Okay everyone. We can take a minute and relax: Kevin Durant has left the Warriors, Kawhi Leonard spurned the Lakers and no more than two stars have teamed up this off-season. This can only mean one thing: competitive balance has been restored in the NBA.
Looking at the past Finals, both teams have already gone through major change. Due to Injuries, the Warriors rein on the throne is over. In the case with Toronto, Kawhi’s departure from Canada to go home has left the Raptors without the star that got them their first title. There are no certainties in either conference this year, and that’s how everybody should like it.
Instead of being left with foregone conclusions in the Western Conference, there are more questions than answers right now. Who will come out of the west? Will the Clippers gamble pay off or will injuries hamper Paul George and Kawhi Leonard? Will the supporting cast the Lakers strung together be enough to support Lebron and Anthony Davis? What about Portland – will the Whiteside trade be a boom or a bust?
Looking at the landscape of the West, there hasn’t been enough talk about some of the other teams. Denver, arguably one of the best teams last year, returns to 2019-2020 with playoff experience and the new additions of Bol Bol and a potentially healthy Michael Porter Jr.
After making a splash trading for Michael Conley, Utah had a relatively quiet rest of off-season. Also, with Coach Pop at the helm, can we really ever count out the Spurs? Will the Kings young prospects take the next step in their development? The Pelicans have a very different roster with a lot of potential but will Zion dominate like he did in college, or will Lonzo and Ingram continue to grow into the all star potential people saw coming out of college?
What about the Timberwolves? In Dallas, will Kristaps return to his previous self? Lastly, how much is Klay Thompson’s injury and KD leaving going to hurt Golden state?
Nobody could convince me that they were 100% certain of the Western Conferences playoff seeding; there’s too many questions going into the season that we won’t know the answers until the season tips off.
In the Eastern conference, the Milwaukee Bucks have to be the outright favourite right now. Despite losing Malcolm Brodgon, they still have the league MVP, Coach of the Year, Executive of the Year and return first-time All-Star Kris Middleton. On paper, Philadelphia looks great, but there is still questions about how you can fit all that size and length on the court at once. Is Tobias Harris better suited at the 4, and can Horford and Joel Embiid work together on the court? In the early season, we will see how this all plays out.
Then after that you have the Celtics who replaced Kyrie Irving with Kemba Walker and replaced Al Horford with Enes Kanter. Can you consider these upgrades? Are they lateral not vertical moves?
By far the biggest splash of the offseason was felt in Brooklyn. Albeit great for the franchise, Durant won’t be ready until the 2020-21 season most likely, and as we saw in Boston, can Kyrie lead a group of young guys in the playoffs?
In the case of Miami, it doesn’t even seem like they are done yet this off-season (Russell Westbrook anyone?) Although Kawhi left the Raptors, they still have an all-star point guard in Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam, a top 30 player in the NBA who is on the verge of being his won star. Don’t count out the defending champions yet, they are returning Fred VanVleet, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, and Norm Powell.
With a relatively untouched core, coupled with the addition of Brodgon and return of Victor Oladio, where do the Pacers fit into this equation? In terms of young cores, can the Hawks and Bulls surprise us?
I don’t have an answer to these questions – realistically, not many do. It’s for this reason that this has been one of the most exciting and active NBA off-seasons in a long time. Although the season is still a ways away, all these moves make for a interesting, unpredictable and exciting regular season.
Ladies and gentlemen, the NBA is back.
This story was written by Josh Mailman