The NBA summer was the most interesting and fascinating offseason in recent memory due to the amount of transactions and the significance of these deals. Multiple Hall of Famers, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard, and Chris Paul, changed teams this offseason, which partially switched the power dynamic in the NBA. In addition to these future Hall of Famers, current stars in their prime, Isaiah Thomas, Jimmy Butler, Gordon Hayward, Kyrie Irving, and Paul Millsap, all changed teams this offseason. Along with the number of stars that switched sides this offseason, many of these players were traded, which has never been done before to this height.
Favorite: Golden State Warriors
Even though the Warriors did not add any new components to their team, they are the overwhelming favorite to win the NBA championship and are vying for the title of the greatest team of all-time and become a dynasty. Though the Warriors did not acquire another star, they were one of the winners of the offseason because they were able to keep their key supporting parts, Andre Iguodala, David West, Zaza Pachulia, and Shaun Livingston, while acquiring valuable scoring bench players such as Nick Young and Omar Cassapi. The Warriors do not have any flaws on their team because even though they lack a true center, they are able to play small and avoid the issue. Their “death lineup” of Durant, Curry, Thompson, Green, and Iguodala has not been stopped and there is no team with the capabilities to overcome their combination of great defense and explosive offense. In addition, they are all willing to share the ball and play as a team, which eliminates the possibility of “hero ball” and stagnate offense. On defense, outside of Curry, they are all extremely athletic, lengthy, and willing to play together as a team. Even though some will speculate that other teams can compete with the Warriors to drive viewership, no other team can compete with the Warriors and they will win their second consecutive title and third title in four years.
Other Contenders: Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics, Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs, and Oklahoma City Thunder
Outside of the San Antonio Spurs, each of these made major offseason moves in an attempt to better themselves and increase their chance at dethroning the defending champions. The most interesting move of the offseason was the Kyrie Irving/Isaiah Thomas deal between the Cavaliers and the Celtics. The additions of Dwyane Wade, Thomas, Jae Crowder, and Jeff Green should make the Cavs a better team and give them a higher chance of defeating the Warriors. While they improved their depth, they still do not have a good defense and the will severely miss Irving’s ability to create offense against any defender. IT and DWade have great offensive talent, but IT looked exposed against elite defenses and Wade is too old to be consistently relied upon to run the offense. The Cavaliers have their flaws, but they remain the class of the Eastern Conference as long as James dawns Cleveland on his jersey. The other side of the deal should help the Celtics close the gap between themselves and the Cavaliers in the East. Kyrie gives Boston an elite scorer who can dominate a game. In addition to Kyrie, Hayward is a star in the league and the trio of him, Irving, and Horford will keep the Celtics as a top two team in the East. Unfortunately, they will not be able to overcome the Cavs unless one of their talented young players, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, or Jayson Tatum, take a significant leap forward and become a dependable star. Due to the added storylines, the series between the Cavs and Celtics will definitely be more exciting and closer than last years Eastern Conference Final.
In the West, Houston made the first big move of the offseason when they convinced Chris Paul exit the City of Angels and join Houston. The combination of Paul and James Harden may be the most exciting 1-2 combo in the league. Although there will be questions about who is running the offense since they are both ball dominant players, they are too talented and driven to succeed to not figure out the problem. However, the Rockets will likely not climb higher than the third best team in the West because a lot of other star power. Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza, Clint Capela, and Ryan Anderson are nice players, but they are not at the level of the other contending teams. Even though the Spurs did not acquire a marquee player during the offseason, the combination of Popovich and Kawhi Leonard is too dangerous of a duo to not be one of the best teams in the West. The Spurs’ style of play will guarantee the team 50+ wins, but they look like nothing more than a second round team, unless Aldridge return to his past dominant self and become a superstar once again. Finally, the team with the best opportunity to beat the Warriors is the Oklahoma City Thunder. Sam Presti has done an incredible job of recovering from the Durant departure and exchanging picks and spare parts into Carmelo Anthony and Paul George. Carmelo is an aging star, but he is still a fabulous offensive player and will be determined to win a championship. George is one of the preeminent players in the league as he is one of the best two way players in the league. George and Anthony will give the Thunder the capability of keeping up with the Warriors on offense. Steven Adams is a solid fourth option and will add toughness and defense to the starting lineup. However, the rest of the team is subpar and will ultimately be their undoing. The team’s biggest asset and the player that gives the team the best chance of beating the Dubs is Russell Westbrook. The reining MVP would like nothing more than defeat Kevin Durant and the Warriors. Although this determination may drive him to work too hard and attempt too many breath taking plays, he has a lot of talent around him and must rely on his teammates.
Interesting Teams to Watch: Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Philadelphia 76ers
Due to an incredible inflow of young talent, these three teams have the potential to take a large step forward and make the playoffs. The Bucks took a major step forward last season and it was mostly due to the emergence of Giannis as a legitimate superstar. Giannis should continue to improve his game as he learns to develop a jump shot and adds muscle to his slight frame. Along with Giannis, the team has solid young players such as Jabari Parker, Thon Maker, Malcolm Brogdon, and Khris Middleton. With Jason Kidd as their head coach, the team will continue improving and enacting a position-less system. Due to the team’s versatility and athleticism, they can continue to overwhelm their opponents on both sides of the court. The team will need to develop a second star to partner with Giannis, but they have the potential to become the next great team in the East, when LeBron decides to either retire or head west. The other team in the East that will be fascinating to watch is the Philadelphia 76ers. The 76ers have been terrible for years, but they are finally ready to see the benefits of “The Process”. During his brief stint last season, Embiid looked like an absolute force that can dominate a game offensively and defensively. Ben Simmons has looked extremely talented during the preseason and some believe that he has the skill and size to play like Magic Johnson. First overall pick Markelle Fultz has been dealing with injuries this preseason, but he was the number one overall pick for a reason and has superstar talent.
There may not be a team in the NBA that can boast more young talent than the Minnesota Timberwolves. The combination of Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins will put fear into opposing teams for years. KAT may already be the best big man in the league because he can do so many different things on the court. The team has the potential to make the playoffs this season because of the additions they made during the offseason. The additions of veterans Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague will make the team more savvy and intelligent, which is dangerous because of their great talent.