The NBA has been turned on its head during this offseason. With a lot of player movement the fortunes of franchises have changed and the landscape of the league looks drastically different than last season. No longer are the Warriors unbeatable and the Lakers will no longer be a laughingstock with LeBron James and Anthony Davis joining forces. The best player on the Toronto Raptors, Kawhi Leonard leaves the team after winning the NBA Championship. Leonard is just a different type of player and person, further showing this by returning to his hometown roots, to the Clippers and becoming the first star in NBA history to leave the championship winning team.
The West has become more wide open with a weakened Warriors squad and promising teams like the Nuggets, Rockets, Jazz, Clippers, Trail Blazers and Lakers all hopeful to reach the NBA Finals. The playoff race in the West will be exciting to follow all season as there are more than 8 teams that have a realistic chance at reaching the postseason. The Kings, Mavericks and Pelicans should all improve after missing out on the playoffs in the previous season. The Kings have a nice mixture of young talent and De’aaron Fox will look to make his first All Star team as his end to end speed makes him a point guard that will soon join the ranks of the elite. The Mavericks improved as Luka Doncic now has star big man, Kristaps Porzingis to play with. Doncic should continue his development and become one of the premier lead guards in the league as he plays with a 6th sense on the court being able to see plays before they happen. The Pelicans have a reloaded team following the haul they got in the Anthony Davis trade. With future draft picks and the additions of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, Derrick Favors and Zion Williamson the Pelicans should be League Pass favorites as Zion is the most anticipated rookie to enter the league since LeBron James.
James and Davis should form a dynamic duo that should fit well together as James is a willing passer and Davis is an elite finisher around the rim. Down the hallway of Staples Center, the Clippers may have the best two way wings in the league. With Kawhi Leonard and Paul George on the same team, their defensive acumen will cause opposing offenses fits to consistently score against. The Rockets have a new look by pairing Russell Westbrook with James Harden, the two most ball dominant guards in the league. Mike D’Antoni will have a challenge in coaching these dynamic guards to reach their full potential in a team context. The Warriors lost Kevin Durant to the Nets and Klay Thompson will miss part of the season due to recovering from a torn ACL. The addition of D’Angelo Russell should help the Warriors stay afloat until Thompson returns from injury as Russell is a pick and roll maestro that can take some of the scoring load off of Stephen Curry. The Warriors still have Curry and Draymond Green, meaning they will still be competitive and an exciting team to watch. This will be a different type of Warriors season, but they should still reach the playoffs.
The Jazz have reloaded, getting Donovan Mitchell some ball handling and shooting help with the additions of Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic. This makes them a more potent offensive team and with Rudy Gobert protecting the rim the Jazz have the potential to be a top 5 offensive and defensive team. The Nuggets mostly brought back their same core and added Jerami Grant. Their star duo of Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray should both take steps forward in their development as the Nuggets look to build off a great season, nearly reaching the Western Conference Finals. The Trail Blazers will continue to build around Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, but having no Jusuf Nurkic for part of the season due to injury is somewhat lessened by the additions of Hassan Whiteside and Pau Gasol. The changes to some of the West’s better teams should make for an exciting season with a lot of unknown.
The East looks to become Giannis’ following Leonard’s departure from the conference. The Bucks are looking to build off a historic 60-22 season and an Eastern Conference Finals appearance to become perennial contenders in the league. The Bucks have a lot of continuity bringing back most of last season’s team and the Celtics and Raptors have gotten weaker. The Sixers look like a promising team that could challenge the Bucks with their mix of size and versatility. While they lost Jimmy Butler to the Heat, adding Al Horford and Josh Richardson gives the team two capable players to pair with their star trio of Tobias Harris, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. The videos of Simmons making jumpers in summer pickup games have surfaced, but the question remains if he can translate that skill into live game action. The Celtics and Nets should also figure into the playoff picture, but the loss of Al Horford for the Celtics and the absence of Kevin Durant for the Nets may make the teams weaker than the Bucks and Sixers. Kemba Walker should have a great season for the Celtics as Brad Stevens worked magic coaching Isaiah Thomas, a similar diminutive and dynamic guard to the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2017 NBA playoffs.
The leagues’ two biggest markets in Los Angeles and New York were outdone by the other teams in their city. The Nets signed Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving after the Knicks were the perceived favorite to sign the star duo. Kawhi Leonard chose the Clippers over the Lakers showing that the league has changed and not everyone wants to play with LeBron James and on the Lakers. The brands of the Lakers and Knicks no longer matter as much as the organizational principles that make a franchise successful. The Nets and Clippers have been better run in the past few years than the Lakers and Knicks and are both coming off playoff appearances, positioning themselves for successful off-seasons. The Clippers adding two Southern California natives in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George and the Lakers losing out on both players in successive off-seasons shows how the perception of the Lakers has changed after years of mis-management.
The league is more wide open this season than in recent years and should result in a competitive playoff race. The league has a lot of talent and with the influx of international players, some of the best players are not American. The duo of Jamal Murray, a Canadian player and dynamic shoot first guard and Nikola Jokic, a Serbian player who is the best passing big man in the game look to lead the Nuggets to new heights. Giannis Antetokounmpo, a Greek player lead the league in paint points and has developed into the most dominant player in basketball. Giannis will build off his MVP season as he strives to lead the Bucks to an NBA Championship. The Sixers with the international duo of Ben Simmons, an Australian and Joel Embiid, a Cameroonian player form one of the best big man and guard combos in basketball. Embiid is possibly the best and most skilled big man in the game and is just scratching the surface of his potential. The European duo, a Slovenian in Luka Doncic and a Latvian in Kristaps Porzingis look to have set up the Mavericks for years of winning. With stars from the US and other countries, basketball is expanding its global footprint and proving that great talent can come from anywhere. This should be an exciting NBA season, unlike the ones we’ve seen in recent years.