Five things to look forward to in the new season
The new NBA season is just hours away and the players, teams and fans are all ready for it to pop off. The hot takes and media storylines are all written and all that’s left is for the on-court action to take centre stage. Today we look at the upcoming season and pick out the top 5 teams, players and storylines to follow this season.
1 – LeBron, AD and the Lakers The Los Angeles Lakers were high on the thought of LeBron James leading the franchise last term. As good as The King was for large portions of the season, injury curtailed his involvement with them and the Lakers missed out on the playoffs for yet another season. Everything was not all roses at the Staples Center with rumours surrounding the firing of young coach Luke Walton. There was also major discontent in the organisation as they pursued New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis. That stirred up a hornet’s nest with the young Lakers Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and possibly Kyle Kuzma all being put on the chopping block to bring in The Brow. That move failed to materialise and the campaign became a disastrous one.
Fast forward to the present, there is a new coach in LA with Frank Vogel taking over from the perpetually under-pressure Walton. Anthony Davis has been brought in to form part of a strong lineup with LeBron James and the under fire younger players Ingram, Ball and Hart have indeed all been traded to New Orleans. The Lakers have filled out their roster very shrewdly as they have gathered talent that will complement Bron and AD. DeMarcus Cousins came in but picked up a serious season-ending injury, Danny Green, Dwight Howard, Avery Bradley, Jared Dudley, Troy Daniels and Quinn Cook would join Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kuzma and Rajon Rondo. There might not be much youth in the roster but it should be deep enough to make the Lakers Western Conference contenders and a fun team to watch. The Lakers open the season with a clash against city rivals the Los Angeles Clippers. More on them later.
2 – Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans The Lakers’ loss is the Pelicans’ gain with the former young core joining a team on the rise. New Orleans biggest draw card though is the Number 1 Draft pick Zion Williamson. The powerful and outrageously skilful forward has ignited a wave of interest in the team from Louisiana. Losing Davis would be the death knell for most teams, but the Pelicans hit the jackpot when they won the draft lottery to bring in the much-hyped Williamson. Zion’s preseason showings were blockbuster affairs with fans wowed by the strength, tenacity, skill and heart of the big guy. Then disaster struck and Williamson has been ruled out for up to eight weeks following minor knee surgery. All of the hope and promise of a strong start seems to have dissipated with that news. However, the Pelicans still have a roster with some very interesting players that can do a more than serviceable job. All eyes will be on what Alvin Gentry can do with the players at his disposal. Ingram, Hart and Ball join Jrue Holiday, Jahlil Okafor, JJ Redick, E’Twaun Moore and rookies Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Jaxson Hayes in a lineup that will surprise and delight on their day. The Pelicans face the champions the Toronto Raptors in Canada to start their campaign early on Wednesday morning.
3 – New look Los Angeles Clippers The Clippers have also undergone a metamorphosis this offseason with two major stars heading to Los Angeles to showcase their talents in newly minted NBA champion Kawhi Leonard and MVP candidate Paul George joining the ‘other’ LA team. Doc Rivers has worked miracles in the City of Angels with limited playing resources in recent years and now he has two legitimate All-Star talents on his roster that will lift the entire team to a new stratosphere. Bringing in both Leonard and George is a game changer for the team that has long lived in the Lakers’ shadow. They will form part of a hardworking, dogged outfit that will leave it all on the floor. The likes of Patrick Beverley and Montrezl Harrell typify the grit and ruggedness of the Clippers and they will continue to hustle and battle on every play regardless of the new star wattage in their ranks. Under Rivers this team will defend well and score when they need to. A key member of this team is Lou Williams who has been a multiple Sixth Man of the Year award winner and he will have a huge impact on how the Clips chase the championship. Throw in the likes of Landry Shamet, JaMychal Green, Patrick Patterson and Ivica Zubac with a few pieces here and there and you have a team with can battle with the best and take them down. Leonard finally gets to go back home to LA and he’s brought another California native with him in George. The home comforts and a success-starved fanbase will make for must see viewing this term. The Clippers battle the Lakers to tip things off. Its going to be fireworks at Staples Center on opening night.
4 – Kyrie Irving at the Nets The Brooklyn Nets have come a long way from being the other franchise from New York that NBA fans can poke fun at and last year ended the regular season in sixth position with a 42-40 record, probably the best finish in their short franchise history. Although the Nets exited in the first round at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers, they sowed a lot of promise. So much so that after rumours started doing the rounds that Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving were thinking of relocating to New York, everyone thought that if it were true, they would wind up at the New York Knicks. However, both All-Stars have landed in Brooklyn. Although the team lost All-Star guard D 'Angelo Russell, who is now with the Golden State Warriors, they have now added Irving, Durant (who is out for the season with an injury) and DeAndre Jordan to a decent squad. To go with these three All-Stars, the team will see the return of Caris LeVert from injury, guard Spencer Dinwiddie, forward Joe Harris and David Nwaba, as well as rim protecting power forward Jarrett Allen. Although the team would have been more explosive with an active Durant, the team from Brooklyn will still be worth watching and could potentially go deeper into the payoffs this time around.
5 – Philly try again to win the East The Philadelphia 76ers were a relatively young team that looked very promising last season with many thinking that they would possibly make an appearance in the NBA finals, until they met the unstoppable Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors in the second round. They lost the services of alpha-male Jimmy Butler in an offseason trade, but added the services of Al Horford at the power forward position. This bodes well because it was one of the team's weak points last season. Meanwhile they still have guard Ben Simmons, who had been working on his much questioned three-point shot, Zhaire Smith will probably start at the shooting guard position, Tobias Harris still mans the three-position, Horford will have the four, while Cameroonian sensation Joel Embiid will play starting center. This is a comparatively solid starting lineup, especially in the Eastern Conference, but the team will also need some serious stepping up from its second unit, which is not the best, but can still get the job done if needed.
The 2019-2020 season tips off tonight and is undoubtedly one of the most anticipated in the league's recent history. There are plenty of other storylines to follow and we will be keeping you up to date with all of them.