The smoke of battle has barely faded on NBA’s weirdest and longest season ever. The victors and the vanquished have left the historic Bubble in Florida. The celebrations in Los Angeles have hardly ended. And now, the NBA must prepare itself for the new season now set to open this December.
With an interesting draft coming up next week, and the trade deadline soon to follow, I look at my crystal ball – however hazy it may be – to see how the next season will play out.
The Los Angeles Lakers won the title this year, but as the saying goes: uneasy is the head that wears the crown. The Lakers enters the arena as presumptive favorites, but it has a roster that is due to be revamped owing to the short-term contracts laid out for most of its supporting cast. LA had relied heavily on the super-duo of Lebron James and Anthony Davis. Take note that Lebron and AD were the only players averaging more than 11 points in the playoffs. With an uncertain supporting cast, the Lakers do not look dominant at all. Unless another star decides to join the team. They will need that proverbial 3rd star to make a stronger case for a consecutive crown. Expect a revamped supporting cast as some key players are set to leave.
Over on the other camps, the league’s elite teams aim to up the ante by filling their own rosters with 2 to 3 stars, supported by a mix of next level role players.
The Golden State Warriors, seemingly disrespected after not being invited to the Bubble last post-season, are raring to get back to the spotlight. With the tested triumvirate of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green providing the leadership and experience, plus a number 2 pick in the draft, the Warriors will pose a big thorn on the Lakers’ repeat campaign. What they need right now is a strong inside operator to complete the team, one who can bang bodies with AD and the rest of the Lakers’ big men.
The Denver Nuggets were the gate-crashers to the expected intra-LA showdown last season. The Nuggets gained tons of playoff experience with a pair of fight-backs from a 1-3 deficit. Heroic. Historic. Humongous. Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray are now certified stars in the league; plus they have a mean bunch of secondaries in Jerami Grant, Michael Porter Jr and the rest whose upside we haven’t even scratched yet. Imagine if they succeed in getting Bol Bol to mature, giving the team an even higher ceiling. With Jokic capable of manning all positions – including the coach’s – this could just be the team of the future.
The LA Clippers, perennial bridesmaid to the Lakers’ bride, will have learned valuable lessons in chemistry during this off-season. If Kawhi Leonard and Paul George – and new coach Ty Lue – reach out and work their issues with the rest of the crew, they will pose a clear and present danger to the Lakers. They will need a good point guard to provide leadership on the court, in the same way Tony Parker in San Antonio and Kyle Lowry in Toronto worked wonders for Kawhi’s game. Other than that, the support cast have much better skill sets than the Lakers, plus they have the size. If the crew decides to stay, it’s now a tricky matter of jelling their individual talents to max the performance of this team.
Over in the east, 3 teams look ready to challenge the Bucks for the regular season conference flag.
The Miami Heat, with an intact line-up, a new-found chemistry, the recent playoff experience, plus enough cap space to land a superstar, will be a force to reckon with. To use their salary cap money wisely, they will need to invest on another big man to spell Bam Adebayo. This was their Waterloo in the Finals against the Lakers. The Heat just couldn’t match up with the Lakers’ size.
The Boston Celtics will continue to improve. With an intact young core of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart, plus veteran Kemba Walker, this team is just a dominant center away from the centerstage. If only Al Horford had stayed. If only Tacko Fall develops.
Finally, look out for the Brooklyn Nets this year. With the duo of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving now fit to play, plus the vastly improving Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris Levert, this team will be exciting to watch. Now, they’ll have to work on their chemistry.
The Milwaukee Bucks’ chances remain iffy. If Giannis decides to stay. If management decides to spend for another offensive option to spell out Giannis and Khris Middleton. Answer that and they should still be the team to beat in the east.
The NBA season is fast approaching. Next week, we have an interesting draft that will usher in future stars LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards and James Wiseman. Expect a lot of horse-trading after that. Expect some big stars to change uniforms as well. Already the names of Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Chris Paul, Kemba Walker, Myles Turner, Bradley Beal, Victor Oladipo, Demar DeRozan, Gordon Hayward and Jrue Holiday are being floated around as trade bait. Get anyone of these stars to join any of the teams above, and you’ve got a game-changer. Until that time, this is how our crystal ball views the upcoming season.
For a clearer view, just click on the pics. Cover photo courtesy of the Draft Kings Nation. Other pics courtesy of: Fadeaway World, YouTube, World In Sport, Indy Star, The Pelican Brief, The Sports Rush, The Bird Writes, MSN.com, ClutchPoints, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Miami Herald, CGTN.com, and myKhel.