The preseason is finally over so now we can finally say, “Welcome back NBA!” The season officially kicks off tonight and it expects to continue its momentum from the exciting and unpredictable offseason that was. The migration of talent to the West, the Fallout-like dystopia that is the Eastern Conference, the youth movement going on in different teams, old faces in new places and the foregone conclusion that the Warriors are going to win the NBA Championship.
There are a lot of things to look forward to this season, so lets look at the main highlight points for this new NBA season
THE DOGFIGHT OUT WEST
SO. MUCH. STAR-POWER!!
I’m so glad that the commissioner made the All-Star game into a pick your team format because I’ll be hard pressed to choose an All-Star team from this conference. This offseason, the Western Conference, excluding the Warriors whose main offseason transactions were re-signing Steph Curry to a max deal and retaining Kevin Durant, were in an arms race in order to either compete against the Warriors (Spurs, Rockets, Thunder), jostle for position and try to breakthrough into the playoffs, such as the Timberwolves and the Nuggets.
So many things I wanna ask: How many games the Warriors gonna win? How will CP3 and the Beard co-exist in Houston? How will Westbrook, PG and Melo ration the ball and how far can they go? Can Kawhi possibly be the MVP this year and how good the Spurs will be without making any major additions? We’ll get to the rest of the West in a bit, but know that the Western Conference will develop into an all-out war, especially coming down the line for the playoffs.
THE OTHER CONFERENCE
Harsh headline? Yeah.
Let’s face it. The migration of talent from the East to the West has left the Eastern Conferences in a shambolic and confused state. While the usual suspects will be fighting for the top 4 spots, the rest of the East will be fighting it out for the remaining spots. Chances are that the East may have a whole different look come playoff time. I have the Celtics winning in the East (*Chris Rock voice*: YEAH I SAID IT!) over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Wizards and Raptors will be the Wizards and Raptors, and I believe Giannis and the Bucks take the next step. Heck, we’re looking at an Eastern Conference that could see the Sixers could fight for a sixth seed (if nobody breaks a bone)! The East is the weaker conference but it will still have its own exciting battles down the stretch in terms of playoff placement.
OLD FACES IN NEW PLACES
This offseason saw a lot of shock moves and crazy trades which could possibly turn the Association upside down.
Clear winners of the offseason went to Sam Presti and the Oklahoma City Thunder, managing to steal Paul George away from the Lakers, Cavs and the Celtics and orchestrating a trade that freed Carmelo Anthony from the Knicks. Imagine that: They turned Domantas Sabonis, Victor Oladipo, Doug McDermott, Enes Kanter and a Chicago 2nd Round pick into this:
For Sam Presti to lure two big name guys away from destinations such as Cleveland, Boston and Houston, how could you not be impressed by that?
2nd place goes to the Celtics who finally dipped into their assets to make the shocking Kyrie Irving trade who requested out of Cleveland, sending Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Nets 2018 1st Round Pick. Add to that, winning the Gordon Hayward sweepstakes and now the Celtics look like they (at least in my eyes) could be the team that faces the Warriors in the Finals.
Jae Crowder is expected to be a starter in Cleveland with Isaiah Thomas, who won’t see the court until January with a hip injury. Now LeBron’s stuck with a potential injured reserve list with him, Derrick Rose in his place and Dwayne Wade starting on the team.
Chris Paul orchestrated a trade out of Houston with Beverly, Lou Williams and a host of others to the Clippers, joining Danilo Gallinari who was also traded there from Denver. With “rookie” Miloš Teodosić coming over from Serbia with his amazing court vision and affinity for being unable to throw a simple chest pass, the Clippers team won’t lack in the entertainment department.
Speaking of Denver, they replaced the Rooster with Paul Millsap who ended his tenure with the Atlanta Hawks. Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague are now Timberwolves and Rajon Rondo is a Pelican. Zach Randolph and Vince Carter are now with the Kings, Brook Lopez is a Laker. Jonathon Simmons is a Magic (*sniffles*), Rudy Gay’s a Spur and a partridge in a pear tree.
The Rookies and Youth Movements Across The League
This year we’ll see one of the most talented rookie classes in Association history. #1 Overall Pick Markelle Fultz, and Ben Simmons who was injured last season will look to help to push The Process in Philadelphia to a playoff spot.
Lakers have Lonzo Ball running the point, and along with Simmons will be a contender for Rookie of the Year. Be on the lookout for Kyle Kuzma as well, who’s shown flashes of promise in the preseason.
Jayson Tatum’s in Boston and is part of a young talented 2nd unit, that also contains highly touted international prospect Guerschon Yabusele and 2nd round pick Semi Ojeyle
Dennis Smith Jr.’s will be jumping out of the American Airlines Arena all season.
Sacramento has a good mix of experienced players and young talent with rookies De’Aaron Fox, Justin Jackson, Harry Giles and Frank Mason III.
The youth movement in Phoenix continues with Josh Jackson being added to a team that already contains talented players like Devon Booker, Tyler Ulis, Derrick Jones Jr. and Marquese Chriss.
D’Angelo Russell who was part of the trade that sent Brook Lopez to L.A., looks to be the main guy on a Nets team that finished last in their conference and looking to climb up the rankings.
We already talked about Miloš Teodosić and the Clippers and then there’s the rebuild in Chicago with Kris Dunn, Zach Lavine and rookie Lauri Markkannen coming over from Minnesota to play alongside Bobby Portis and Denzel Valentine.
WHO WILL BE THIS SEASON’S MVP?
As always the MVP debate will he hot and heavy throughout the year. LeBron will always be a contender, especially with the team that he has to play with this year. Either Curry or Durant can dominate a game by themselves.
Can Russell Westbrook go for back to back MVPs? He won’t have a season like the Triple-Double show he had last season because he has help this year but he’ll be as tenacious as ever.
Last year’s runner-up James Harden will look to once again prove that he is deserving of getting that award.
Kawhi Leonard was a finalist last year. Can he become more productive to finally earn an MVP award?
One dark horse pick I have: Giannis Antetokounmpo. Last year he led his team in points, assists, rebounds, steals and blocks, becoming the 5th player in NBA history to achieve this feat. Maybe he can push the Bucks to a high seed and shock the NBA in winning the award.
The season kicks off tonight with the Rockets and Warriors and the more intriguing game, Celtics and Cavaliers with Kyrie and LeBron going against each other for the first time since 2014-15 season. So Merry Opening Night everyone! Let’s enjoy what promises to be an exciting NBA season!