With the 2016-17 NBA season set to tip off this week, now is a good to time to go over some storylines that might dominate the headlines. The most obvious one is whether the Golden State Warriors will gel quickly with the addition of Kevin Durant or did they lose too many pieces? Will the Cleveland Cavaliers run right over the East? Is this the year the Los Angeles Clippers finally breakthrough to the conference finals? Will the addition of Al Horford be the piece that the Boston Celtics have been looking for? There are a few smaller storylines as well, like who is the better team the Portland Trail Blazers or the Utah Jazz? It is an exciting time for the NBA, there are several fun storylines to follow.
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
The Warriors have added a top five NBA talent in Durant to their core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. That is how an NBA team improves on a 73-win regular season. They have the ability to break that record if they choose to but will probably spend the regular season resting guys from time to time and not chasing history. The Warriors led the NBA in plus/minus by 11.1 points and maybe the most powerful offense in the NBA.
They may have blown a 3-1 finals lead in June; in July they got KD tho.
The City of Cleveland has lifted their curse when the Cavs won the Championship, and now they have a team in the MLB World Series. LeBron James delivered on his promise to bring a championship to the “Land” and he did just that. Now, the real question is, will the Cavs play as if they’re satisfied with the championship or will they look to build on the momentum off of winning their first championship. They will miss Matthew Dellavedova who survived as a backup point guard but not enough to believe they won’t finish first in the East. Baring a significant injury, it’s a safe bet that the Cavs will make it to the Finals.
This could finally be the year the Clippers breakthrough to the Conference Finals in the West. Blake Griffin has looked the healthy he’s been in a very long, long time. They still have a hole at the wing position and will need to improve on their rebounding to get there but they also have two potential MVP candidates in Chris Paul and Griffin, a three-time sixth man of the year winner in Jamal Crawford, a potential defensive player of the year in DeAndre Jordan, and one of the best shooters in the game in JJ Redick. If the Clippers can get over the injury hurdles that have plagued last season, they will compete with the San Antonio Spurs for the second seed in the West. It is a big IF though.
The Celtics finally were able to make a huge acquisition in free agency this summer when they lured Al Horford away from the Atlanta Hawks. It was the first time in recent memory the Celtics were able to land one of the bigger free agents that summer. They did just miss out on Durant but being in the conversation for his services is a huge win alone. They have one of the best coaches in the NBA in Brad Stevens but will have to find a way to replace the void that was created when Evan Turner left for Portland. Regardless the addition of Horford should give the Celtics enough firepower to compete with the Toronto Raptors for the second seed. There is always the distinct possibility that the Celtics trade several of their assets for a big star should one become available and things will really heat up in the East.
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS OR UTAH JAZZ
Both teams made improvements this offseason but the large question is which team is better. The Blazers resigned all of their own free agents and brought in the aforementioned Turner to be the third ball handler for this squad. In the playoffs it was clear that teams could attack the Blazers by pressuring Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. They didn’t have a third ball handler that could create for anyone else, with the Turner signing they now have that ball handler to ease some of the load off of their two young studs.
The Jazz just missed out of the playoffs and if Rudy Gobert was healthy last season probably would have made it. Despite missing the playoffs the Jazz look like a team ready to make the leap, you know, the leap everyone has been predicting for three years now. Why is this the year? This offseason they loaded up on tons of veterans by trading for a defensive point guard in George Hill, and signing Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw to their roster will provide more depth and leadership that has been missing over the years. Even though Gordon Hayward will miss the start of the season with a broken hand, it might be a blessing in disguise because it’ll open the door Rodney Hood to take a massive leap forward.
In what will be the tightest division race, but the Jazz should just edge out the Blazers.
BONUS STORYLINE: MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES
The expectations for this time shot up once the Wolves hired Tom Thibodeau but they might have gotten a little out of hand. Some NBA pundits have predicted this very young team to go from 29 wins to 50 plus and make it to the playoffs this year. That is a mistake, very few teams will ever make a leap of 20 plus wins and fewer are as young as the Wolves. Everyone is betting that Thibs will instantly turn this around with his defensive scheming, what most do acknowledge is that it will take time to learn these schemes and changing one’s defensive identity will take the entire season and not overnight. Now is the time to buy the Wolves stock in the long term but sell on the short. The future is bright but needs a little more time to develop.
Every team has several different storylines that will make this season exciting, these are just a few of the many that are worth keeping an eye out. When KD signed with the Warriors over the summer many fans thought there is no reason to watch the regular season. I’d like to remind everyone, that majority thought the Warriors were going to waltz their way to their second title in as many years but the Cavs will be defending the title this year. Many unexpected things will happen between October 25th to the end of June, injuries, trades, and buy-outs can change the landscape, one thing is for sure, there is a ton to watch for this season.