It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago that we were watching Kevin Durant and the rest of the Golden State Warriors hoist up the Larry O’Brien Trophy to celebrate their Finals victory, but it is already time for another NBA season. Last year KD and the Warriors were the big story and they were heavy favorites to take home the title. This year they are once again the favorites to win the title, but this year there are too many storylines to count. Between Kyrie wanting out of Cleveland and joining Boston, Russ getting new weapons in Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, James Harden getting help from Chris Paul, Jimmy Butler joining the Timberwolves, Dwayne Wade teaming up with LeBron once again, almost all of the top teams have a significant storyline. On top of that, there’s a great class of young talent entering the league. The Sixers landed Markelle Fultz to team up with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, Lakers got their leading man after drafting Lonzo Ball, the Celtics grabbed Jayson Tatum, and that’s only some of the star studded draft class. This NBA season has all of the makings to be a great one.
While the Warriors are the favorites this year, it will not be as easy of a road as it was last season. Last season the addition of Kevin Durant made the Warriors easily the best team in the league and arguably one of the greatest teams ever assembled, but this year their foes have retooled to give the Warriors a run for their money.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Last year the Thunder were no threat to the Warriors, being swept in the season series, but this year the Thunder look to be a legitimate threat in the Western Conference. After an ongoing saga, the Pacers finally traded Paul George and the Thunder ended up being the lucky suitors. This looked to be enough to bolster the roster, but the Thunder became a real threat when Sam Presti worked his magic to land Carmelo Anthony. With a big three of Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony the Thunder look to be a real threat in the West. Their bench still needs some work, and on paper the Warriors still have a better team, but if George and Anthony buy into Oklahoma City you have to think this team could make some noise in June.
The Celtics had a great offseason even before adding Kyrie Irving when they drafted Jayson Tatum and signed Gordon Hayward. The addition of Tatum and Hayward alone made the Celtics a formidable threat to Cleveland in the Eastern Conference and adding Kyrie only made them better, the only problem is they gave away valuable pieces to Cleveland to get Kyrie. The Celtics were the number one seed in the East last year and I can see them repeating again because the Cavs sleep walk through the regular season, but I don’t see the Celtics taking down the almighty Cavs in the playoffs.
As long as LeBron James is in the wine and gold it’s a safe bet to assume that the Cavs will be representing the East in the finals. Getting his buddy Dwayne Wade to join him after landing Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder from the Celtics was huge. Wade may be older, but he is at his best when playing with LeBron and LeBron is happiest when playing with Wade so this move was a win for all involved. The addition of IT and Crowder helps a Cavs bench that desperately needed some life. When IT returns from injury the Cavs bench will consist of Derrick Rose, J.R. Smith, Iman Sumpert, Tristan Thompson, Kyle Korver and other veterans to help keep the offense afloat when LeBron and Co. take a breather. What is even scarier about this Cavs team is that they acquired Brooklyn’s first round pick from Boston and they can use that pick in a package to land a big time player at some point to really help bolster this lineup. The Cavs may not finish as the top seed in the East, but they should still be the team repping the East in this year’s finals.
The Rockets looked like they won the offseason when they landed Chris Paul in a trade from the LA Clippers, but then all the other top teams started making moves and this moved looked as if the Rockets may be in no better shape than they were last year. The Rockets may have gotten better by adding Chris Paul, but everyone around them got better as well so ultimately the Rockets look to be locked in a stalemate.
Western Conference Playoff Predictions: