Basketball season is officially underway, as the National Basketball Association (NBA) season is back with many teams taking on a new look. It was quite the off-season, with many star players making big free agency decisions that will shift the balance of power throughout the league.
Instead of a league of super teams, decisions by Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant have transformed the league into teams with star duos, restoring some balance in the NBA. The biggest decision came from Leonard after just defeating the Golden State Warriors in the finals with the Toronto Raptors. The champion and finals MVP had to make a difficult choice. He ultimately decided to go home and join the Los Angeles Clippers, who had just added another star in Paul George in a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
With the additions of Leonard and George, the Clippers went from just making the playoffs in the season before to being the overwhelming championship favorites. However, they are not the only dynamic duo that formed in L.A., as the Los Angeles Lakers traded for Anthony Davis in a blockbuster trade with the New Orleans Pelicans that brought the star center to L.A. to join Lebron James. Although the Clippers may be the favorites, the battle of L.A. is back and will definitely be something to keep an eye on this year.
The other big star making his free agency decision was two-time Finals MVP Durant of the Golden State Warriors. Durant has been under the microscope since he arrived in the Golden State, with many questioning his ability to win on his own and taking the easy route in joining the Warriors to create a super team.
Durant ultimately proved his loyalty, returning to play in game five of the NBA finals while not at full health, a choice that cost him a torn Achilles tendon. After taking in the reality of his injury and soaking in the loss in the finals, Durant decided to take his talents to the Brooklyn Nets and join Kyrie Irving, breaking apart the Warriors dynasty. Just like that, it was no longer a league of super teams.
Although the league is not entirely balanced, it is apparent that the best players went to the big markets to team up with a fellow star. This leaves the Warriors with the star duo of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, once healthy from ACL surgery. It will be a different look for the Warriors than in years past as they return to the reality of the NBA. Stephen Curry and Draymond Green will have to do most of the heavy lifting for the squad to make any type of noise this upcoming season.
The West is locked and loaded with star players as the Portland Trailblazers are always a fun team to watch with their lethal backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Not to mention the Houston Rockets who made some noise this offseason in their trade sending Chris Paul to the Oklahoma City Thunder, bringing Russel Westbrook to Houston to join James Harden. There are many questions on how the two MVPs will play together with their similar dominant playing styles. But there is no doubt that the Houston Rockets will be a team to watch, playing at a blazing pace, with the walking triple double in Westbrook and the walking bucket in Harden. The playoff race will be a close one in the West, not to mention the sleepers to keep an eye on, including the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets.
For the East, the teams to keep an eye on are the Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers and the Boston Celtics. Reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, also known as the Greek Freak, will be a player to watch this season. His eye-popping athleticism and ability to dominate a game make him a favorite for another MVP season. In addition, the 76ers stacked their roster this season, led by young duo Joel Embid and Ben Simmons, while also adding Al Horford this offseason, who will bring them a much needed veteran presence. The Celtics will also be a team to watch this season, as the departure of Kyrie Irving allows them a fresh start with their young talents of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, not to mention the addition of All-Star Kemba Walker. All in all, the NBA has a new look and the title race is wide open. Every team has the right to believe it can win the championship; it is all up for grabs. With all the changes made in the offseason, the NBA will be quite hard to predict this year, raising the excitement for many teams. The road to the finals starts now.