By Alex Bock
NIAGARA UNIVERSITY, N.Y. – An eventful offseason of player movement has created a much different landscape of the NBA. Several big name players have switched since the conclusion of last season, and as a result, several teams will look to contend for the title. There is no clear cut winner.
One of the biggest headlines of the offseason was the Los Angeles Clippers acquisition of the reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, after putting together one of the greatest postseason performances of all time to lead the Toronto Raptors to their first ever title. He’ll team up with Paul George, who averaged 28.4 ppg last season and finished top three in voting for MVP and DPOY.
The LA rivalry has never been more anticipated, as the Clippers and Lakers look to take the rivalry to a new level, as the duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis look to lead the lakers to their 17th title in franchise history, which would tie them with the Boston Celtics for the most championships by one franchise.
While the Golden State Warriors lose four-time scoring champion Kevin Durant in a trade with the Brooklyn nets, the warriors receive a most improved player finalist in D’Angelo Russell. While Klay Thompson will miss a significant part of the season recovering from a torn ACL suffered in last season’s NBA finals, Russell, along with Steph Curry and Draymond Green, are expected to keep the warriors in championship contention, and lead the warriors to what would be a 6th consecutive trip to the finals.
It’s the same story in the Eastern Conference as far as the competition is concerned; there is no clear cut favorite to win it. One team that will be a beast in the East for a long time is the Milwaukee Bucks, who last season made their first appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals, after an NBA-best 60 win season. Reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo will look to continue to dominate the league, after averaging 27.7 points and 12.2 rebounds per game. The same supporting cast remains in place, with Khris Middleton, Malcolm Brogdon and Brook Lopez providing a formidable plethora of talent around the Greek Freak to take the next step and reach the finals.
The Boston Celtics did lose their floor general Kyrie Irving to the nets, but they do gain another talented point guard in Kemba Walker, a third team All NBA selection last season. The team looks to rebound after a disappointing second round exit in last season’s playoffs, as Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum provide talent on both ends of the court.
The Philadelphia 76ers look primed for a title run, after a heartbreaking game 7 loss to the raptors last spring, led by second team All NBA center Joel Embiid. Despite losing JJ Reddick and Jimmy Butler due to free agency, the team is still loaded with talent. Ben Simmons returns for his 4th season with a much improved jump shot, while the acquisition of Al Horford provides an extra presence around the basket.
The season kicks off on Tuesday Oct. 22 as the Raptors host the Pelicans at 8:00 p.m., followed by Clippers vs. Lakers at 10:30 p.m. EST.