When a new school year starts, it only means one thing. The NBA is almost back. With opening night being just over a month away, teams are beginning the finalization of their rosters and gearing up for the season.
After the Golden State Warriors took home their third title in four years this past season, many big names made moves over the off-season in an effort to make a run at the juggernaut that is the Warriors- or at least compete.
The biggest and most notable of these moves was LeBron James deciding to take his talents to the Los Angeles Lakers rather than re-sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers which means the Lakers can be summed up with three words: “Lonzo to LeBron.”
Most experts agree that even with LeBron, the Lakers will have a hard time competing with the Warriors. Steven A. Smith of ESPN, however, made the bold prediction on “First Take” and said plainly, “I’m picking the Lakers to go to the Western Conference Finals!”
If his prediction comes to fruition it would set up yet another trophy series between LeBron James and the Warriors. The Warriors are as good as any team in history, but one question remains for the upcoming season, Who’s in the closing lineup?
With the contract they gave to Kevin Durant, the Warriors have had to sacrifice some bench strength, and some say it could hurt them late in the season especially if the injury bug starts biting.
The Oklahoma City Thunder retained the services of Paul George over the summer which surprised many who thought he may have ended up in Los Angeles playing with LeBron.
The duo of George and Russell Westbrook will be a formidable one but there are those who hold the belief that while they are good, they lack the ability to be great and I tend to agree- one simply can’t get enough production out of those two to compete with Golden State or even Los Angeles when LeBron decides to drop 50.
The biggest challenger to the Warriors in most minds are the Houston Rockets. After a great 2017-18 season, they are poised to make another serious run at the finals this year with a majority of their team returning including Chris Paul and MVP James Harden.
Where the Rockets really scored was picking up Carmelo Anthony over the summer and while he is an older body and has fallen off in recent years, he can be a consistent scorer when healthy.
The rest of the Western Conference, while competitive with each other, will be playing catch up to these three teams. We are seeing the era of the super team and while it’s fun to watch, It can make the season somewhat predictable.
The Eastern Conference however, is a different story entirely. With LeBron heading out west, the east is a free for all this year and while there are some favorites, no one knows who will be there in the end.
Kevin Love made the choice to remain a Cleveland Cavalier and will probably be the best player on a bad team this year which is no surprise after losing LeBron to free-agency along with trading away Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas within the last year.
The Boston Celtics seem to be on everyone’s Eastern Conference favorites list after a strong showing last year in the playoffs despite Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving both being out due to injury. Aside from those two elite players they have managed to put together one of the best young cores in the league.
The Washington Wizards are also getting some attention after signing Dwight Howard in the off season and retaining the services of Bradley Beal and John Wall. While their roster looks good on paper, this team continuously seems to under-perform considering they have one of the best back-courts in the league.
A dark horse that many are keeping their eyes on are the Indiana Pacers. While they were ousted in the first round of the playoffs last year, they took Cleveland to the brink of defeat before being defeated and many think they are the type of underdog that fairytales are made of so keep your eyes on Indiana.
Many think of the Philadelphia 76ers as the BIG little brother. They’re young and have practically no experience in do-or-die playoff basketball but they’re a sleeping giant and don’t be surprised if they’re around come next summer.
With names like Joel Embid, Ben Simmons, and Markelle Fultz, who knows what this season could bring.
Lastly from the east we have the 2017-18 number one seed Toronto Raptors. They made a big trade in the off season by sending DeMar DeRozan to San Antonio in exchange for Kawhi Leonard of the Spurs.
While Leonard made it clear he wanted to be in Los Angeles. with LeBron, he ended up in Toronto and the raptors need him after being beaten badly by the Cavaliers last year in the second round.
While there are many teams that got better including many that weren’t mentioned in this article, this season will be a clash of the titans. There will be ten to twelve statistically outstanding teams (over half of which will come from the Western Conference) and they will battle it out against a number of average teams to see who gets a shot at the hardware. Buckle up, this is going to be fun.