Without a doubt the biggest story line of the season will be the blockbuster trade that sent All-Star Cavalier point guard Kyrie Irving from Cleveland to Boston in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, and the Nets 2018 first round pick. The Celtics have completely revamped themselves, returning just 4 starters from last year’s team and acquiring Gordon Hayward in free agency to play alongside Isaiah Thomas. The Celtics have looked impressive in the preseason, going 4-0 leading up to a matchup with Cleveland to open the NBA season on Tuesday. A major key to the Celtics success will be the performance of the two young, high draft pick forwards on the team: Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Both have shown a lot of promise and will have the chance to prove it this year. Meanwhile, things in Cleveland may get interesting if newcomers Isaiah Thomas, Dwayne Wade, and Jae Crowder don’t perform well during Lebron’s potential final season with the Cavaliers.
Despite winning the NBA championship for the second time in 3 years, the whispers are once again there for the Golden State Warriors: Could they be even better this year? Golden State won 67, 73, and 67 games during the last three years en route to 3 straight Western Conference titles. However, with a healthy Kevin Durant that has plenty of potential to improve on his first season with the Warriors, in addition to re-signing Iguodala, adding Nick Young, and adding Omri Casspi, the Warriors are locked and loaded yet again. Draymond Green has already come out and said that nobody else has a chance this year, and that may be hard to argue if this team stays healthy and plays up to its potential. What is the ceiling for this team? We’ll have to wait and see how things unfold in order to know for sure.
Last year, the story was all about Russell Westbrook’s triple double chase as a one man wrecking crew that single handedly led OKC to the playoffs and picked up his first career MVP award. Now, with the additions of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, Westbrook will be looking for more than just personal accolades this year: he believes this team can compete in the West. The Thunder made the playoffs as a 6 seed last year, so adding two great playmakers certainly gives them a chance to be in the Top 4 despite an extremely competitive West. Paul Pierce’s bold prediction this season was that the Thunder would go all the way to a championship. It will certainly be a good test for coach Billy Donovan to manage the 3 All-Star players and maximize their abilities to make a deep playoff run.
Another very interesting storyline to follow this year will be James Harden and Chris Paul’s co-existence in Houston. If everything works out well, Houston will be able to keep one of the two on the floor at all times and maximize scoring potential from two of the best guards in the league. However, if things backfire then an aging Chris Paul will miss time with injury and the two guards will run a one dimensional team and have far more turnovers than is acceptable. Much like the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Rockets have a chance to be really good if they figure out the chemistry between the current and new stars on the team.
After one of the most hyped up draft classes in recent memory, the performance of the top rookies will certainly be something to watch this year. Philadelphia technically has two rookies who were both #1 overall picks in Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz. The expectations are so high for these guys that many people are saying the Sixers have a shot at the playoffs. Then there is Lonzo Ball on the Lakers. Known almost as much for his father’s off the court antics, Lonzo is a phenomenal on the court talent as well. His passing is already approaching elite levels, but the concern has always been his jump shot mechanics. Finally, Jayson Tatum of the Celtics is the only Top 3 pick to actually be drafted by a winning team. He won’t have to do as much as Fultz and Ball, but his role could be extremely important on a team with championship aspirations.
#1 Boston Celtics
#2 Cleveland Cavaliers
#3 Washington Wizards
#4 Toronto Raptors
#5 Miami Heat
#6 Milwaukee Bucks
#7 Charlotte Hornets
#8 Detroit Pistons
#1 Golden State Warriors
#2 Oklahoma City Thunder
#3 Houston Rockets
#4 San Antonio Spurs
#5 Minnesota Timberwolves
#6 New Orleans Pelicans
#7 Denver Nuggets
#8 Los Angeles Clippers
Coach of the Year: Tom Thibodeau (MIN)
Rookie of the Year: Ben Simmons (PHI)
Defensive Player of the Year: Kawhi Leonard (SAS)
MVP: Kyrie Irving (BOS)
WARRIORS DEFEAT CELTICS IN 6 GAMES