NBA Season Underway

Aaron Pellican

Now that the MLB season is over, all that a lot of sports fans have to focus on now is football and the brand-new NBA season.  This year’s NBA season, for the first time in a while, leaves a lot to be answered. For the last five years, the Golden State Warriors have been the clear-cut favorites to win the NBA championship year in and year out.  Every year just seemed like a contest to see who would emerge out of the eastern conference to face the Warriors in the Finals. And before the Warriors dominant run, was the Miami Heat’s four year run with LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh in which they made four straight finals appearances as well.  For some time now the league has been very unbalanced. This all seemed to take a step in the right direction this past year, when Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors upset the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. This marked a catastrophic series of events for Golden State which led to the departure of Kevin Durant to the Brooklyn Nets, a Klay Thompson torn ACL, and now a Steph Curry broken hand.  Even though the team signed D’Angelo Russell in the offseason, their lack of depth, and quite honestly, talent, without Thompson and Curry has Golden State looking at a miserable 2019-20 campaign which should result in a lottery pick for the 2020 NBA Draft. This, along with the fact that LeBron James no longer has the Eastern Conference under his thumb, leaves the entire league up for grabs. This season truly appears to be unpredictable which is cause for a lot of excitement around the league and for fans everywhere. 

As for the rest of the league, an eventful offseason shook up a lot of different things around the league.  Kawhi Leonard and Paul George teamed up on the Los Angeles Clippers and appear to be the favorites to win this year’s championship.  Following a blockbuster deal which landed Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans, the LA Lakers are also one of the heavy favorites to take home the title as well.  Outside of trading for Davis, the Lakers were able to make other great moves this offseason such as signing 2-time NBA champion Danny Green, former all-star Dwight Howard, Javale Mcgee, Avery Bradley, and Demarcus Cousins.  So far, both the Lakers and the Clippers are off to great starts and appear to be the teams to beat ten games into this season. It should be noted, however, that the Clippers are playing without Paul George, and will be for a little while longer.  The rest of the Western Conference is extremely talented as well and makes for what might be one of the most competitive conferences in recent sports memory. Right in the thick of things along with the Clippers and the Lakers are the Denver Nuggets who came up short last season in the playoffs.  They sport a young roster filled with incredible talent and are adding 2018 lottery pick Michael Porter Jr. into the mix this season after he missed all of last season following back surgery. If Porter can further develop along with the rest of an already well-established team, the Nuggets have a real chance to take the West for their own.  Along with the Nuggets are the Dallas Mavericks, lead by Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, as well as the Portland Trailblazers and the Houston Rockets who traded for all-star point guard, Russell Westbrook, this offseason.  

The Eastern Conference, like the Western Conference, is very much up for grabs.  But unlike the Western Conference, only a couple of teams stand a true chance at making a championship run this season.  Last year, the Toronto Raptors won the championship, but following the departure of Kawhi Leonard in the offseason, they are left with a solid core that lacks superstar talent.  This will be enough to secure a potential playoff spot in the East, but not a championship run. The two teams poised to make a real run this season are the Milwaukee Bucks and the Philadelphia 76ers.  Milwaukee came up two wins short of advancing to the NBA Finals last season but lost to the Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals. Led by last year’s MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks are the favorites to win the East this year.  The Bucks are the biggest team in the league, in terms of height, and offer so many matchup issues in a league that has trended in the other direction, playing small ball. Right there with the Bucks, however, are the Philadelphia 76ers. Led by Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, the Sixers boast what is one of the most talented rosters in the NBA.  The team signed perennial all-star Al Horford over the offseason and resigned Tobias Harris to add to what was already an impressive and deep roster. Following a heartbreaking game 7 loss to the Toronto Raptors last season in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, the Sixers are ready to take the next step towards creating a dynasty in Philadelphia.  Outside of these two teams, the Eastern Conference is filled with great talent as well as youth. Young, developing teams are riddled throughout the conference such as the Boston Celtics, who some would argue could win the East, the Heat, led by Jimmy Butler, the Hawks, the Magic, the Bulls, etc. While the previous notion that the Western Conference is far more superior than the Eastern Conference may still be true, the gap is beginning to close as youthful talent continues to take over sports worldwide.  

My prediction for this season is a Los Angeles Clippers vs. Philadelphia 76ers NBA Finals in which the Clippers win in 6 games, bringing home the first Clippers championship in franchise history and making Kawhi Leonard the first player in NBA history to win the first NBA championship for two different franchises in his career.