Top five things to watch out for this season
It’s been a shorter wait than usual for the newest NBA season to get underway, just 72 days between trophy lift and season commencement, but it still feels like it has been ages since we saw the LA Lakers lift the Larry O’Brien trophy to clinch their latest title. Since then, we have seen the NBA Draft concluded and the young talent divvied up, the major moves of the trade season have taken place and now with Giannis Antetokounmpo agreeing to a new supermax contract to stay with the Milwaukee Bucks the larger questions of player movement are all but answered. It’s time for the 2020-21 campaigns to begin. Here is a list of the five things I feel will be the biggest aspects to look out for this season. We can only suppose what will actually happen, but these are things we should keep an eye on.
1 – Lakers will dominate the regular season
I’ll start with a fairly simple one and an aspect that many pundits feel is a likelihood. The current construction of the LA Lakers, with the addition of two high-calibre players in Gambian-German Dennis Schroder and current Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell, will take some effort to beat. There is a lot of talent on this roster and GM and resident potential film star Rob Pelinka has worked wonders again this postseason. The acquisitions of Rajon Rondo, Danny Green, Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee last term were critical to the championship win. Now they have seemingly upgraded those players with younger, more potent names and they’ve held onto a few important players in Markieff Morris, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma. The further development of young players such as the eye-catching Talen Horton-Tucker and franchise spirit-animal Alex Caruso will keep the team ticking over in the best way. The central pillars of success in the indefatigable LeBron James and his younger kingly protégé Anthony Davis have signed new deals to remain in the city of Angels. They are primed for success and I don’t see who offers them a consistent and real threat to the number one seed in the regular season.
2 – Clippers star players will get dragged all season
Paul George signed a massive new deal to stay in LA with the Clippers, reports suggesting it is a four-year $190m contract. The thing is, the Clippers needed to retain the misfiring star player or else they risked losing him for nothing. His form in the postseason bubble last campaign was atrocious. This is good move for the Clips, yet it feels like another loss because of the stench of last term. Neither George nor Kawhi Leonard came out of that misadventure with much of their reputations intact. Since then, Coach Doc Rivers has been relieved of his duties and his assistant, an NBA championship winning coach in his own right, Tyronn Lue is in the hot seat. The Clippers have brought in new players in Serge Ibaka, Luke Kennard and Nicolas Batum, with Ibaka the best of the new recruits. The additions don’t look like they will be enough to offset the problems they had on court last season, and for a team who have extremely high aspirations, every loss will be examined to within an inch of its life. It’s going to be a long hard season under some intense scrutiny. However, they are a skilled bunch of players who could get back into a groove that works for them.
3 – Luka Doncic versus Trae Young debates will continue
Ever since Luka Doncic and Trae Young were swapped on draft night a few years ago, the now incessant comparisons and dialogue about who won the trade will only further increase this season. Doncic is in line to have another breakout season with the Dallas Mavericks, regardless of whether the supporting cast show up. Kristaps Porzingis, if fit, should continue his thrilling partnership with the Slovenian young superstar. Luka is box-office already and many have him included in the very early whispers about who could be the MVP of the league. However, with every step forward that Luka takes the mirror to that is, ‘what has Trae done, really?’ It’s an unfair thing to do, Atlanta took their chances with Young rather than Doncic and the rest is history. This season Young has a much better team around him and with older and wiser heads involved, like Rondo, he could finally take that next leap forwards that his talents deserve. Doncic will be the media darling, but I feel that Young is likely to put the Hawks back in focus this term. The debates will rage on though and this feels like the Magic Johnson versus Larry Bird of this generation.
4 – Durant, Irving and Nets will deliver drama
The Brooklyn Nets have two of the most talented players in the NBA on their roster in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Those two on the same team should have everyone running scared, but that hasn’t happened yet. Perhaps this is because no one knows what to expect from Durant who hasn’t played an NBA game since coming off the court injured in the NBA Finals in the 2018-19 season. His preseason showings have been very promising and he looks in excellent shape. Irving too has shaken off his nagging injuries and is also looking sharp. The question marks come when people look at those players and their health issues and also the novice head coach in Steve Nash. It is critical to remember that the Nets have an impressive coaching department. Former Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni is Nash’s first assistant and former All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire is another one of the guys on the bench. Jacque Vaughn and Ime Udoka complete a coaching line-up that is particularly impressive. The Nets have bags of talent on their team and this could be a super season for them, as they look to put New York on the map. Irving has already showed that he will cause media buzz with more off the wall utterances. Rightly or wrongly he will be put under a microscope and there in will lie the drama.
5 – A few new stars will be born
There is room for a couple of new star names to come to the fore this season. Whether it will be a rookie who will light up the league, someone like LaMelo Ball or Obi Toppin, or a third/fourth-year player who finally gets going, someone will put their hands up to be counted. I have my eye on a number of unheralded players who could make a splash this season. Brandon Ingram is the first name who I see having an excellent season. He’s not a superstar yet, but that New Orleans team will be exciting to watch. Andrew Wiggins is a player I feel could also break out. He is overpaid and underrated and that is a perfect combination when you are looking for someone to show up. Zach LaVine is another player who will have a lot to prove and he might just do that on an improving Bulls team. A hugely underrated player is Bryn Forbes who is now at the Bucks. He can really shoot and if utilized effectively could be a central figure in Milwaukee’s title charge. I expect a few players to grow into their games and showcase what they have.