By Albert Luna
The NBA season is only weeks away from tipoff. Many of the world’s most popular athletes will be hitting the court once again at the end of the month to embark on yet another 82-game season, and for some, a post-season run.
Last season saw the Golden State Warriors take home the Larry O’Brien Trophy in the NBA Finals by beating superstar LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games, 4-2, after the Cavs were up 2-1 in the series but stumbled late.
Here is everything you need to know as the season approaches, along with the main storylines.
-How will Kobe Bryant come back?
This has been the third straight season that is pegged as the comeback season for Kobe from injury. Since 2013, Bryant has struggled to stay on the floor.
When he is on the court, however, although it may take some time, the star still shows signs of brilliance and reminds us all why he is one of the best to ever do it not only at his position, but all-time.
Bryant is fresh off a shoulder injury that cut short his 2014-2015 season. This time around, it should be interesting to see just how Kobe responds to being 37 years old while on a team that is made up of nothing but young talent.
How will the Cavs do?
The Cavaliers had two options this summer, either try to surround LeBron James with different pieces for the long run or stick to the team they had, but also be shelling out some serious money to keep them.
They chose the latter. With the one exception of Tristian Thompson, the Cavs have remained virtually intact from last year’s finals team. It is also imperative to note that last year in the championship series Cleveland was without stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.
Irving may not be back for some time, but Love should be ready to go by opening night. The biggest point of interest to look at here will be how LeBron can lead this team. The star forward is now on the wrong side of 30, and this season could be a transition year, in which he relies more on skill than his athleticism as he has shown in the past.
Who’s the NBA’s next stars?
This season should be marked as a transition year for the league. Last year, the up-and-coming stars proved that they’re now dominating the league (players such as Stephen Curry and James Harden).
However, it will be interesting to see how many of these players have the sustainability to be a star on a consistent basis. Many of the names that we have come to know in the NBA, Kobe, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, are simply becoming old.
This season will likely be the year that we see the former young guys take their place as the alpha dogs in the league.
The Western Conference is once again going to be an absolute bloodbath at the top of the standings. There are so many quality teams that can likely make the playoffs that almost anyone you go with is a soild choice.
The Eastern Conference? Not so much.
However, starting a tradition of ranking the top teams will be a staple of this weekly NBA column, as well. Here’s how the teams stack up:
- Golden State Warriors—It’s a preseason power rankings, so naturally the defending champs will be at the top. They have remained relatively intact and their best players are still getting better. Expect the Warriors to remain elite.
- San Antonio Spurs—The Spurs were able to lure star forward LaMarcus Aldridge to Texas and join an already good team. The addition makes them look like the best team on paper. Team chemistry might be the only thing in their way this season.
- Cleveland Cavaliers—Already explained above, the Cavs should be on their way to dominating a weak Eastern Conference this year.
- Los Angeles Clippers—The Clippers retained DeAndre Jordan and added to a weak bench to give them one of the best teams in the league right now. It will be interesting to see if Chris Paul will start showing any signs of aging as he nears 30.
- Oklahoma City Thunder—No matter how you look at it, Kevin Durant is one of the best players on the planet and that doesn’t change just because of injury. Add in a renewed Russel Westbrook and a new coach, and the Thunder, despite missing the playoffs last year, are contenders.
- Miami Heat—The Heat will welcome back Chris Bosh from a serious personal medical condition last year. They also happen to still have guards Goran Dragic and Dwyane Wade to rely on in the backcourt.
- Atlanta Hawks—The Hawks still have a team that figures to be one of the better passing teams in the league. Atlanta is also coming off of a number one-seeded playoff run last year.
- Chicago Bulls—The Bulls seem to go as Derrick Rose does, it really does depend just how much they plan to get him involved in regards to how successful they will be this year.
- Houston Rockets—The Rockets added often-troubled guard Ty Lawson to their starting lineup this offseason. Along with Lawson, the Rockets still have cornerstones James Harden and Dwight Howard.
- Memphis Grizzlies—The Grizzlies still have the best center in the NBA in Marc Gasol. This year he is healthy and the entire team will have continuity on their side that many teams ahead and below them do not.
The NBA season begins Tuesday, October 27. Be sure to look out for weekly power rankings every Monday once the season starts, as well as periodic columns.
Albert Luna may be reached at Aluna32@NMSU.edu
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