Tonight a compressed 72 game NBA season begins after the shortest off-season in North American sports history following the conclusion of the 2019-20 Disney Bubble season.
The effects of COVID-19 has forced the league to start up again after less than two months I’ve heard some of the league’s biggest stars complaining about the quick turnaround, but as a fan, I’m excited to see the season begin.
Now here are some storylines to follow in this new and upcoming season.
1. COVID-19 IMPACT – After successfully completing the 2019-20 season at “Disney’s Orlando Bubble”, teams will once again be traveling and players, coaches and staff testing positive for the novel coronavirus is inevitable. This season has been reduced because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the league will try to complete its 16-team playoffs between May 22 and July 22. According to Commissioner Adam Silver, six teams, (Hawks, Jazz and Grizzlies among them) will attempt to have very limited fans in attendance this season.
2. KD IN BROOKLYN – We haven’t seen Kevin Durant on the basketball court since June 2019, when he suffered a torn Achilles’ tendon in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. The Warriors would go onto lose the series and subsequently lose KD as he joined the Brooklyn Nets roughly 20 days later via free agency.
We’ll finally get to see Durant alongside “Uncle Drew” aka Kyrie Irving, and if he’s healthy and Irving is locked in this team has to be the favorite to represent the East in the NBA Finals. KD looked like his old self in a 125-99 opening night dismantling of the Golden State Warriors, scoring 22 points.
3. LAKERS = DYNASTY? – The Lakers persevered and came out on top in the “Disney Bubble”, winning their league tying 17th NBA Championship (Celtics). Led by megastars LeBron James and Anthony Davis who both re-upped their deals for the long-haul, the new-look Lakers are the prohibitive favorites to repeat as champions.
Adding the top two players in last season’s sixth man of the year race in Montrezl Harrell and Dennis Schroder adds to some quality depth that also features newly extended Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell Pope, and the gritty 3 and D Wesley Matthews. Last but not least, they added the cerebral although long in the tooth Marc Gasol. Losing rim protection by way of Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee could hurt on the defensive end.
4. WARRIORS WON’T HAVE KLAY THOMPSON – The Golden State Warriors were dealt a serious blow the night of the NBA Draft In November. Sharpshooter Klay Thompson was lost for the season with a torn Achilles as he worked out in LA. The extent of the injury was not known at the time of the draft but that didn’t change the team’s thought pattern as they still took the Uber talented center James Wiseman from Memphis. The biggest part of the puzzle is back in the form of Wardell Stephen Curry as he’s returned from an injury-marred season where he only played 5 games. Curry scored 20 points with 10 assists and 4 rebounds in the opening loss. The team also acquired Kelly Oubre Jr in a trade to help soften the blow of losing Thompson, but he only mustered 6 points. They’ll need the 2015-2017 Draymond Green to return soon. Steve Kerr will look to tap into the untapped potential of Andrew Wiggins (13 points), and if so the Dubs could possibly make some noise this season.
5. JAMES HARDEN ON THE MOVE? – The Rockets superstar has made his feelings known and he wants out of H-Town. Following stints with Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook, the talented but mercurial scoring dynamo wants a fresh start. He wants to be traded to the Sixers or Nets. I can see the Sixers and that move would realign the balance of power. Although it’s still unclear whether a deal will get done with the Rockets demanding so much in return as far as draft capital goes. They did trade Westbrook for John Wall but that still doesn’t seem to be enough for “The Beard” to wanna stay in Houston.
6. CLIPPERS WITHOUT DOC – Following their epic collapse in the “Orlando Bubble” LAs JV team parted ways with highly regarded and championship-winning coach Glenn “Doc” Rivers. They elevated his assistant and another title-winning coach Tyronn Lue to the role of head coach. Lue led the 2016 Cavaliers back from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Warriors, becoming the first team in Finals history to do so. They still haven’t addressed their point guard situation and lost key contributor and reigning sixth man Montrezl Harrell to the rival Lakers, who the Clippers defeated 116-109 on opening night.
Finally, will we get the Indiana Pacers version of Paul George or the “Playoff P” version who’s struggled mightily in the playoffs every year since 2017. His 33-point explosion on opening night says George might be headed for a career season. They paid Marcus Morris to be a difference-maker so we’ll see if he can be just that alongside “Klaw Leonard”, “PG13”, “Lemon Pepper Lou” and “Serge Iblaka”.
7. SIXERS HIRE DOC RIVERS AND DARYL MOREY – They’ve been “Trusting The Process” in Philly since they drafted Joel Embiid in 2014 and then Ben Simmons in 2016. This team has shown promise but hasn’t been able to get over the hump under former coach Brett Brown. Enter Doc Rivers as their new leader and he’ll bring that championship pedigree needed to have the likes of Embiid and Simmons reach their full potential (If They Keep Them Together). The Sixers also hired former Rockets, GM Daryl Morey, as their President Of Basketball Operations. Morey has a wonderful relationship with Rocket star James Harden who’s been rumored to be moving to the “City Of Brotherly Love”. Swingman Tobias Harris had the best season of his career under Rivers while with the Clippers (2018-19).
8. GIANNIS SIGNS SUPERMAX TO STAY IN CREAM CITY – Reigning two-time NBA MVP and reigning Defensive Player Of The Year Giannis Antetokounmpo stayed with the Milwaukee Bucks instead of looking to join a super team elsewhere. His rebuttal of the “AAU BuddyBall Era” is a welcome sight for those who like to see a competitive balance. The team has had the best regular-season record the last two seasons and not much to show for it. Adding two-way Jrue Holiday should really help this team immensely come playoff time.
9. LUKA POISED TO WIN NBA MVP? – Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic has taken the league by storm in his first two seasons, and last season even pushed the Clippers to a hard-fought six-game series in the “Orlando Bubble” where he even hit a walk-off triple to tie the series at (2–2). Luka put on a dazzling show game after game to keep his undermanned Mavs squad in contention. His skillset is unrivaled in today’s game and he’s only 21. Mark Cuban has always been good at hitting on the foreign-born superstars to lead his franchise (Dirk Nowitzki, and now Luka).
10. IT’S FINALLY ZION TIME IN NAWLINS – After being drafted #1 overall in the 2019 NBA Draft, Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson was injured early and placed on a minutes restriction when he returned. He showed such a real unique skillset around the basket and really flourished in minimal minutes.
New head coach Stan Van Gundy says they’ll be no minutes restriction this season, and he will need to play defense as well as offense. Zion has slimmed down and it looks like he’s laid off the beignets and cafe au lait down in the “Bayou”. With he, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball leading the franchise they expect to be in the thick of the playoff race.
How Will Chris Paul fair in Phoenix with Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton?
Will Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman or LaMelo Ball, win Rookie Of The Year?
Will Ja Morant continue to build on his outstanding rookie season in Memphis?