A new season of NBA action is upon us. The 82-game grind towards a trip to the 2019 NBA Finals begins on Tuesday night with the Philadelphia 76ers taking on the Boston Celtics and the Oklahoma City Thunder facing off against the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors.
It should be an exciting year in the Association as there were plenty of changes across the Eastern and Western Conferences. For starters, LeBron James left Cleveland and decided to sign a lucrative four-year, $154 million deal with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Can LeBron lead the young Lakers core of Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, and Brandon Ingram to the playoffs? We shall see.
Staying in the state of California, the Warriors are looking to three-peat. The last time an NBA team won three-straight titles was when the Los Angeles Lakers with Shaq and Kobe dominated the league from 2000-2002.
After sweeping the Cavaliers in last season’s NBA Finals, the Warriors re-loaded over the summer by signing center DeMarcus Cousins to a one-year deal. The rich get richer, which makes Golden State the favorite to win the NBA title again.
However, you cannot forget about the Thunder, who still has the triple-double machine that is Russell Westbrook.
In the offseason, Oklahoma City re-signed Paul George to a massive four-year deal and acquired point guard Dennis Schroder in a three-team trade with the Atlanta Hawks to get rid of Carmelo Anthony’s contract. Speaking of Anthony, he now joins a Houston Rockets team led by James Harden and Chris Paul that was 48 minutes from a trip to the NBA Finals last season.
Along with those teams mentioned, there will be a lot of attention paid to the upstart Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, the Anthony Davis-led New Orleans Pelicans, and the soap opera involving Jimmy Butler and the Minnesota Timberwolves.
While the Western Conference seems loaded with talent and drama, the Eastern Conference is wide open as the Celtics, 76ers and Toronto Raptors are poised to fight for the title.
This season, you can expect the Celtics to be back in the conference finals and possibly making the NBA Finals. They are one of the more complete teams in the league and are getting back a healthy Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. Don’t forget they still have Jayson Tatum, who had an amazing rookie year and is a star in the making.
The Sixers, who were bounced in the second round of the playoffs by the Celtics, could not land a star in the offseason and returns most of the same team from last year.
However, Philadelphia could make that jump to the next level if Markelle Fultz is ready to go. Last year’s No. 1-overall pick missed most of the season with a shoulder injury and had issues shooting the ball.
Fultz has looked like a completely different player in the preseason and that is good news for the Sixers and their fans. The young point guard wants to be the third star for Philly and will get that chance playing next to Joel Embiid and reigning Rookie of the Year award winner Ben Simmons.
Unlike the Celtics and Sixers, the Raptors made some major changes in the offseason. First, they fired reigning Coach of the Year winner Dwane Casey and hired Nick Nurse. Then Toronto made a huge splash trading star guard DeMar DeRozan to the San Antonio Spurs for two-way superstar Kawhi Leonard.
The move sent shockwaves around the NBA as many people did not peg the Raptors as a possible destination for Leonard. The quiet two-way superstar now makes Toronto a legit contender with Kyle Lowry, OG Anunoby, Serge Ibaka, and Jonas Valanciunas still in the fold.
Outside of the top three teams in the Atlantic division, keep your eyes on the Washington Wizards, Indiana Pacers, and the Milwaukee Bucks with potential MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo this season.
Now that you know about what to watch for. Who will win the MVP? Rookie of the Year? And the 2019 NBA Finals? Check out our selections below from the Metro Sports staff.
1. Jovan Alford – Anthony Davis/New Orleans Pelicans
2. Joe Pantorno (Metro New York) – LeBron James/Los Angeles Lakers
3. Matt Burke (Metro Boston) – Giannis Antetokounmpo/Milwaukee Bucks
Rookie of the Year
1. Jovan – Trae Young/Atlanta Hawks
2. Joe – Luka Doncic/Dallas Mavericks
3. Matt – Luka Doncic/Dallas Mavericks
2019 NBA Finals
1. Jovan – Warriors over Celtics in 7 games
2. Joe – Warriors over Celtics in 6 games
3. Matt – Warriors over Celtics in 6 games