This was by far the most entertaining and wild off-season in NBA history. There were blockbuster trades nearly every day and that made for a thrilling off season. The NBA recently announced a new draft lottery reform to prevent tanking and the league moved the start of the regular season up to Oct. 17.
The Cavaliers have a real chance to dethrone the Warriors this year, but only if they are fully healthy. Isaiah Thomas is expected to return to the court by January, according to an article on sbnation.com. LeBron James is reuniting with his best friend Dwyane Wade and the Cavaliers have never had a team that has had this kind of depth.
Kevin Love has been moved to center and Jae Crowder will likely start at power forward, per a statement made by Cleveland Head Coach Tyronn Lue. I am expecting that Kyrie Irving will lead Boston to a better regular season record than the Cavs, but certainly fall short to them in the Eastern Conference Finals. When fully healthy, they are the only team capable of beating Golden State in a playoff series.
The Warriors have one of the most unstoppable offenses in NBA history, yet again. The only thing that they lack compared to the Cavs is bench depth and that could very well be the deciding x-factor in the Finals. The Warriors toughest competitor in the West is now Oklahoma City because they picked up Carmelo Anthony and Paul George. Golden State will easily coast to the best record because they have four of the top 15 players in the league. This is the last season they will play at the Oracle because their newly built arena in San Francisco [the Chase Center] is slated to open the following season, according to the team’s website. It will be near impossible to stop their offense, which is forcing many superstars to join forces to take them down.
The Celtics roster improved enormously compared to last year’s squad. They gave the Cavs the pieces to possibly beat the Warriors and they also got two stars this off-season while only giving up one. The Kyrie-Isaiah swap worked out just fine for both sides. Irving will likely flourish and improve all of his statistics due to the fact that his usage rate will massively increase.
The Rockets, Spurs, and Thunder will compete for the additional top four seeds. I would give the Thunder the slight edge over the Rockets and the Spurs. The Thunder now have three stars and the Rockets have two. Russell Westbrook will have to adjust to playing with other stars again so his record setting historic usage rate will only decrease, therefore his stats won’t be as great as they were last season. San Antonio has won 50 games every year since 1999, and that will continue as long as Gregg Popovich is there. I believe the Thunder would dismantle the Spurs and the Rockets if they meet in the playoffs.
The NBA also changed the all-star team selection format for this season, citing that the conferences were way too lopsided. LeBron is the person responsible for scaring all the talent in the league away from the East. The new changes include that the 2018 All-Star Game is going to be played for charity and the two players with the most votes [LeBron and KD/Curry] will be the captains and choose from the the other selected all-stars. The NBA fixed the major issue at play here by changing the All-Star game from East-West to a pickup game. This will work out better for the players and the fans because the West would destroy the East if this didn’t get changed. All-Star Weekend begins on Feb. 16 and will take place at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Several teams drastically improved their starting squads but gave away key bench players in order to do so. The Cavs essentially acquired four new players for the price of Kyrie, which will prove to be a great off-season for them. Expect another rematch in the Finals but don’t be shocked if LeBron is crowned again. LeBron’s finals opponents have been some of the best teams in NBA history, far greater than Michael Jordan’s. The league’s owners agreed on many new rule changes and reforms that are beneficial for the future of the NBA. The only thing I disagree with the league on is their stance where everyone must stand for the anthem.