFL team. This is one of the fundamentals that separates a top club from those below it. A good example of this can be seen in the 2009 season, when the Cavaliers boasted a league-best record of 61-21 and were considered title contenders. However, remove marquee player LeBron James and see the tables turn. If he wasn’t in their squad, they’d be looking at a 13-55 record and fighting to stay out of the top 20 worst teams in NBA history. More recently, Russell Westbrook has been a superstar for the Oklahoma Thunder, and he has the potential to be the season’s MVP. As we are now 24 games into the season, Westbrook’s season stat line is stupendous; thus far he is hitting 31.1 points, 10.9 rebounds, 11.0 assists, 1.4 steals and 5.8 turnovers per game, which is absolutely ridiculous!

From those stats, you can see that he has absolutely bossed it for the Thunder, which makes you think, where would the Thunder would be right now without him? Westbrook is proof that the NBA is a player’s game. The way a team defines itself between being a top club and a lesser club is down to the fact that they have that special player(s). But it can’t be down to the players all the time – the coaches still play a big part in the development of a club and are the ones who negotiate the plays, make game-changing decisions and key player swaps. I think the key players work in tandem with the coaches and this is what establishes a top club. It’s how the coach incorporates guys like LeBron James, Steph Curry and Russell Westbrook with the rest of the team that really matters most.

  

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