Another exciting year of NBA begins
Competitive edge and challenges of both conferences set up an unpredictable season
The National Basketball League season is still young, but there are already some developing and very intriguing storylines. The shake ups in the off-season surrounding the Cleveland Cavaliers caught everybody’s eye. The injuries the Oklahoma City Thunder have suffered might have some people predicting a season write off. Plus people are asking can the Philadelphia 76ers really be this bad?
However, one thing that has remained consistent this season is the Western Conference competitive edge. Only 13 games separate the conference champion, San Antonio Spurs, and the eighth seeded, Dallas Mavericks, last year. This year looks to be no different.
The San Antonio Spurs champions are showing they can still compete with the best. This is most likely because the team has one of the best coaches in the league, with Gregg Popovich. Not to mention, the Spurs have possibly the best centre, Tim Duncan, the NBA has ever seen. Fans can also notice the emerging star, Kawhi Leonard, who showed his potential in last year’s finals.
Oklahoma City Thunder has been riddled with injuries. Most valuable player, Kevin Durant, and all-star, Russell Westbrook, are currently both injured and are leading towards sub-par records. Yet, the duo should be back with plenty of time to make a charge for a high seed in the conference to reclaim their place as one of the more dominant teams in the division.
The Thunder are normally an extremely good regular season team, but when it comes to playoffs, they tend to lack those clutch performances. For example, they lost in the critical 2012 NBA Finals. The team is now proving they can take that next step to greatness.
Sticking with the Western Conference, one of the surprise teams this year is the Phoenix Suns. Resigning Eric Bledsoe, to a five-year deal worth $70 million, locked in the Suns with a dependable point guard. Despite getting off to a sluggish start, this year Suns fans aren’t looking worried. Last year at the start of December, the team was at a 99 and managed to turn it around. Although in my opinion, due to the skill of the teams in the Western Conference, it cannot be expected that the Suns will finish high enough to claim home court advantage, but they could still land a sixth or seventh seed.
It had to be expected based on how last year went, but the Los Angeles Lakers awful start is still shocking, especially considering how iconic the Lakers are. The team was dealt a blow as a first pick in the draft, when their top pick, Julius Randle, broke his leg during his first career game. Hardships aside, it’s clear the Lakers are suffering because their defence is just terrible.
Another interesting NBA story, is the league jumping all over Kobe Bryant, even after he set the all-time record for career misses. It’s hard not to get carried away with that stat. Although the prospects seem to mean that Bryant has played a long time and he is trusted to make the shot, like he usually does. To see his current stats as more positive, consider other Hall of Famers who have made the all-time missed shot list like John Havlicek in second; Karl Malone, in fourth; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, in fifth; and Michael Jordan, in sixth, just to name a few.
If Lakers fans are looking for a silver lining this year, the obvious positive is their potential position as a top five overall pick in next year’s draft. The other positive is just a rumour, but it is possible that Kevin Love may opt out of his contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers, as he sets his eyes on playing for the Lakers.
Speaking of Cleveland, the most hyped team of the season, was the Cavaliers. They were able to sign one of the best players in the league, LeBron James. They also traded for Kevin Love from the Minnesota Timberwolves. The James and Love combination, mixed in with the young talent of players, Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters, the Cavaliers were thought to be a slam dunk to win the championship. Yet somehow they aren’t performing as some predicted.
It can be related to the time when James joined Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, with the Heat. There was a lot of expectation for the players to have instant success. In their first year, together they made it with the team to the NBA Finals, but they ended up losing to the Dallas Mavericks. It was the duos’ second year, when the Heat finally started to gel and they captured their first title, starting a “big three” era, that was adopted in playoffs.
Dwayne Wade already had a championship ring before linking up with James and Bosh. Based on the Heats’ postseason experience, it doesn’t look good for the Cavaliers, and I don’t see them organizing a championship parade any time soon. Kyrie Irving has zero playoff experience; Kevin Love has zero playoff experience; and you guessed it: Dion Waiters has zero playoff experience. Expecting the Cavaliers to lift the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy may be just too high of expectation for the team this season.
The Cavaliers will have to battle the Chicago Bulls for wins in the Eastern Conference. It would be made a lot tougher, for the Cavs, if Derrick Rose, from the Bulls, could stay on the court. Rose has only played a combined 49 games in the last two seasons, because he has suffered from knee injuries each of the two years. This year, Rose has already missed several games, due to him being cautious about his knee history. Recently, he also sustained a hamstring injury. Rose could also very well earn the nickname “glass-man,” not because he can grab rebounds, but because he’s really that fragile of a player.
The Portland Trail Blazers are extremely dangerous this year too. They have one of the better, and often overlooked, star player trios, with Damian Lillard, Lamarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum.
Other teams to watch are, head coach, Doc Rivers’, Los Angeles Clippers, and Stephen Curry’s Golden State Warriors, as well as the Dallas Mavericks, the Houston Rockets, the Memphis Grizzlies and the Washington Wizards.
Overall, this NBA season is going to be one of the more difficult years to predict. It’ll be tough to tell which team is going to win it all, considering how close the teams really are. Although nothing looks certain this season, the only guarantee is that it’s going to be a fun and an exciting ride.