The Upcoming NBA Season: A Broad Overview of the 2018-19 NBA
The NBA Preseason has just begun, and with that comes several questions: Will anyone dethrone the Golden State Warriors? Where, if it all, will Jimmy Butler be traded to? How will Carmelo Anthony mesh with superstar point guard Chris Paul and MVP James Harden? Will the Boston Celtics, with their star-studded, lineup defeat the young, talented Philadelphia 76’ers? And the most prominent question, how will the fabled career of LeBron James continue as he enters the wild wild Western Conference.
Let’s talk about the Eastern Conference first.
The obvious favorite in the East is the Boston Celtics. The Celtics were plagued by injury this past season, as their free agency splash Gordon Hayward was injured about 2 minutes into his Celtics debut, and Kyrie Irving missed almost the entire second half of the season with a knee injury. Emerging from those injuries, however, was a young, thriving core of basketball players. Guards Terry Rozier, Jalen Brown, and Marcus Smart all put forth outstanding efforts along with rookie Jayson Tatum. This young lineup took LeBron James to Game 7 of the ECF, but ultimately came up short. But these young players, alongside veteran stars Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, and Al Horford, and LeBron James out of the East, the Celtics look to finally win the East since James’ signing in Miami.
The most prominent threat to Boston is posed by the, also young, Philadelphia 76’ers. The Sixers put on quite a performance last year, making it to the Eastern Conference Semifinals, but losing to the Celtics. The 76’ers, while not adding much talent in the offseason, are excited to see the former #1 overall pick Markelle Fultz thrive for an extended period of time, as his rookie season was plagued with injuries. In the offseason, Fultz completely changed his shooting form, and seems to be healthy, as he is playing in the preseason and back to making highlight plays. The youthful core of Fultz, Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons, former ROTY runner-up Dario Saric, and the powerful paint presence Joel Embiid will be looking for revenge against their Eastern Conference adversaries in Boston.
The rest of the East has been relatvely quiet in the offseason.
The Washington Wizards traded center Marcin Gortari away to Charlotte for the tumultuous Dwight Howard, however Howard displayed signs of rejuvenation in Charlotte, even having a performance with 20 points and 20 rebounds. The Wizards core, however, remains solid and same: athletic superstar John Wall, sharpshooter Bradley Beal, the continuously emerging Otto Porter, rebounding two-way presence Markieff Morris (whose twin brother plays for the Celtics), and last but certainly not least, the self proclaimed “Tsunami Papi”, star Kelly Oubre Jr.
The Miami Heat have not made any trades or free agent signing, but have made recent headlines as possible front runners for a trade that would bring the two-way superstar Jimmy Butler to Miami. The major story in Miami, however, was the announcement made by the Miami Heat legend Dwyane Wade; this will be Wade’s last NBA season. Wade has won 3 NBA Finals in Miami, and if his former Chicago teammate Jimmy Butler makes his way to South Beach, could be in position to make one last run at the big one.
The Milwaukee Bucks signed free agents Brook Lopez (Center) and Ersan Ilyasova (Power Forward), as well as drafted NCAA Tournament stand out Donte DiVincenzo. Aside from these moves, the Bucks’ roster remains relatively the same. Their team, while not actively discussed, can surprise some viewers. Superstar and NBA 2k19 cover athlete Giannis Antetokounmpo continues to develop into the player that Milwaukee needs, while his supporting cast of Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe, Malcom Brogdon, and Matthew Delevadova.
The San Antonio Spurs are, as always, not absent in the headlines. The Spurs’ star two-way forward Kawhi Leonard, aside from being plagued with injuries this past season, had many issues with coach Gregg Popovich, and ultimately demanded to be traded. While Leonard’s preferred destination was Los Angeles, he was sent to Toronto alongside guard Danny Green, and they acquired All Star shooting guard Demar Derozen. Longtime San Antonio legends Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli also departed. Parker joined the Charlotte Hornets, and Ginobli retired a Spur. The Spurs will look to incorporate Derozen’s versatile talents, while Toronto has the tough task of pleasing Kawhi Leonard in an attempt to retain him in the upcoming free agency.
Now, let’s get to the fun part, the Western Conference. The West has been flooded with talent for quite some time now, and it is believed that this is why the NBA changed the traditional East vs West All Star Game format. This year is no different.
The reigning, two-time champions, Golden State, infamously added Kevin Durant to their already star studded lineup two years ago, and many thought that this 4 All Star team was the best team the NBA could ever see. To that, Steve Kerr responded, “Hold my beer.” The Golden State Warriors signed All Star center DeMarcus Cousins just four days into free agency. The Warriors now have five All Stars, when healthy, on their starting lineup. It’s hard to imagine a team that can dethrone arguably the greatest shooter the NBA has ever seen in Steph Curry, another one of the greatest shooters of all time, Klay Thompson, the NBA’s one of a kind ultimate scoring machine, Kevin Durant, defensive superstar and leader Draymond Green, and now the ever so versatile DeMarcus Cousions.
While this team seems to be unstoppable, and could very well be, the rest of the Western Conference has loaded up their rosters with hopes of eliminating the Warriors in the playoffs and keeping them from returning to the finals for the fifth year straight.
The Houston Rockets, which took the Warriors to Game 7 in the WCF last year, have retained MVP James Harden, superstar Chris Paul, hearty P.J. Tucker, and rebounding machine Clint Capela, while addding Carmelo Anthony. While many see Anthony as the reason the Oklahoma City Thunder came up short in the first round, Harden and Paul have vocalized their excitement to play with the former All Star.
The Oklahoma City Thunder, which were expected to lose All Star Paul George to his hometown of Los Angeles, managed to bring George back, even signing him to a four year deal. Former MVP Russel Westbrook, who has averaged a triple double for two consecutive seasons, George, and Steven Adams will face a tough road this season; however with two scoring machines in Westbrook and George, and a hustling rebounder and defender in Adams, they will pose a threat to all that strand in their way. The Thunder also have some depth, as they traded for Hawks star PG Dennis Schröder (also known as “the German Rondo), and developing players Jerami Grant and Patrick Patterson.
The Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, and Minnesota Timberwolves did not make much noise this offseason. Nikola “The Joker” Jokic picked up a new deal in Denver, and the Jazz drafted Duke’s longtime sharpshooter and Ted Cruz look-a-like Grayson Allen. The Timberwolves only made headlines when Jimmy Butler demanded to be traded away from the team due to issues with All Star Karl Anthony Towns’ immaturity, and Andrew Wiggins’ lackluster effort and leadership.
The main headline this offseason, however, was Magic Johnson and the LA Lakers’ signing of LeBron James. James signed a 4 year $153 million deal on the third day of free agency. The Chosen One has had quite the career, venturing on eight consecutive trips to the NBA Finals, and winning three. LeBron James is going to be playing in the Western Conference for the first time in his career, and he will begin his tenure on the opposite coast on a team that went 35-47 last year. The Lakers have made significant signings over the offseason however, adding Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley, Javale McGee, and Rabin Rondo. These veteran players may be what the young Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope need in order to advance their development into the NBA stars that they wish to become. While this Lakers team may not be flaunting multiple All Stars or coming off of a successful year, they house depth that many NBA teams yearn for. Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, and Ivan Zubac are all entering their second year in the NBA, and have shown signs of tremendous growth through the offseason; Brandon Ingram, who has drawn comparisons to Kevin Durant because of his lanky physique and ability to shoot over defenders, and is also very young. These young, talented players, alongside the accomplished vets and the King himself could ruin some teams’ hopes of a post-season run.