With the NBA season just 2 weeks away from Tip-off, I wanted to list my top 5 story-lines heading into this year, and give people an idea of what is to come in the 2018-2019 NBA season.
LeBron James is a LAKER!
Even if you knew nothing about the NBA or its players, you probably heard that LeBron James decided to leave Cleveland (again), and take his talents to Hollywood to join a Lakers team lead by President of Basketball operations Magic Johnson and Head Coach Luke Walton. James will become the face of the franchise after signing a 4-year $153 Million dollar contract, and will be tasked with leading a young team of players which include Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma, (Both who were named to an All-Rookie Team last season), Brandon Ingram, and Josh Hart. None of these 4 players are older than 23 years old at the moment so LeBron will be tested as he has never played with such a young supporting cast. The Lakers also added veterans Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, and JaVale McGee to help with the development of their young core. James knows it will take time to develop this new group of players, saying at Media day how they have a long way to go, but the talent is certainly there. I think the Lakers will finish in 7th or 8th in the west and probably get bounced in the 1st round by the Warriors or Rockets, (assuming those are the top 2 teams in the West again), but it will be the best season that the Lakers have had in 5 years. The NBA is better when the Lakers are relevant, and know, they just might be the most relevant team in the league not named The Warriors.
2. Will the Warriors complete the 3-peat?
After winning their 2nd title in a row, and 3rd in the last 4 years, the Golden State Warriors are officially a dynasty. Now they look to become just the 6th team in NBA history to win 3-straight NBA Championships, (Last done from 2000-2002 by Shaq and Kobe’s Lakers). Lead by superstars Kevin Durant and Stephan Curry, the team is bringing back almost everybody from last years Championship squad. However, somehow, someway, the Warriors managed to get even better in the offseason by signing Demarcus Cousins to a 1-year $5.3 Million dollar deal. Cousins, who averaged 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds, (career high), and 5.4 assists, (career high), per game, is coming back from a torn achilles tendon he suffered at the end of January 2018, but recently an article from Sporting News stated the 4-time All-Star could be back on the court sooner rather than later. Once he returns, the Golden State Warriors will be the first team in Modern NBA History to have 5 starters on the floor who were ALL All-Stars in the previous season. If they can figure out how to effective use all 5 starters and play like they have in the past few years, its hard not to put them as your favorite to win it all and 3-peat.
3. The West is the Best! (but don’t sleep on the East)
Its been known for a while that the Western Conference has been the stronger of the two conference for the past 2 decades or so. 14 of the last 20 NBA Champions were Western Conference teams and every year, it seems like the team that comes out of the Western Conference is always just slightly better than the one from the East minus a few really good Eastern Conference teams. None the less, the landscape of what teams the best players in the league play on speaks volumes to the fact that the West is better than the East. If you look at Sports Illustrated’s Top 100 NBA players list, you will find that 8 of the top 10 players, and 14 of the top 20 players play on a Western Conference team. While the East gets made fun of by the Media for being the weaker conference, or ask Skip Bayless calls is, the Leastern Conference, the teams are starting to improve. With the rises of Celtics, Sixers, and Raptors as the top dogs in the east, and good up-in-coming teams like the Heat, Pacers, and Bucks, the eastern conference will be more exciting than it has been in a long time. Oh, and for the 1st time since 2010, a LeBron James lead team will not be representing the Eastern Conference in the NBA finals, so you can bet every other team is ready to take that next step towards a title.
4. New Shot-Clock Rule
The NBA made some new changes to their rule book this offseason, and the change that stood out to me the most was the Shot Clock rule. Starting this year the shot clock will now reset to 14 seconds instead of 24 seconds like it would in the past.
The NBA has been testing this new style of play for the last 3 years in the D-League, the WNBA, and international competitions, but will finally be making it a rule in the NBA. Commissioner Adam Silver hopes this new rule will make games faster, and more exciting for the fans, while also making it tougher on teams to score after they have already had a possession. I think this is great for the NBA. Now a-days with attention spans being shorter, and people not wanting to spend 3+ hours watching a game, the NBA is looking for ways to effectively make their sport better for everyone, while still keeping the integrity of the game in place. I can’t wait to see what this new rule change will bring for the NBA.
5. Formation of more Super-Teams
Lets not pretend like this is not a thing. In fact, lets stop pretending like this has not been a thing in the NBA for almost 30 years now. That “thing” is NBA super teams. A lot of talk has surrounded the Golden State Warriors over the past few seasons, after the team that went 73-9 went out and added the 2nd best player in the world to an already loaded roster forming a “Super-Team”. However, many people tend to forget that super-teams have been a thing long before the Warriors of the mid 2010’s. You also don’t have to look that far back to find them either. The 2010-2014 Heat, the 2008-2010 Celtics, 2003-2007 Spurs, 2000-2002 Lakers, 1996-1998 Bulls, 1991-1993 Bulls, 1988-1990 Pistons, 1980-1990 Lakers, 1959-1969 Celtics, and more. At the end of the day, the teams that want to win are going to have to put the best possible line ups on the floor every night in order to have a chance. Sometimes that means super-stars will team up and go form a super team because that is the only way to give yourself a chance at the ultimate prize of an NBA title. I know the last few years have not been great for the super teams of the NBA with only 2 teams able to beat the Warriors more than twice in a series, (Cavs ’16, Rockets ’17), but the NBA has super teams on the rise. Teams like the Lakers, Celtics, and Sixers, all who have storied franchises, are following in the foot steps trying to build a dynasty of their own with teams like the Rockets, Thunder, and Timberwolves, not far away from becoming super teams in their own right. Don’t hate the super team, embrace it, because they are here to stay.