It’s that time of the year again, NBA season. With fresh new-look teams arising after a busy summer of trades, contract extensions and celebrations, the global population are hungry to view what seems to be a promising year of NBA basketball. After the first few days of pre-season in the books, fans and supporters are finally quenched of their NBA thirst. However, the question still lies; who is championship worthy? Will the young, energetic west coast Warriors, who took the league by storm in the 2014-15 season, repeat a perfect year? Or will the vengeance seeking Cavs and LeBron James finally take the O’Brien trophy to his home state and fulfill his legacy as ‘The Chosen One’?
With the Golden State Warriors being able to shoot their way to glory and finalise their season with the reigning MVP, Stephen Curry, and Coach of the Year runner up Steve Kerr, it seems that the 2014-15 NBA season ended so sweetly for the dominant west coast champions. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Finals MVP Andre Iguodala were able to shake off the eastern competitors comfortably in a 6 game battle, and lift the O’Brien trophy in the Quicken Loans arena in Cleveland. With Cavs fans watching again as their prodigy son LeBron James walked off of the court, unable to grasp his much coveted trophy in Cleveland, Steph Curry and the Dubs lifted it instead, glorified in their perfect NBA season. But with celebrations being halted by the pre-season, what’s next in store for the west coast champs? After defeating the Toronto Raptors 95-87 on October 5th after the Raptors blowout over the new-look Clippers 93-73 on October 4th, it seems that Steph and the dubs are still upbeat in their game. But will they be able to defend their title? They seem to still be a strong force in the league, perhaps the highest, but there are teams out there hungry to perform and snatch glory to their own state.
With LeBron and the Cavs being defeated four games to two in the Finals by the Warriors, many still speculate whether LeBron will ever bring home glory to his home state, despite his ‘best player in the world’ 35.8 points per game, 13.3 rebounds per game and 8.8 assists per game performance, in this year’s finals. Although, with season ending injuries to forward Kevin Love and guard Kyrie Irving, it appeared that LeBron was left with the task of bringing home the trophy without the help of his brand new ‘Big 3’. Would they have played a big part in the finals this season if they hadn’t been injured? We won’t really know for sure regarding Kevin Love, with his departure being in Game 4 of the first round. On the other hand, Kyrie Irving had impressive stats in his finals debut, putting up 23 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists, before suffering a fractured kneecap. But with the 2014-15 season in the history books, it’s only theory whether the Cleveland ‘Big 3’ will be able to bounce back and take what was (or could have been) theirs, being the initial favourites to begin with. Take a look at what LeBron had to say after losing the Finals:
The Oklahoma City Thunder are back, and have arguably never been stronger. After Kevin Durant’s wonder MVP 2013-14 season, he departed in February 2015 with a foot injury that side-lined him for the rest of the season. This meant that his upbeat sidekick Russell Westbrook would have to take command as the leader and role model for the OKC, to which quite frankly, he did very well. After finishing the season with 28.1 points per game, 7.3 rebounds per game and 8.6 points per game, we can see that Westbrook has the ability to take over the game when needed. In an interview between Kobe Bryant, Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose, we see that all of them agree that with both Durant and Westbrook on court, the OKC will be a strong force in the NBA. Bill Simmons argues ‘I kind of feel that it’s become Westbrooks team’.
So, with the record setting MVP Kevin Durant coming back from injury, and Russell Westbrook coming off of an MVP candidate season, it appears that the OKC are one of the most dominating forces in the Western conference, but as Kobe Bryant highlighted, both players will have to play the game of basketball with each other fluidly, rather than going for personal highlights, in order to prove championship worthy. Although demonstrating to be a powerhouse in the west, one must take into the account the drastic changes to the Los Angeles Clippers, and what they have made happen in order to strengthen their chances at getting even further into the playoffs. This summer, the Clippers were able to pick up 3 players that may benefit them massively, or perhaps not so, depending on one’s view. Lance Stephenson, who had a low averaging season at the Charlotte Hornets was traded, along with Josh Smith from the Houston Rockets, and Paul Pierce from the Washington Wizards. Pierce was a strong asset to the Wizards playoff run, making highlight plays and helping them to win games, so actually, Pierce might be valuable off of the bench, as well as his veteran knowledge and championship experience. Josh Smith was able to help the Houston Rockets reach the Western Conference finals and proved to be quite a help as an all-round player on the court. But will these notable players help LA’s Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and Deandre Jordan make the finals? Even though they’ve been working hard in the offseason, I’ll leave that up to you.
So, with the Rockets now losing Josh Smith, they will have to rely even more so on their MVP runner up James Harden, who proved to be an almost unstoppable player this season behind Stephen Curry. If the bearded monster plays like he did last season, if not better, then there shouldn’t be much fault to pick up on, only to keep his temper down. Dwight Howard, however, needs to step up his game. The rebounding machine needs to increase his points per game consistently, rather than putting up high numbers one game, and low the next. With newly acquired guard Ty Lawson from the Denver Nuggets, the Rockets will have to adjust to losing their big man Smith in order to repeat a good season.
Finally, the Chicago Bulls, are also an eastern dominant team who could prove to be a strong contender into the league this season. With Derrick Rose’s return to the NBA just before the playoffs, he displayed good plays, explosiveness, and an amazing game winning buzzer beater in the second round against the Cavs. Joined by Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and the up and coming Jimmy Butler, the Bulls are in good form and look to be hard contenders. That is of course, if they stay healthy and Derrick Rose is able to keep focused mentally, without fearing another season ending injury.
Are the Bulls the best in the east you ask? Well, aside from the Cavs who defeated them in the second round, and the number 1 seed Atlanta Hawks, they quite possibly are. The Wizards pose a threat too. However, with the loss of their veteran and role model Paul Pierce, the task falls onto the shoulder of John Wall, Nene and Bradley Beal. So with the Bulls at full physical and mental health for once, they may go quite far, if of course they can take down King James, the magic of the Wizards and the swift Hawks.
All in all, I can promise you that this season of NBA basketball will be thrilling, exciting and above all, a fantastic display of professionalism, competitiveness and sportsmanship. So sit back, put your favourite team’s jersey on, and get ready!