During the last NBA playoffs, I asked you guys to better savor the action to the very last drop as the next season would usher in a totally different, totally unpredictable and totally wild environment. Well, true enough, we are now faced with a whole new world in the NBA, with more than 10 teams in contention for the crown.
The next season promises to be full of excitement, with new storylines and new alliances arising from an outrageously-rich free agent market; from a super-talented draft which produced exciting new faces; and from the evolution of new tactics and techniques that brought in a slew of hybrid players. Imagine the likes of Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Paul George, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, Al Horford, D’Angelo Russell – All-Stars all – transferring teams. Bring in Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, RJ Barrett and more coming from the draft. Wow!!! This is gonna be wild, folks!
There are no dominant teams in the league right now, unlike in previous seasons when the Warriors were clearly head-and-shoulders above the rest. And the wheeling and dealing ain’t over yet! I counted no less than 11 teams worth mentioning, and if their chemistry kicks in, if the right breaks are there, if they emerge lucky and injury-free come the crucial playoffs, then one of these teams could be the next cinderella Raptors.
I figured that in order for a team to get ahead in the race for the coveted NBA ring, the following factors need to be considered (not necessarily by order of importance): owner pockets, coaching experience, team culture, bench depth, shooting ability, court leadership, defensive intensity, age, youth, speed, maturity, team chemistry. The stats that matter most to me are: total rebounds, field goal percentage and assists. To my mind, the team that dominates the rebounds, produces the better overall shooting, and collects more assists will produce the most number of wins to bring it to the playoffs. That said, here are the teams that have a chance at the NBA trophy next season.
The LA Clippers are considered a top contender for the crown next year. With Playoff MVP Kawhi Leonard, season MVP contender Paul George, plus Patrick Beverley manning the defense, opponents will find a hard time getting to the basket. Having a bench depth which will include Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell; plus a grizzled coach in Doc Rivers makes this team one of the top favorites. This could be the year the Clippers finally erase the Laker dominance over El-ay.
But the LA Lakers are no patsies either. The Lebron James- Anthony Davis duo looks formidable. Imagine them on the court with Demarcus Cousins, Javale McGee and Kyle Kuzma, and you have an audacious line-up of bulked-up behemoths. AD is flexible enough to slide down to the 3 -spot. Demarcus takes the 4-spot and voila! This could be the perfect anathema to Golden State’s small-ball philosophy. The questions that will arise from this Laker starting five, however, will be: Lebron’s suitability as point guard, their team chemistry, the player-coach relations and age issues. This will be the year El-Ay becomes the mecca of NBA Basketball.
The Golden State Warriors, starring Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, come back this season as heavy playoff favorites. However, the absence of Kevin Durant will make them more vulnerable than ever. With the cerebral coach Steve Kerr, plus new All-Star addition D’Angelo Russell, you have an exciting and wily team still ready to compete at the highest levels. Will ‘small ball’ hold on its own against the upcoming challenge of ‘positionless ball’?
The Milwaukee Bucks almost made the Finals if they didn’t meet a catastrophe named Kawhi. This team has current regular season MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe, but returns minus Malcolm Brogdon. It is still talented enough, and big enough, to make a strong run for the top.
The Philadelphia 76ers will always trust the process. This team is young, tall and talented, with Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris and new arrival Al Horford. This could be another version of a pioneering ‘Tall-Ball’ concept. Significantly absent though are Jimmy Butler and JJ Redick, both prolific scorers. This team should be second only to the LA Lakers in terms of talent.
The Denver Nuggets are led by the dynamic duo of Nikola Jokic and Jamaal Murray. However, they may need a 3rd star to make it to the next level. They are young, talented, exciting and full of potential.
The Utah Jazz made some solid moves to address their shortcomings last season. Mike Conley joins forces with Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert to form a strong triumvirate. With ample help from Bogdan Bogdanovic and Joe Ingles, I wouldn’t be surprised if Utah gives the big guys a run for their money.
The Portland Trailblazers have cold-blooded shooters in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. With the comebacking big man Jusuf Nurkic, plus transferees Hassan Whiteside and Pau Gasol bolstering the middle, the Blazers have a good chance of improving on their past performance.
The Boston Celtics may have lost Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, Terry Rozier, and Marcus Morris, but in return, they got Kemba Walker and Enes Kanter. The trades are a clear attempt to achieve better chemistry for the team. With Kemba, Gordon Hayward, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, the team still has enough firepower to move north in the playoffs, if the right chemistry kicks in.
The Houston Rockets made a shock trade recently, bringing in Russell Westbrook for Chris Paul. Personally, I feel this is a bad idea, with both James Harden and Westbrook being ball-dominant MVP types. However, if their team chemistry clicks, it could go all the way to the Finals.
Finally, the Brooklyn Nets. I know that Kevin Durant is expected not to force himself into action till next season. Still, this team deserves special mention for the potential threat it poses. And if the Nets reach the playoffs, I foresee Durant itching to get back in the fray. Teaming up with Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan, we have a great trio combo that could give the other contenders a run for their money.
As for the titleholders, despite losing Kawhi and Danny Green, Toronto’s championship line-up will still compete. With the invaluable playoff experience, the Raptors are now far better players than they were at the start of last season. With Kyle Lowry, emerging star Paskal Siakam (watch out for this guy), plus the likes of OG Anunoby, veterans Fred Van Fleet, Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol, the drive for positionless ball moves forward.
There you have it, folks. New sets of Dynamic Duos and Triple Threats emerging after 3 years of the Warriors’ close-to-disrespectful Fantastic Four. There is more parity in the NBA now, thanks to a strong player involvement in the free agent market. This, plus the arrival of new talents from the draft which aims to strengthen the lower echelon teams, will make our adventure with the NBA a most interesting one. Thus, there is the promise of more excitement, and more thrilling action when the new season opens this November. See you soon!
For a closer look, just click on the pics. Pics courtesy of New York Post, Fadeaway World, Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report, The Ringer, Sports Daily, ABS-CBN, Blazers’ Edge, Fox Sports, Clutch points, Yahoo Sports, NBA.com, NBC and Sports Techie.