The long wait is finally over and a new NBA season begins when the 76ers lock horns with the Celtics in Boston on Tuesday night. Excitement is mounting among millions of fans across the world and there are several important talking points to consider before the new campaign begins.
Five Key Talking Points Ahead of the Upcoming NBA Season
Can Anyone Topple the Warriors?
Golden State blew away the Cavaliers in last season’s NBA Finals to secure a second championship in as many years. Then they went out and snapped up All-Star stalwart DeMarcus Cousins to bolster an already fearsome roster featuring Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguodala, leaving the rest of the league to shake its collective head in despair. The Houston Rockets came closest to stopping them last season, finishing ahead of the Dubs in the regular season standings and then taking them to Game 7 in the Western Conference Finals. Houston’s success was built upon the dynamic backcourt partnership of James Harden and Chris Paul, while Clint Capela was also key.
All three remain in Houston, while Carmelo Anthony has joined the party, so they will be dangerous once again, although they have lost a couple of important players in Luc Mbah a Moute and Trevor Ariza. The only other team that looks like it might be able to stop Golden State is Boston if it can keep key men Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving healthy. But if you check out the basketball spread betting you will see that the Warriors are well ahead of Boston and Houston in the oddsmakers’ estimations and a Golden State three-peat seems all but inevitable.
Will LeBron Seize That Elusive MVP?
The biggest move of the summer saw LeBron James head to LA to begin a new chapter of his career with the Lakers. The man hailed as the greatest of all-time by many fans and commentators enjoyed a magnificent renaissance for the Cavs last season and he came within a whisker of securing an elusive fifth regular season MVP award, only to lose out to an inspired Harden. James remains on four, level with Wilt Chamberlain, one behind Michael Jordan and Bill Russell and two behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Many fans claim that Jordan stands out in front as the GOAT, but a fifth MVP would give further ammunition to James’ backers. He posted some freakish numbers for Cleveland last year and he played a huge number of minutes, and if he can repeat such heroics for a Lakers team that he will surely dominate then he could finally add to his tally. Yet he faces stern competition from Anthony Davis and Giannis Antetokounmpo, while Harden is sure to be on fire once again, so this should prove to be a thrilling season-long battle.
Who Will Seize the East?
James’ departure blows the east wide open and it will be fascinating to see who emerges as the conference’s star player, with Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard and Joel Embiid all legitimate contenders. Toronto finished top of the standings last season but fell apart in the playoffs. Boston soldiered on bravely despite being hit by a raft of injuries, but they ultimately found James too strong and the Cavs seized the conference. The Celtics, led by the superb Brad Stevens, are now the favorites to win the Eastern Conference, and that makes a great deal of sense.
They have a terrific young team, featuring Al Horford, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, with Irving back in business and Hayward now as good as a new signing. But the potential of the Philadelphia 76ers is huge, as Brett Brown also has a phenomenal raft of young talent to call upon. Embiid and Ben Simmons are already superstars, while Markelle Fultz could be brilliant if the coaching staff can harness his raw talent. These two teams should go on to dominate the NBA in years to come, and it will be fascinating to see who comes out on top this year. Throw in the Raptors and you have an intriguing conference.
Will Toronto’s Gamble on Leonard Pay Off?
Leonard missed the majority of last season with a mystery injury and rumors of a falling out with the San Antonio hierarchy would not go away, so it was no surprise to see him request a trade.
He has wound up in Toronto to link up with a Raptors team that finished top of the Eastern Conference standings last season, only to lose 4-0 to Cleveland in the playoff semi-finals. DeMar DeRozan was the star of the show for the Raptors last season, so they took a huge gamble in trading him to San Antonio in order to secure the services of Leonard. Yet if he stays fit it could prove to be an inspired move. Leonard is arguably the second best player in the league, possibly even the best all-rounder, and if he plays to his full potential he will certainly be the finest player in the east, capable of leading Toronto to glory. If the ailment that plagued him has cleared up, he could wreak havoc this season, even if he is eyeing up a 2019 move to LA.
Who is the Best Rookie?
The rookie of the year race is always entertaining and there are plenty of exciting contenders this year: Luka Doncic, DeAndre Ayton, Collin Sexton, Marvin Bagley, Kevin Knox, Trae Young, Wendell Carter Jr., and Mo Bamba all look exciting. Doncic is the favorite to claim the honor, after finishing as the Euroleague MVP last year, and he should have plenty of opportunities to shine in Dallas. But Ayton looks he could be even better, given his number one pick status, his impressive physicality and his debut stats. The 7’1, 250lbs Bahamian should be guaranteed a starting berth for the Suns, and he is likely to lead the rookies in points and rebounds, so he will take some stopping in this category.
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