The last few NBA season have given us, the everyday fan, more than we can imagine.
There has been dominance from both the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers in their respective conferences. The youth of the NBA has been performing at levels that far exceed their age with a blend of utter dominance and cold-blooded confidence. As far as superstars go, the NBA is riddled with them. Yet, every season we see more players climb into the upper echelon of the elite talent that resides in this league.
Much like those years, the 2018-2019 NBA regular season is set to bring all of that plus more. Starting with the opening night marquee match-ups between the projected Eastern Conference powerhouses Philadelphia 76ers take on the Boston Celtics followed by the Warriors beginning their campaign for a three-peat when the Russell Westbrook-less Oklahoma City Thunder come into town.
Reasons why this year is different
1. LeBron James joins the Western Conference
It is a much richer place in any sport when the major markets are contenders for a championship. Just like the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys. The New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers with the MLB. For the NBA it is the Los Angeles Lakers. In case you were living under a rock all summer, they signed the best player on the planet in LeBron James.
With James now playing with the Lakers, it means a few things.
One, he brings the Lakers back to relevance and most likely back into the post-season for the first time in the post-Kobe era. Two, It makes the Western Conference even more loaded than it already was with teams like the Warriors and the Houston Rockets. Three, it brings back the rivalry of the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers that NBA fans have been starving for. The formation of that rivalry is supported by the added storyline of LeBron vs. Kyrie Irving, fitting in with prior superstars in this rivalry with Jerry West vs. Bill Russell, Magic vs. Bird, and Kobe vs. Pierce.
2. A new league order in the Eastern Conference
With LeBron moving to the Western Conference, he has relinquished the stranglehold he has held in the East for the past decade. This now leaves teams like the 76ers and Celtics to step up and assert themselves as the two predominate teams for years to come. With the young cores along with the veteran experience both teams possess, it is easy to see that they are ready to win now.
There are several other teams below Philadelphia and Boston that are more than capable of making some noise in the post-season. With Kawhi Leonard (at least for this season) and new head coach Nick Nurse now in the fold in Toronto, they look to stay relevant even after trading DeMar DeRozan. The Milwaukee Bucks will lean on Giannis Antetekounmpo this season as he looks to make a hard push for the MVP. And finally, the Indiana Pacers who will return all five starters and look to build off of an eight seed last season with the assistance of Victor Oladipo who has turned into a bonified superstar.
This leaves teams like the Detroit Pistons, the Miami Heat, and the Washington Wizards to all fight for the lower level seeds come post-season play. Each season there are teams that fly under the radar and exceed expectations. Will the New York Knicks rally around their new coach David Fizdale and get into the playoffs without their seven-foot big man Kristaps Porznigis? Crazier things have happened.
Just like the NBA is a much richer place when the big market teams are relevant, it also helps when there are dynasties that exist. No team is a better representation of a dynasty than these Warriors. The proverbial target on their back gets bigger each season and they keep swatting teams away in the post-season regardless of the obstacles they face.
Golden State is seeking to earn their third straight NBA championship and fourth in five years. Adding their fifth and final All-Star caliber player in the off-season with DeMarcus Cousins, it is hard to believe that a team that has been as dominant as it has can become even better. Although, with the Western Conference looking stronger than ever, should the Warriors be more worried now more than ever.
Although the thought of who might be the champion at seasons end may create people to lose interest, the NBA regular season proves to be as unpredictable as ever. Teams may crater and fall into a hole that leaves their organization in shambles and mired for a rebuild, other teams shoot up the standings and shake up the power in the NBA.
Once the season tips, it will roll forward with relentless speed, leaving every NBA fan captivated by the spectacular performances put forth by the best basketball teams and players that this world has to offer each night.
Thank you, Dr. James Naismith, for this beautiful game.