Pat yourself on the back basketball fans, because tonight the NBA season returns. We made it!
Coming off of what could be argued as the greatest NBA Finals of all time and then followed by an unpredictable offseason, it seems like everything has changed since the last time regular season basketball was underway.
It seems all but inevitable that basketball fans are headed towards a trilogy of series between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers. Unless you were in a bunker similar to the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, there is a great chance that you heard Kevin Durant left the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Warriors.
If preseason is any indication as to how things are going to go, then it’s going to get ugly for teams. The Warriors have been making things look more than easy in outings as Durant, Steph Curry, and Klay Thompson bombard teams with scoring. The NBA has never seen a trio with as much combined talent as these three men. The chances of the Warriors improving on their record breaking season last year is quite good.
The Cleveland Cavaliers didn’t reload the same way that Golden State did, but there is still plenty of reason to worry about them. LeBron James now has the monkey off of his back in having the pressure of bringing a title home. Kyrie Irving’s finally feeling like a top level point guard and Kevin Love is healthy and with some added weight and muscle. The Cavs should have a fairly easy path to the finals in an Eastern Conference that has traditionally been pretty weak these last few years.
Things aren’t all lost in the East. The Boston Celtics added center Al Horford in the offseason to improve upon what is already a good-looking squad. With point guard Isaiah Thomas continuing to grow into a standout player, the Celtics are a front-runner to be the team that dethrones Cleveland.
The Indiana Pacers are the next closest to gaining the top spot. With Paul George’s incredible return to form after a gruesome injury before the 2014-2015 season, to being overshadowed by the Kobe Bryant retirement tour and the Warriors’ incredible season, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to many to see the Pacers become an elite team in the East.
There’s a lot of excitement in Chicago right now as well, but perhaps the hype is a little overblown. The Bulls got rid of their hometown, injury-riddled point guard in Derrick Rose, and brought in another Chicago-native in Dwayne Wade. Wade is an aging veteran with injury problems of his own, and the Bulls also added a pass-first point guard with shooting issues in Rajon Rondo.
Wade and Rondo have the name value to attract fans, but whether or not they’ll be able to mesh with Jimmy Butler and what kind of depth the rest of the team possesses remains to be seen. Look for the Bulls to either be a sleeper or disappointment depending on who you talk to.
In the Western Conference, things are a little bit more open-ended with some great teams primed to take that next step. It’s safe to not bet against the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs have been the most consistent team in recent memory and are coming off a 67-15 season that was also overshadowed due to other storylines playing out. While Tim Duncan may have hung it up this off season, there is still zero reason not to expect the Spurs to remain a focal point of the West. Another interesting story coming out of the offseason is the news coming out of LaMarcus Aldridge’s camp, in saying the five-time All Star was unhappy with his current situation in San Antonio. Stay tuned with what happens there, as it could affect not only the Spurs but the rest of the league.
In one of the more interesting moves of the offseason, the Houston Rockets announced that James Harden would be getting switched to playing point guard. While the Rockets squad doesn’t have a ton going for it outside of Harden, it’s hard to imagine Harden not putting up incredible numbers on his own and putting Houston in a position to compete on a nightly basis. Scoring will come in bunches; the Rockets will just have to figure out who’s going to play defense.
It would be easy to call the Minnesota Timberwolves a “sleeper team”, but that storyline is already being overdone. It’s not unreasonable to assume that maybe people are putting lofty and too high of expectations on a team that is still youthful and coming off a 29-win season.
A team that could catch a lot of people by surprise are the Utah Jazz. The Jazz have one of the deepest rosters in the league. They just missed out on the playoffs last year as the ninth seed with 40 wins. With a bit of a reset, they are the team in the west that is most likely to catch people off-guard.
This is just the tipping point of some of the storylines that can be expected for the 2016-2017 season. The Cavaliers face the revamped New York Knicks tonight at 6:30 p.m. on TNT. Buckle up basketball fans, it’s going to be a great season.