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The Future is Bright for the NBA Small Markets

Charlotte, Cleveland, Memphis and Minneapolis. What do these cities have in common? First, none of them crack the top 10 markets in the USA nor reach the 2 million homes mark. They are not known for their sunny weather and – as Joakim Noah famously pointed out – no one is planning their vacations in those cities.

There is another similarity amongst these cities, one that is actually a desirable trait: they all have exciting and great young NBA teams bearing their names in front of their jerseys. Ranging from second youngest team at the start of this season (Grizzlies at 24.0 average age) to the seventh youngest (Cavaliers at 25.0 average age) the future is now for these squads.

Following on the footsteps of another small market and home of the reigning NBA Champions, Milwaukee, these cities’ teams have a combined record of 103 wins and 73 losses. The 0.579 winning percentage would be good enough to crack the top 10 in the entire league, if that was of a single team.

While we are already past the halfway mark of the season, both the Cavs and the Grizzlies are in the top 4 of their respective conferences. That would give them home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The Hornets and the Wolves are in contention for a playoff spot, ranking respectively seventh and ninth in their conferences as of today.

How they are winning is as important to the equation. While the Grizzlies lead the league in rebounds, blocks and steals per game, we can all agree a heathy amount of basketball’s excitement comes from offense. Moreover, from transition offense. Either way, this quartet delivers on a nightly basis:

  • Transition Plays: Hornets and Grizzlies are number 1 and 2 in transition plays per game in the NBA
  • Fast Break Points: the Grizz lead the league and Charlotte is number in fast break points
  • Dunks: the Cavs lead the league in Dunks, while the Hornets are third
  • Points Per Game: the Hornets are second in the NBA and the Grizzlies are number 4 in points scored per contest
  • Assists: they are all in the top 10 in assists per game
  • 3 pointers: the Wolves shoot a whooping 46% of their shots from 3pt land, good for third highest in the league. Charlotte trails only 3 teams in 3 point % making .373 of their attempts
  • Strength of schedule: only 3 teams had a tougher road to their season than the Cavs, with the Hornets not much behind them with the ninth toughest schedule up to now

As impressive and entertaining as these teams have been as groups, they do not fall short on Star Power.

They have MVP Contender Ja Morant, putting up 24 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds and 1 steal on a nightly basis. He does that efficiently, holding a .572 true shooting percentage, and he does that with uncanny flair.

Talking about efficiency, no big men in the NBA scores the ball at a better rate than Karl-Anthony Towns. Currently at 52% in FG%, 41% in 3-point % and 81% at the line, the Wolves player needs to improve a few % points in free-throw shooting to be the first ever Center to become a member of the elusive 50-40-90 Club – as the made percentages for Field Goals, 3-pointers and free-throws.

There are a couple of point guard magicians in LaMelo Ball and Darius Garland. They score in a variety of ways, while maintaining their teammates well fed in the offensive end. Both are in the Top 10 in assists per game and made 30 footers. These young generals lead their teams with poise and savvy of schooled veterans and entertain the fans with the gutsy plays of true innovators.

The prolific scoring extends to the wings with hard dunkers in Miles Bridges and Anthony Edwards. Both are guaranteed to deliver over 20 points per game in a variety of ways. Although they both can shoot from distance and score with finesse, it is the ferocity in which they attack the rim that sets them apart. With no regard for human life, these slashers will try to kill you dunking the basketball.

Regardless of what is your cup of tea – winning basketball or internet breaking highlights, team game or individual brilliance, these young men will supply it.

Their cities might not be glamorous, but you can add them to Milwaukee as a Playoffs destination for years to come. Grab yourself a League Pass account and experience the future now!

Jay Ernani
Jay is a Basketball enthusiast, former Basketball player and coach, with experience in the game in the United States of America and in Brazil, at High School and College levels. He is passionate about the history of the game, defense and strong team culture. He is also into analytics, which are a recurrent part of his articles.

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