The media has been going crazy; fans are going even crazier. NBA opening night is finally here and has been what we have all been waiting for ever since the San Antonio Spurs ran through the Miami Heat in June.
Here are some short and long term questions for opening week in the NBA.
1. What Will Happen On Opening Night?
All of us long-term San Antonio Spurs fan are going to be weeping watching Coach Pop and the Big Three collect another Championship ring, another reminder that the fairytale of the great franchise is nearly over. Only three games are slated for opening night as the Spurs host the Mavericks, Lakers host the Rockets and Orlando travels to New Orleans.
NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard is out of action for the opener with an eye injury, joining Patty Mills and Tiago Splitter on the treatment table. The Spurs won’t care, they do their talking in May and June so expect a loss tonight.
In other news; watch the stubborn Kobe Bryant in his first game back after an Achilles surgery attack 6’11 Rockets Center Dwight Howard and try to dunk on him as though he is ten years younger.
Dwight left the Lakers Franchise in disarray – no one leaves the Lakers like that and Kobe won’t let him forget it. Plus – warning shots have been fired by new Lakers Coach Byron Scott.
2. How Loud Will The Reception For LBJ be on Wednesday Night?
The Quicken Loans Arena may explode. Googling the decibel level afterwards will be interesting. “The King is Home.”
3. Who Are The Toughest Teams To Predict?
The Miami Heat are trying to replace the man who led them statistically in each of the top five categories last year – watching Deng, McRoberts and an aging Dwayne Wade and Bosh try to replace him will be fascinating. Coach Spo has some work to do.
The Orlando Magic could be a team that take a huge jump or whose young pieces land in the bottom six again. With such high upside players like lottery picks Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Peyton (sleeper for Rookie of the Year) – these guys are going to be exciting, even if they aren’t good. Adding veteran leadership like Channing Frye indicates a move towards aiming for the playoffs and in the East, anything can happen.
Any team that adds the mercurial number one pick Andrew Wiggins (and Zach LaVine at #13th) in the draft is going to be interesting. The Minnesota Timberwolves are going to be just that. Again, losing your best player like the Heat means that the change implemented can change the franchise forever. Adding LaVine, Wiggins, former number one pick Anthony Bennett and Thad Young to an exciting group including Rubio and young Gorgei Dieng will make this team some League Pass gold, winning or losing.
4. Can Anyone Tank Like The 76ers?
No is the Simple answer. They drafted players (Embiid – injured and Saric who has another year in Europe) that can’t play this season for God’s sake! Watch the 76ers play the most cumulative amount of D-League players and undrafted rookies in the league. While Noel and Michael Carter Williams will be interesting, these guys are going to suck.
5. Outside of Cleveland, What Was the Biggest Offseason Move?
Kevin Love would obviously come after LBJ as the biggest move but who comes afterwards? Pau Gasol is on his last legs and one must question how he will survive in Thibs defensive scheme. The same goes for Paul Pierce.
Luol Deng is trying to take over from the best player in the game in Miami. So for this category – we scrape down to Chandler Parsons signing with Houston or Lance Stephenson moving to Charlotte. Both could end in disaster, but as always Stephenson remains the wildcard in the rough we can’t discount.
6. Who Goes From The Playoffs to The Lottery?
My unpopular pick for the Western Conference if they get an injury is the Houston Rockets, especially if either of their stars Howard or Harden goes down for a while with injury. Losing Parsons, Asik and Lin means its unlikely they improve.
In the Eastern Conference, there are an abundance of picks. Having led the conference with 56 wins last season – watch the Indiana Pacers sans Paul George (broken leg) and Lance Stephenson stutter out of the playoff race. The additional bad news of injuries to George Hill and the aging David West means that only the inconsistent Roy Hibbert suits up for their ideal starting line up on opening night. Expect this to be one of the worst offences in basketball with a possible “worst offence in the league” moniker.
7. Are The Bucks Secretly Very Interesting?
This is predicated on the revival of Larry Sanders and Ersan Ilyasova. Secretly this team could be very entertaining to watch. Another year of maturity for the Greek Freak Giannis alongside the favourite for Rookie of the Year Jabari Parker could mean that this offence won’t be shambolic. Add in new Head Coach Jason Kidd and this could be a solid relevant League Pass Team.
8. Who Falls Off After Surprising Last Season?
I hope to God this isn’t Phoenix. After being the feel-good tale of last season it very well could be but adding Isaiah Thomas to one of the best and exciting backcourts in the NBA while resigning their Morris twins up front means they should contend for the playoffs once again.
The Atlanta Hawks were another entertaining and surprising team at times last season. Coach Budenholzer had them playing the San-Antonio Spurs way but off season racial issues could mean that the writing is on the wall for this team. While Al Horford is coming back, they may be smart to cash out now, picking up draft picks and rebuilding instead of languishing in a lower playoff spot.
9. Do The Pelicans Finally Make A Burst?
They added Omar Asik! No, that’s not the move that will vault the New Orleans Pelicans into the Playoff race. This team is one of the most fun in the Association and will start to play winning basketball this year. Everything is going to be predicated on health with this group after their starting five cumulatively missed 151 games last season.
Anthony Davis is possibly already one of the five best players in the entire league – but is he ready to bring them to the playoffs? Anderson, Holiday, Gordon and Evans are a nice offensive group but unless their defence improves and they stay healthy, they have no hope, even with Davis.
10. Who Will Make Their First NBA All-Star Game?
BOOOOGIEEEEEE! DaMarcus Cousins in the favourite to make his first NBA All-Star Game but with Boogie, anything can and will happen. Strangely enough, he is so despised across the league (while a beloved cult-hero by fans) that the reaction to him will be diverse to say the least. A newsworthy unbelievable talent putting up big numbers (a 20/10/2 lock) has to make it because the fans decide – not because the coaches want him.
In terms of guards, keep an eye out for young shooting guards like Bradley Beal and Klay Thompson to try and top 20PPG and force their way into the All-Star discussion.
Garbh Madigan, Pundit Arena.
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