MUST-SEE TV: NBA Stories To Follow This Season
The changing of the leaves from summer to fall means that your favorite shows are back from vacation and ready to top last year’s performances. The NBA is no exception. After an offseason that saw Magic Johnson land the game’s best player, the Warriors upgrade at center and the Spurs’ franchise player “request” a trade, this season should be as entertaining as ever.
This is the time of year where fantasy football lineups are neglected, and we watch the Roundball Rock origin story on a constant loop. Basketball is back, baby! Here now are the stories the OTG staff will be closely watching this season.
Los Angeles Gets Its Leading Man
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
Hollywood is made for stars, and there are few stars bigger than LeBron James. After delivering on his promise to bring a championship to Cleveland, James opted to take his talents to Tinsel Town. And though the Decision III was not as dramatic as the original, James’ move to the Western Conference is still a plot twist worthy of attention. Will James be able to continue his dominant run, or will the Western Conference prove too much even for him? And how will the young core hold up to the scrutiny of playing with James?
The consensus is that being on a team with James is both a blessing and a curse. Former James’ teammates Chris Bosh and Kevin Love have each acknowledged as much, and they were both all-stars in their primes. How will relative NBA novices Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart hold up? This much is true – if there is one franchise that can handle the TMZ-like scrutiny of running with the James Gang, it’s the Lakers.
Golden State Looks to Make History
(Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports)
The two-time defending champs are looking to complete a three-peat this season, becoming the first team to do so since the Shaq-Kobe Lakers of 2000-2002. And unlike that dynasty that ultimately ended in turmoil, Golden State has shown no signs of implosion. They actually improved this offseason. This summer, in yet another move that would support the argument they are light years ahead of other franchises, the Warriors signed DeMarcus Cousins, giving Golden State one of the most dominant starting line-ups in NBA history.
Pat Riley once warned against the “disease of more” during his tenure as head coach of the Showtime Lakers dynasty of the 80s. With success, Riley argued, players inevitably wanted more – more shots, more minutes, more money – and these wants place the player’s desires ahead the team’s goals, often ending in ruins.
There are rumblings that Durant may look for new opportunities next summer. Thompson is a free agent and top target of the Lakers, with whom Thompson’s father Mychal won titles in 1987 and 1988. And Cousins, still rehabbing from an Achilles’ injury, will use this season as an opportunity to position himself for a big payday next summer.
The Warriors have been immune to this affliction thus far, but the symptoms are there. The other 29 teams better pray for a full-blown diagnosis of “the disease of more” because it may be the only way to slow Golden State down.
Who Wins The East?
(Charles Krupa/Associated Press)
In Season Five of The Sopranos, New York crime boss Carmine Lupertazzi suffers a stroke on the golf course and ultimately dies, leaving a power vacuum in the aftermath. What does this have to do with Eastern Conference prognosticating? Well, a lot, actually.
Like the Lupertazzi crime family, there is now a power vacuum in the East. As noted, James has moved on and taken his eight consecutive trips to the NBA Finals with him. In his wake are a number of dynasties he ended (Boston and Detroit) and a few that never got started because of his presence (Indiana, Chicago and Toronto).
The smart money is on the Celtics to emerge as the top team in the East. Boston overachieved last season without the services of its two biggest acquisitions, Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, to reach the Conference Finals before losing to Cleveland. Irving and Hayward return to arguably the deepest roster in the NBA.
The Raptors essentially kept its team intact and upgraded from DeMar DeRozan to Kawhi Leonard, acquiring the former Finals MVP via trade in the offseason. Like Boston, Toronto has the potential to be a defensive nightmare for opposing teams with multiple line-ups options. Philadelphia still seems a player away, but Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons may be the best 1-2 punch in the conference. Throw in the Wizards, Pacers and Bucks, and the Eastern Conference is as deep as it’s been since the mid-90s.
The Finals representative from the East will not feature James for the first time since 2011, but there are plenty of teams ready to take his place.
Free Agent Summer 2019
(Chris Young/Canadian Press)
It seems fitting that one of the most interesting stories to follow this season is what will happen the first day of next season, specifically July 1, 2019. Free Agency 2019 has the potential to be the most impactful summers in recent history. Marquee talent like Durant, Leonard and Klay Thompson are all available next year. Irving recently committed to remain a Celtic, but nothing is certain until the ink dries on the contract.
Not to be outdone, players under contract could be on the move during the season. Minnesota’s Jimmy Butler is engaged in a highly publicized trade request. According to basketball talking heads, CJ McCollum or Damian Lillard could be on the move should Portland not come out of the gates strong. And then there is New Orleans Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis, who hired Clutch Sports to represent him. Clutch Sports is owned by Maverick Carter and James; let the conspiracy theories commence.