Here’s what to look out for this basketball season
October 18, 2018
Dubs Dynasty Three-Peat?
The Golden State Warriors are the defending NBA champions, having won two championships in a row against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs hardly put up a fight in last year’s finals when they were swept four games to none, despite competing with four-time MVP LeBron James.
Now that James has joined the Western Conference, who is the new competition for the Warriors in the East? The acquisition of DeMarcus Cousins for the 2018-19 season added a sixth All-Star to their roster. This loaded battalion looks prepared to repeat their conquests of the past two years.
What’s Brewing in the East
The Warriors’ biggest rival in the East will most likely be the Boston Celtics. The loss of Gordon Hayward five minutes into last season and Kyrie Irving for the entire postseason cost the Celtics their conference title and a chance at facing Golden State in the finals.
Jayson Tatum did everything he could to carry Boston to the playoffs and beyond, including becoming the youngest player to score at least 20 points in four straight playoff games (previously a title held by Kobe Bryant).
Tatum also became one of two rookies in playoff history to record ten games with 20 or more points during his first postseason runs. His accomplishments still weren’t enough, however, without the more experienced leadership of Irving and Hayward.
The duo returns this season to join Tatum and NBA fans await to see if their chemistry—hardly tested last season— will be the force needed to dethrone the high-flying Warriors.
New Faces in New Places
The recent NBA offseason brought significant signings that have great potential in changing the dynamic of the league. LeBron James signed a four-year, $153.3 million deal with the Los Angeles Lakers, who finished 11th in the Western Conference.
The move is not quite “Big Three”-esque, but considering it is the longest deal he’s signed since the Miami contract, he must have big plans to improve the franchise. Given the opportunity to lead the younger squad of Ballers (pun intended) with the help of veterans Rajon Rondo and JaVale McGee, there is no doubt the King is in pursuit of the championship crown. James playing four years in L.A. may finally settle the greatest-basketball-player-of-all-time-in-yellow debate between Kobe Bryant and James. (Note: MJ did not wear yellow).
Kawhi Leonard leaving the San Antonio Spurs seemed inevitable as soon as he had shown desire to move after seven seasons—the last one plagued by injury. Leonard was traded with Danny Green to the Toronto Raptors, in exchange for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Pöltl and a 2019 first round draft pick. The Raptors finished first in the Eastern Conference last season, but James and the Cavs ended their playoff run, just as they did two seasons ago.
With James now in the West and Leonard, elite sharpshooter and two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, in Toronto, the Raptors have a good chance at the Conference title.
As exciting as it may seem, seeing that another all-star joined the Warriors, there might not be much to look forward to.
Following last year’s season-ending achilles surgery, DeMarcus Cousins found the perfect recovery opportunity by signing a one-year, $5.3 million deal with the defending champions. The team should have no trouble entering the postseason again this year, so Cousins’ contribution is not urgent or even necessary. This underwhelming role on the team will allow him to recover before rejoining the free-agent market next summer.
The Houston Rockets finished on top of their conference last regular season, with the best record in the league of 65-17. They proved to be the Warriors’ best competition in the postseason, but they were still unable to claim the Conference title. This offseason, veteran Carmelo Anthony signed with the team, and his success will come with taking a less significant role on the team than he is familiar with.
Despite losing key players Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute, Houston yearns for redemption this season, with a now-healthy Chris Paul, the young talent of Clint Capela, the newly-acquired Carmelo Anthony, all behind the hungry, reigning MVP James Harden.
Early ROY Watch
If the summer league revealed anything, it was the talent of the rookie class this year. Before the season’s start, early talks of Rookie of the Year statuses emerged. Here’s the Top 5 list of players to look out for:
Luka Dončić, Dallas Mavericks (Preseason AVGs: 14.7 PTS, 4.7 REB, 4 AST)
Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns (Preseason AVGs: 17.5 PTS, 8.5 REB)
Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks (Preseason AVGs: 15 PTS, 5.4 AST, 37 3FG%)
Marvin Bagley III, Sacramento Kings (College AVGs: 21 PTS, 11.1 REB, 39.7 3FG%)
Kevin Knox, New York Knicks (College AVGs: 15.4 PTS, 5.4 REB, 34.1 3FG%)
Contact Annika Tiña at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.