After the opening two nights of the NBA, I want to talk about the top eight storylines so far and how they will take shape over the course of the season. With 81 games remaining for most teams, the season has a long way to go, but it is officially underway.
The top storyline coming into the season for me is LeBron James and the Cavaliers and if they can repeat this season. After coming back from a 3-1 deficit in the finals and capturing Cleveland’s first championship in what seemed like an eon, LeBron is now on a personal quest for ring number four.
He opened up the season with a triple double, his 43rd of his career, and said openly that he is chasing the ghost of Michael Jordan. LeBron does not have anything to prove anymore but has said openly he wants to win the MVP again and remain the best player in the NBA. With a long season ahead, the Cavs are heavy favorites to win the East, and in my opinion they cruise to LeBron’s seventh straight Finals, and win against the Clippers in five games.
After reading the Clippers and not the Warriors, many people must think I am crazy, but after seeing game one of the season against the Spurs I am skeptical of the Golden State Warriors. Curry and company looked putrid on defense and was the less aggressive team throughout as they lost the opening game of the season 129-100.
Yes, they will find their shooting and should be able to knock down the most threes in NBA history but they will not break their 73-win mark from last year, nor make it to the Finals. Just like the Heat when LeBron joined, Durant, Green, Thompson and Curry will take time to adjust to each other’s strengths and weaknesses as they will find this season long, and not as much fun as last year.
With the struggles of the Warriors comes success for the Clippers, who are my pick to win the Western Conference this season. Often forgotten, the Los Angeles Clippers are led by Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan, three superstars who have been playing together for quite a while. The Clippers are a great team who are led by a superstar head coach in Doc Rivers, who has won a championship before. It is time for the Clippers to take the next step, which is to get to the conference finals and win, as they need to step out of the Lakers’ shadow and finally win in the playoffs.
Speaking of the Lakers, watching Wednesday night’s game against the Rockets was a shock, as the Lakers were able to run up and down the court and beat the Houston Rockets at their own game. In the post-Kobe Bryant era, Jordan Clarkson, D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Timofey Mozgov looked very impressive as they have a youthful team who can put up a ton of points. The Lakers without Kobe are playing with less pressure and more freedom than they previously did.
Like the Lakers, the Spurs had an iconic player retire in Tim Duncan, but they are replacing him with Pau Gasol, who is a great player in his own right. With Kawhi Leonard dropping 35 points in the first game against the Warriors, the Spurs looked very, very good, and the Spurs are his team going forward. Add in Aldridge, Parker, Ginobili and Gasol, the Spurs under Popovich are still going to be a tough team to beat for many years to come.
The next two storylines are about ex-teammates and two MVP candidates in James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Harden for the Rockets looked amazing in the first game, as he is now running the point guard and is able to dictate the offense. In a losing effort, he had 34 points and 17 assists, as he was efficient shooting and was able to get his team involved early in the game
For Westbrook this season, it is him against the world, as the Thunder are finally his team, and it is his time to show the world what he can really do. In the opening game of the season he had 32 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds, as he is an athletic freak who makes basketball seem like an art form. Both him and Harden will be top three in the MVP voting this season as both will lead their teams into the playoffs and average more than 30 a game.
The final storyline I wanted to touch on quickly is that we are in the golden age of the NBA. This means that the NBA has great competitive balance, and that every night, any team can beat any other team. Each team has great players and the amount of young players who can really play is astronomical. The NBA is fun to watch, and this season will really be a joy to experience.
Matt Kren is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering women’s basketball. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.