By Joe Leo
Published: October 24th, 2018
Starting another NBA season allows sports fans to come back to the arena that has become the guilty pleasure of sports fans. In the NBA, there are no aspects of the game that interfere with the product on the floor. There is no overwhelming scandal or problem with the game that makes people turn away like in the NFL, and it is a quick game, unlike baseball where you could be glued to the couch for five hours at time. But with the NBA, the amount of storylines could clog up your Twitter feed for three weeks, so be sure to pay attention to these five storylines heading into the new NBA season.
1. Who has the best chance of being this year’s darling?
Every year, there are rising teams that have spectacular seasons, though fans and “experts” forecasted they would be bottom dwellers. For this year’s darling I’d be sure to look to South Beach. The Miami Heat, they have Dwyane Wade, who is entering his last year, so he will leave everything he has on the court. The rest of the team will give their all to try to give Wade another ring and the crowd in Miami will be extra loud knowing it is the last time they will see one of their city’s greatest. Miami has youthful depth on their roster highlighted by All-Star guard Goran Dragic and guard Josh Richardson who came into his own last year in the Philadelphia series. Erik Spoelstra always gets the most out of his guys and will not put a lack luster group out on the floor. Also, it’ll be easier to represent the East with LeBron going to the Lakers. If there is a time to shock the world in Miami, now would be it.
2. How did last year’s rookies play in their sophomore seasons?
Last year, the NBA saw a great rise in talent from the rookie class with a changing of the guard coming. Jayson Tatum and Donovan Mitchell led the charge as the NBA seemed to finally have its successors to LeBron and Durant. This year, both Tatum and Mitchell will be instrumental forces in propelling their teams into the playoffs and to a potential push towards Finals. Their respective developments cannot be stunted with the importance they warrant on their teams. Tatum and Mitchell must bring it this year and if they don’t, their teams will be left to pick up the pieces.
3. Who has the best chance to win the MVP?
In the NBA, MVP voters tend to get “player jet lag” and don’t vote for certain players. LeBron James has deserved the MVP every year since 2012 because he has repeatedly shown that he is the best player on the planet, but ironically enough, James hasn’t won an MVP since that 2012 season. Steph Curry won back to back awards and under the laws of “player jet lag” won’t win the award unless he breaks a few more records. Westbrook has become a tired gimmick, he is starting the year on the shelf, and James Harden has had three years of jet lag since he has been in the conversation since the 2015-16 season when he exploded into the superstar player he now is.
So, with those All-NBA players off the ballot, who will win the award? My early pick is Giannis Antetokounmpo. Giannis is on a team that could be one of the two best teams in the East and if he leads the Milwaukee Bucks to their best season since Wilt Chamberlin, there is a great chance he would be walking home with the award at seasons end. Not to mention that Giannis, nearing seven feet tall and moving like a gazelle, could light the league on fire and destroy gyms across the country like no other player before him. The potential that Giannis has to be the best player in the league could be perfectly manifested into a marvelous season leaving fans in pure amazement.
4. What team will take control of the East?
With LeBron James transitioning to Los Angeles, there is an open spot for the Eastern Conference representative in the Finals. The best bets for the spot are the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors. Boston took Cleveland to a game seven last year and had glimpses of dethroning James and ending his seven-year run of making the Finals. The Celtics also get All-Star Gordon Hayward back, a full year of Kyrie Irving, and another year to play Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum together. Boston also has the best coach in the league with Brad Stevens and a reasonably deep bench. The Celtics have a title defense in the East even with their game seven loss in the Eastern Conference Finals. The team gunning for them is stalking them north of the border. Toronto bolstered their roster with the addition of Kawhi Leonard. With Leonard, the Raptors get possibly the second best player in the league on both ends of the floor to pair with a team that has the most wins out of any Eastern Conference team over the past three years (166), and a home crowd that is as passionate as any in the NBA—that is a recipe to have a strangle hold on the Eastern Conference.
5. Who will become the next Warriors?
Over this run of success that the Golden State Warriors have had, the conversation about league parody has grown. The overwhelming success of Golden State has left many frustrated seemingly knowing in October who is going to be left standing as champions in June. That success is something everyone in the league has tried to copy, but I believe only one team has succeeded in doing so: the Boston Celtics. Thanks to the horrendous trade that former Nets General Manager Billy King made, the Celtics are set-up for the next decade. Brown and Tatum are two cornerstone pieces that will bulldoze over the league for the next 12+ years. Having Brad Stevens as the coach helps the growth of these players and the overall ability of the team, thanks to Stevens’ immense basketball IQ. Adding Irving and Hayward is a product of extraordinary circumstance. Once in a lifetime does a player like Kyrie Irving become unhappy with his situation standing next to the greatest player of a generation and want out; not even Hollywood writers could come up with stories like that. But, with Hayward, thanks to the rookie contracts that Brown and Tatum are on, Boston had the cap room to sign a max-player and take full advantage of the war chest of options that they had at their disposal. After this team’s run is said and done, the Celtics need to commemorate it with two statues: one of the hero that delivers the championships and one of Billy King, who, whether he knows it or not, started the domino effect that may very well put Boston back on top.